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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: A Spin Poker machine spun a card already dealt

4 October 2016

Question: A question for you about Spin Poker machines and the way they display the cards on the video screen.

Do they display the real cards that are possible to draw when it is spinning or only something like a movie of random cards until the spinning reels lock and reveal the true hand you have been dealt?

I was in Reno recently and had the good fortune of initially drawing four 10s in positions 2-5 on the display playing Bonus Poker. Although the hand could not be improved, I just held the four 10s and let the cards in the first position spin to complete the hand. Staring at the bottom of the three displayed hands, I was surprised to see the two black 10s flash by although they were clearly already held for that set of cards.

When position 1 locked in on the three hands there was, of course, no fifth 10, but I clearly saw them flash by before the final cards were fixed and displayed.

Two programs running here? One to just display random flashing cards and the one that does display the card drawn to complete your hand?

Answer: I played Spin Poker for a while but was never dealt four-of-a-kind or a hand for which I could easily tell if one of the dealt cards was included in the spinning animation -- but I will keep trying!

In any case, Spin Poker is unusual for video poker machines in that it has a slot-like spinning display. It's not unusual, however -- particularly for early video slot machines -- for the software running the machines to use one predefined animation to show the spinning reels. When it's time to stop a reel, the software switches to a different procedure, which scrolls down the screen the actual segment of the reel that will be displayed on the screen and a few symbols below that segment so the player can have some near miss experiences.

Because there are no reels on a Spin Poker machine, it makes sense for it to use one or more predefined animations for the spin effect. Many people don't pay such close attention to the animation and can't pick out any individual cards in it.

When it's time to display the final hands, it looks like the software completes about five hands. Paying close attention to one column, I can make out two cards that scroll off the screen before the display stops and shows the three cards that fill that column.

As you pointed out, you did not get a third black 10. Good thing. A fifth 10 would clearly be a malfunction.

There's an interesting decision to be made when you're dealt four-of-a-kind. Should you hold all five cards or just the four? The answer, of course, depends a great deal on the paytable. If you're playing Deuces Wild or Double Bonus or any other paytable on which the hand could be improved beyond four-of-a-kind, of course you would just hold four cards. If the hand can't be improved, you would most likely hold all five cards.

Holding all five cards was the standard advice for many years. One of the reasons given was that you didn't want to take a chance on a malfunction voiding your play and pay on early video poker machines.

Video poker machines today are so reliable that I recommend that you hold only four cards. You don't have to worry about a malfunction occurring and voiding your quad. You also don't have to worry about missing out on an opportunity to improve your hand, if that's possible.

I speak from experience. I don't play Double Double Bonus for money. The paytable seems to be the favorite for video poker tournaments, so I have played it many times in a tournament. I was dealt four Aces once and held all five cards. After I hit the Draw button, I realized I could have improved the hand had I drawn a kicker.

I know hold just the four-of-a-kind even if the hand can't be improved.


Question: It seems the Wheel of Fortune and Megabucks jackpots get hit a majority of the time at certain Las Vegas Strip casinos, and rarely (or sometimes never) at local, off-Strip casinos.

Is that simply because more people are playing those machines on the Strip? There have been several times when these jackpots have hit consecutively at the same casino.

Is my chance of hitting one of these mega-jackpots the same on any machine at any casino?

Answer: Gee, it used to be much easier to get past winner info on IGT's official site. I had to go to an independent site for lists of past Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune winners.

As you pointed out, few Las Vegas' locals casinos are on the lists. Video poker dominates the locals market. I can't say that no locals play slots but, on the average, tourists play more money through slot machines than locals. We'll discuss later why the chances for hitting the big jackpots are same, so if the mega-jackpot machines get more play in the tourist casinos, then the jackpots will hit more often in the tourist casinos.

There are many myths associated with IGT's mega-Jackpots machines, Megabucks in particular. One myth is that it always hits in a new casino shortly after it opens. This myth can easily be disproved by the fact that it doesn't always prove true. The Cosmopolitan, for instance, has been open for almost six years and it's still waiting for its Grand Opening Megabucks winner.

Megabucks has hit in some new casinos. That can easily be explained without any sort of new casino juicing of the machines. People often lined up to play the machines in a new casino because they believed the myth. Those machines thus got much more play than other Megabucks machines. More play meant more chances to hit the big one. There was nothing that made the jackpot more likely to hit on the machines in the new casino.

Your chances for hitting any of these large jackpots are the same at every casino. IGT places the machines at the casinos on a participation basis, which means that the win from the machines is split between IGT and the casino.

Having a mega-jackpot winner confers a great deal of prestige on a casino. Casinos frequently advertise the jackpots that have been won there. Many players are drawn to the casino with a mega-jackpot winner because it seems like they're more likely to hit a mega-jackpot there than at another casino.

Pretend you're a casino operator. Would you allow the casino next door to have machines that hit these life-changing jackpots more frequently than the machines in your casino? Of course you wouldn't. All of the Wheel of Fortune and Megabucks and other mega-jackpot machines have the same chance of hitting the jackpot. To be more specific, all of the machines that compete for the same progressive jackpot have the same (or really, really, really nearly the same) chances of hitting it.


John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots