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Ask the Slot Expert: A video poker triple play13 November 2013
Assuming that we're talking about a Class III machine (a Las Vegas-style machine), the machine has to deal from a fair deck of cards, just as if you were dealing at your kitchen table. The cards are chosen at random, without any regard for how much money the machine has won in the past. The $100 machine has the same chances of hitting any paying hand as a $1, $5, $10 or $25 machine played with the same strategy.
The slot director at the Desert Inn told me a funny story about their $100 video poker machine. He was entertaining a vendor with a round of golf on the course that was behind the resort. He got a phone call from one of his assistants in the middle of the round.
"A man hit a royal on the $100 video poker machine," said the assistant. "What should I do?"
He said, "Pay the man."
Up until a decade or so ago, video poker machines would choose all 10 cards that could possibly be needed to play out a hand when you pressed the Deal button. Having a machine sit with potential results already determined opened it up to cheating and, believe it or not, a group of cheats did figure out how to determine what cards 6 through 10 were and used that information to cheat these machines.
As a result, video poker machines now choose the five cards needed for your initial hand when you press the Deal button. The machines continue electronically shuffling their electronic decks and they don't choose any cards needed to replace your discards until you press the Draw button.
I won't say today's machines are impossible to cheat, but they're much harder to cheat than the old ones.
I have three theories. The racino is paranoid, it has some very restrictive regulations or it's just plain crazy.
My experience has been that the mature gambling jurisdictions (Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica) are more tolerant of what players do in their casinos. They're more experienced and know better what a cheating player does and how a cheating player acts. Even though there's nothing you can do to influence the results on a machine by writing something on a piece of paper, the racino may prohibit putting pen to paper in an abundance of caution (and, I can't resist, a touch of paranoia, which is probably the only thing they're hiding).
Legislators also have a limited understanding of gambling, so we can't rule statutory paranoia.
I've never had a problem making notes about machines and writing down results of each spin when I've done so in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Occasionally, someone asked what I was doing, but I bet they thought I had some system I was playing and casinos love players with systems.
I received more scrutiny in a casino near San Diego, however, when I was writing notes about the machines in the casino for an article for Strictly Slots. The guard asked to see my notepad.
Regardless of the racino's reasons, there's no reason to note the paytable on a Class II video poker machine. Those machines do not deal from a fair deck -- or any deck, for that matter. Their results are determined by the bingo drawing occuring on the central server.
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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