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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: A warning about Dream Card

18 September 2019

Two weeks ago I left you with a bonus question in my What Does This Combination Pay on Everi's Fascination Slot Machine? quiz. Here is the paytable from the machine:

ComboPays
W W W500
7 7 750
7B 7B 7B20
any 3 mixed 7, 7B   15
B B B10
any 3 mixed B, 7B5
C C C5
any 2 C2
any 1 C1

The question was: What does 2W 3W 4W pay?

I included this combination to illustrate this rule found on many machines: Only the highest paying combination will be paid.

According to the rules on this machine, the wild symbol can substitute for any symbol on the machine except the bonus symbol. So three wilds can be three cherries, three bars, or even two 7s and a 7B. But the highest-paying combination rule says we have to look for the highest-paying combination that can be made. Three Ws pay the most in the paytable, so the base combo must be three Ws. So, 2W 3W 4W pays 500(2)(3)(4) or 500(24), 12,000.

The highest-paying combination rule applies in video poker games with wild cards too. Let's say you're playing Deuces Wild and your ending hand is 2 7h 7d 7s 9c. Should the deuce be another 7, for four-of-a-kind, or another 9, for a full house?

Of course, the deuce is another 7 because four of a kind pays more than a full house. But that leads to something unexpected in Full-Pay Deuces Wild.

Look at the Full Pay table on the Deuces Wild analysis page on the Wizard of Odds site. One expects that the more valuable hands occur less frequently than the lower-paying hands. But the probability of getting a quad is 0.064938 and the probability of getting a full house is 0.021229. A quad not only pays more than a full house, you're three times more likely to get it.

The reason we get a four of a kind more frequently than a full house is because we've declared the four of a kind to be worth more than a full house and we classify the hands that could be either to be the more valuable hand, four of a kind.

We can't fix this problem by making a full house more valuable than a four of a kind. The ambiguous hands will just be classified as full houses and then we'll get full houses more frequently than we'll get quads.

This interaction between hand rankings and frequency exists whenever wild cards are added to a poker game. The interaction is greatest in Deuces Wild because it has four wild cards, but the interaction exists even in Jokers Wild.

If you'd like more information about this quirk, see Inconsistencies of "Wild-Card" Poker by John Emert and Dale Umbach in Chance, Vol. 9 No. 3 (1996). The conclusion the authors reach is that "when wild cards are allowed, there is no ranking of the hands that can be formed for which more valuable hands occur less frequently."


I had two things happen to me while playing video poker recently — one you need to be aware of and the other you don't need to be concerned about at all.

After playing for about 15 minutes today, I noticed the bezel on the card reader flashing very quickly. Not a problem, I thought. On this machine, the slot club info is displayed on the machine's monitor. The slot club panel showed that I was still registered on the machine and earning points. Even if there was a temporary problem communicating with the slot club server, the system is designed so that all of my play will be recorded when communications are restored.

Then the bezel turned a sickly, solid psychedelic purple. The on-screen button that expands the slot club panel and the point count display on the bottom of the screen disappeared and they were replaced by a solid blue panel with the Windows arrow pointer in it. I've never seen that before.

I pressed the Service button to get a slot floorperson to reboot the machine. A few seconds later the screen went black. Hmm, it looks like the machine is rebooting itself. But no, the game screen came back. I'll have to wait for assistance. Then the screen went black and came back and then went black again and came back again. But this time the slot club display panel on the bottom of the screen was back.

The slot club system in the machine was rebooting. I've seen this machine reboot before, so I knew things would be back to normal in a few moments. The subsystem displayed a message in the panel that panicked me the first time I saw it: Advantage Player Tracking. Was this machine loading some sort of extra software to track advantage players? Was it being loaded on my machine because the casino considered me to be an advantage player?

No and no. Advantage is the name of a suite of products from IGT that includes a product for player tracking. The correct way to interpret the message is not [Advantage Player] Tracking, but Advantage [Player Tracking]. The message has nothing to do with how the casino views my play.

And think about it. Why would the casino alert players that it is using special software to track advantage players? Furthermore, the slot club is already capturing what machines you play, how long you play, how much action you give, how much you win or lose — what else could it track? The casino already has all of the data it needs to evaluate your play.

The Advantage Player Tracking message is something you don't have to worry about.

But you do have to be careful if you play Dream Card. I had some time to kill a few weeks ago so I decided to have some fun and play a little nickel Dream Card. I don't know if all Dream Card machines have this option — I never noticed it before — but the machine I played gave me the option to change the Dream Card whenever it appeared.

When I finally got a Dream Card, I looked at the different options I had for changing the card. I could change the card to any card left in the deck, even ones that didn't help my hand at all. I decided that the original Dream Card was the best choice available. I cycled back to the original Dream Card and hit the Draw button.

It would have been a good idea to have held the Dream Card. It would have been an even better idea to have held some of the other cards I had been dealt. I ended up getting five new cards in every hand. I was so concerned about checking out my Dream Card options, I forgot to play the hand.

It just occurred to me that the same thing has been the cause of some commercial aviation accidents. The pilots get so involved in working a problem that no one is flying the plane. As a result, one pilot now is always supposed to have the primary responsibility of flying the plane. I really needed a copilot to play the video poker hand while I messed around with the Dream Card feature.


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