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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Do video poker machines still deal from a fair deck?

18 April 2012

When I first started playing video poker in Las Vegas some years ago, all the machines had a sticker stating that all deals were from a 52-card deck. During recent trips to Las Vegas and to the local Indian casino I could find no such stickers.Their removal would indicate to me that, now that all machines are connected to a central computer and are no longer stand-alone, the machines may not be dealing exclusively from a 52-card deck.

From the house's standpoint, controlling payouts on video poker to be more like slot machine payouts would be profitable. Optimal play at video poker historically generated higher payout rates than slots.

So the question: Do the casinos use sophisticated software programs on their fast computers to manipulate the outcomes on video poker machines that result in different outcomes than would occur if the machines were dealing randomly from a 52-card deck?

In other words, am I now playing a different game (dutifully approved and sanctioned) that only looks like the old video poker game?

Thank you for your time.

J.

Dear J.:

It's not true that all machines are connected to a central computer, at least not for determining the outcomes of spins or hands.

A central computer determines outcomes only on Class II machines, which are the kind you find in many Indian casinos. A Class II video poker machine will frequently have a "surprise bonus" feature, like a fairy godmother, to force a particular payout on a hand. The central computer has determined how much you will win on the hand, and the machine needs some mechanism to award it to you when you don't hold the right cards.

If you're playing in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica, and other Class III jurisdictions, the machines should be dealing from a fair 52-card deck. The only way the casino can change the long-term paybacks on these machines is by changing the pay tables. Class II machines act like slot machines and the casinos can set the long-term paybacks on them without changing the pay tables.

So, the answer to your question is maybe. It depends on whether the machine is a Class II or a Class III machine.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

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