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Ask the Slot Expert: Does shutting down a machine affect its royal cycle?

22 April 2020

A member of a video poker message board recently asked if shutting down video poker machines would affect their royal flush cycles. Is a fresh cycle started when a machine is turned back on or will the machine pick up where it left off?

Many people responded by saying that there aren't really cycles in a video poker machine. Consider the cycles in a washing machine. A washing machine cycles from wash to rinse to spin dry, but video poker machines don't count the number of hands that have been played and trigger a royal when appropriate. The royal flush cycle is merely a mathematical ratio of the number of five-card hands you can be dealt (2,598,960 for a deck without joker(s)) divided by the number of times you get a royal flush when playing a particular strategy.

For fun I keep track of the number of hands I play between royals for NSU. The numbers aren't exact because I don't track when in a session I've hit the royal. (Worse, I just realized I have an error in my algorithm because I'm not counting any of the hands in a session with a royal! If I'm not going to note the number of hands played before the royal -- and I'm not -- I have to assume that I hit the royal on the first hand of the session, the last hand, or the middle hand and calculate hands between royals appropriately.)

Acknowledging my numbers are a bit off, I've gone as few as 4,633 hands between royals and as many as, ugh, 106,669. (Last year was a bad year.)

I also track the number of hands I've played so I can calculate my royal flush cycle. This number isn't affected by my error because it's just the ratio of the number of royals hit over the number of hands played. It's interesting to see how hitting a royal has a lesser effect on my hands/royal ratio the more hands I've played. Hot and cold streaks have a diminishing effect on overall results the more hands you play.

My ratio was about 60,000 hands per royal when the casinos in Las Vegas shut down. I figure I'm owed six royals to get my cycle down to about 40,000 hands between royals.

I want to correct a statement made by one of the members. She said that random number generators do not cycle.

Actually, they do. A true random number generator would not cycle, but slot machines don't have true random number generators. They have pseudo-random number generators (PRNG). A PRNG is just a mathematical function that generates a stream of numbers using one or more previously generated numbers, performing some arithmetic operations on them, and returning the result. The input to the PRNG will eventually be the same as it was in the past and the PRNG will generate the same number it did in the past. Identical inputs yield identical results. The following numbers will be the same as they were in the past. The number of results produced before the PRNG repeats itself is known as the period of the PRNG.

Despite not being truly random, the stream of numbers generated by the PRNG satisfy many of the tests for randomness and the PRNG functions used by slot manufacturers are good enough for electronic gaming machines.


We're about to start week six of Stay Home for Nevada. Governor Sisolak gave a press briefing about restarting Nevada's economy tonight, 04/21. He was asked about a timeline for starting Phase 1. He, of course, could not give a timeline because it all depends on when the state meets the requirements given in the Opening Up America Again guidelines. As many others have said, the virus determines the timeline. The shutdown order will likely be extended beyond April 30.

A few weeks ago I recounted my experience with a non-technical person discussing Y2K. She said that the warnings were overblown and it turned out to be nothing.

I told her that the reason it turned out to mostly be a non-event is because I and thousands of other programmers reviewed programs and made necessary changes to ensure they would operate correctly when the century digits in the date changed from 19 to 20. The tech boom at the end of the 1990s, moreover, was caused in part by companies buying new Y2K-compliant hardware.

The reason it was a non-event is because of all the man-hours and money invested to ensure that it would be a non-event.

The same thinking that hype was overblown is now showing up in comments about Nevada's response to Covid-19.

The number of positive cases, hospitalizations and deaths from the virus in Nevada have been lower than initially projected. The Las Vegas Review-Journal has published a number of opinion pieces and letters to the editor positing that the shutdown was too extreme or even unnecessary given the numbers we've seen.

The governor addressed that sentiment in his briefing.

The lower numbers of affected people and deaths that were previously predicted should not be seen as an indication that our actions were unnecessary. But it’s a strong indicator that our aggressive control measures were both necessary and effective.

The briefing did not specify which businesses would be allowed to open in Phase 1, so it's not known now whether casinos would be included in that phase. The governor did say that all businesses would have to follow the social distancing guidelines. It might not be economically feasible for some restaurants to open their dining rooms. he said, if they can operate at only 25-30% capacity.

Following are some links to sites you might find interesting.

In tonight's federal coronavirus briefing, Dr. Birx said that the US had one of the lowest morality rates. The Mortality Analyses page on the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine site corroborates that statement.

The president said that the US has conducted more tests than any other country, more than other countries combined. That's half true. According to the Covid-19 Testing page on Wikipedia, the US has conducted more tests than any other individual country, but we're nowhere near having conducted more tests than the other countries combined. Germany, Italy and Spain together have conducted as many tests as the US has.

You may have heard about a video from Dr. David Price of New York City. It's a month old, so further events may have disproven some of his statements. Nevertheless his advice is the guidance we've been given all along: clean (wash or sanitize) your hands often, don't touch your face, and keep your distance.

Everyone wants to know what it's going to be like when Las Vegas' casinos reopen. This article in the Las Vegas Review-Journal about what it was like in Macao may give us an idea.

Speaking of what the future will be like, John Acres has been at the forefront of many advances in casinos. His companies have developed progressive systems, players clubs and player bonusing. This article describes how his latest company is going to take players clubs to the next level.

Finally, I just saw some posts saying that you may not get a stimulus check if you have a large total in W-2Gs.

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