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Ask the Slot Expert: Has the programming changed on video poker machines?

16 November 2011

John:

Thanks for all the great info in your articles – always very helpful to any gambler!

I was wondering if you could explain a phenomenon I see all the time on video poker machines.

Using an example for Deuces Wild, let’s say I am playing a 5-cent machine with max coins bet of 10 for a $.50 bet. I am dealt an inside straight – with or without a deuce. When I discard the 1 card I need to make the straight – next to 100 percent of the time I either get the exact same card back – or the same face value in a different suit, losing the hand.

I never noticed this happening until a reprogramming of all machine was done – I see this happen in every casino I play in – Vegas, Atlantic City, Pennsylvania and Delaware – where the ‘new programming’ has come into play. The way I can tell before even playing a machine which ones will do this is where the denomination is listed on the screen it will appear in a square box on the background. The ‘original programming’ always had an oval shape. In some cases, I can see the payouts have also been lowered in some casinos with the ‘new programming’ (in some cases, of course, these are simply new machines as well – not necessarily that their programming has changed).

There seems to be a very predictable outcome on certain games such as the Deuces Wild 4-card straight next to never yielding a 5-card straight. Another example is a straight flush on a double joker machine (AC only). If the hand contains 2 jokers and 2 other cards to begin to comprise an inside straight flush – I would think the odds of getting that straight flush are pretty high – and yet it's next to impossible to attain. I find it easier to hit a royal flush with 3 cards dealt, than a straight flush with 4 – makes no sense to me – but I see it all the time.

Was a change made to gaming laws that allows this to occur? I would guess this started happening 3-5 years ago – right after the general switch to non-coin payouts.

Thanks for your help!

Harry

Dear Harry,

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

First off, we have to ensure we're making a fair comparison. Delaware has Class II Video Lottery Terminals, not Class III slot machines like Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Pennsylvania, so their machines will act differently. On the Class II machine, the amount you will win is determined at the beginning of a hand (almost as if the machine has scratched off an instant lottery ticket) and you will win that amount no matter how you play the hand.

On the Class III machines, nothing is predetermined. Your skill at playing the hand and your luck at drawing the cards you need determine how much you win on a hand.

Nothing has changed in gaming laws to allow the sort of things you experienced. If a Class III machine deals you the same card twice during a hand, it has malfunctioned and you should report it to the casino. A Class III machine should operate as if you were dealing the hand from a fair deck of cards. Nothing prohibits a Class II machine, on the other hand, from dealing the same card twice.

As for the frequency with which you're hitting certain hands, the probabilities apply on Class III machines only. Another problem is that the probabilities prove out in the long run. You just may not have played enough hands to have been in a situation enough times to have a good sample.

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