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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: How many hands between royals on a machine?

6 March 2019

Question: When a person hits a royal flush, how long will it take that same machine to hit again?

Answer: The machine could hit another royal flush on the next hand or it might take 40,000, 80,000 or 100,000 hands to hit another royal. There's no way to know how many hands it will take. Because every hand is dealt at random with absolutely no regard for what has happened in the past, your chances of getting a royal are roughly 1 out of 40,000 on every hand, even the hand right after a royal flush.

There's no way to know when another royal will pop up on the machine. There's no reason not to play a machine showing a royal — the odds haven't changed. Many casinos used to ask players to play off a jackpot, but today only one of the casinos I play in regularly has a floorperson watch me to ensure that I play off a hand-paid jackpot.

The chances of back-to-back royals is about 1 out of 1,600,000,000 hands. Many hands of video poker are played each day, so even though back-to-back royals are rare, they do happen. You can read about some of those lucky players by Googling "back to back royal flushes."

I've never had back-to-back royals and I don't know anyone who has. We've all had multiple instances of dealt royals, though. And I've had only one instance of multiple royals on a machine (unless you count the dealt royal on a 10-Play machine, which I don't). It was on a multi-hand machine and I was jumping around from three hands, to five, to ten and back down depending on how well I was doing. At 10:19 a.m. I got a royal on one of the hands. At 11:12 a.m. I hit another royal on the same machine.


Question: I was at a casino recently and won a total of 275 free spins on a max bet of $2.50.

The game was doing its spins when a casino employee came up to me and verified that my drivers license matched my player card. She told me that because I had the free spins that the player card became abandoned and she needed to take the card to the cashier's desk and would bring it back all while the machine was still spinning. Then once my free spins were done she would reset it from her desk.

She informed me that if I win free spins like that again I would need to remove my card while it was doing the free spins so it will not go abandoned again. And she never reset the card.

It just seemed suspicious how all of it took place. And my total win was $611.

Answer: From the Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Star Trek file, to paraphrase Captain Kirk telling Lieutenant Saavik in The Wrath of Khan that "you have to understand how things work on a starship," you have to understand how things work in the slot club subsystem in the machine. From a high level, here's how things work.

When you insert your card, the subsystem starts a timer. The timer times the amount of time since your last bet. Whenever you make a bet, the timer gets reset to zero.

When the slot tech configured the slot machine, he entered the maximum amount of time the casino allows without a bet before considering a card abandoned. In the early days of electronic slot clubs, a smaller percentage of the players in the casino belonged to the slot club. Some people tried to get points from other people's play by leaving their cards in machines. If the next player had a card, she would remove the cheat's card from the reader and insert her own card. But if the player didn't have a card, he wouldn't pay any attention to the card reader. The main purpose of the Abandoned Card Timeout is to prevent people from profiting from other player's play.

You were not making any bets while you were enjoying your free spins. Apparently your free spins took so long that you reached the Abandoned Card Timeout. At that point, the slot club subsystem sent a message that your card was abandoned and that triggered the visit from the floorperson. The card reader display probably also displayed a message similar to "Re-Insert Card."

There's nothing suspicious about what happened, but it is peculiar that the casino would suspend an account after one instance of card timeout. It can happen if you stop playing to talk to a friend or the cocktail waitress or you stop for a phone call.

Just today I was playing next to friends of mine who were taking turns playing video poker. He would play a certain number of hands on his machine and then watch his wife play a certain number of hands on her machine. Then it was his turn to play again. She noticed that they were playing so many hands on their turns that the other person's card would time out. So they decreased the number of hands before switching to ensure that the switch happened before a card timed out.

They had a few instances of timeouts before they switched more frequently. No one ever came over to them. The reason they switched more frequently is because they were afraid they might miss a time when the next player's card had timed out and that person would play without earning any points.

I've had my card time out on me too. A few years ago there was a Lord of the Rings version in which you collected rings and could choose when you went to the bonus. You could collect up to 50 rings, as I recall, and then the game forced you into the bonus round.

Of course, I always until I had 50 rings before going into the bonus. I would spend so long in the bonus round, my card would time out. All I had to do was re-insert my card and all was well again.


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