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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Losing playing video poker

28 November 2018

Question: I'm way behind on hitting high paying hands.

I'm going to lose money this year if this keeps up.

What can I do?

Answer: You have only two choices: stop or continue playing.

If you stop playing, that locks in your loss for the year. That's a certain outcome.

If you continue, your fortunes might improve, get worse or stay the same. I don't know which. The one thing I do know for sure is that you're not more likely to hit the high-paying hands because of your current shortfall.

The most likely thing to happen is the most likely thing to happen. That might sound like double-talk, but it really isn't. Break it into two pieces. What's the most likely thing to happen? The most likely thing to happen.

What's the most likely thing to happen when you shoot two dice? If I'm throwing them, the most likely thing to happen is to have one die bounce off the table. Assuming both dice stay on the table, the most likely thing to happen is to roll a 7. It doesn't matter how many 7s have been rolled in the past. The most likely outcome on the next roll — on any roll — is to roll a 7.

The most likely thing to happen in your video poker future is for you to start hitting hands with the expected frequency. Unfortunately, your chances of getting the high-paying hands don't increase because you're statistically behind.

If we looked far, far into your video poker future, we'd expect to see that you hit the hands with very close to the expected frequency. How can that happen if you don't start hitting the hands more frequently?

As you play more and more hands, your bad luck streak becomes a smaller and smaller piece of your overall play. It's significance decreases as you play more hands. Even if you hit hands with the expected frequency from this day forward, your overall hand frequency will be close to the expected frequency because the bad luck streak has become such a small part of the overall picture.

An analogy is a drop of food coloring in a glass of water and in a lake. The drop is enough to change the color of the water in the glass, but it is too insignificant to have an effect on the color of the water in the lake.

Misery must love company because I have the same problem. If I don't start hitting high-paying hands soon, I'm going to end the year with a loss too.

On one denomination of NSU Deuces Wild, I'm averaging 5,900 hands per set of deuces instead of 5,347 and 72,000 hands per royal instead of 43,478. Statistically speaking, I'm behind 10 sets of deuces and five royals.

On another denomination, which I don't play as frequently, I've played 51,000 hands and haven't hit a royal yet. That's not unusual. But I should have hit nine sets of deuces and I've hit only three so far.

The only thing I can do is keep playing and hope for better luck in the future.

What do these averages mean? Nothing, really. They're just a measure of how bad my luck has been. Now, you might say that the machines don't know about my averages, but you'd be wrong. Whenever I sit down at a machine, I tell it that I'm behind on my deuces and royals and I'm expecting it to help make up the shortfall. Hasn't worked yet.

Speaking of denomination, one thing you can do is drop down in denomination if your bankroll is getting short. But do this only if you absolutely must to stay in the game. The problem with dropping down is that it makes it very difficult to get back to break-even. Playing dollars, for example, a couple of dirty royals may be enough to save your session. But if you started at dollars and had to drop to quarters, those dirty royals will get you back up only one-fourth the distance that the dollar hands did.

It's nearly impossible to do today with full-pay pay tables, but what I try to do instead of moving up in denomination is to play multi-hand. I can increase the number of hands I'm playing if I get a hot streak and decrease the number of hands if I hit a bad spell.


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