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Ask the Slot Expert: Should I play a video poker machine after it hit a big jackpot?

21 February 2018

Question: The new Montreign Casino opened in New York on Feb. 8th. I have been calling the slot manager to find out what class their slot machines are, but they haven't gotten back to me. I can only assume that they are Class II machines, which my understanding is that the slot results are decided by a gigantic computer some where in upstate NY. Do you have any info about their slot machines?

Answer: The slots in that casino are VLTs (video lottery terminals) run by the New York State Lottery Commission. You're right that the results are determined by a computer, maybe not gigantic like Colossus or Guardian ($10 in free slot play to anyone who recognized the reference to Colossus: The Forbin Project), somewhere in New York. The machines do not have internal RNGs that determine their results, unlike the slots in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and many other gaming jurisdictions.

John Grochowski once told me that the Class II designation is really reserved for slots at Native American casinos because the definition is in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. I had been using the term to describe any machine that does not have an RNG and depends on a separate computer system to determine its results. Whether technically Class II or not, the key point is that the machines do not determine their results themselves.

Here's an excerpt from a document entitled Administration of Video Lottery Terminals, a real page-turner.

VLTs resemble "casino" slot machines. The fundamental difference is that the results of each play on a VLT are determined by a central computer located at a Lottery facility to which all VLTs are connected. A predetermined random formula is used for each play of the machine.

Another key point is that a 92% long-term payback machine is a 92% long-term payback machine, regardless of whether it is Class II, Class III or a VLT. And one very important point: Pay tables and strategies mean nothing on a video poker VLT.


Question: I saw a man win $20,000 on a video poker machine. Two weeks before, I had hit four-of-a-kind, but it paid only $70. Of course, I did not have as much money in the game like he did. However, this machine has been paying out.

If you were me, would you continue playing that machine? Would you trust that machine to pay out again for $20,000 anytime soon, especially if you were going to play for big bucks? Would that be the machine that you stick your money into to try to win that $20,000?

Answer: I got my start in gambling journalism by proofreading and editing John Patrick's newsletter. For table games, John recommended charting the tables. Look for a table where players are winning and join that table.

Although past results don't necessarily indicate future results, I suppose it doesn't really make sense to jump on a table where the players are getting wiped out. And it's possible that there's a reason the players are doing well: the remainder of the deck favors the players at a blackjack table, or a dice controller is shooting, or the roulette wheel has a bias.

Nothing like that exists on slot and video poker machines. The result of each spin and hand is determined at random without regard for what has happened in the past.

It's funny how some table games players look for hot tables, but some slot players run from slots that were hot for another player. It's the old take-cycle/give-cycle myth. A slot that paid out for the player before you is going to have to even things out by taking your money.

Maybe today's players have accepted the fact that each spin or hand is independent. It's been years and years (and years) since I've been asked if I was going to play off a jackpot.

Henry Tamburin's wife Linda once asked me if I would switch machines if I was losing on one. I said, "No, what difference would it make?" I won't say that I've never switched machines to try to escape a bankroll-sucker, but I will say that I usually stick with a machine no matter what it does to me. Once there was a machine that I kept playing because it wasn't paying and I wanted to see how bad it could be. (Pretty bad.)

Video poker machines deal cards without regard for what has happened in the past. The odds for hitting a $20,000 payout on that machine haven't changed. The odds are the same on the hand that hit and on any hand that you may play on that machine.

I wouldn't avoid that machine just because I saw it hit.

Consider this: You saw only a small slice of that machine's performance. You don't know how many times it may have hit when you weren't around. It seems kind of silly to be concerned about the one hit you saw and not the unknown number of other hits that you didn't see.

It's true that quite a few hands are usually played between big jackpots on video poker machines, but that has nothing to do with the odds changing after the jackpot was hit. Big jackpots don't happen often simply because rare events tend to happen rarely.


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