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Ask the Slot Expert: Tracking my video poker results

16 September 2020

I had my first social distancing incident at a video poker machine this weekend. I was playing in the first position in a bank of four machines. The rest of the machines were empty.

At one point a lady sat down to play at position three. I didn't really like that because she could have played at position four. One machine in between doesn't give six feet of separation, but it's the best you can do at some banks. In addition, she was occasionally drinking from a water bottle, but at least she was doing it the right way -- keeping her mask on unless she was actively taking a sip. (So far I've seen only one person using the same procedure to smoke. Most people I see use drinks and smokes as an exemption from having to wear a mask at a machine.)

She left after a few minutes then another lady sat down at position four. She had some difficulty with the bill validator accepting her bills, so she had to call a slot floorperson to exchange them. A few minutes later, she let out a little yippee and I heard the jackpot music. The same floorperson who had exchanged her bills earlier paid her and said, "Don't worry. I didn't give you back the bills that didn't work before." She continued playing after her handpay.

A little while later, a lady sat down at position two -- right next to me. As she put in her players card and money, I thought about whether I should just leave or say something.

Every 30 minutes or so, this casino plays an announcement asking patrons to wear masks and stay socially distant from people they don't know. I figured I was there first so I shouldn't have to be the person to leave.

I turned to her and said, "You can't play this machine."

She said, "Huh?"

I said, "You can't play this machine. I don't know you. You're part of my family. You're closer than six feet."

I suspect she knew she was in the wrong because she cashed out, took her card, and said, "You're impossible," as she got up to leave.

This is the second time someone has hit a royal (or a handpay, at least) while I was playing that machine. A few days before, I heard the jackpot music playing at the machine back-to-back with mine.

I know you're never due to hit anything on a machine, but I'm due for a set of deuces. I keep an estimate of the number of hands I've played using the points earned in each session. My count is a little low because I don't earn points on free play, but the shortfall affects a digit way to the right of the decimal point.

I estimate I've played 1,042,464 hands of NSU. At 5347 hands per set of deuces, I should have received 194 sets. I've gotten only 189 so far, so I'm owed five sets. Moreover, at 43,478 hands per royal, I should received 23 royals, but I've scored only 17. I'm owed 6 royals.

I also track the number of hands I've played since hitting my last set of deuces or royal. It's been only 33,674 hands since my last royal, so I'm not expecting to hit another one soon. Deuces, on the other hand, have been scarce for a while. It's been 16,161 hands since my last set. (Every time I get dealt three deuces, I think that this will finally be the time that I end my drought!)

Going three cycles with no deuces doesn't happen often. The probability of playing one cycle with no sets of deuces is 0.368. The probability of playing two cycles with no deuces is 0.135. And the probability of playing three cycles with no deuces is 0.05.

What does this prove? Not much, really. It certainly doesn't prove that I'm due for a royal or deuces.

I once overheard two people talking about video poker. One person said that he tracked the number of quads he's gotten and he's short of his expected number. He asked what can he do about it.

The only thing under our control is how much we play. The only thing he -- and we -- can do is either stop or keep playing. Things will work out in the long run, but the long run is very long.


CW aired another Penn & Teller Try This at Home show a few weeks ago. They did a card trick at the end with Elle and Dakaota Fanning. You can also do this trick once you know how it works.

Here is the essence of Penn's patter for the trick.

  • To make sure that the deck hasn't been set up or rigged in any way, start with a new, sealed deck.
  • Open the pack, take out the cards, and remove the two jokers and ad cards.
  • Elle, hold the deck face down and fan the cards.
  • Dakota, pick a card at random from the deck. Don't show it to anyone but remember it.
  • Elle, square up the deck and put the deck face down on the table.
  • Dakota, put the card back on the top of the deck.
  • Elle, cut the deck.
  • Cut the deck again, Elle.
  • Elle, to make sure that you have no muscle memory of where the card is, cut the deck again with your left hand.
  • To make sure you have no idea where the card is, turn the deck face up. Cut the cards again. [On the show, the card on top of the deck was the four of spades.]
  • Turn the deck over.
  • We're going to find Dakota's magic number. Dakota, what was your card? She said the queen of hearts.
  • Dakota, tap the deck three times.
  • Elle, pick up the deck and deal three cards.
  • Show the top card on the deck to Dakota. It is the queen of hearts.

Do you know how this trick was done? Do you want a hint? At one point in the trick, Penn told an outright lie to the Fannings. Another one: Two-thirds of the three-word motto under the pyramid on the back one a one-dollar bill.

Send me an email with your explanation of why this trick works.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 

Maybe someone can explain this to me.

In his nomination acceptance speech, speech, Trump said, "To save as many lives as possible we are focusing on the science, the facts and the data."

The science, the facts and the data say that large crowds are riskier than small crowds, that being indoors is riskier than being outdoors, that being close to people is riskier than being farther apart, that any situation is less risky the more people wear masks, and that "when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask," (Trump, 07/21/20) [I think the advice should be keep socially distant AND wear a mask].

How can you say you are "following the science, the facts and the data" and hold long rallies, both indoors and outdoors, with people packed closely together with very few wearing marks?

Nevada's health officials are expecting to see an increase in cases due to the Labor Day holiday, just like they saw after the Fourth of July. Let's hope we don't see an additional spike from Trump's rallies this past weekend in Minden and Henderson, which defied Nevada's pandemic regulations and his own administration's guidelines.


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