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Best of John Robison

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Do video poker machines pay better when you play faster?

28 November 2005

Dear John:

I have sent this question to you many times without getting an answer and I wondered if you could please just once answer.

My question is, does a person have more of a chance hitting on slots if they move their finger around on the Max Button instead of leaving in one spot?

I can sit at a machine and hit one spot forever and I don't hit anything, but if I move my finger around on the button, whether it is the Spin button or the Max Bet button, I usually do pretty good.

So, is there any truth to this or is it just me?

Have a nice day,
Karen

Dear Karen,

I'm sorry you had to wait so long for an answer. The wait for an answer is now about three months. I have an idea to be able to get more answers out more quickly, though. I'll have more to say about it once it's ready.

To answer your question, it doesn't matter where you hit the button. It's just an on-off switch, like a key on a keyboard. It doesn't matter where you hit the key; the result is the same — a letter appears.

The same thing happens on the slot. When you press the button, the switch is on (or, more technically, closed) and a signal is sent to the program running the slot machine, which then takes the appropriate action. There's no way to communicate where your finger was on the button.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hello,

I have been playing the dollar slots for the first time this year and have over $50K worth of 1099s. I have more than that in losses, looking at withdrawals, checks at the casinos, and reward cars. My question is, what is the ballpark range of most folks who gamble? I am trying to figure out, although I guess it's merely an academic exercise, if this will look real strange on my tax return.

Thank you.

First, there's a typo in your letter that I can't figure out. You mention looking at withdrawals, checks, and "reward cars." I think you meant reward cards, and I hope you really mean players club cards.

As to your question, I am not a tax preparer. My comments are based on my experiences and those of others.

I don't think the total of your 1099s is relevant. You could have hit one large jackpot, a few smaller ones, or had an incredible run of luck on video poker.

What is relevant, I think, is how good the proof of your losses is. Hold onto every piece of documentation you can and request win/loss statements from the casinos in which you played. You have to provide evidence that you not only lost the $50,000 that you won, but also lost more.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I always enjoy reading your very informative articles. Keep up the good work.

Two questions:

  1. In multidraw poker are the cards selected at the "draw" hand taken out of the 52 deck random generator of the the other draws for the additional hands? I hope you understand what I mean.
  2. In games such as "slotto," where balls are put in the air or "pinball" when you hit the bonus, is the outcome already determined before the balls fall into place or the "pinball" falls into the predetermined slot?

Thank you for your answer,
Dale

Dear Dale,

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

Your first question I can answer definitively. In multi-hand poker, each hand is in effect dealt from a separate deck. The cards dealt in the pre-draw hand are removed from each deck. When you press the Draw button, each hand is completed by drawing cards at random from its exclusive deck.

As to your second question, I can only give you what my understanding of the operation of machines like those is. I believe that the outcome has already been determined, much like the outcome when you spin the wheel on Wheel of Fortune. It's possible that there might be some new Slotto-like machines out there on which the bonuses are not predetermined and new machines with pinball-like bonuses that do require some skill.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Having played in the local native American casinos a lot, I find something odd. I can have two or more machines right next to each other pay off similar amounts at the same time. Example: Two quarter keno machines paying 5 out of 6 at the same instant. I've also experienced "the wave" on a line of progressive nickel machines. I just find it hard to believe they are not linked through a LAN connection to some file server that also generates an RNG trigger of some sort. Just seems too coincidental they would act this way.

Any ideas on this would be appreciated.

I assume these casinos have Class II games. If they're Class III, then what you experienced are just coincidences, which you would expect to occur occasionally with random events.

With Class II games, however, I think there might be another explanation. Class II games are really bingo drawings under the hood. When you play two machines at the same time, the same drawing is used to determine the outcomes. If the bingo cards each machine is "playing" are similar, you would have similar results.

My knowledge of how Class II games operate is very limited. If anyone knows more about the nuts-and-bolts of Class II games and whether my explanation is plausible, please write and I'll publish your comments in a future column.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I have the feeling I know the answer to these questions, but here it goes anyway.

Does the machine "reward" you for playing at the maximum speed of video poker? I imagine it does not, unless you consider playing more hands per minute a "reward." By reward, I mean a better chance of winning.

Also, can you help your long-run chances by not playing "conventional-wisdom" poker? By that, I mean such things such as discarding one dealt pair on double bonus poker in hopes of being dealt a three-of-a-kind or better when the two pairs is an obvious winner?

The past week in Las Vegas I had a great run of luck on hands shortly after doing moves similar to this.

Thanks,
Rob

Dear Rob,

If only we could improve our results at video poker by just playing faster. No more memorizing strategies. All we have to do is exercise our fingers.

Unfortunately, how quickly you play has no effect on your results — other than to make you lose your money more quickly! The only exception would be if you were playing a positive expectation game. In that case, the more quickly (or the longer) you play, the more hands you play and the greater your expected win.

My first thought on your second question is that you can almost always improve your long-term results by not playing conventional-wisdom poker because conventional wisdom is almost always wrong!

Seriously, though, the only way you can improve your long-term results is by playing m mathematically derived strategy. Conventional wisdom is always mathematically correct.

You can sometimes improve your short-term results, however. In many video poker pay tables, you should go for the royal when you're dealt a pat flush that includes a 4-card royal. Most of the time, you give up a sure thing for nothing. You can improve your short-term results by holding onto the sure thing. But the 1 in 47 times you complete the royal more than makes up for what you give up in the long run.

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 send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take several months for your question to appear in my column.

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