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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Even Tight Machines Pay Their Jackpots

30 July 2000

I recently read a letter on the Skip Hughes video poker mailing list about someone's good fortune playing a Double/Double Bonus video poker machine. She wanted to play machines with higher paybacks, but they were all full, so she settled on a Double/Double Bonus machine. A 9/6 Double/Double Bonus machine pays back about 99 percent in the long run. It may not be the best bet in the casino, but it is far from the worst.

She hit four aces with a kicker for $2,000 on her first day. On her second day, she hit four aces with a kicker again for another $2,000. Four hands later, she held two cards to a royal and drew the other three cards for a $4,000 royal flush. She wrote, "$6,000 on five hands on a crappy EV machine!"

I've read similar messages from other people astounded at their profits from playing machines with poor paytables. It's true that machines with poor paytables will eventually eat more of your bankroll than machines with good paytables, but that only happens in the long run. On your way to the long run, though, the machine will give you high pairs, flushes, four-of-a-kinds, and even royal flushes.

In fact, your chances of getting a royal flush on a 9/6 Double/Double Bonus machine are about the same as your chances of getting a royal flush on a 9/6 Jacks or Better machine. Assuming mathematically perfect strategy, you'll get a royal once every 40,799 hands on a Double/Double Bonus machine, on the average, and once every 40,391 hands on a 9/6 Jacks machine. Your chances for a straight flush are about the same too, once every 9,123 hands for Double/Double Bonus and once every 9,148 hands for 9/6 Jacks.

The real differences between this machine and a 9/6 Jacks machine comes in the quads. Your chances of getting a four-of-a-kind are about the same on both machines (once every 418 hands for Double/Double Bonus versus once every 423 hands for 9/6 Jacks), but the bonuses--well, double-double bonuses--you get on the Double/Double Bonus machine make the quads contribute 18.76 percentage points to that machine's 98.98 percent payback, while quads on the 9/6 Jacks machine contribute only 5.91 percentage points to its 99.5 percent payback. The Double/Double Bonus machine makes up for its magnanimity in quad payoffs with stinginess in the payoff for two pair. The 2-to-1 payoff for two pair on the 9/6 Jacks machine contributes 25.86 percentage points to its payback, while the push on the Double/Double Bonus machine contributes only 12.31 percentage points.

Slot designers have more flexibility in setting up the paybacks on their machines than video poker designers. The only thing a video poker designer can change on a video poker machine is the paytable. They can't make some cards more likely to be dealt than others and still have a legal machine. The slot designer, on the other hand, can leave the paytable alone because he can alter the probabilities that symbols will land on the payline.

The video poker designer makes a paytable tighter by paying less than other paytables for certain hands. The slot designer, on the other hand, makes a machine tighter by making certain winning combinations land on the payline less frequently. And even though one machine may pay back a little less in the long run than others that look just like it, it will still hit winning combinations.

And even the tightest machine in the world will pay its jackpot once in a while.


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@home.com.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
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