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Is there a flaw in video poker machines?

8 December 2008

Hi John,

I've been playing video poker for many years and I play Optimum Play strategy. It seems to me that there is a flaw with the software that controls the draw to a four-card flush. I know that you should make the flush 1 out of every 5.2 times but over the years I have kept records and over the long term I'm not even close to this. Any ideas as to why?

Another question, I thought I read several years ago that the cards were dealt from the deck when drawn. A friend says that he read that the cards are dealt for each hand one up and one down so when you discard a card and draw, the card dealt down will be turned up. Can you straighten this out for me?

Thanks,
Gene

Dear Gene,

Let's start with your second question first. Video poker machines used to work the way your friend described, selecting all 10 cards that could be needed for a hand at once. You can still find books that describe that process on bookstore shelves.

But that's not the way today's machines operate. They operate the way you described. When you press the Deal button, five cards are selected and displayed. The RNG continues to cycle. When you press the Draw button, the cards needed to replace your discards are selected and displayed. The replacement cards aren't selected until they're actually needed.

Now, to your first question. There is no software that controls the draw to a four-card flush. There's only the RNG function, and every card remaining in the deck should be equally likely to be drawn as your replacement card.

I'm concerned about the statistic you've been keeping. I think you would be better off tracking the number of times you draw a card of the same suit, not the number of times you make the flush. If you draw to a straight flush or royal flush, do you count those results as completing the flush too? If you don't, that might explain why your experience is below what you expect.

I remember a group of video poker players many years ago suspecting the same sort of "flaw." I don't recall hearing about anything coming of their suspicions and I don't think you've found a flaw, either. I don't know how many hands you have records for, but I suspect that your sample size is just too small to really home in on the the number you expect with a high level of confidence.

After all, the number is just an average. Your mileage may vary.

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 reply to every question.

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