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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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The Slot Expert's Guide to Winning at Slots and Video Poker

15 March 2002

You can hear me give my slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer with Frank Scoblete, which is broadcast from Memphis on WMC 790AM Saturday morning from 10-12 CT.


I read the bulletin boards at the Las Vegas Advisor's website as often as I can. There's one fellow who frequently answers questions about video poker strategy with a comment like "it's all luck, so why bother?"

I have a friend who questioned why one should hold the combination of cards with the highest expected value because "holding those cards wouldn't make the machine deal the cards you needed" for a high-paying hand. He summed up his philosophy of playing video poker with "you just have to be at the right machine at the right time."

Is winning at video poker a matter of luck or skill?

Even though my friends say I always take the middle ground on issues, I have to say that the true answer to this question is: a mixture of both. The mix depends on the timeframe we're talking about.

Your individual session results are primarily influenced by what mathematicians refer to as random variability or fluctuations and what regular folks refer to as luck. Some days it seems like you just can't do anything right and you lose hand after hand after hand. On other days, maybe most of them, there's a bit of give and take and you end up a little bit ahead or a little bit behind. And then there are the days we all hope would occur more frequently, the days when everything goes right and it seems like you'd be able to own the casino if you could play the machine long enough. More realistically, when you hit those elusive royal flushes, you'll more than likely show a profit for that session.

Because you occasionally hit some high-paying hands, there is a great deal of variance in your individual session results. Show a profit, that's good luck. Lose your session stake, that's bad luck. You sometimes hear about gamblers on long losing streaks--or even long winning streaks, like Walter Thomason. Most of these people also report that their results were not nearly so bad (or good) in the past.

Over time, your luck tends to even out and your overall results zero in on the long-term payback of your strategy. You'll still have many losing sessions, but you'll also have more sessions when you were "at the right machine at the right time."

Also, the more you play, the less effect on your overall results any individual session will have. Put another way, drop a shot glass of whiskey into a mug of beer and you have a Boilermaker. Drop a shot glass of whiskey into a vat of beer and all you have is a ticked-off brewmeister.

We can use some statistical formulas to predict the range in which your results will fall after a certain number of hands. The center point of the range is always the long-term payback of your strategy--your skill. Where your results fall in the range, either above or below, is a result of your luck. The range gets smaller and smaller as you play more hands. The more you play, the less effect luck has on your overall results and the more effect your skill has.


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


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

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison
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
The Video Poker 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