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Video Keno, Progressive Slot Machines

28 August 2003

By John Robison

My question is about video keno.

Yes, I know it is the game with the worst odds for winning but I'm hooked.

Are video keno machines also run by a RNG?

Is there any truth that it doesn't matter what numbers you select, that if the machine is going to hit it doesn't matter what numbers you pick?

One of the hosts at a local casino was telling us that, if a particular machine is paying out too often, after the casino closes at 5:00 a.m. they can adjust the machine to pay out less often without changing the chip. Would you say this is fact or fiction?

If video poker is also run by the RNG, how can they say this is a game of skill if the machine already knows what card is up next after the discard?

Thanks for any insight you can shed on all these questions.


Dear Kathy,

Video keno machines use an RNG to determine which numbers will be selected in a game. It really doesn't matter which numbers you select, because each number is equally likely to be drawn in any particular game.

I think your host misunderstood something he or she was told. Changing the payback on a machine usually involves sending some paperwork to the local gaming commission. Casinos do not change paybacks on machines on a whim.

Video poker machines do use an RNG to shuffle the electronic deck from which the cards are drawn. Video poker is a game of skill because a player has to hold the combination of cards with the highest expected value in each hand in order to get the highest long-term payback possible from the machine.

On modern video poker machines, the cards needed to replace discards are not drawn until you press the Draw button. But even if the machine chooses them at the beginning, it wouldn't matter. Before you start the game, each card is equally likely to be used as a dealt card or a drawn card.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

* * * * * * * * * *

Do you have any information on the casinos in Lousiana? The Coushetta in Kinder, Lousiana is one of the places we usually go, but are the others any better?

Thanks for any info you can give,

Dear Pam,

I'm afraid that the only casino I've been to in Louisiana is the old Flamingo Hilton boat in New Orleans.

Steve Bourie's American Casino Guide website ( has slot payback information from every jurisdiction that reports paybacks. Louisiana doesn't release numbers by property, but you might be able to get some insight from what they do provide.

Another thing you can do is check each casino's video poker offerings. Casinos with high-paying video poker usually have high-paying slots as well.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

* * * * * * * * * *

To: John Robison

I was looking through "Casino City" and ran into your response to the lady about "bingo machines" and Beach Vacation.

These types of machines are Class II games as allowed in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA 25 CFR 2701). Beach Vacation is made by Galaxy Games of Tulsa, OK which is actually owned by Crescent Enterprises LLP out of South Carolina. Other makers of Bingo machines include Multimedia (Austin TX, MGAM on NASDAQ), VGT (South Carolina), MTS (Div. of Cadillac Jack out of Tulsa OK) and others.

All of these machines use a "ball drawer," which is an RNG in a server that draws various number of "balls" depending on how the game vendor set the game up. The RNG has to be in the server and each machine cannot have its own RNG or it is Class III. The players play against each other in Class II such that several players will get the same balls but they have different bingo cards.

Winning patterns are converted to slot machine graphics and displayed as such, but the bingo results also show up on the screen. Multimedia does license graphics from Bally and the machines look like Bally Class III machines except that they display a bingo card.

In addition to Bingo machines, there are also "pull tab" machines such as "Penny Lane" by SED of South Carolina. Pull Tabs (paper or electronic) have a fixed number of tabs in a deal with a fixed number of winners per deal.

Just thought I would pass that along FYI. You probably will not find any of these games in Las Vegas, I think that's a safe bet.

Bill Wood
Kaw Nation Casino Marketing (Newkirk, OK)

Dear Bill,

Thank you very much for this information.

I admit that I only have knowledge of and experience with Las Vegas-style slot machines.


* * * * * * * * * *

How can you tell if a slot machine is a straight multiplier, a bonus multiplier, or one of the other types of slot machines?


Dear Varlisa,

You can tell what type a machine is by looking at its paytable.

If it's a straight multiplier, all two-coin payoffs will be exactly twice the one-coin payoff, all three-coin payoffs exactly three times the one-coin payoff, etc.

Most multipliers are bonus multipliers. On a bonus multiplier, one or more combinations pay a little bit more than they would if the machine were a straight multiplier.

For example, a three-coin Double Diamond machine that pays 800/1600/2400 for the top jackpot would be a straight multiplier. One that pays 800/1600/2500 is a bonus multiplier.

Another type of machine is a buy-a-pay. Paytables on buy-a-pay machines are divided to show you which combinations are bought by playing each coin. Blazing 7s is a buy-a-pay machine because the first coin buys only the bar combinations, and the second coin buys the 7s combinations.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

* * * * * * * * * *


I like to play the progressives. There are usually several types of machines in a bank of progressive machines (Red White & Blue, Double Diamond, Triple Diamond, 5 Times Pay and 10 Times Pay, etc.).

Can you tell me which of these machines one can play in order to get to spin (play Jeopardy or whatever) most often or are they all programmed to offer the bonus plays in the same quantity?


Dear Earl,

When the machines are part of a wide-area progressive network (e.g., Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy), all machines are identical.

When the machines are not part of network, they may or may not be the same. I know of one slot manager who had a carousel of Five Times Pay machines. At first, all of the machines had the same payback program. He decided to try an experiment and he put a slightly lower payback program in two of the machines to see if they would still get as much play as the other machines in the bank. They did and players never realized that those machines paid back a little less than the others.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at

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