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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Vile evil tool of the oppressor class

1 September 2008

Re: Have the paybacks on full-pay video poker machines gone down?

Dear vile evil tool of the oppressor class:

You keep saying that slots/video poker is 'fair' because
(1) casino's can make money just by the house edge and
(2) regulator's have to approve the technology used and track the handle and
(3) the fall out from getting caught at cheating will destroy the casino, most of which are now owned by large public corporations.

But we know this isn't so because:
(1) me and my buddy's used to make money at the slots/video poker and now we don't. and
(2) there's no such things as a real random number generator and
(3) you're an evil tool of the oppressor class.

The underlying problem is this:
Whether you're talking about mechanical machines, electronic machines or even roulette wheels there is no way that a regular customer or a very knowledgeable customer or even most casino employees can really know whether the machine is performing the way it is supposed to.

So the question is who are you going to believe?

And does it matter to the casinos? I suspect the casinos do better with players who believe in systems and some sort of conspiracy.

Sheldon
Toronto, Canada

Whoa! Who are you calling a tool?

Seriously, if I were part of the oppressor class or paid big bucks by the casinos for my lack of knowledge, as someone else wrote a few weeks ago, I wouldn't be driving a seven-year-old car (albeit a nice one) and I wouldn't be trying to figure out how I'm going to pay the taxes I owe and two mortgage payments by October 15. Moreover, I rule over no one. I have no means to subject others to undue pressures.

Let me address your points one by one.

Slots and video poker are "fair." Not in the mathematical definition of a "fair" game, which is a game that does not favor any player. All casino games have house edges. They favor the house and, in that sense, are not mathematically fair. But the games are not rigged, controlled or manipulated. They are fair in the exact same sense in which carnival midway games are not fair.

Casinos can make money just by the house edge. Casinos also need players to play the games. If they can get players to wager, all the casinos need to do is run the games and the house edge will see to their winnings in the long run.

Regulators approve the technology and track the handle. Regulators test machines and subject them to casino-floor inspections and require casinos to file volumes of paperwork ostensibly to protect the gaming public. We all know that the primary reason is to protect the state's interest in the games because the states have become as addicted to the revenue from gaming taxes as some players are to the games themselves.

The fallout from getting caught cheating will destroy the casino, most of which are now owned by large corporations. Would you go back to a casino that is known to have cheated in the past? In New Jersey a casino operator lost its license to operate a casino because it did not run a "first class" operation. It allowed the casino and the hotel rooms to become filthy and overall gave very poor customer service. If New Jersey's regulators pulled a license because an operator ran a poor operation, do you think they'd have any problems pulling a license because a casino cheated?

Me and my buddy used to make money at the slots and video poker and now we don't. Truthfully, your results prove nothing. There's a house edge, remember. You're more likely to lose than to win unless you can get the advantage over the house by counting cards, playing positive expectation video poker nearly perfectly, or having a controlled dice throw. I know it's not a satisfying answer — conspiracies are so much more interesting — but having a cold streak, even one or more people having a cold streak at the same time, is within the realm of possibilities given the randomness of the games. Put another way, if you and all your friends threw a pair of dice, we shouldn't be surprised at the number of people who threw 7s because 7 is the most likely result.

There's no such thing as a real random number generator. That's not true. In any case, you would be hard pressed to tell the stream of numbers from a pseudo-random number generator in a slot machine from the stream of numbers from a true random number generator.

You're an evil tool of the oppressor class. I'm flattered that you think I have this much power and influence. I suppose we'll have to agree to disagree on this point.

...There is no way that a ... customer ... can really know whether the machine is performing that it is supposed to. That is why we depend upon the gaming jurisdiction to do what we can't do — test the machines and other casino hardware to ensure that the hardware operates properly and verify that casinos follow all the necessary procedures to ensure that neither the players nor the casino are cheated.

If you don't trust an airline and its mechanics to give you a safe ride to your destination, then don't get on the plane. If you don't trust your friend to drive safely, then don't get in the car. If you don't trust the regulators or the casinos to give you a fair game (besides the house edge), then don't go to the casino.

Despite your including me in the oppressor class, I — or any state, for that matter — can't force you to go to the casino. We need oxygen, food, water and shelter. We don't need slots, video poker and blackjack. If you don't trust the games, don't play them.

If I ran a casino, I'd put a big banner out front welcoming all the systems players. I'd make a lot of money from the players who believe that machines are due. I'd make a lot of money from people who believe that red or black or odd or even were due at a roulette table. I'd make a lot of money from people who use Martingales and other betting methods at the tables.

But I don't run a casino. Instead, I write in nearly every column that you can't beat the house edge in the long run. That nothing is ever due in a casino. That betting methods do nothing about the house edge. That the results on a machine or at a table are random.

Who are you going to believe? I hope readers will believe me. I want players to know that the only obstacle they face in the casino is the house edge. I want players to enjoy their time in the casino. I want people who think the machines or the casinos are cheating them to find another use for their recreation dollars. I want players who can't afford to lose the money they're betting to get the hell out of the casino.

Thanks for your letter,
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