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What Are the Odds of Being Dealt a Royal Flush?

23 August 2008

By John Robison

Hi, John,

I had been playing a $1 Double Double Bonus Poker machine for about 5 hours, and then out of the blue, it dealt me a royal flush in clubs.

Question: I know the odds of hitting a Royal Flush are about 1:42,000, however, what are the odds of being dealt a Royal Flush? The same?

Thanks for your great column.


Dear JG,

Thanks for the kind about my column.

The numbers you quote are for drawing to a Royal Flush. The ability to draw cards to improve you hand has a significant effect on your chances to hit winning hands.

There are 2,598,960 possible five-card hands you can be dealt. Of those hands, only four are Royal Flushes.

So, 1 out of about 42,000 hands result in a Royal Flush after the draw, but only 4 out of 2,598,960 (1 out of 649,740) hands you're dealt are Royal Flushes.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,


I have a question regarding how video poker hands are dealt. I think you have answered this question before. If so, I apologize for the repeat of the question. I have been given two explanations about how the cards are dealt. The first is that 5 cards are dealt and 5 more cards are dealt out underneath the original five. Discarding a card simply reveals the card underneath the one that is discarded. The other explanation that I have received is that the first 5 cards are dealt and the remaining 47 (or 48 for Joker Poker) continue to shuffle until the hold is made and the draw takes place.

Is either of these correct? I appreciate any information you could give to me.

Thank you,

Dear Chris,

Both methods could be used.

In Video Poker Mania, Dwight Crevelt says that all 10 cards that might be used for a video poker hand are selected when you press the Deal button. Five cards are displayed. The remaining five cards are used in one of two ways. One way is to keep them in a stack and cards are dealt from the stack to replace discards. This is called "serial draw." "Parallel draw" is the other method, the one you described. The extra five cards are assigned positions, essentially being placed underneath the cards displayed, and used only if you discard the card dealt in that position.

Video Poker Mania was published in 1991 and things have changed since then.

Fast forward to the late 1990s. In a presentation at a day-long seminar for slot operators at the World Gaming Congress, James Maida of Gaming Labs International (GLI) described a group of RNG cheats in the midwest. One of the people in the group was the son of a slot distributor, so he had access to the game EPROM and disassembled the code to figure out the RNG algorithm. With the algorithm, he was able to write an RNG simulator program.

When a video poker machine selects all 10 cards at once, a cheat has all the time in the world until he presses the Draw button to figure out what the five replacement cards are. The cheats played a few hands and entered them into the RNG simulator program, which had the RNG algorithm and was able to determine where the RNG was in its cycle. Once the program knew that, they were able to enter the five cards they were dealt and have the program tell them the five cards that would be used to replace discards.

Because of this incident, Nevada changed its video poker regulations to require that machines select five cards on the draw, continue cycling the RNG, and then select replacement cards only after the Draw button is pressed.

The Standards for Gaming Devices document on GLI's site implies that they prefer that video poker machines select replacement cards only after the Draw button is pressed, but that it is not required. The method used depends on the regulations in your jurisdiction.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

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