Steps some players take when trying to change their luck
By Jerry “Stickman” Stich
Every game that is based on randomness will have streaks— both lucky streaks and unlucky streaks. These streaks can, and often do, last for a long period of time.
How do people react when caught in an unlucky streak to try to make the machine switch to a lucky streak?
I surveyed several people recently in a few diﬀerent casinos both in Tunica and Las Vegas. Even though I use quotes around their comments, I am most likely paraphrasing what they said to me as I did not record them as they spoke. Here are some of their comments.
Robert in Tunica: “When I ﬁnd myself in a losing streak I change the speed of my play. Since the hand dealt is determined by a random number generator and the hands change very frequently based on time, I ﬁnd that changing the rhythm of my play tends to change my results. Usually if I go fairly fast I get good hands, but when this isn’t working I slow way down and before long things turn around—though not all the time.”
William in Tunica: “When the machine I am playing turns cold I stop and take a break. I may just sit at the machine and watch TV if it is visible from where I am or I may check my email on my phone. After several minutes I once again start playing. If the machine starts paying, I continue. If it doesn’t start paying after a few minutes, I will take another break. This usually works quite well for me.”
Ray in Downtown Las Vegas: “The technique I use was given to me by a bartender that used to work here. She worked the video poker bar for many years, so she should know. I tend to notice patterns of wins while playing. Sometimes there are a lot of small wins like high pairs and three of a kind. At other times straights and ﬂushes become common. Then there are periods where the machine goes quiet. No winning hands dealt and no winning hands after the draw. When I get to one of the quiet periods I do what the bartender said to do: I change games on the machine. If I am playing Jacks or Better I will switch to Double Double Bonus Poker. If I am playing Double Bonus Poker, I will switch to Deuces Wild— things of that nature. After playing a few hands on the changed game, I switch back to my original game and more often than not my luck has improved. This trick really works! I can’t thank the bartender enough.”
Sue on the Las Vegas Strip: “I just hate it when I get into a long slump, but they happen. It is part of the game. What I do is allocate so much money to play in each machine. If I triple it, I cash out and put two-thirds of that away and re-play my original buy-in on the same machine. If I triple that buy- in again, I repeat the process. If I lose the buy-in, I leave the machine and move to the next open machine that has the same game. I continue this process until I have lost my single buy-in four times or have played for as long as I want to play. This process has worked very well for me over the years.”
Donald at an oﬀ-Strip casino in Las Vegas: “Many years ago when I ﬁrst started playing video poker I read an article by a video poker expert that recommended the style of play I use. I start out betting one credit per hand for ﬁve hands. If I win nothing I increase my bet to two credits per hand, then three, then four and then ﬁve. Eventually I will win and the higher bets help recover my losses.”
Ron at a Las Vegas Strip casino: “I have a method of play that makes cold streaks irrelevant. I know all the experts say that in the long run everything evens out to what the math says, but I don’t play in the long run. I play for the short run. Because of this, my method has treated me very well. I start by setting a win goal for my day’s play. Once I hit that goal, I quit playing. I start by playing 10 hands on a quarter Bonus Poker machine. If I haven’t won my goal I then play 10 hands on a quarter Double Double Bonus machine. If I still haven’t won my daily goal I switch to 10 hands on a 50-cent Bonus Poker game, then 20 hands on a 50-cent Double Double Bonus machine. I continue upping the denomination of the games to $1 then $2 and ﬁnally $5 until I have won my daily goal. I virtually always reach my modest daily win goal. This method really works for me.”
And there you have it. There are almost as many methods as there are players. But the thing about a random game is it doesn’t matter what you do. You can change your speed of playing. You can stop playing for a while. You can temporarily switch games. You can switch machines. You can vary the amount bet per hand. You can also progressively play higher and higher denomination machines. But, in the long run, you will lose (or in rare cases win) at the same rate as the math predicts. The very deﬁnition of random is unpredictable. So changing things will not make any diﬀerence in the long run. All that matters is how much money to bet and at what level risk for how many bets.
Does that mean you should sit at the same game and simply continue feeding in more bills? Yes you can, if and only if it doesn’t bother you. Even though making the changes outlined above won’t change your return, if you feel better doing them, you should. The only process I would argue against is playing less than max credits as the return for a royal suﬀers greatly. I would also be very careful about playing progressively higher machines in order to win a relatively modest amount. Should you not win, you could be out a great deal of money and it will take a long time to recover from that loss.
But any other routine mentioned above won’t hurt you. If making the change helps in making play more enjoyable, then by all means do it. Just make sure you are playing the games with the best return and you are playing the proper strategy for that game. That is the best way to ﬁnd the luckiest machine.