Debunking common video poker myths
By Henry Tamburin
Video poker has its share of myths and misconceptions. Many players mistakenly believe in them which hinder their progress toward becoming a winning player; therefore, my goal this month is to dispel these myths.
Casinos can change the odds of hitting jackpots on video poker machines
Many players mistakenly believe that there are “hot” video poker machines and “cold” ones and the “secret” is to find the hot ones. Actually, the odds of hitting, say, a royal flush is the same for a particular video poker game no matter where that machine is located (Las Vegas, Mississippi, New Jersey, you name it). Casinos can’t change the odds of hitting the winning hands in a video poker machine. Let me repeat that: casinos can’t change the odds. The reason is that as long as the game is based on a random selection of cards from a 52-card deck (which it is in the majority of gaming jurisdictions), the math is fixed and the casinos can’t (legally) change it. Therefore, if you happen to be playing, say, a 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker game in a Las Vegas casino, the odds of getting a royal flush, straight flush, four-of-a-kind, etc. on this machine is the same as a video poker machine in a casino next door, or one 3000 miles away. The only thing that casinos can and do change on video poker machines are the playoffs for the winning hands. (The payoff table on video poker machines is what smart players focus on.)
Casinos can cheat by how the cards are dealt
Since you can’t “see” an actual dealer shuffling and dealing the cards, many players are skeptical that the dealing is on the up and up. But let’s suppose there was a little man inside the video poker machine and you could see him dealing the cards. He would first spread all the cards face up to show you that every card was present in his 52-card deck. Next, he would shuffle the cards, and as soon as you made your bet, he would stop shuffling and deal you the top five cards face up. While you decided which cards you wanted to hold, he would continue to shuffle the remaining undealt 47 cards. Once you decide which cards you want to keep (or hold) and hit the draw button, the dealer would stop shuffling, set the cards aside that you decided to dis-card, and deal the replacement cards from the top of 47-card deck alongside the cards you held. This gives you the final five-card poker hand that determines, based on the cards in your hand, whether or not you have a winning hand.
What I described above is exactly how the computer soft-ware program deals cards in a video poker machine. By regulation, every card in a deck has to have the same odds of being selected as it would if you were dealing cards at home from a deck of plastic playing cards. Casinos don’t rig the dealing procedure!
You should get a royal flush once in every 40,000 hands
Players become unglued when they play more than 40,000 hands without getting a royal flush. Pay attention to this because it’s important. The math says you will average one royal flush in many cycles of roughly 40,000 hands (and not that you are guaranteed to get a royal flush after every 40,000 hands). You could, in fact, get more than one royal flush in a cycle of 40,000 hands or none. (For example, I’ve gone close to playing 250,000 hands without a single royal while other times I’ve had as many as six royals in a cycle of 40,000 hands.) The “one royal in every 40,000 hands” is an average of many cycles of 40,000 hands. Got it?
You can’t win as much when you use a player’s card
Some players believe that when they insert their player’s card into a video poker machine’s card reader, their chances of getting winning hands diminish to compensate for the free play and comps the casinos gives you by using the card. Unfortunately, this misconception results in players not using their player’s card when they play. This is a BIG mistake. Bottom line: The electronics that are used to track your play when you insert your player’s card in to the card reader on the ma-chine are not connected to the electronics of the software program re-siding on the computer chip that randomly deals the cards. (The latter is known as the Random Number Generator or RNG.) The only thing you accomplish when you don’t use a player’s card when you play video poker is to miss out on a lot of potential cash back, free play, and comps. (Translated: There is no downside to using a player’s card when you play video poker; only an upside. Therefore, you should always apply for a player’s card and use it every time you play video poker.)
The machine is due to hit.
The odds of hitting a royal flush is roughly 1 in 40,000 (The odds vary slightly depending upon which game you play; for example, it’s 1 in 40,391 hands for 9/6 Jacks or Better, and 1 in 46,727 for 10/7 Double Bonus). It doesn’t matter whether you just hit a royal flush on a specific machine or went over 40,000 hands since your last royal, the odds of getting the royal on the next hand is still 1 in roughly 40,000. The results of past hands have no bearing on what will happened on the next hand.
By changing games I’ll change my luck.
Sometimes it will; other times it won’t. You can’t predict beforehand which will be the case. The fact is the odds of getting those winning hands won’t change when you switch from one game to another. In addition, if you switch from one game to another, the basic playing strategy most likely will change. (If you don’t know the correct strategy for the game you about to switch to, this could be a disaster.)
Henry Tamburin is a blackjack and video poker expert. He is the host of the smartgaming.com website and the editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter (for a free three-month subscription, visit www.bjinsider.com/freetrial).