Strange beliefs, and some surprising facts, about ways to win (and lose) at the machines
By Jerry “Stickman” Stich
The makeup of each hand is determined by the machine’s random number generator (RNG). The RNG is constantly cycling. The cards that are dealt are determined at the exact instant you hit the draw button.
Video poker myths have been around since the first machines were introduced. Some myths have been phased out by technology, such as the one about the temperature of your coins influencing whether you would win or lose. (Some folks really believed that putting in cold coins would improve your results, and that if warm coins were paid out it meant the machine was “getting hot” and about to fork over a big payout.)
The advent of coinless machines rendered those myths moot, but there are still dozens of odd (and weirdly inaccurate) rumors that surround video poker. There are also some beliefs that have a degree of truth to them. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular ones.
1. You shouldn’t play a machine that hit a royal flush very recently.
This is a very common myth which might seem to make sense, since a royal is a very infrequent event. This hand is simply too rare to appear twice in short succession, right? Wrong. While the odds of getting a royal are around 40,000-1, every hand played has the same odds of hitting the big one. Just because the last hand was a royal is no guarantee the next hand won’t also be a royal.
2. Video poker machines become “due.”
Many players believe that if a machine has gone a very long time without a royal, it must be “due” to hit soon. Like I said before, the odds of a royal happening around 40,000-1. According to the myth, the closer the machine gets to 40,000 hands played without a royal (and especially if this number exceeds 40,000), the more likely it is to happen on the next hand.
This is not true, for the same reason the previous myth is false. Each hand is an independent occurrence and is unaffected by previous hands. Each hand has a roughly one in 40,000 chance of being a royal, regardless of the result of the last hand, or the previous million hands.
3. Someone else got MY royal!
Let’s say you play a video poker machine for an hour, and it’s slowly draining your money. Finally, after burning through your last $20 bill, you decide to move to another machine. Someone else sits down at your old machine and within a few hands, bang! They get a royal flush—“your” royal flush. If only you hadn’t moved, it would have been yours! It should have been yours.
Wrong again. The makeup of each hand is determined by the machine’s random number generator (RNG). The RNG is constantly cycling. The cards that are dealt are determined at the exact instant you hit the draw button. There is virtually no chance that you would have hit the draw button (twice, if the royal was not dealt in the original hand) at the exact same split-second the other person did. It’s not your royal flush. It never was.
4. If you play faster, you’ll win more.
Your speed of play has no effect on the overall payback of the machine, which is determined by the pay table. However, this myth can actually become true if certain conditions are met. First, the machine must have more than 100 percent payback. Full pay deuces wild (100.76 percent) and full pay double bonus (100.17 percent) are two examples. Or, the machine and bonus point cash back can add up to more than 100 percent. Some casinos offer multiple points on certain days. During these times, it is possible to exceed 100 percent payback if they have good enough pay tables on the games available.
Secondly, you must play perfectly. If you’re playing so fast that you make mistakes, it wipes out any slight advantage you might have. But when you’re playing at a slight advantage, the more hands you play the more the more you will win. Keep in mind, however, that you will not win every time you play. You will have losing sessions along with winning sessions, but ultimately you will win more that you lose.
5. You should always bet the max.
This is also true, for the most part. Most games pay a bonus on the royal flush when you’re playing the maximum amount (usually five credits). If this is the case, playing maximum coin reduces the house edge, so it is best. If playing max coin strains your bankroll, play a lower denomination game.
So there you have several video poker myths and beliefs and the truth about them. The real point to remember is there isn’t any short cut to winning consistently. Learning how to play the machine properly, and practicing good discipline , is ultimately what separates the winners from the losers.
How Would You Play This Hand?
You’re playing a full pay Jacks or Better game (9/6) with max coin of five quarters. You are dealt the following hand:
A♠ K♠ T♠ 5♠ K♥
So how would you play it? This is an interesting hand because it has several possibilities. It has three cards of a royal (A♠, K♠, T♠), four of a flush (A♠, K♠, T♠, 5♠), and a high pair (K♠, K♥). Many gamblers would take the three of a royal, reaching for the thrill of a big win. Others may take four of a flush, figuring there are nine out of 47 remaining cards (roughly one in five) that will give them a six for one payoff.
However, the correct answer is to hold the high pair. The proper way to evaluate hands is by looking at the expected return for each possible hand. In this case, three of a royal (A,K,T) has an expected return of 1.2868. The four of a flush has an expected return of 1.2766. The high pair outdoes both of these with an expected return of 1.5404. For this hand, on a quarter machine with 5 coins in ($1.25), the paybacks are as follows:
Three of a royal $1.6085
Four of a flush $1.59575
High Pair $1.9255
While the three of a royal is slightly better than four of a flush, the high pair pays almost 32 cents more. This is not a trivial amount when playing hundreds of hands an hour. By failing to make the correct choice, you’ll wind up costing yourself real money.
Video Poker Myths.