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23 January 2016
By Jerry Stickman
If you do all your video poker play in Nevada or New Jersey this article may not be for you. However, if you ever play at Indian casinos in other states, read on.
Not all casino gaming is the same. In 1988 the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act became law and established a framework that governs Indian gaming. The act establishes three classes of games.
Tribes have the authority to conduct, license and regulate Class II gaming as long as the state in which the tribe is located permits such gaming for any purpose and the tribal gaming ordinance is approved by the National Indian Gaming Commission. Only Hawaii and Utah currently prohibit all types of gaming.
Before a tribe may legally conduct Class III gaming, that form of gaming must be permitted by the state. The tribe and state must also have an agreement that has been approved by the Secretary of the Interior. Finally, the tribe must adopt a tribal gaming ordinance that has been approved by the Chairman of the Commission.
They did that job so well that many people are unaware they are playing Class II games.
Video poker games presented a special challenge. Let’s take an example. The bingo game is played and your particular game wins and the prize is determined to be a 25-for-1 four of a kind. The machine deals the following hand: Kc Qc Jc Qh Qs. You decide to go for the royal and save the Kc Qc Jc. With these saved cards there is no way to produce a four of kind.
How do Class II games handle this situation?
A “Genie” feature is added. Whenever the saved cards allow no way to make the proper winning hand a “genie” appears and magically transforms the hand into the winning hand determined by the bingo game.
What are the differences between class II and class III video poker games?
As mentioned above, Class II games are actually bingo games. They are simply played using a server and presented to look as if they are a traditional video poker game. A central server controls the bingo game. It also uses a random number generator to determine the outcome of each bingo game.
Class II games determine the odds of hitting various bingo patterns and adjust the winnings based on those odds.
Since Class II games are really bingo games, there is no way for a player to determine the actual expected return for the game. There is no information available to the player regarding the odds of the various bingo patterns and what patterns are used to pay which hands.
Since Class II games are determined by the results of a bingo game, there is nothing the player can do to alter this. Indeed, even if the player does everything he can to change a winning hand to something else the genie feature will undo those efforts and force the payment of the winning hand. Strategy has no place in class II video poker.
Also, just because you are playing in an Indian casino doesn’t mean there will be no Class III games. According to the National Indian Gaming Commission (www.nigc.gov), Indian gaming operates in 28 states and 24 States allow Vegas-style Class III Indian casinos and four allow Class II-only casinos.
The only visible indication that the video poker game is Class II is that they will have a little bingo card somewhere on the front of the machine. As the bingo game is played, the bingo card will be populated with the resulting pattern of that game.
Class III games are not based on bingo games and will have no such display.
If the player wants to know what to expect for a return of the game and employ the proper strategy to get the highest return from the game, Class III games are the only way to go.
Some players have told me that the only games available in their area are Class II games and they like to play them in order to practice the proper strategy. Some say that it is actually better to practice strategy on a Class II game because the genie feature will tell you when you made the wrong hold.
The problem is not all mistakes will be caught – only those where the held cards make it impossible to produce the winning hand. Even though, due to competition, there is pressure for Indian casinos to have decent returns, you never know what the return actually is.
Soon an Indian casino may have only Class III video poker. But until then, if practice is what is desired, a better method is to buy video poker practice software. You will then know each time you make a mistake and will learn from it. Save the extra money you will lose on a Class II game and head to a casino with decent Class III games instead.
May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and small.
Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack, video poker and advantage slot machine play. He authored the video poker section of "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo, and Pai Gow Poker!" You can contact Jerry “Stickman” at email@example.com
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