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Best of Jerry Stickman

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Finding a lucky machine

5 March 2016

Everyone who has played video poker (or any casino game for that matter) understands that there are streaks. Streaks can be fun and exciting, if they are hot streaks, or they can be disastrous and crushing, if they are losing streaks.

What players call "luck" is nothing more than the fluctuations of a random game exerting influence at the current moment. In the pursuit of a "lucky" game, fellow gamers have developed all sorts of procedures and techniques.

Some put a fixed amount – say $20 – in a quarter game. If they lose that $20, they put in another $20. If they lose that they move to another machine and repeat the process hoping to find the elusive lucky machine.

I once was playing a bartop video poker game and was going through a particularly rough losing streak – I was getting “flucked.” The bartender, trying to be helpful, told me to switch games for 10 hands and then return to my original game and it would become a lucky game.

Not wanting to offend the bartender – as I played there often and the bartender treated me very well – I did as she suggested. I switched from Jacks or Better to Double-Double Bonus poker at her suggestion and played 10 hands (didn’t win a thing).

I then switched back to Jacks or Better and continued playing. I got a couple of minor hits to which the bartender gleefully said, “See? What did I tell you?” After she moved on to wait on other customers, things went as they originally were going. I continued to get pummeled at the Jacks or Better game.

Some people like to return over and over to a machine that was lucky to them in the past. Others avoid a machine on which they recently got a royal flush, figuring it will now turn cold to make up for the jackpot it just paid out.

Some people keep records of the games they play complete with the casino, machine number, date, time, amount put in and amount cashed out. They will then use this information to determine which game will be lucky the next time they play.

I keep all sorts of records about the machines I play, mostly for IRS requirements, but also to see if some machines do actually return more than others. They could possibly be biased, couldn’t they? Initially it looked suspiciously like that was exactly the case. Some machines were lucky time after time. Other machines just ate my money. But after keeping records of over more than 500,000 hands, a funny thing happened – losing games started paying off and lucky machines started eating my money. In other words, after a very large amount of play, things started evening out.

Other so-called experts of the game of video poker have recommended a betting strategy to overcome the downside streaks until the elusive lucky machine is located. They go something like this – though there are as many variations to this as there are “experts” claiming to have the answer.

Start playing at the quarter level. Put in a $20. If you double your initial stake, continue to play – you have found a lucky game. If you lose it all in short order, go to a 50 cent game. Put in $40 and repeat the same process; if you double the $40, continue playing as you have found a lucky machine. If you lose the $40, find a dollar game. Put in a $100 bill. And repeat the process all over again.

At this point in time, the experts will claim, you almost always will be up; but if by some very rare circumstance you quickly lost the entire $160 ($20 plus $40 plus $100), it is time to take out the big guns and play a $2 or $5 game. You are now, they say, virtually guaranteed to find a lucky machine and wind up ahead – except when you don’t!

Every video poker game has a lesser or greater degree of variance. It is an inherent part of randomness. The more the return of a video poker game is tied up in large (and infrequent) payouts, the higher the variance. With higher variance comes larger bankroll swings – and longer losing streaks. It takes a long time at five credits per hand to pay for a hand that pays 800-for-1. It takes even longer losing streaks to pay for a couple of 800-for-1 and a 400-for-1 paying hands. Those losing streaks can be brutal – but it is all a part of a random game.

Switching machines will not change that. Switching games on the same machine will not change that. Tracking machines does not work. Bumping the denomination may work for a while, but ultimately you will hit those times when you lose it all. It takes a whole lot of small wins to make up for that loss.

Random is just that. You cannot change it by any of the above tactics. All you can do is play the best game you can, the best way you know how and make sure you have the bankroll to handle losing streaks when they come.

True, it is tough feeding $20 after $20 into a machine with nothing to show for it. You are playing the game to have fun. If you are frustrated and moving to another game or another machine will make you feel better, by all means do it. It isn’t going to change the long term outcome (unless you switch to a better or worse paying game) but it can make the losing a little less painful on your way to the next royal flush.

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 stickmanjerry@aol.com
Recent Articles
Best of Jerry Stickman
Jerry Stickman

Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com
Jerry Stickman
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in dice control at craps, blackjack, advantage slots and video poker. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps dice control classes and Golden Touch Blackjack's advantage classes. He also teaches a course in advantage-play slots and video poker. For more information visit www.goldentouchcraps.com or www.goldentouchblackjack.com or call 1-800-944-0406 for a free brochure. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at stickmanGTC@aol.com.

Jerry Stickman Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com