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Best of Jerry Stickman

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Video poker randomness

28 September 2019

From Ray:

I read your article on the RNG and how it is used in VP machines. It makes sense, but I am skeptical of the randomness that the machine pays off with.

I already know what your answer is going to be, but I still think there is code inside the machines that determine when it will pay off. I find it hard to believe a VP machine would deal 4 aces to someone 5 times within an hour (I’ve witnessed this) when there are over 2.5 million unique combinations of 5 card hands. On the other hand, I cannot tell you the many times I have dumped over $500 into a machine with none or very few smaller 4OAKs.

It seems that over the last couple years, something has changed. Me and the wife would hit Royals on a fairly consistent basis. Now, between the both of us, we’ve had only 3 Royals in the last 2 years and our style and amount of play has not deviated. In fact, we are probably playing more now than ever!

Can you assure us that based on the gambling laws, both federal and state, that the game is absolutely fair and totally random?

Currently our only source of VP is the Tampa Hard Rock, where we have been in the red for well over a year. When they are the only game in town, we don’t have much of a choice. (Well, not exactly true . . . there is a floating casino that originates right down the road from us, but we are not fans of floating casinos as they are not regulated like brick and mortar establishments with respect to regulations?

Thanks, and may the RF’s be with you!

Ray

Hi Ray,

If you thought I was going to say that video poker in Las Vegas and other major, regulated jurisdictions are as random as is possible for a program, you are right.

Video poker, or any other computer-based game cannot be truly random, since it must be programmed. However, the random number generators (RNGs) in today’s video poker games come extremely close to it.

It is interesting that people never consider a game to not be random when they are winning, but when losing start to question a particular game’s randomness.

To avoid selective memory, I keep very detailed records of my casino play. This is not only to satisfy IRS regulations, but to also see exactly where I am with respect to my wins and losses versus the mathematical average.

As you mentioned, I, too, have had long losing streaks. My loss rates have varied, but some of the streaks have been very long. I only play video poker games with returns of more than 99%. If they are less, I simply do not play.

That being said, virtually all video poker games available today are losing propositions. You will lose in the long run. The more you play the faster you reach the long run – a loss.

The biggest contributor to video poker wins and losses is the return percentage of the game. The lower the return percentage, the better chance you will lose more often than you win, and lose more overall.

The next biggest contributor is frequency of hitting the jackpot-sized hands. In jacks or better, the royal flush is the only real jackpot. Although it varies depending on the specific pay table, the loss rate while not getting a royal flush is about two percent higher than the overall return of the game.

Royal flushes occur roughly every 40,000 hands, on average. That is a long time to fight a 2%-3% house edge. In the years that I have had large losses playing video poker, there were no or very few royals. I have gone nearly 200,000 hands between royals.

Is this proof that the games are not random?

While being at the edge of statistical normalcy, it is still within random expectations. Other years, I had more than the normal random share of royals and made a nice little windfall. This, to is within the realm of randomness.

If you are really concerned about machines being random – to the point of considering not playing them – my advice is start keeping detailed records of your play. Do this in order to track your actual play and not just wins or losses.

Some items to include are:
• Date
• Start and end times
• Machine number
• Type of game (Jacks or Better, Double Double Bonus, Deuces Wild, etc.)
• Return of the game (based on the pay table)
• Amount of money inserted into the game
• Amount cashed out of the game
• Number of hands played. Every time I start a new machine (or game type on a machine) I play 10 hands and note the increase in player club points. I note the starting and ending player point numbers. From this I can calculate the number of hands per point. This number is then used to turn session points into session hands.
• Number of royal flushes
• Number of four-of-a-kinds
• Number of full houses
• Number of flushes

I feed these numbers into a spreadsheet I developed. It keeps track of:
• wins / losses
• percent win or loss for the session
• hands since the last royal flush
• how often four-of-a-kind, full house and flush hands occur as a percentage of total hands played

There is a separate entry for each game played along with a summary line for each day and total trip. There is a grand total for the year at the end.

These numbers could also be calculated by hand, but it would probably be more effort that most people are willing to expend. In fact, most people seem unwilling to expend the effort to just write down the information while playing the game.

As an additional randomness check, I keep track of the number of times I am dealt four of a flush as well as the number of times they turn into a flush. From this the frequency is calculated and compared to the mathematical frequency.

After playing for several years, there is actual evidence of just how close to the mathematical return of the game the play has been. It is interesting to see the ups and downs as well as frequency changes for the various types of hands.

The more play that is recorded, the more the overall average closes in to what the math says it should be.

This routine has proven to me the video poker I play is random. Hopefully it will also prove it to you, Ray.

May all your wins be swift and large and all your losses slow and small.

Jerry “Stickman”

Jerry “Stickman” is an expert in craps, blackjack and 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