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Why can't I get a royal?

19 December 2015

I received an e-mail recently from someone bemoaning the fact that he never had a royal flush even though he had played video poker for many years. Here's his story:

"I play video poker a lot and I always look for the machines with the best return when I play. I have friends that play all day and almost every day. I have never had a non-wild royal flush in 40 years of play. Some of my friends have one now and then."

A royal flush is usually the most prized hand in video poker, although there are some games where other hands pay as much and sometimes even more. For most of the common video poker varieties, the royal flush will appear once in about 40,000 to 48,000 hands. In some games the royal flush appears only once in about 352,000 hands (Pick-‘em poker).

What does the 40,000 to 48,000 number actually mean?

It means that in the “long term” you can expect a royal once in every 40,000 to 48,000 hands.

But what is the long term? It is millions and millions of hands.

I was unable to get additional information from this individual as to how much he plays. Information such as the number of sessions played in a year, the average length of a session and the speed of play all are important in determining how many hands have been played.

I track several items when I play video poker in a casino including number of hands played. I do this by writing down the starting slot club point balance. I also determine the amount of play required per point and calculate the number of points per hand. Sometimes it is a fraction of a point.

Then at the end of a session I again note the slot club point balance. By subtracting the starting points from the ending points and dividing by the points per hand, the result is the number of hands played. With this information I can track the number hands I have played since my last royal flush.

Let’s look at the length of play required. For the following discussion I will use 40,000 hands as the average number of hands between royal flushes.

Most people to whom I have talked are totally unaware of how long it takes to play 40,000 hands of video poker. Playing at a relatively fast 500 hands per hour, it takes 80 hours of play to reach the 40,000 hand mark. At four hours per day it would take 20 days to achieve the mark. That means 20 one-day trips, 10 two-day trips or five four-day trips.

However, most people don’t play 500 hands per hour. Most are closer to 200. At that rate it will take 200 hours to play 40,000 hands. Using the previous examples, it takes 50 days at four hours of play each day to reach 40,000 hands. It takes 100 days at two hours of play per day and 200 days at one hour of play per day to reach 40,000 hands.

That is more than half a year of play. Spread that out over 40 years and it averages out to five hours of play per year. It is certainly within the realm of possibility that he only played this much over the 40 years.

Remember, 40,000 hands between royal flushes is an average. The problem with this average, however, is it is just that: an average. It means that on any given hand there is a 1 in 40,000 chance the player will get a royal flush. That average is spread out over millions and millions of hands played. Though not very likely, it is possible to get two royal flushes in a row.

Looking at the opposite end of randomness it is also possible to not receive a royal flush for 100,000, 200,000 or even 500,000 hands. That is how it goes in a random game. Virtually no one ever gets two royal flushes in a row, but they also don’t go 500,000 hands without a royal flush.

The vast majority of video poker players get a royal within three to four normal “royal cycles.”

This means for our example of 40,000 hands between royals, a royal will appear within 120,000 to 160,000 hands. Since I have been keeping records my longest period between royal flushes has been 126,000 hands. On the other end, I also got three royals in about 26,000 hands. All things balance out over time if you play enough.

If our player above played 15 hours of video poker per year at 200 hands per hour, he has played 120,000 hands. He is still well within the “normal” distribution
.
All we do know is if he keeps playing, that elusive royal flush will occur sometime, so keep the faith.

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