There are innumerable stories and superstitions out there about video poker. Beliefs about "hot streaks" and "casinos fixing the games" abound—but most, if not all, are wrong or misunderstood. If you don't want us to burst your bubble, don't read this section. If you want to know the truth, read on.
The infamous Random Number Generator (RNG)
The key to understanding how legitimate, traditional Class III* video poker games work is understanding the role and function of an RNG. This refers to games like IGT's Game King (www.igt.com) and Triple-Play Poker (www.actiongaming.com).
The RNG is the hardest working device known, and it ensures a fair game every time. Its sole responsibility is to constantly shuffle the deck of 52 cards (or 53 in Joker Poker). This manic activity goes on and on UNTIL you hit the "deal" button. When you hit the deal button, the machine displays the 5 cards at the top of the deck at that precise moment. The RNG works all the time. Twenty-four hours a day. Three hundred and sixty-five days a year. Then it keeps on shuffling the remaining 47 cards (or 48 in Joker Poker) until you hit the deal button and the discarded slots are filled with whatever is at the top of the deck at that time.
It is this highly regulated and closely monitored piece of technology that keeps all the games fair and mathematically predictable. There is no "pattern" and no strategy for how it works—it just constantly cycles random card combinations around until you hit “draw” and "deal." It is one of the keys to legalized gambling: It assures the regulatory bodies that casinos are offering fair games and assures you that you are playing a “legit” game.
*Class III video poker games are what you find in the traditional gaming markets like NV and NJ, and compacted Indian markets like Mohegan Sun, Foxwoods, Barona, Mystic Lake, and so on—excluding video lottery games, bingo and central determination games, which operate differently.
"Hot" and "Cold" machines
Nope. No such thing. Mathematically, anyway. I've certainly had my share of sessions where I couldn't get four of a kind for love or money, but those were my FEELINGS, not the machine's actual workings. I have stroked, talked to, yelled at and begged machines at different times, but they just don't listen any better than my teenage son when I want him to pick up his room. The actual temperature of a machine is best determined AFTER you've quit playing—when you've reflected on your session and hopefully walked away ahead or at your budget limit.
All video poker machines are controlled by a Random Number Generator, and every possible card combination can occur at any time you “deal.” There are 2.6 million unique video poker card combinations that can occur. Because there are so many combinations, you rarely see lots of great combos all in the same session, but it is great when you do.
The machine is "due"
As explained above, there's sadly no such thing. It sure feels like it when you're on a miserable losing streak, but it isn't so. It seems even more likely to be “due” when you get three aces time and time again, but you can’t get that fourth ace. That RNG churns through all the combos and, sadly, the plain truth is that there are more losing combinations in 52 cards than there are winning ones.
If I use the slot club card, it will tighten my machine.
False. The beauty of video poker is that the pay tables are right in front of you and if you know how to play, or at least which games to look for, the game's theoretical expected return is essentially advertised. The slot club card and pay table are unrelated mathematically as well as in any game's outcome. What is relevant, however, is that the slot club has many benefits, including freebies and an accounting of your play, which might come in handy at tax time.
People play their hunches. Sometimes they work, sometimes not. Heck, I even play with hunches sometimes and I know better. Here's the hardcore truth: The math and the correct play are always the same, and hunches, while they work occasionally, reduce your return on the game if they are the wrong strategic play. Trust the math.
Where do the "draw" cards come from?
There are many theories about how cards are delivered when playing video poker in the “deal” and “draw” phases. Some people believe that ten cards are delivered, 5 pairs of two and when you “draw” your card is preselected. That is not true. Here’s the way it works…
That busy little RNG (mentioned above) constantly shuffles the deck of cards whether you are playing or not. When you hit "deal", the shuffling stops and the top 5 cards are delivered. What happens next? The RNG goes back to work shuffling the dickens out of the remaining 47 cards. Where does 47 come from? You started with 52 cards minus the first 5 you were dealt, which gives you 47.
Then when you hit “draw”, the remaining cards in the deck stop shuffling and however many discards you requested get delivered to you off the top of the remaining cards, into the card positions not “Held” by the player.
It is as simple as that. No grassy knoll theories here.
Some people believe machines are programmed to have winning or losing "streaks." Again, the RNG ensures random card deliveries and "streaks" are truly defined AFTER THE FACT, when you can kick yourself for playing longer than you should have, or congratulate yourself for "hanging in there" until you hit that great hand. Streaks are in our minds. The machines feel and know nothing. WE feel the pain or joy.
I'll change games and change my luck
Lots of people do this. It makes a lot of people feel better. However, what it does is change the exact moment when you hit the "deal" button more than anything else. It is all timing and math.
This is a typical debate among Double-Double Bonus Poker (DDBP) players. If you have three aces and one kicker card, you should throw that kicker quickly and get one more shot at the fourth ace. There is a rare exception to this rule in Triple Double Bonus, but if you are keeping kicker cards playing DDBP, please get some training or strategy cards, as you're hurting your chances of a good game return. A guy like Bob Dancer would love to tell you when and where to handle any card combination. Get two shots at the fourth ace and walk away with 800 credits more often.
"XYZ" casino is really tight.
Casinos often offer comparable games, and some individual games are tighter than others. What varies most is the proportion of tight games to loose ones. As a video poker player, you have a huge advantage over slot players because you get to see the game's actual payback percentage on the glass. Learn to shop the pay tables and then you can identify tight or loose casinos, but more importantly tight or loose games.
The strategy for Triple Play Poker is different than single-hand poker.
Nope. Not at all. Playing any 3-, 5-, 10-, 50- or even 100-Play Poker game does not change the math at all. People often deviate from the right plays because they think they've got more chances at winning combinations, but the truth is that each and every hand is its own deck, and the odds of completing four of a kind are exactly the same as always—only you have more shots at it. Play all these games just like you would regular video poker.
Video Poker is a great way to make a living.
For some, maybe. But not for most of us. There are a rare few who can do this, but for us regular folk, this is a really tough profession. To do this professionally you need to have a significant bankroll, a disciplined, computer-like mind, be willing to sit and play for literally a dozen hours at a time, have a lower back that can stand this, be impervious to abuse by casino personnel, and stay sober the whole time. Learn to play. Play for fun. Play within your limits. A real job is easier for most.
If you're inclined to try this as a profession, you will need discipline, focus and help from the pros. As Bob Dancer once told me, "Gambling for fun and alcohol is mutually exclusive with gambling for profit." Sage advice from the best video poker “machine” out there.
Pull your player card when you hit a jackpot.
I see this a lot, especially in New Jersey. Don't bother. Many people think that by pulling the card as soon as you see the fourth ace or the royal flush, the casino won't know you made that money. Not true. The machine instantly communicates the credit wins to the slot system and the time it takes crediting your machine and making noise is for your entertainment only.
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