n Are the machines rigged?
Many players, especially those that play slots, have an uneasy feeling about playing video poker machines. They believe that casinos can somehow rig the cards in a video poker machine to make it harder to get a winning hand. If you believe that casinos can do this, you definitely need to read what I’m about to say about this.
First, let me ask you this question. If we were to play a game of video poker on a kitchen table with a deck of playing cards, how would we do it so that the game is honest? Suppose you make a bet and I take a standard 52-card deck, shuffle them, and then randomly select five cards from the shuffled deck and place them face up on the table. While you are looking at your five-card hand to determine which cards you want to hold, I’ll continue to shuffle the remaining 47 cards. Lets suppose you tell me that you want to hold the first three cards in your hand. I would remove the two cards in your hand that you want to discard and place them aside, stop shuffling, and give you the top card from the 47-card shuffled deck and place it face up in position four in your hand and the next card would be face up in position five in your hand. The hand is over. If your five-card hand contains a pair of jacks or higher, I’d pay you an amount based upon a pay schedule of winning hands that I would have shown you before we started playing the game. After I paid you (assuming you had a winning hand), I would collect all the cards, put them in one 52-card stack, and start shuffling them again for the next hand.
I think you would agree that the above procedure results in a fair game because each card in the deck has the same probability of being picked. Furthermore, if you discarded, say, a two of clubs, there is no way for you to get the two of clubs again on the subsequent draw. In other words, I haven’t rigged the game in any way.
The way I dealt the cards above is exactly the way the cards are shuffled and dealt in a video poker machine in a casino. In order to emulate the procedure I used above, video poker machines have a computer chip that is programmed to simulate the process of shuffling a standard deck of 52-virtual cards, and then randomly select the cards for each hand so that each card has the same probability of being selected. (Video poker machines have a random number generator program on the computer chip that does all this.) The computer chips that are in the video poker machines are tested and certified by an independent testing lab to be certain they will do exactly what I described above. Furthermore, state gaming regulations mandate that the programs in video poker machines must operate per the above, and if they don’t, a casino can be fined, or worse, lose their gaming license.
Here’s another fact about video poker machines that is important to understand. The odds of getting any of the winning hands in a video poker game can be calculated with great accuracy since every card must have the same probability of being selected. This means you have the same chance of getting a royal flush in a Jacks or Better machine in casino A as you do casino B, or C, or any casino located anywhere on this planet. Since a casino can’t change the odds of getting the winning hands in video poker, the only way they can change the return on their video poker machines is to change the payoffs on winning hands. (That is why it is important that you look at the pay table on a video poker machine for a particular game before you play it.)
The bottom line is rest assured video poker games in major gaming jurisdictions are not rigged.
NOTE: Video Poker machines in casinos on some Indian reservations and in states that use Video Lottery Terminals work differently. The result of a video poker hand on these machines is predetermined based on either a Bingo game or a lottery. The playing decisions you make on these video poker machines after the initial draw have no bearing on whether the hand wins or loses. I’ll explain how these machines works in more detail in a future article.
Henry Tamburin is the editor of Blackjack Insider Newsletter (www.bjinsider.com), Lead Instructor for the Golden Touch Blackjack Course (www.goldentouchblackjack.com), and host of www.smartgaming.com. For a FREE three-month subscription to his blackjack newsletter, go to www.bjinsider.com/freetrial.com. To receive his FREE Casino Gambling Catalog, call 1-888-353-3234 or visit www.smartgaming.com.
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