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Best of John Grochowski

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A shuffle through the gaming mailbag

14 June 2012

Q. I have just recently started playing video poker. I have one question that I can't find the answer to. When I am playing regular slots and I hit a generous payout I usually move to another machine. I know that slots are really just luck of the draw and use RNGs, but I have yet to see two large payouts in a row.

So, when playing video poker and I hit for a full house or better, do I stop playing that machine and move to a new one? Or should I put back my winnings into the same machine?

A. The random number generator that determines what cards you receive doesn't remember what you've had in the past. The odds are the same on every hand. The machine doesn't automatically go cold after a big win. In the long run, any win just fades away into statistical insignificance, and the house collects its percentage.

If I'm on a game I like with a good pay table, I stay put after full houses, or even four-of-a-kind or better. The machine COULD go cold after a full house, just as part of the normal odds of the game. But there's nothing in the programming that necessitates a dry spell after a good win.

Q. I just have a question about the RNG function in video poker. After the first five cards are dealt, does the RNG continue to "shuffle" the remaining 47 cards, or has the machine already determined the first ten cards (assuming I could discard the first five)?

The reason I ask is that on a recent visit to Las Vegas, I was dealt four of a royal on a dollar progressive. Just as I was about to draw for the fifth card, the hostess came up and asked if I wanted a drink. I politely refused (my mind was elsewhere), and then proceeded to draw the fifth card to fill the royal (for a $4,300+ payout). So my question is, if she had not delayed me those few seconds, was there a good chance that I would have received some other card? Or was the machine going to give me that card regardless how long I waited?

A. You probably would not have gotten that royal. On video poker machines made by IGT within about the last decade, once your first five cards are dealt the remaining 47 are continuously shuffled by the RNG until you hit the draw button.

That accounts for most of the machines currently in the field. About 95% of video poker games in American casinos are made by IGT.

Machines from other manufacturers might use different methods of shuffling and dealing, and some older IGT machines that are still in the field use earlier methods. But most of the time, you'll be playing machines where the remaining 47 cards continue to be shuffled until you hit the button.

So the bottom line is that yes, if you had not delayed and you had hit the draw button sooner, you probably would have had a different result.

Q. I would like to verify that I really understand how to be a better player. As I interpret what I've read, I must first look at the pay table, get the name of the game and the payouts for a full house and flush to find the highest-paying game, then use the playing strategy sheet I have downloaded for that specific game that has the same payout as shown on the machine for full houses and flushes.

So, for example, if I am playing 9/6 Jacks or Better and I'd dealt 3 of hearts, 10 of spades, jack of spades, queen of hearts, queen of spades, the strategy sheet says keep the high pair. Or if had been dealt 2 of hearts, 10 of clubs, jack of hearts, queen of spaces, ace of hearts, the strategy sheet says go for the royal.

Is this correct?

A. Yes, you should look for the highest pay tables among games of the same type. The most common place pay tables are changed are on full houses and flushes, so that's the first place to look. Do take a glance at the rest of the pay table, though. Sometimes there will be other changes that can cost you money. I once found a bank of Bonus Poker machines that paid only 2-for-1 instead of 3-for-1 on three of a kind. Most of the time, a full house/flush check will be enough, but be aware of the other paybacks.

On to your specific hands: On 9/6 Jacks or Better, the optimal strategy when dealt 3 and queen of hearts and 10-jack-queen of spades is to hold the pair of queens. The average return per five coins wagered is 7.68 coins when holding the queens, or 7.41 coins when holding the three spades. And when dealt 2 of hearts, 10 of clubs, queen of spades, jack of hearts and ace of hearts, the best play is to hold ace-jack of hearts and leave open the possibility of a royal. Average returns per five coins wagered are 2.79 on ace-jack, 2.72 on all three hearts (2-ace-jack) and 2.66 on the four-card inside straight, 10-jack-queen-ace.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski