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Best of John Grochowski

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Back-to-back jackpots

9 November 2010

Life's little coincidences can be fun, or at least intriguing. I know I was intrigued when I received a letter — an honest to goodness, paper through the post office letter — telling of two royal flushes within 25 minutes on the same machine.

"About 15 years ago, I was staying at the Stardust," it started. "At 11:25 p.m. I was playing a Triple Double Bonus Poker machine. I hit a royal flush. The slot man made a big fuss and took my picture. I told him in 15 minutes, on the fourth of May, it would be my birthday. I told him he would see me again.

"At 10 minutes after midnight, I hit another royal flush on the same machine. The guys came back and took my picture again. So you CAN hit two royals in 25 minutes on the same machine. It was a great birthday for me. Two thousand dollars in 25 minutes."

The coincidence? Another player e-mailed me a couple of days later to ask, "If it's possible to win twice in a row, why doesn't it happen more often?"

Over the years, I've passed along a number of readers' stories about back-to-back jackpots, and others that weren't on consecutive plays, but in close proximity.

There was Linda, who drew royal flushes in clubs on back-to-back hands. Then there was Pete, who saw a woman hit the top jackpot on a Double Diamond slot. When she was paid, the attendant asked her to spin off the winning combination, and she hit the three Double Diamonds again. And Robin, who hit Red, White and Blue 7s twice within three spins on a dollar Red, White and Blue slot.

My own close encounter of the jackpot kind came on a dollar White Hot Aces video poker machine. Four aces pay $1,200 on the White Hot pay table, so it was a nice day's work when I held two aces, and had the other two pop up on the draw.

A friendly slot supervisor and security guard came to fill out a jackpot form, check my ID and reset the machine. I was given a receipt while they went to get my money, and I resumed playing. My first hand after the jackpot was a loser, then I got two pair for a five-coin return, then another loser.

Then, deja vu.

I was dealt a pair of aces, and as I hit the buttons to hold those two cards and discard the rest, I started thinking it would be nice to get a third ace, maybe even a full house to give myself a little playing room. I was thinking too small, for once again the draw brought the other two aces. It was another $1,200 jackpot.

The security guard rushed back.

"You didn't do it again?"

I did.

The latest tale of two royal flushes underscores that machines don't go into any makeup time after paying out a big jackpot. All results remain possible on all plays.

So given that back-to-back jackpots can happen, and do happen, why don't they happen more often?

It all comes down to the odds of the games. In video poker, royal flushes occur an average of about once per 40,000 hands, with some variation depending on player strategy as games and pay tables change. Consecutive royals come up an average of about once in 40,000 times 40,000 hands — a cool 1.6 billion hands.

That's a big, big number, but there are tens of thousands of video poker machines in this country, getting thousands of plays per day. Every few days, or few weeks, somebody, somewhere is going to draw back-to-back royals.

On slot machines, there's a wide range of probabilities. On a game with a relatively small jackpot, designed as a quick-hit machine, you might see a top jackpot once per 10,000 plays. Two in a row would be expected an average of once per 100 million trials. The odds are long against it ever happening to you, or to me, or to any other individual. But the chances of it happening to someone, somewhere? Given enough machines and enough plays, it's practically a certainty.

On other other hand, the chance of becoming a multimillionaire by hitting Megabucks is nearly 1 in 50 million. The chance of hitting that top jackpot twice in a row comes to 1 in 50 million times 50 million — unless my fingers and toes deceive me, that's 2.5 quadrillion. Might as well go to the beach and count grains of sand.

That's VERY unlikely. For most games, consecutive jackpots won't happen often, but they will happen. Given enough trials, anything that can happen eventually will. At jackpot odds, it just takes A LOT of trials to get there.

FACE IT: Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, in which I'm a regular contributor, has gone the social media route with a new Facebook page. Check out http://www.facebook.com/#!/midwestgaming.

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:

> More Books By John Grochowski