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Best of John Grochowski

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The Casino Answer Man

19 August 1999

On a three-month trip to Las Vegas, I played video poker, mostly 25-cent Double Double Bonus with a progressive jackpot. Sometimes I played $1 machines but never slots or tables.

I played so much video poker and watched my discards and those that fell in their place and began noticing a pattern.

When being dealt three of a kind, which I would save, approximately 90 percent of the time a 4 of any suit would fall in instead of the fourth card. Even if I saved a pair, a 4 would fall in.

This was starting to drive me crazy. Why a 4? One day at the Fiesta, the woman sitting next to me said, "Oh, yes, that is true. My friend works for a company that makes slots, and a 4 of any suit is called a 'blocker card.' "

Is this true?

It happens to me playing video poker on the Chicago boats and on my hand-held machine, but not nearly the percentage of time it happens in Las Vegas. You may ask if I ever got four 4s. Yes. Once in 90 days.

Also, are poker machines set to deal five cards up and five cards down, or five cards up with the next card falling in the first open spot, like a deck of cards?

Blocker cards are illegal. A casino using machines with blocker cards, or a manufacturer producing such things, would risk losing its license to operate in Nevada.

Under Nevada law, video poker games must deal from a randomly shuffled 52-card electronic deck in which any card has an equal probability of turning up as any other. Operators who have used non-random programs have been prosecuted on felony charges.

My first thought when somebody tells me a particular draw has been coming up 90 percent of the time is that there's some selective memory at work. A player sees something happen a few times, thinks there's a pattern, and then every time it occurs thereafter it's regarded as further evidence. Sometimes the player just doesn't notice hands that don't fit the pattern. Try keeping track with pencil and paper sometime. Each time you start with three of a kind, mark down the two cards you draw. I think you'll find that the pattern disappears.

As for the way cards are dealt, current machines deal serially. When you draw a card, you receive the next card off the top of the deck. Older video poker machines dealt a shadow hand "beneath" the initial hand on the screen. If you discarded card No. 3, it was replaced by shadow card No. 3. That is no longer the case.

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