Video poker, like keno, pokies, poker, Texas holdem, and blackjack, is a game with a lot of myths associated with it. It’s often got one of the best payout percentages in the casino. When people start talking about how good playing video poker is, they often overstate and exaggerate how big the advantage is. A few outrageous claims made in the right places or often enough and enough people believe them that the myths are perpetuated. Below, I’ve tried to educate players, so they’ll have accurate information. These gaming machines are for smart players, but you have to have good info to make rational decisions.
No single video poker myth is more pervasive than the idea that a gaming machine can run “hot” or “cold”. This is a classic case of humans fitting random events into a pattern. It’s a basic human impulse to put information in patterns and reach general conclusions, but that’s not the way random number generators work. The process of arriving at a number is truly random, almost total chaos. Here’s how a random number generator works.
The random number generator matches certain numbers with card combinations. The game designer sets the pay schedule on the game, so a certain number of combinations of each type are plugged into the algorithm. Every second, the RNG spits out thousands of numbers, each which corresponds to some card combination. Thus, any one-thousandth of a second, several numbers might be generated. At the split second you hit the “Deal/Draw” button, one of these numbers has been chosen. The machine thus doesn’t go through hot or cold phases; it all depends on whether you hit the button in this fraction of a second or that one.
Many people assume random number generators are corrupt. Better put, they think a machine can be manipulated once you’re on the machine, adjusting the odds up and down to determine the outcome of the game. In this paranoid notion, it’s like the casino management says, “I don’t like the looks of this guy. I’m going to make sure he loses.” This is a misunderstanding of how the RNG works, or how casino regulations work.
A casino in most gambling jurisdictions is limited by law in what they can do to the machine when you’re on it. A common law is for states and countries to bar casinos from changing the odds for four minutes prior to and after a player has money in the machine. They can’t change the odds, by law. In any licensed and regulated casino, this is the case. It’s a lot more important to a casino that they keep their gambling license than they beat you out of a few dollars. That license is their reason for opening their doors, because it lets them run legal games in which they have a decided advantage. That’s the real story.
People talk about full pay machines and how they give you an advantage at the casino. This may be true, but the advantage is, at most, something around a 100.76% house edge. Let’s say you play 500 spins per hour on video poker, which isn’t unheard of. Then let’s say you wager $5 per spin, which is an average amount for a gambler.
Next, let’s stipulate you have a payout percentage of 100.5%. For every $100.50 wagered, you win $100.50. You wager that $100 fifty times in an hour, so on average, you’ll end up making $12.50 per hour, if everything plays out the way it should. If you wanted to play video poker 8 hours a day, you could grind and make about $100 per day. Some days you wouldn’t make anything, but other days you’d make more. No matter how you slice things, you won’t get rich doing it. This is a best-case scenario.
Most players won’t find full pay machines. Instead, most play at a slight disadvantage, probably somewhere between $0.50 and $2.00. That’s when they make optimal plays, with few or any mistakes. No matter what, the casino holds a house edge, so the best you can hope over a long time is to keep as much of your bankroll as possible–not even win that $12.50 from above.
To get rich playing video poker, you’d have to find a full pay machine and play using a big bankroll. In other words, you need to already have a certain fortune built up to make real money playing this game. Otherwise, you’re risking far too much of your net wealth on a game with only marginal returns. Also, gambling is such that you can have long periods where you don’t win at all. Playing video poker for a living is a risky profession.
See “Real Money Video Poker” for more about this.
One common misconception about slots clubs hold that players who slide their slots club membership card in the video poker machine are given lower odds by the machine. One again, this little fairy tale doesn’t take into account the local gaming regulations, which almost certainly eliminate this possibility. In licensed and legit casinos, it’s just not going to happen.
In fact, joining the slots club is a way slot machine gamblers can lower the house edge by a $1.00 or so. My suggestion is to join the slots club, accept every offer, and take advantage of the management’s promotional generosity. Use the comps, cashback, and other incentives as if they were money.
This is part-fiction, part-reality. Games like full pay deuces wild and full pay double bonus make more money than jacks or better video poker. This fact leads people to assume that new games and “gimmicky” games with wild cards and special payouts on special hands are better than the original draw poker video poker variants. This isn’t always the case.
An important part of the equation is the descriptive terms like “full pay”. The term “full pay” implies this is the best version of a pay schedule possible. If you aren’t playing the full pay machine, it’s possible other games are better. This isn’t a cut-and-dried situation, so gamblers have to study some of the common version of any machine, know how to distinguish one from the other, and then make a decision on which to play.