Are Video Poker Machines Really Random?

Video poker machines are casino games requiring a minimum bet to participate. Like its name suggests, this variation of poker requires players to form five winning hands from five cards dealt, calculated using the pay table posted on the machine and winnings determined accordingly. While most machines utilize variations of five-card draw poker, some may provide games using seven-card stud or other variations.

Although many have an understanding of how slot machines operate, not everyone knows exactly how video poker machines function. With their skill element adding another layer of complexity, but the basic principles remain the same. But is video poker truly random?

Video poker machines feature three components, the virtual reel table, pay table and par sheet. The virtual reel table shows all possible combinations for every spin while the par sheet provides odds calculations on every combination. While players cannot view these documents directly they know very well how casino employees interpret them.

Casinos also rely on an internal computer which calculates probabilities for every hand dealt, then compares those probabilities with payouts for that hand. If it determines that one hand has an increased chance of occurring than others, a “rave bank” may be set aside from its total take for that particular type of hand; once this number reaches full capacity, cheating might occur to bring profits down to sustainable levels.

But even when casinos use computer systems, the question still arises of their effectiveness: Does it work and are machines programmed to streak? No – unlike slots which are regulated to have between 2-5% house edge advantage, Class III video poker machines (common in Nevada, New Jersey and compacted Indian markets) tend not to streak; rather they provide fair games based on probabilities for each card dealt.

However, machines may still behave unexpectedly. If a machine has been losing money for an extended period, its behavior may change over time as its controls adjust to meet expected losses; their losses are simply part of its normal operations and should not be treated as something unusual or sudden.

Video poker machines provide something slot machines cannot: the opportunity for players to select which cards to retain, which increases your odds of winning significantly and has allowed some people to make video poker playing their profession. But to do it properly you need discipline and focus, as drinking or doing drugs while gambling may decrease success as well as gambling with money you cannot afford to lose.

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