Are Video Poker Machines Random?

Have you ever been to a casino and wondered how exactly video poker machines work? Us too! For those of us who are not familiar with poker it is an intriguing mystery.

You may also wonder if you need any skill to beat them, just plain luck, or if the house always wins. Well, in our article today we’re going to attempt to answer those questions.

Are Video Poker Machines Random?

Video poker machines are programmed with quite basic software that is modelled after an RNG (Random Number Generator).

An RNG continuously shuffles a deck until you press a button that then deals the cards. While machines favor the house, there is no rigging or pre-programmed patterns involved. 

So now let’s take a look at how video poker machines are programmed in more detail. 

What Software Is Used In Video Poker Machines?

You may be surprised to learn that the software in poker machines is a world away from most modern computers. Rather, they don’t use any software at all, as they were mostly invented in the 1980s and still use the same technology. 

This rudimentary technically simply selects random numbers that create the cards you see on the screen.

Normally, once the cards are initially dealt, the cards are set and no calculations are made until the second hand is dealt.

So when you draw a new-card, this was pre-set and no new calculations are made. 

How Random Are Video Poker Machines?

As we’ve discussed already, video poker machines use RNGs to decide the outcome of each hand. The software is not rigged, rather it continuously cycles through the deck until you click ‘deal.’

In Class III video poker machines, the odds are random but many of us assume that the machines use similar logic and probability to that of a deck of cards.

The RNG needs to use the same odds and probability to create 5-card hands like you would in a traditional 52-card deck (without the joker). 

Are Video Poker Machines Designed To Favor The House?

The probability of winning on a video poker machine and what payout (see also “Best Payout Video Poker Machines“) you receive makes sure that the casino will make large, long-term profits.

Plus, the primary goal of the casino is to convince you to keep playing, and they have this goal in mind when creating payback tables and RNGs. So video poker machines are absolutely created to favor the house.

Can You Hack Or Rig Video Poker Machines?

Video poker machines have to comply with FIPS standards, and their interfaces have to be contained and in trigger-sensored enclosures. 

There are also no WAN intranet and interfaces, and firmware upgrades occur via the ports.

While RNG video poker machines have bugs, glitches, and RNG weaknesses, they are almost impossible to physically hack or rig.

Can You Beat Video Poker?

Only a handful of people will actually win video poker in the long term. While some people believe that you can make a living out of video poker, it is extremely difficult.

Being a professional video poker player requires a lot of patience, determination to play for hours, and intelligence. 

The maximum edge you can attain for winning video poker is around 1% to 2%, and that’s a best case scenario.

A solid mathematical strategy and lots of practice is required to win a video poker game (see also “How Do You Calculate Video Poker Odds?“). There are luckily tools online that can let you know whenever you make a strategic error.

These tools provide basic strategies that are simpler to play and learn, and are similar to professional poker player strategies. 

How Are The Returns And Paytables Programmed?

How much money you win in every hand all depends on the video poker machine’s pay table (see also “Can You Win On Video Poker Machines?“). Every paytable provides five columns as the winnings are entirely dependent on if you have played up to 5 coins.

It’s also worth remembering that the Royal Flush has a bonus. For example, rather than winning 1,250 coins, you can win 400 coins. 

So it’s always a good idea to play five coins simultaneously and choose the machine with a lower denomination. This is actually the opposite of what many people would recommend regarding slots.

This is because the penalties for failing to play the maximum coins in video poker games are higher. 

Why Should You Know About Paytables?

One of the best things about video poker games is that they will let you know each machine’s return before you begin playing.

The average profit of a casino on typical video poker games is about 3%, and this is called the house edge. 

The return is referring to the actual amount the casino will return to the players. So if a casino receives 3% following every bet, the players will receive about 97% of the money bet.

The payable decides the video poker machine’s returns. 

A couple of casinos will offer 99% of returns, while others will give 98% returns. If a paytable displays 8 coins for a house and 5 coins for a flush, then it is a 97.4% machine.

Meanwhile, in slot machines you have no idea what payout you will be getting, and in instances where the slot machine displays the return, it’s most likely very poor.

Slot machines are actually the only casino game with awful odds.

Once you have found the best strategy for playing video poker, you will need to find the machine with the best possible paytable. 

Final Thoughts

It’s quite astounding how rudimentary the technology in video poker machines is, and how little they have been updated (see also “What Is A Multihand Video Poker Machine?“). These machines still make use of technology used in computer games of the 80s.

This creates the false impression that video poker games are quick and simple to play, and while they are fun they are definitely not a game of skill.

They are stacked in favor of the house and require a lot of patience to win. In fact, you’re more likely to win money in a poker game by studying strategy and by playing the game with real people.

Richie Thames
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