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Are the Games Honest?
Video Poker for Fun and Profit
by Dan Paymar

As you probably know, nearly every gaming machine in use today is actually a digital computer with very specialized input devices (the coin slot and player’s buttons) and output devices (the screen display or reels, and the coin payout mechanism). Many machines now also have a bill acceptor and perhaps a touch sensitive screen, additional input devices.

If you have watched when a machine was opened for a hopper fill, you may have also seen numerous internal buttons and switches. Most of these are simple adjustments which have nothing to do with how the game operates, but considering how much computing power is now available in a laptop computer, imagine what would be possible within a video game machine in a jurisdiction lacking sufficient regulation or enforcement.

Nevada Gaming Control seems to be very good at keeping the games honest, and examples of biased machines are extremely rare. Several years ago it was discovered that the machines installed in some bars were modified to never hit a royal flush. Following up on complaints, Nevada Gaming Control quickly put the slot route operator out of business. Consequently,

I feel quite safe playing video poker in any casino in Nevada, and also in Louisiana, which has regulations even more specific than Nevada’s. We can hope that such legal measures will spread to other areas and pressure lawmakers in other jurisdictions to copy and enforce such regulations. My book, Video Poker—Optimum Play, includes a disclaimer that it is based on the premise that each unseen card in the simulated deck always has an equal probability of appearing, but no claim to that effect is intended.

To be fair, it is my understanding that, to sell any gaming machine in Nevada, the manufacturer must certify that all of its machines sold anywhere conform to Nevada regulations. Although this would not prevent a casino in a less rigidly regulated venue from, perhaps not illegally, changing the program chip to reduce the payback, I have received numerous reports from skilled players who play frequently in Atlantic City, Kansas City, Mississippi and other gambling areas, and have not noted results that differ significantly from expectation. The only exception has been a five-joker game manufactured in a foreign country.

It is my opinion that you can play in most casinos in this country without fear of biased machines, especially if you stick to machines made by one of the companies licensed in Nevada, (this includes IGT, Sigma, Bally, CDS, Silicon Gaming, WMS and VLC), but be very cautious of foreign-made machines. Some of them have internal settings to set the maximum payback independent of the payoff schedule. Personally, I would avoid all games in any casino that has even one game with a payoff schedule that appears too good to be true.

From what I’ve heard, most Internet casinos seem to be on the up-and-up, although a few are slow in paying off winners.

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