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Gaming Guru

 

Just Ask Scobe and AP

9 September 2002

Dear Scobe and AP:

Some of these video poker machines give you a chance to double your money if you happen to win on a hand. Sometimes it's a "Pick the High Card" bet and then, sometimes, it's a choice of picking either red or black. From my experience, I lose most of the time by either ending up with the low card, or, when it's choose from Red or Black, I usually pick one color and the machine comes up with the other color as the winner. Is this "Bonus Bet" supposed to be a 50-50 chance or are the odds slanted to favor the machine in any way?

J.W.

Dear J.W.:

Double-or-nothing bonus features on video poker and slot machines have caught on with some players. Like the "odds" bet at craps the casino has no edge on the double-or-nothing feature. Like a coin flip, it is a 50-50 proposition. In the long run, your expectation is to win half the doubles and lose half the doubles and therefore break even. If the casinos where you play have caused the feature to be anything but a "fair" game (fair game being defined as neither the house nor the player having an edge), then they are violating the law and also bypassing the manufacturer's specifications for the machine.

Your losing streak, however, is not indicative of any mucking around with the programming of the machine. In any 50-50 proposition, such as a coin flip, you will find runs of heads or tails that will make you think the coin is weighted for one or the other. You are just experiencing what mathematicians call "fluctuations in probability" and we mortals call -- bad luck! Here is more bad news, you might never catch up. Once you fall behind in a 50-50 situation, the tendency is to stay behind -- forever. Why is this? Say you lose twelve coin flips in a row just at the beginning -- a remote but possible occurrence. Your probability is not to win the next twelve in a row and catch up, but to win six and lose six and still be behind those 12 flips. If you have fallen sufficiently behind in an "even" or "fair" game, you will most likely stay a loser on that game. The same holds true for those whose luck has been good. If they get sufficiently ahead on these 50-50 propositions (assuming equal payout), they will more than likely stay ahead.

Alene Paone
Alene Paone is the publisher of Paone Press which specializes in gaming books, videos and audio cassettes. For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406.
Alene Paone
Alene Paone is the publisher of Paone Press which specializes in gaming books, videos and audio cassettes. For a free brochure call: 1-800-944-0406.