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Best of Mark Pilarski

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A video poker triplet

27 October 2006

Dear Mark, You mentioned that the odds are 40,000 to one of getting a royal flush when playing video poker. I also understand that it doesn't necessarily mean that I will hit one if I were to play 40,000 hands. But, if I were play those 40,000 hands and get one, how much would it cost me? Joe H.

A whole lot of time, $250, and an expanded waistline. Here's the breakdown.

If you're the average Joe, that's you, you're going to be playing about 350 hands per hour, give or take. At 350 hands per hour it will take you just over 114 hours to play 40,000 hands. If you were to play two, two-hour sessions per day, with a buffet in between, it will take you 28.5 days.

Okay, Joe, on your mark, get set…

…now that we have those 40,000 hands out of the way, and you have increased your girth by two inches, you should have lost $250. Here's the arithmetic.

Playing the maximum coin amount on a quarter machine will cost you $1.25 per hand. Multiply that by 40,000 hands and you will have cycled $50,000 through the machine. (Tip one: You might as well get credit for all those quarters you're inserting, so make sure you're using your players' club card to get credit for those 40,000 hands. "Comp yourself" those trips to the chow line.)

If you were to play perfect basic strategy on a full-pay 9/6 Jacks or Better machine and hit the royal in 40,000 hands, you should achieve a return of 99.5%. Multiply $50,000 by .05%, and you should lose, in theory, $250. The feeding frenzy using your players' club card should be free.

Tip two: Check out weightwatchers.com. Their point system works. I know!

Dear Mark, For a low-roller like myself who enjoys video poker, which is better, playing five nickels on a nickel machine, or one quarter on a quarter machine? (P.S. The pay tables are surprisingly the same.) Marcy S.

With similar pay tables, Marcy, you will want to stick with the lower denomination nickel machine. Here's why.

If you hit a royal flush on a nickel machine playing five coins, you will win $200. Compare that to hitting a royal flush on a quarter machine with one coin, where your payout is typically $67.50.

You are involving the same risk, one quarter, but a difference of $132.50 between the two machines when it comes to payoff for hitting the royal.

Dear Mark, On select video poker machines, they offer a double down option where after you win a hand, the machine asks if you would like to double your win. I like this feature and always try for a winning streak of five consecutive wins before I quit. Usually I don't get past the third win, which leads me to ask what my odds are of winning five of these double down hands in a row? Isn't it still 50/50 each hand? Paul R.

The double down option feature that Paul is speaking of entails being dealt five cards face down, picking one card, and the machine picking another. If Paul's card is higher than the machine's, he doubles his winnings from the original poker hand. If it's lower, he loses them.

You are correct, Paul, that it is a 50/50 proposition that you will double your money, but only the first time. Also, each subsequent time once you've won, the same 50/50 chance of winning applies. But your question states "trying for a winning streak of five consecutive wins before quitting." Well, setting such a lofty goal gives you only a 3.13% chance of this occurrence happening, and not 50/50.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "The Vegas strip must contain more elegance and extravagance per square inch than anywhere in the known universe." —Rob Wiser

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.