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Deal Me In: Reader eyewear required

27 November 2009

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I've never seen this question answered regarding this winning hand in video poker, so possibly you could indulge my curiosity. Say for instance I have the following hand: Three fours and a pair of queens. I realize I have a full house, but why wouldn't I get paid separately for the three fours and the pair of queens? Bruce D.

With reading glasses in hand, Bruce, you'll notice that somewhere in fine print on the face of the machine it most likely says something along these lines: "Pays only highest combination." Yes, occasionally you will come across a specialty game like Multi-Pay Poker that will reward you additionally for the trips and the Jacks-or-better, but with almost every other machine out there, a hand that includes a grouping of more than one winning hand is paid only the highest winning combination.

Dear Mark: When playing video poker, when are the draw cards actually dealt? Immediately, and then placed behind the initial draw cards, or do they come off the top of the deck? It seems I've seen it described by experts both ways. Larry G.

About a dozen years ago, Larry, I wrote that it depended on the company who produced the machine and how old the machine was, and that some video poker machines of yesteryear operated using parallel dealing. Meaning, all 10 cards were dealt simultaneously, and you were dealt both the display cards and their draw replacements.

Today, machines employ what's called serial dealing. Here, a player starts a game by pressing the deal button, and the top five cards of the deck are displayed. The program now continually shuffles the remaining cards until you hit the draw button, with the required replacement cards being dealt right from the then top of the deck—as in a live poker game.

The reason for the switch, Larry, was that when all 10 cards were dealt straight away, the RNG could be vulnerable to a sharpie who tracks sequences, entering the cards dealt and drawn into a computer program, possibly determining what the future draw cards might be and winning the maximum amount on each hand.

Sounds farfetched? It happened, hence the universal change to dealing the draw cards off the top of the deck.

Dear Mark: Since the screens are completely different, playing cards vs. symbols, am I to assume correctly that a video poker and slot machines use different random number generators? Chris D.

Even though a video poker machine uses the output from a random number generator (RNG) to shuffle an electronic deck, and a slot machine uses a RNG to determine which symbols will land on the payline, they are the same chip since the singular purpose of a RNG is to crunch numbers.

Yes, Chris, the screen scenery is different, cards opposed to cherries, but that chip doesn't give a hoot what is done with the numbers it generates, so the same RNG chip can be used in a slot as well as in a video poker machine.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "Casino owners count system players when they're trying to relax and fall asleep at night." --Andrew Brisman, Mensa Guide To Casino Gambling

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.