4ofaKind
4ofaKind
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September 28th, 2010 at 5:55:40 PM permalink
Hello, this is my first post here with a question for the Wizard.

I've been on a mission to find out if online video poker is being played from software based on 52 or (53 with joker) card deck random draw, or software similar to a slot machine which would be based on pre-determined house edge settings.

In Nevada we know that all video poker games are based on a random 52 or 3 card deck draw with expected probabilities. We also know that Atlantic City is based on pre-determined house edge settings (slot machines). The New Jersey Gaming Commission states that there are only two criteria for the video poker machine. The first— “that it falls within the payback scheme” (83% to 99%) and the second that "every sequence be in the programming." "The machine has to have the royal flush sequence in the programming just as a slot machine would have to have for example the triple 7's but the frequency is up to the programming."

This obviously would mean that outcomes of each hand would be based on secondary pre-determined decisions, eliminating expected probabilities.

I've sent e-mails and snail mail written requests to 5 different alleged online gaming regulators requesting this information. I was unable to get a single response. Also at casinomeister I private messaged over 12 active casino reps representing all the different software platforms. I got only two responses who both instead elected to give lectures on the theory of random. My question was totally ignored by both of them while they were attempting to derail the thread.

Slotland was the only site I was able to find this quote in their frequently asked questions.

Quote:
"With card games the probability of hitting the jackpot combination is not natural, but controlled by this shared random generator in the same exact way that slot machines are won."

This information is easily obtainable for anyone that cares to know at land casinos. In fact for most its common knowledge.

Since I consider myself a professional Video Poker player I feel this information is vital in determining what type of money management and gaming strategy I would use while playing these games online.

After 6 months of endless attempts to find out this most basic needed information, I'm hoping maybe you could help me. I'm not sure why everyone involved with online casinos refuse to enlighten us with this information. I could only assume they prefer that players continue playing these games with the wrong strategies, which would no doubt enhance their bottom line quicker.
MathExtremist
MathExtremist
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September 28th, 2010 at 6:11:32 PM permalink
Quote: 4ofaKind

Hello, this is my first post here with a question for the Wizard.

I've been on a mission to find out if online video poker is being played from software based on 52 or (53 with joker) card deck random draw, or software similar to a slot machine which would be based on pre-determined house edge settings.

In Nevada we know that all video poker games are based on a random 52 or 3 card deck draw with expected probabilities. We also know that Atlantic City is based on pre-determined house edge settings (slot machines). The New Jersey Gaming Commission states that there are only two criteria for the video poker machine. The first— “that it falls within the payback scheme” (83% to 99%) and the second that "every sequence be in the programming." "The machine has to have the royal flush sequence in the programming just as a slot machine would have to have for example the triple 7's but the frequency is up to the programming."

This obviously would mean that outcomes of each hand would be based on secondary pre-determined decisions, eliminating expected probabilities.



I don't think you're interpreting that right. I also don't think you're properly interpreting how a slot game works. Slots work by picking reel stops randomly, then evaluating the chosen combinations to see if there's an award. They *do not* work by picking an award randomly (or out of a finite pool) and then making the reels show that award. That's the way electronic pull-tab games work, but those don't really have much market because they're not Class II and Class III slots already work fine. VP is basically the same way. In VP, the RNG picks which of the 52! deck orders the cards go into. The rest is up to you. The game does not pick which award you're getting first and then show the cards that result in it. For example, it is possible to play VP to *guarantee* you will never get 4 of a kind. That doesn't violate any rules, it just means you're not playing well.

As for online, none of my clients use gaffed or table-based VP games. They're all based on the same principles as land-based play. I can't vouch for all online software providers, but I'd have a hard time believing that the reputable ones mess with the odds.
"In my own case, when it seemed to me after a long illness that death was close at hand, I found no little solace in playing constantly at dice." -- Girolamo Cardano, 1563
Wizard
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Wizard
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September 28th, 2010 at 6:25:33 PM permalink
I have consulted for lots of Internet software companies. As far as I know all the major brands offer a fair game. Meaning they shuffle a 52-card deck (or 53 with joker poker) and pick out cards randomly. Much the same way as an IGT or Bally game would do it. So the cards determine the outcome, not vise versa.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
4ofaKind
4ofaKind
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September 28th, 2010 at 6:35:35 PM permalink
Thank you for your quick responses. Below is an article sent to me from a friend of mine. It's a bit long but explains my questioning for this information.

Do The Casinos Cheat At Video Games

So I had to do my homework. My fellow gaming writers have assumed that because New Jersey is a regulated state, its regulations are the same as Nevada concerning video-poker machines. Had anyone really bothered to talk to the members of the New Jersey Casino Control Commission or ask to see a copy of the regulations? If the anonymous letter writer in Blackjack Forum was right—New Jersey did not have the same rules governing video-poker machines as did Nevada.

I called the New Jersey Casino Control Commission to see if I could ease my fears or fuel my fire. After all, the control commissions of the various gaming jurisdictions set the rules that the casinos must abide by. Supposedly these commissions exist to protect us—the players. I spoke with Tony DiFlorio who told me that while the video-poker machines must conform to the same payback percentage range as any other slot machine, that is 83% to 99% return, "they are considered slot machines" and that there are no separate requirements for them as in Nevada. When I asked him if they must be based on a totally random shuffling of the cards, and that each hand must theoretically appear with its expected frequency, he stated that there were only two criteria for the machine. The first— “that it falls within the payback scheme” (83% to 99%) and the second that "every sequence be in the programming."

"But that means," I said, " that if a natural royal flush is a 40,000 to one shot, the machine could be programmed to pay it once in every 300,000 hands or more?"

"Yes," he said. "The machine has to have the royal flush sequence in the programming just as a slot machine would have to have for example the triple 7's but the frequency is up to the programming."

Two days later I received a set of the regulations from John M. Kovac, Administrative Practice Officer for the New Jersey Casino Control Commission concerning slot machines in New Jersey. No distinctions were made between video-poker and other slots. The information that Mr. DiFlorio had given me checked out. Indeed, the letter writer to Blackjack Forum had been correct. Video-poker machines in Atlantic City are slot machines and the probabilities are not necessarily the same as they would be for similar machines in Nevada. Remember, Nevada is based strictly on the random shuffling of 52 (or 53) cards. The hands will appear in the long run within their expected frequency range. This does not have to be so for New Jersey Casinos. The game will be random, yes, but random the way a slot machine is random—that is, based on a program that dictates the probabilities and not based on the probabilities in a 52 (or 53) card deck.

The bottom line? Here it is. For those of you who can play in Nevada, assuming the problem of like-card discard was just a "blip" or at worst a programming flaw in some machines as Dr. Schneider suggested, all the strategies in this book can be confidently applied because the game is what it appears to be—video poker based on a random shuffle with no variable programming or secondary decisions. The hands will come up with their expected probability in the long run.

Unfortunately, I can't recommend the Atlantic City video-poker games because I can't be confident that the strategies outlined in this book would be the most effective strategies to play on variable programming machines or secondary decision machines—especially for the supposedly better-paying machines. If, for example, the royal flush is a one in 1,000,000 chance instead of a one in 40,000 chance in Atlantic City—a Draw Poker Jacks-or-Better hand such as ten of spades, jack of spades, queen of spades, king of spades and a king of hearts would probably return more by keeping the two kings and discarding the other cards. You might have to play the Atlantic City game based on the "a bird in the hand is worth more then two in the bush" principle. Take your little wins when you get them and be happy. For Atlantic City, the best principles to use would be to choose a video-poker machine as you would choose a slot machine. Use the money management techniques of a slot player because you could be playing a slot machine dressed in video-poker machine's clothing.

But what of other jurisdictions in America? With gambling fever spreading like wild fire throughout the country how can players know what they're playing? They can if they take the time to look over the regulations governing the machine games in the casinos where they wish to play. All regulatory states must explain the criteria of their machines. New Jersey isn't cheating the players (technically)—the rules clearly show what their machines have to be—slot machines returning 83 to 99 percent. The fact that the players and gaming authorities assumed the New Jersey rules were the same as Nevada is their fault.



Some other excerpts from a different article:

Video poker machines use random number generators to determine which cards to deal. This makes the dealing completely random. For this reason, the odds of being dealt a winning hand after the pre-draw are entirely predictable. However, the odds of winning after the discard depend on your discarding strategy.

In Nevada and most other locations in the U.S. where casino gambling is legal, the software used in any video poker or video blackjack game has to be approved by the state’s Gaming Control Board or other government entities. In most states (but not all), the law requires that for video games that represent card games, the cards must be dealt randomly from a full 52-card deck or decks. In these games, the house edge on a machine can be accurately determined by a player simply by looking at the machine’s payout schedule and rules. If the payout schedule and rules would give the house a ½% edge dealing fairly from a full 52-card deck or decks, you know that you will be giving up ½% on every bet you place in this game.

So by crooked, I mean any software in which a game is either not being dealt from a full 52-card deck, or in which the cards are not being dealt randomly. Instead, the games are rigged to pay out at fixed percentages just like slot machines.

The fear of this type of crooked software is what keeps most gamblers from playing at Internet casinos.

In a casino where the software is rigged to give the house a higher edge, the cards may never even out. You may keep busting your stiffs and losing your double downs, or never getting royals or 4 of a kinds or flushes or even pairs of jacks or better, because the software is designed specifically to deal you cards that will make you lose.

Crooked software is perfectly legal in some states and foreign countries.

These types of software are legal to use in Internet casinos as well, unless the country where the casino is physically located or licensed prohibits the use of such software. Nevertheless, while this software may be legal, just as it may be legal to set a slot machine to win whatever percentage the casino wants, most players would not consider these games fair.
MathExtremist
MathExtremist
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September 28th, 2010 at 8:07:21 PM permalink
This is inaccurate. First off, I did a quick google for this article and I found it on someone's blog. Take that for what it's worth.

Second, the regs are online and they make it pretty clear that a VP game can't act the way you're implying:

NJCCC regs 19:46-1.28A Standards for the approval of a slot machine game
(h) A slot machine game that includes plays with one or more strategy features shall comply with the following requirements:
1. Whenever a patron has an option to make a strategy choice, the slot machine game shall, in a manner approved by the Commission including, without limitation, through one or more video screens activated by a conspicuous button or touch screen option, automatically disclose the choice that represents optimal strategy or information that is mathematically sufficient for a patron to derive optimal strategy;
(from http://www.njccc.gov/casinos/actreg/reg/docs_chapter46/c46s01sec20to29.pdf)

That regulation would be impossible for a gaffed VP game to satisfy. Either the game would have to implement auto-hold (which they typically don't in AC) or it would need a help screen that says "each hand is dealt from a randomly-shuffled single deck of cards". That information is "mathematically sufficient for a patron to derive optimal strategy".

Third, I had VP games approved and in play in NJ casinos in the late 1990s, and none of those VP games were ever rigged. We used standard paytables and random shuffle algorithms. It would have been too much work to rig them, and there wasn't any demand for it anyway.
"In my own case, when it seemed to me after a long illness that death was close at hand, I found no little solace in playing constantly at dice." -- Girolamo Cardano, 1563
4ofaKind
4ofaKind
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September 29th, 2010 at 3:58:23 AM permalink
Thanks again for the response MathExtremist. As far as that first article which discusses the NJCCC I was certain it came from a VP strategy book. Not sure if someone else copied it and posted it on their blog.

In addition this quote which I mentioned in my OP, and is posted and could be read by all in their frequently asked questions section at the online casino Slotland;

Quote:
"With card games the probability of hitting the jackpot combination is not natural, but controlled by this shared random generator in the same exact way that slot machines are won."

Would this quote indicate a rigged game? And if so how would we know for sure all other online casinos don't share this type of software programing? How or where does an online player find this information out for sure?
MathExtremist
MathExtremist
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September 29th, 2010 at 8:03:51 AM permalink
It might, but it doesn't say which card games it's referring to. Regardless, in my opinion *all* card games should use the "natural" probability of hitting the jackpot combination, so I'm not sure what these guys mean.

And there's no way to know anything about what's happening online "for sure." Some of my earliest clients used gaffed software to minimize revenue swings in their software because their operators were underfunded. They complained to me about poor performance and lack of player acceptance. I said "yeah, because the players can tell your software is gaffed". To my knowledge, none of my current customers (or indeed, any of the other major vendors in the online world) use gaffed software to operate their games. However, it's entirely possible I could be wrong.

Edit: I just looked at their site. It was talking about the chances of winning a cross-game progressive jackpot, so I think you're taking the quote out of context and misinterpreting it. Right before your quote, it also says:

"Slotland ensures that all of the online casino games perform just like the biggest land based casinos! Our games have been designed by software experts to perform and function in the same manner and set up. We use number generators that have been tested and found to conform to similar games found in Atlantic City's random payout frequency. For your protection, all bets and wagers at Slotland online casino are recorded. There is always a complete audit result history on all games that are played."

N.B. I have no dealings with Slotland, but I think it's unlikely that they're using gaffed software. Most operators that needed it have long since gone out of business. The ones that are left have the bankroll to sustain normal revenue swings and therefore can offer properly-implemented games.
"In my own case, when it seemed to me after a long illness that death was close at hand, I found no little solace in playing constantly at dice." -- Girolamo Cardano, 1563

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