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Every casino game has streaks. Keep in mind that winning and losing streaks are a normal and necessary part of any gambling activity. It is one of the by-products of randomness.
Players happily accept winning streaks, but what happens when a long losing streak occurs while playing video poker?
It seems that each pundit, player, and video poker bartender has his or her recommendation when it comes to manipulating video poker play. Some typical advice includes:
Dozens, if not hundreds, of variations and combinations of these themes are readily offered as cures for the current losing situation. Do any of them work?
Proper video poker play is based on math. The chance of hitting a specific winning hand is based on math. It means that each hand played on a video poker game has the same chance of hitting a specific winning hand as any other video poker hand that is played. For example, the chance of hitting a four-of-a-kind is about 400-to-1 for every hand played.
The expected return from each paytable for each game is also based on math. The chance of hitting each winning hand is compared with the payout of that winning hand to determine the expected outcome of the game.
Is any of the above advice based on the reality of randomness and the math of the game?
Let’s look at each recommendation in more detail.
Apparently, the thought behind this strategy is to jolt the machine into a new winning streak by disrupting the current game. To be honest with you, it could happen.
In a random game, streaks are possible. They cannot be predicted and they cannot be forced. Switching to another game and back will change the specific hands received, but one cannot change any streaks. It is likely that a losing streak will continue, while a winning streak starts.
The logic behind this advice is a different machine will have a different random number generator so the streaks should change. As with the previous advice, it just might work or not.
Whether switching between games on the same machine or switching machines, streaks cannot be predicted. They will be whatever they will be.
The logic behind this advice is that a hot machine tends to remain hot and a cold one tends to remain cold. So, if that happens to you, by all means, grab it while it is still hot.
When playing video poker for hours at a time, it is easy to see the streaks that happen. A hot streak can go on for quite a while. There can be several long winning streaks intermixed with several short losing streaks. This is what makes a machine hot.
This advice falls into the same area as the first two pieces of advice. In a random game, no one knows when a streak is over, when a new streak starts or when the game is choppy with intermittent wins and losses. As with the other words of advice, this could work or not.
This strategy recommends changing the bet amount to mimic the winning and losing streaks. That is if you are losing, reduce the amount bet, and if you are winning, increase this amount — down as you lose and up as you win.
This supposedly reduces the losses during losing streaks and increases the wins during winning streaks.
There is only one problem with the strategy — no one knows when the streak will end. It is entirely possible that the moment the bets are decreased is exactly when a winning streak starts. Or the reverse. This strategy would work very well if streaks could be predicted. But they cannot.
The advice is the exact opposite of the previous strategy. Bet up as you lose and down as you win. The logic is that streaks have to end and if you bet up during a losing streak you will eventually catch a winning streak and win back your losses more quickly because of the increased bets. The reverse would be true during a winning streak.
This idea may sound logical, but has the same problem as other strategies — knowing when a streak will end and a new streak will start. It may be easy when looking in the rearview mirror, but it is impossible looking forward.
This is a variation of the up as you lose strategy. The logic is that eventually there will be a winning hand. Take the win and start the sequence again.
One betting sequence that is promoted is as follows:
The major pitfall of this strategy is the large amount lost when the whole sequence is played without a win. Also, starting over after a win reduces the amount won in a streaky game.
This strategy is difficult to play and offers absolutely no real advantage to the player.
In order to use this strategy, the player has to do some careful tracking.
Assume you are playing Jacks or Better where each four-of-a-kind is paid 25-for-1. This hand should appear once every 400 hands or so. Assuming the player can play 800 hands per hour, this amounts to an average of one four-of-a-kind every half hour or so.
The recommendation says that, if, after four or five hours of play there have been no four-of-a-kind hands, switch to either Double Bonus Poker, or Double-Double Bonus Poker. These games pay a minimum of 50-for-1 for a four-of-a-kind hand with some hands paying as high as 400-for-1.
The logic behind this strategy says that since no four-of-a-kind hand has appeared in a long time, it is due to happen. Capitalize on that by playing a game that pays a bonus for the hand.
As with all the other strategies examined above, this might work or not.
There are several downsides to this strategy.
Though every video poker player, pundit, casino worker, and casual acquaintance seems to have an answer for ending losing streaks, none of them really hold up to the harsh reality of randomness. If streaks cannot be predicted, no betting strategy or switching of games or machines will help.
What should a savvy video poker player do?
Here are a few tips:
This advice will not end losing streaks, but it will keep players in the game long enough to weather them and reap the benefits of a winning streak.