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This week was one of those weeks where I had a severe case of writer’s block. I couldn’t come up with a good topic. I had one in mind but wasn’t sure where I wanted to go with it, so I keep looking.

Then I saw a post on my Facebook page from one of the major casino companies that dealt with mostly problem gambling and I decided to click through. The post insinuated that I would find gambling tips at the end of the rainbow. In reality, the tips were more of the variety of how to avoid or recognize if you have a gambling problem than specific gaming tips.

While browsing their site, I came across a subsection about hot and cold machines. I had my topic. Is there such a thing as hot or cold machines?

Absolutely. This doesn’t mean that they are broken or not operating according to their programming. The laws of probability does not mean that streaks will not happen. If you need proof of this, find a coin. Start flipping. The probability of getting two heads or two tails over two flips is the exact same as getting one head and one tail. 

Now flip the coin 10 times. You have a 41 percent chance that you’ll have six of one and four of the other while there is a 24.6 percent chance you’ll get five of each.

Along the way you will have streaks. In only 10 flips, these streaks may not seem very long, but they will exist. If you take the session out to 100 flips or 1,000 flips, they will become even more apparent. You will go 10 flips within that with nine out of 10 being either heads or tails.

Now imagine that heads is a win and tails is a loss. You are playing a ‘game’ in which you win 50 percent of the time and you’re going to play 100 times. Imagine how good it feels when nine out of 10 flips is heads and you win. Now imagine how bad it feels when nine out of 10 flips is tails and you lose. This is a 50/50 game and you have streaks.  What happens when we start bringing in some real statistics from the casino. On a jacks or better machine, the player will have a win 46 percent of the time. Of course, a win in video poker includes a push where you get your money back. Of this 46 percent, nearly half are pushes. So, in reality, about 25 percent of hands are wins, 21 percent are pushes and 54 percent are losers.

What this means, unfortunately, is that losing streaks are more likely than winning streaks. If we take the pushes not as wins but as non-events, then the probability of a losing streak goes way up. The probability of having five consecutive losing hands in video poker is 4.6 percent. The probability of having five consecutive non-losing hands is 2.1 percent. The probability of having five consecutive winning hands is a mere 0.1 percent. 

It’s human nature to remember those cold streaks over those hot streaks. It is also simple probability that tells us that where casino gaming is concerned, the cold streaks are much more likely than the hot streaks.

Common sense tells us that in the real world, while these streaks do occur, they can only be recognized after the fact and that there is no way to know what machine is about to be hot or about to be cold. So, streaks will occur, but you cannot predict them and try to time them to your benefit. 

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At Gaming Today we are dedicated to providing valuable up-to-date information on the casino industry and pari-mutuel race wagering. With news and features, plus expanded coverage in key areas – race and sports analysis, picks, tips, and handicapping.

About the Author

Elliot Frome

Elliot Frome’s roots run deep into gaming theory and analysis. His father, Lenny, was a pioneer in developing video poker strategy in the 1980s and is credited with raising its popularity to dizzying heights. Elliot is a second generation gaming author and analyst with nearly 20 years of programming experience.

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