What to do witha ‘cold’ machine

Nov 29, 2005 12:37 AM

Kick off December with the 19th Annual Downtown Hoedown! The holiday season and National Finals Rodeo get underway beginning on Dec.1 on Fremont Street.

It begins this year on Thursday, with the Hoedown to kick off National Finals Rodeo (NFR). When the rodeo comes to Vegas, the party starts downtown at the Fremont Street Experience. It’s the official kickoff party for NFR and everyone’s invited to a hunker-down, boot-stompin’, good-time party. Country singing sensations, Joe Diffie and Neal McCoy, will be performing free live shows under the Fremont Street Experience’s canopy of lights for all to enjoy.

Next, the Las Vegas Marathon will take place running right through the heart of Las Vegas under the Fremont Street Experience and down to the Strip on Dec. 4. About 15,000 runners are expected to participate.

Following that, the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony will take place on Fremont Street on Dec. 6, with Mayor Oscar Goodman officiating and pulling the switch to illuminate the giant 50-foot tree. The free special holiday show this year will be "Kickin’ Holiday" and features sexy cowboys and cowgirls singing and dancing to country holiday tunes. The show runs Dec. 6-17 and plays three times nightly on the 3rd Street stage at 7:30, 8:30 and 9:30 p.m.

The New Year’s Eve Fremont Street party has also been announced. This year’s concert will feature Cheap Trick, the Gin Blossoms, and the Spin Doctors performing on the outdoor stages throughout the evening. Tickets are $40.

Need a room for holiday guests? Pay for any two nights in December at the El Cortez downtown and receive a voucher valid for two free nights in January.

While visiting downtown, stop in at Binion’s Gambling Hall. Sign up for P.I.N. (personal identification number for your Binion’s slot club card) and receive $10 in free slot play! Get a free mouse pad for your e-mail address too!


I recently saw a question posed on video poker message board asking what the expert players do when a machine goes cold. How long do they wait before they move to another machine? Naturally, this message (or perhaps the messenger) was met with much ridicule. Strangely enough, I was more sympathetic to this person’s cause than others.

There is no doubt in my mind that changing machines makes absolutely no mathematical difference, assuming you move to another machine of the same denomination and paytable. Moving to a game with a different payback or with a different level of volatility (i.e. from double double bonus to jacks or better), will make more of a difference, but this was not this person’s question. He wanted to know how people felt about changing to another equal machine after losing perhaps $20 on one machine.

If I wanted to play 1000 hands of jacks or better video poker in a night, it would make no difference if I Played 1 hand on 1000 different machines, 10 hands on 100 different machines, 100 hands on 10 machines or 1000 hands on 1 machine, in terms of my expected payback.

The reason is 1000 hands is a very small sample, and if I were to do this night after night, I will get significantly different results from one night to the next. But, in the long run, it won’t matter which way I choose to play it. Of course, for the moment, I’m ignoring the benefit or detriment of the amount of time it takes to go from one machine to the next (which has become significantly easier since the advent of the TITO process).

The simple reality is that each hand of video poker is a separate event from any other hand of video poker. There is no relationship to the one before it or the one after it (assuming your bankroll hasn’t been wiped out). In the end, if you’re playing jacks or better paying 99.5% then the more hands you play over a period of time, the more likely you will begin to approach the 99.5%. It doesn’t matter if you play these hands on 1 machine or 1000 machines. It doesn’t matter if you play these hands in an hour, a day, a week, a year or a lifetime. From the first moment you start playing video poker to the time you decide to stop playing video poker is really one gigantic session, at least mathematically speaking.

So, why was I more sympathetic than many of the other readers of this post? Because I realize that when one of us plays video poker, we are not playing as a computer. That’s not to say that a human cannot play as well as a computer. Expert strategy has been developed with the human in mind, keeping strategy tables to a level of complexity that most people can learn with only a moderate amount of practice. But, we are still all prone to human emotions. Nobody likes to lose, and when we lose, it’s a natural reaction, for all but the most experienced expert strategy players to doubt whether or not the strategy works.

Many naysayers of expert strategy have pounced on this idea to claim that a strategy that maximizes expected value is not a proper one. If it were, you should win all the time. You would never have losing sessions. But, third leg of expert strategy is knowing what to expect. This leg teaches us that we WILL have losing sessions and there WILL be cold streaks. This is all part of the math of the video poker machine. Thus, switching machines has no impact to our mathematical expectation. Playing 1 hour a night for 7 nights will yield no different results than playing 7 hours in 1 night. To claim otherwise, would be like trying to prove that 1 + 1 = 3!

But again, we are human and prone to emotion and prone to doubt. Thus, if the machine goes cold and you start THINKING that the machine is rigged against you, there is a good chance you’re going to start straying from the proper strategy. This is where I stop and say that if you want to change machines, change machines! Certainly, there is no harm in it. Your next royal may be waiting for you on that machine you’re about to switch to, or may be waiting for you on the machine you’re about to leave. The probabilities are 100% even. If, however, you are more likely to stick to expert strategy by getting a fresh start on a new machine, then, by all means, give it a try.


Planning ahead for New Year’s Eve? One of the cheapest spots on the Strip this year may very well be the Pool Deck Party at the Stratosphere for only $20 per person. The party will provide an excellent viewing area for the Strip’s fireworks and the $20 admission includes a complimentary midnight champagne toast. Additional food and drinks will be available for purchase. The Stratosphere will also be offering additional New Year’s Eve party packages ranging from $100-$350. For more information, call 1-800-99TOWER.