It’s all random!

Feb 12, 2007 4:30 AM

Even though slot machines have been controlled by some sort of random chip for many years now, I don’t think anything has brought the idea of randomness to the player’s mind the way video poker has.

The microchip is a kind-of enigma. I’m a programmer and I don’t fully understand how software is burned onto a chip. How can anyone really know if the video poker machine is truly random? We’ve all heard of cases where people have seen all sorts of bizarre patterns develop in the cards that are dealt.

There’s a whole other group of people who seem very concerned about how the cards are dealt. When you hit Deal, are five cards generated or all 10 possible cards? Do cards 6 through 10 go behind cards 1-5 or are they dealt in order depending on how many cards are needed?

My answer to all of this fuss has always been the same. Who cares? There is only one question that should matter. Is the game essentially random?

This means that at any point in time are all the cards just as likely to show up as the others? If the answer is yes, then the rest of the questions are meaningless. If the answer is no, then the rest of the questions are even MORE meaningless.

If there is some aspect of the game (whether on purpose or by accident) that causes an outcome to not follow the anticipated random probability (for example, that if you’ve got four cards to a royal, that there is not a 1 in 47 chance of drawing the final card), you don’t stand a chance.

All the strategy is built on the premise that the game is random. And if the game is random, who cares what order the cards come out in. Sure, for any one hand, you’ll get a different outcome. But, it might be better or worse. In the long run, random is random.

For those who don’t believe me, try this at home. Take a standard 52-card deck and shuffle it. Try and guess what the top card is. Then turn it over and see if you are right. Do this a hundred times or so. Do you think the results would’ve been any different if you had picked the bottom card instead?

What about the 23rd card in the deck? As long as you shuffled the cards, it won’t matter which specific card you pick (or if you change on each guess), as long as you pick just one card each time. You can expect to be right 1 out of 52 times.

So far, I still haven’t answered the one question that I said matters — are the games random?

Well, first of all, in places like Las Vegas, the gaming regulations state that they have to be. I have to believe that the risk vs. the reward does not lean towards the casinos doing anything but using random machines.

In the end, there really are only two choices — stop making something out of nothing or stop playing video poker machines that you believe are not random.