A royal pain!

Mar 13, 2007 3:44 AM

During the 1980s and 1990s, teams of video poker players would "sit" on a bank of progressive machines until one of them cashed the top award.

The players were dedicated to their calling, much like the old flagpole sitters of the 1920s.

The theory was, when the progressive jackpot reached a high enough level, the odds became favorable that the elusive royal flush would soon hit.

Statistically, the jackpots would often climb far beyond the "normal" 800-1 (4,000 coins) typically paid for a royal flush.

But lately, video poker teams have become as scarce as, well, flagpole sitters, even though there are progressive jackpots all over Las Vegas.

"The royals have become very difficult to hit," said Lil (last name withheld), a former member of a video poker team. "Over the past several years, we’ve been unable to hit anything."

Lil said she (and others) believes that video poker machines are "programmed" to pay out fewer royal flushes than in the past.

"We may go months without hitting a royal flush," she said. "In the past, we could probably connect on one royal a week.

"In addition, in the old days, we would sometimes have a player hit a royal immediately after hitting a first royal," she continued. "Back-to-back winners were not unheard of. But those things just don’t happen anymore." Some team players have suggested that the manufacturers have changed the way or the timing of just how and when these jackpots are paid. And they have taken their complaints to regulators.

Yet, other observers point out that they have seen progressive video poker jackpots paid shortly after they have been reset to the minimum while others have grown substantially while awaiting someone to be dealt that elusive royal flush.

Nonetheless, Gaming Today has learned from sources claiming to have knowledge of how machines operate that there could be some validity to their concerns. These need to be reviewed.

It is believed by some progressive team members that the video poker machines may have had sub-programs written within the operating programs. The sub-program would be triggered when the jackpot is reset.

Indeed, because they are controlled by computer programs, electronic gaming machines and how they operate are somewhat of an enigma.

Manufacturers won’t reveal exactly how they operate, except to say that all of the outcomes are random.

And regulators never discuss the proprietary details of the machines they oversee ”¦ except to say that all of the outcomes are random.

Essentially, these so-called subprograms are based on the amount of money the machine has taken in, even though there are Nevada regulations that prohibit such programs.

The way the subprogram works, so the theory goes, is that until the machine takes in enough money, the top award can never hit.

Conversely, once the machine has taken in a high enough level of money, the royal will hit no matter how poorly the player plays the hand. That’s when you will get your dealt royals, or royals hitting after holding just two cards.

According to an insider, the Nevada Gaming Control Board has received "disputes" from progressive team members. These "disputes" will be investigated and official judgments issued, the source said.