No one will dispute that casinos are home to born risk-takers. Although the top pro gamblers rely on consistency and hard strategy, they are all ultimately gambling. But their risky tactics sometimes are outside the actual game of gambling. Las Vegas is chock full of stories of gamblers who tried – and succeeded – at fleecing the gambling houses. Some of these scandals involve players finding a way to hijack and rig slot machines for better results. Which raises the question: is the vice versa also true? It is every gambler’s interest to ultimately take money out of the house’s grip. But does the casino rig the machines themselves, where they can, to make them more difficult to play successfully than advertised? In this article, we explore this billion dollar question with the video poker machines.
“Do casinos play fair” is a question many of us find ourselves often wondering about. It is a bit of a tricky question to answer. By definition, casinos must make a net profit to cover the cost of operations. After all, it is a business like any other. So to ensure that they don’t go in the red, most casino games have an innate bias towards that house. We generally refer to it as the ‘house edge’.
To put it very simply, the house edge is how much more money the casino wins from an average player than the average player wins from the casino. So ‘playing fair’ is out of the equation. The casino and the player are almost never on equal footing. For example, slot games have such ridiculously high prices. On the slight chance that anyone does win millions, it is not usually a big blow to the casino. Because such a payout happens just that rarely. Like bookmakers’ odds in sports betting, casinos also make sure they have the edge at least mathematically.
While slot game odds give the house a considerable edge, many games also have a very low house edge. In fact, quite a handful of the most popular games like blackjack and baccarat have house edges low enough for it to be practically fair play. Video poker also falls in this category, and the house edge can be sometimes as low as 0.5%.
The Use of RNG
The core mechanism of a slot machine is a microprocessor that sets the scene. When the player triggers it, the slots roll and the reels spin at random frequencies before stopping. Now this is where most doubtful people think the rigging is done. Who’s to say the microprocessor is random? The answer is simple: they all have to necessarily use some form of RNG or random number generator. If it is an online slot game, the developers bake that RNG into the programming. Video poker also uses the same RNG mechanism. After the AI deals a card, it automatically pools the rest of the data, i.e. cards left on the deck, and deals a completely random card. In other words, there is no virtual ‘deck reshuffle’ necessary.
The legality of Video Poker
Generally, development of video poker software in most major casinos is not the task of the host online casino. Instead, there are third-party software developers who create the games and then they get added to the casino library. Now, there are also some laws that force these softwares to really ensure a ‘fair’ RNG. That is to say, the gambling laws in most countries require the video poker games to have a lifelike chance component to it. This differs somewhat from the RNG of slot machines.
For one, a slot machine RNG can still ensure that only a certain percentage of rolls are super profitable. That means jackpots are not just mathematically rare. The software may be intentionally set to use pseudo-RNG to make sure they stay rare enough for the casino to turn a profit. In the case of video poker, the card dealing actually has to have randomness akin to real life. Casinos generally stick to this law, because the proof to the contrary means several million dollars in damages for them. Not only would they lose their licenses, but face potential class action lawsuits.
So if you were on the fence about the credibility of video poker, this should convince you that they are as good as the real deal. Of course, the poker face does not work as well without the other players physically present, but it is still the best place to practice and flex your poker skills.
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