Whose jackpot is it anyway?

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My wife, tired of playing a machine while she still had about 100 credits left, turned the machine over to me saying: “Here, you play these credits out.” Moments later I hit a Royal Flush Jackpot. She claimed the money was hers. I claimed that if she had been playing, it is likely she would not have hit the jackpot, since she and I play entirely differently.  Not on that hand in particular, but in general. By that I mean I don’t believe THAT hand would have come up when it did, if she had continued to play, rather than I. Am I correct, or is the sequence of dealt hands completely pre-determined and irreversible. I would like to believe that it is completely “random.” Bob G.

As to the equitable part of your question, Bob, I suggest you write Dear Abby. She handles matrimonial melees, I handle gambling. Though if you want, I could set the odds on your marriage staying intact if you stiffed your wife on at least part of the jackpot. It was her 100 credits that got you the splitsville royal flush. As far as the technical part of your dispute, it was your jackpot exclusively, but not for the reason many players think. Most players believe that video poker machines are programmed to display the royal flush at a certain time. Your wife’s erroneous belief is that if you had not replaced her at the machine, the royal would have been hers. The reason you received a different hand than your wife would have had is because in the short amount of time it would have taken her to insert the additional coins she didn’t play, the machine’s random number generator (RNG) would have contrived another outcome. A video poker machine’s RNG continues to crunch those 1s and 0s, as many as a million hands per minute, until you hit the deal button. So, unless she pushed the deal button at the exact millisecond you did, and both timed and played the previous hands precisely the same way, the royal flush would never have appeared for her.

For the past six months, the progressive video poker machine that I play hasn’t been hit. Forgive me for not telling you where it is as it’s my favorite and I don’t want your readers knowing. Do you think it is appropriate that I play more often now, as the jackpot is long overdue? Mary L.

It may be “due,” or long “overdue,” but that does not mean your favorite video poker machine is ready and waiting for Mary to hit the Royal Flush. Every single hand dealt is completely independent of every other hand. The RGN (random number generator) chip has no memory of what has happened before, nor in the future. Plus, Mary, you have no way of knowing where the machine is in its “pay cycle.” A “pay cycle” is the number of plays required for the machine to cycle through all the possible winning combinations. And even if you did know where in the pay cycle the machine was, the actual deal is still randomized. No video poker machine will hit each possible combination exactly the number of times programmed into the pay cycle. The random factor built into the chip is designed to eliminate any predictable patterns of payouts.

Gambling thought of the week: “The best bet you get is an even break.” -Franklin Pierce Adams

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