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HOME > Gaming > Class of slot machines and shadow hands in video poker

Class of slot machines and shadow hands in video poker

10 August 2014

By John Grochowski

QUESTION: Your recent Q & A about class II and III machines confused me. You said "If a machine doesn't have a bingo display, it's not a Class II game. Same for video poker. If it has a bingo display, it's Class II. If it doesn't, it's Class III."

Here in the East, there are two places that seem rather successful, but are VLT machines. Are VLT machines at Empire Casino in New York and Twin River casino in Rhode Island Class II or Class III? There are no bingo cards on the screen, but yet they are controlled by a lottery system at the casino. I know what you mean concerning the bingo cards on the screen because of my play at the old Seminole Casinos. Empire & Twin River don't have them.

ANSWER: The explanation of Class II and Class III applies specifically to tribal casinos. Class II and Class III are Native American gaming designations, though Class III slots are the same as the slots with random number generators you'd find in commercial casinos.

State lottery VLTs are programmed differently, and each state that has them has its own requirements. In New York, VLT results are determined by a central processor, and what the processor does is to relay to your terminal the electronic equivalent of the next card off a stack of scratch-off cards. The games aren't bingo as in Indian casinos, they're lottery scratch-off type games with a slot display as the interface. Just as in Class II games, strategy doesn't matter in video poker, and the payback percentages don't necessarily correspond to the pay table.

Rhode Island is different. Its VLTs are RNG games, just like commercial casino slots or Native American Class III games. The same goes for VLTs in Delaware, Oregon and West Virginia. But in New York, you're getting that lottery game.

QUESTION: I’ve read quite a few answers from experts on these questions that run the gamut. Actually, two questions are involved. (1) When playing video poker, exactly WHEN does the RNG stop operating? I’ve been told that it stops once the initial five cards are dealt. I’ve also heard that it doesn’t stop until the player picks his first card. (2) Once the RNG stops, are there five cards “under” the dealt cards, or are the cards dealt sequentially from the remaining 47 cards, depending on how many cards the player holds? I know the answers don’t really affect the game, but I would like to know what is the truth.

Example: I’m dealt king, queen and jack of hearts, which I hold in positions 1, 3 and 5. I “draw” for cards in positions 2 and 4. Are positions 2 and 4 filled in sequence from the remaining 47 cards, or are there already two cards “lying in wait” behind the original dealt cards?

ANSWER: The reasons you hear different things from different people is that the answer has changed over the years, and the answers mostly apply specifically to IGT. IGT has about 95 percent of the video poker market, but other manufacturers may have their own dealing methods.

When IGT’s original video poker machines were designed in the 1970s, they were programmed with a shadow hand behind the hand you saw on the screen. The situation was as you described, with a card lying in wait behind each card.

That changed in the 1980s. At that time, the RNG set 10 cards at once, the five cards you saw on the screen, along with a five-card stack. Your draws then were dealt in sequence, from the top of that five-card stack.

IGT later updated its programming again as a game security measure. Today, after the RNG sets your original five cards, the remaining 47 are continuously shuffled until you hit the draw button. It's only then that the draw cards are set.

Many people still believe the shadow hand is dealt. I get e-mail about this all the time. Nearly all the machines in today's casinos use the continuous shuffle.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.

John Grochowski
John  Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field. Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago.

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