“Very superstitious, writings on the wall, very superstitious, ladders bout’ to fall,
Thirteen month old baby broke the lookin’ glass, seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past. When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer, Superstition ain’t the way.”
Lyrics from “Superstition” By Stevie Wonder
Stevie Wonder really had it right even though athletes and gamblers alike are notorious for wearing a certain hat or moth-eaten underwear so they’re walking around lucky.
In fact irrational beliefs by players can at times be costly to casino owners. For example, when the MGM was re-built in December of 1993 the main entrance was through the mouth of the iconic Leo the Lion. Chinese gamblers considered that a double whammy since some believe a front entry is unlucky and the feng shui superstition that entering through the lion’s mouth brings bad luck. At great expense to MGM the entry was changed and now Leo, in his gigantic bronze glory, resides above the entry.
As far as video poker play goes, most superstitions are harmless so it’s okay to keep sitting on the horseshoe. There are, however, a few mumbo jumbo actions that you should lose because they are harmful to your wallet.
VP Superstitions: I’ll never forget the howling event following the first-ever royal flush of a lady in Boomtown Casino (now Silverton) in Las Vegas. She announced that she played the same machine for over a year every time she came to the casino. Was this good? Only if the pay schedule is the best one available for the game selected – As Stevie Wonder put it “When you believe in things that you don’t understand, then you suffer, superstition ain’t the way.”
Choosing A Machine: If two VP devices have the same ER (expected return) by all means go with your “lucky machine” if it makes you feel better. However, always check the pay schedule in advance to make sure you’re not playing a downgraded version of the game. Just because two machines are side-by-side it doesn’t mean they have the same payouts for the same hands. Once I was in the Golden Nugget in Laughlin, Nevada when a woman waited for an 8/5JOB device even though a 9/6JOB was open. I asked and was told that she never won on the machine she wanted and thought it was “due”. When I explained the difference she said “a mechanic told me” they were all set to pay out the same thing. Wrong, of course, and not exactly a superstition but close enough.
Faulty Buttons: After checking the pay tables to make sure two games have the same ER I recommend that you always avoid the device with faulty buttons, even if it’s your “lucky” machine. Sometimes a casino will pay you when a stuck button causes you to lose a big jackpot, but they don’t have to. How about a smaller win, like a full house? Not likely.
Card Holds: I’m surprised that so many people will make incorrect card holds based on superstitions. For example, a guy once told me to always hold a single “six” on 9/6 JOB (9/6Jacks or Better) because a lot of them come up on a certain machine. Another time a player always held a solitary “eight” her lucky number on the same game. You should always play according to the tutorial software (my favorite is WinPoker by Dean Zamzow) and never base holds on either superstitions or hunches.
“Lucky” Playing Times: Time and again seemingly savvy players will tell me when the royal will hit based on their superstitions or belief that a casino controls when they pop up. There is no rational basis for these statements and the house has no input in when any hand will be the result of your play. Even if a bank of machines has hit several royals in a short time it has nothing to do with future events on your machine or the bank you’re playing.
Final Thoughts: By all means wear your lucky garments and bring along the horseshoe when you go through the casino’s side door. However, once you find a seat at a VP device make sure you’re playing statistically accurate and move away from machines with faulty buttons. The house already has an edge most of the time since they’re determining the pay tables on the floor of their casino. Why would anybody want to increase the house advantage by holding their “lucky solo 8” in any game of JOB?
Linda Boyd – long-time table game player before turning to video poker, also writes for “Southern Gaming and “Midwest Gaming and Travel” her book, “The Video Poker Edge”, includes free removable pay schedules and strategy cards for the most popular games. Look for her story in current editions of “American Casino Guide” (ACG) and her YouTube videos, also with ACG. The Second Edition of her book is available in both paperback and kindle. Available toll free at 1-877-900-book – amazon.com bookstores or Square One Publishers. www.squareonepublishers.com