STICKMAN'S STANCE: VIDEO POKER DOUBLE UP - GOOD OR BAD?
by Jerry "Stickman"
Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in craps, blackjack, video poker and advantage slot machine play. Frank Scoblete's and Jerry "Stickman's" book "Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker" presents dozens of video poker games and strategies for maximum returns. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the last article I will be writing for Blackjack Insider. Over the years Henry has worked hard to provide a quality publication that gave his readers solid information on blackjack and other casino games. Those efforts have no doubt helped each of you in many ways. I know I will miss the BJI and suspect a vast majority of you will also. Therefore, I feel it is time to "double up" my efforts with a look at the double up feature available on many video poker games. Is this a good thing for players or just another gimmick designed to take more money from its victims --- I mean players?
The double up feature has been around for decades. In fact, it was much more prevalent years ago than it is currently. The following true story could be the reason why.
In April, 2009, John Kane was playing video poker in the Fremont Casino in downtown Las Vegas. A little background on Kane is in order. Kane was truly addicted to video poker. In 2006, he lost half a million dollars playing video poker at Boulder Station and earned enough Player Club points to pay for his own Game King, which he set up in his home on the outskirts of Las Vegas. He had a measured temperament and was not prone to emotional outbursts. Rather his play was methodical.
On this particular day, he was playing a row of four low limit Game King machines near the entrance to the Chinese fast food restaurant. He had been switching between the different games available on the machines and had accumulated a modest win. When he hit the Cash Out button to take his money to a different game, the screen locked up and the light above the machine lit indicating a jackpot worth more than $1,200. Kane found this peculiar since he hadn't even played a new hand. He knew it must have been a mistake and actually told the slot attendant so. The attendant thought he was joking and paid him anyway.
Knowing that this was a programming error, Kane vowed to determine how to exploit it. He called a friend, Andre Nestor, who lived in suburban Pittsburg, to tell him about it. Nestor flew to Las Vegas the next day. Together they went to the Fremont to try to recreate Kane's previous results. They were able to determine that the key to the glitch was that under the proper circumstances, the denomination could be switched retroactively making a $40 jackpot at the penny level into a $2,000 jackpot at the 50 cent level.
It took them seven hours playing side-by-side to come up with a repeatable sequence to profit from the glitch.
Realizing they should spread their play around so as to not be too obvious, they tried their technique elsewhere. They tried Game Kings at the Hilton, the Cannery, the Stratosphere, Terrible's, Hard Rock, Tropicana, Luxor, and five other casinos - all to no avail. They were not able to recreate their results at any of these other casinos.
So, they returned to the Fremont. In order to increase profits, they started using the double up feature. Ultimately casino personnel noticed the winnings. The slot manager also noticed the use of the double up feature. He approached Kane after one of his wins and announced he was disabling the double up feature on all Game Kings as he figured this must have something to do with his winning streak.
This didn't bother Kane as he knew the "software bug," not the double up feature, was the real secret of his success. But, to his surprise, the magic sequence no longer worked at the Fremont. That's when he realized that the sequence worked with the double up feature turned on but it did not work with the feature turned off.
Armed with this new information, all the Game Kings in the country were their personal banks - as long as they could get the slot attendants to enable the double up feature.
Fast forward. As with all such situations, Kane and Nestor were ultimately caught, the machines erroneous code was corrected, and once again, the casinos had the upper hand.
If you are curious, here are the steps they used to "beat the house."
The "Double Up bug" in the software of Game King video poker machines survived undetected for nearly seven years, in part because the steps to reproduce it were so complex. John Kane and Andre Nestor experimented until they could trigger it at will. This is what they did.
1. Locate a Game King video poker machine configured for multi-denomination play.
2. Flag down a slot attendant and ask them to enable the Double Up option.
3. Insert money or a voucher and select the lowest denomination level offered by the machine-for example, $1 per credit on a $1, $2, $5, $10 machine.
4. Choose your favorite game variant-Triple Double Bonus Poker is fun-and start playing.
5. Keep playing at the $1 level until you win a big hand. An $800 royal flush is perfect.
6. With your royal flush showing but not yet cashed out, hit the More Games button on the touchscreen and select a different game variation. Play it until you score a win.
7. Insert more money or a voucher into the machine.
8. Touch the More Games button again, and change to the maximum denomination-in this case, $10 per credit. Then return to your original $800 royal flush.
9. Press the Cash Out button. "Jackpot! $8,000" will appear on the screen and the light on the top of the machine will illuminate. Congratulations!
10. Wait for the slot attendant to show up with an IRS form W-2G. Once you've signed it, you'll get your money.
Now that this bug has been resolved and the above 10 steps are worthless, let's look at regular double up play.
How Double Up Works
The double up feature is only available after achieving a winning hand. When a winning hand is made, there are different methods to play the double up feature. Some games will automatically ask the player if they want to double up. On other games a "Double Up" button will become highlighted and the player has to touch it to activate the feature.
Once the double up feature is selected, five cards are dealt - one card face up and four cards face down. The object is to select a face down card that will beat the face up (or house) card. If the player selects a card that beats the house card, he or she will double the original win. If a card lower than the house card is selected, the player loses the entire win. If the selected card is the same rank as the house card, most games treat it as a push. However, some games will treat this as a player loss. It is important to ascertain whether ties are treated as pushes or losses as this greatly impacts results.
Most games allow the player to double up any winning hand - including winning double ups - but some only allow the player to double up once per initial winning hand.
Another thing to keep in mind is the five cards that are dealt are chosen exactly the same way that regular video poker hands are - by using the RNG (Random Number Generator). In other words they are dealt as randomly as a machine can do so.
So, is the double up feature a good thing or a bad thing?
Let's look at the good first.
Assuming that ties are treated as a push, the return for double up is 100 percent, meaning there is no casino edge. Unless you have been able to locate a (currently extremely rare) 100+ percent return game, the return for double up play is greater than the return of the base game. Just make sure the double up feature you are playing treats ties as a push. If not - if a tie is treated as a loss - you are facing 5a.8 percent house edge. This is not playable, in my opinion; therefore, avoid playing the double up.
Now the bad.
Playing the double up feature dramatically raises the game's variance. Sure, you can win money more quickly using it, but you will also lose more quickly since half of all your double up plays will cost you your original win.
Here are some things to consider when deciding to play the double up feature.
As you can see, there are many reason to avoid playing double up and precious few supporting play. In other words, proceed cautiosly with double up play.
Here are a couple of other things to consider if you decide to play double up:
There are a lot of things to consider, but the bottom line is playing the double up feature is a very personal decision. There are no clear cut guidelines that say a player should play it. Ultimately, it is up to the player to decide what is important and if they have what it takes to ride through the rollercoaster ride of playing the double up feature.
That's it - everything you need to know about playing the double up feature on video poker. Hopefully Henry will "double up" on his pleasure and relaxation upon his retirement from the BJI.
All the best in your casino and life endeavors.
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