What is it about video poker? Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock’s game of choice probed

  • Las Vegas mass murderer Stephen Paddock reportedly gambled $100,000 an hour playing video poker
  • Popular casino machine game is known as the ‘crack cocaine’ of gambling

As more details emerge about the life and background of mass-killer Stephen Paddock, who murdered 58 people and injured over 500 in Las Vegas on Sunday night, attention has focused on his casino habits and his preference for video poker.

Stephen Paddock preferred video poker as his choice of casino game. But could he really have made money from it?
Stephen Paddock preferred video poker as his choice of casino game. But could he really have made money from it?

According to some reports Paddock played up to 1,000 hands of video poker per hour in Las Vegas casinos, including the Mandalay Bay, from where he launched his murderous attack.

At up to $125 per hand, he was reported as being able to gamble around $100,000 per hour and kept up that rate of play for up to eight hours at a time.

Crack cocaine

In the late 1990s the National Gambling Impact Study Commission described video poker as the ‘crack-cocaine’ of gambling because it has the potential to be extremely addictive and some reports have found that some video poker addicts have brain disorders that mirror those found in drug addicts.

Video poker was first designed in the late 1970s and was designed to mimic the play of regular poker. Instead of a human dealer and other players, video poker players are up against a machine which deals from a 52-card virtual deck.

Players are attracted to video poker because it has one of the lowest house edges of any casino game.

The Mandalay Bay video poker machines can pay out a maximum of $99.17 for every $100 wagered – a return to player percentage of 99.17%.

The average online casino slot would pay around 95% by comparison.

By memorising the relevant odds and playing strictly according to the probabilities, players can come close to breaking even in the long term, and those such as Paddock, who wagered large amounts, would benefit from considerable perks, which could make playing video poker a profitable or at least sustainable pastime.

Whether Paddock had actually managed to hit a 99.17% win rate is not known – and there is a very real chance he could have instead lost a lot of money.

And whether he could have made money overall on the machines is highly questionable – unless he had an astonishing run of luck – or did genuinely have some method or ‘hack’ to beat the game.

Did perks make up the shortfall?

High rollers are often rewarded with huge perks including concert and sports tickets and even regular players who bet smaller amounts can earn what is known as ‘full RFB‘, which means food and board.

According to prominent gambling expert, Anthony Curtis, Paddock’s gambling activity did not put him in the category of player who could beat the video poker game, but he knew enough to sustain a six-figure line of credit at many casinos.

He told the New Yorker: “People who are semi-sharp, as we say in Vegas, they know they’re better off playing video poker than slots.

“This guy was smart enough to know that. He was not on top of the world of play, but he was a gambler that kind of knew how to play the angles a little bit.”

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