By Henry Tamburin
I’ve won a lot of money gambling in casinos over the past 30 years and I’ve never attributed my success to being a “lucky player.” No, I’ve been successful because I’ve disciplined myself to use math-based strategies so that I only play games where I have the edge over the casino. Sure, sometimes I get lucky and manage to win every hand of blackjack in a shoe or hit two royal flushes within 30 minutes of playing video poker. But I firmly believe that luck will even out over one’s lifetime. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to complain when a little dumb luck comes my way as it did recently while I was playing video poker. Here’s what happened.
My father-in-law and I were playing video poker on two adjacent machines. He was steadily winning and I was steadily losing. I don’t usually panic when I hit a cold streak because I know video poker can be a very streaky game. I also don’t normally change machines unless it’s for comfort (i.e., I’ll move if a button on the machine sticks, or the casino’s air conditioner is blasting cold air directly on me, or a nearby smoker decides to blow smoke in my direction). But I don’t normally change video poker machines when I’m losing. But for some unknown reason I got the urge to move to the machine to my right. It was similar to the machine that I and my father-in-law were playing (multi-game, multi-denomination machine) so I hit the cash out button, grabbed my payout ticket, moved one seat over, and inserted the ticket and my Player’s Card into the new machine.
The credits registered just like they were supposed to. But on my display screen was a game I had never seen before. It wasn’t a video poker or a slot game. The screen showed a lot of vertical numbers. For a moment I thought it was an electronic keno game but it didn’t look like any electronic keno game that I was familiar with. No sweat, I thought, I’ll just touch the MORE GAMES button on the bottom of screen and it will take me to the main screen where I can select the video poker game that I was anxious to play.
But something wasn’t quite right. I touched the MORE GAMES but nothing happened. Strange. I touched it again, in fact several times, but nothing happened. Something seemed to be amiss here because normally when you touch this button it returns you to main screen.
I was starting to get frustrated because I had my money loaded into the machine and I wanted to play some video poker but the darn machine wouldn’t cooperate. I was perplexed as to why the MORE GAMES button wasn’t working and this unkown game was still on my screen. I noticed another button on the bottom of the screen labeled GAME INFO so I touched it and again nothing happened. Now I was getting angry so I started touching both buttons back and forth when all of a sudden, to my surprise the game started to play.
I watched in shock as different numbers lit up on my screen of this unknown game. I certainly didn’t want to play this game that I knew nothing about but dang here I was unknowingly playing it. Now I was starting to get upset with myself because I didn’t have a clue how much I bet on this game (heck, I didn’t even know how I started the game or how it works). Then all of a sudden the numbers stopped lighting up and music started to play. I stared at the screen wondering what the heck was going on when all of a sudden the word JACKPOT appeared in large letters at the top of my screen. I was in a state of shock! I finally turned to my father-in-law and said, “You are not going to believe this, but I just hit a jackpot on a game that I know nothing about.” He thought I was joking but within a few seconds $4,200 in big numbers appeared on the screen. I had just somehow hit a $4,200 jackpot on a game that I had no idea what it was or how to play it.
A slot attendant came over and started taking down information because it required a hand-pay. She looked at my screen and asked me, “How many numbers did you hit?” I looked at her and embarrassingly said, “I don’t have a clue.”
She called over another attendant to help her figure out how I won the $4,200. I vaguely recollect the second attendant saying, “He hit 7 out of 8 numbers (or maybe it was 6 out of 7, I don’t remember exactly).”
It turned out I was unintentionally playing a 25 cent multi-keno game and I must have accidently touched the play button when I was trying to go back to the main screen (at least that’s my theory of what happened). I never play multi-keno games simply because from my past experiences with electronic keno, the house edge (with a few exceptions) is too high.
So what’s the moral to this story? As many readers of my articles know, I’m a firm believer that to be a smart casino player you’ve got to play the games that offer the best odds with sound playing strategies. But, as my experience with multi-keno shows, sometimes a little bit of dumb luck helps.
Oh, and by the way, after the attendant paid me my jackpot, I still had that same multi-keno game on my video poker screen. I instinctively touched the MORE GAMES button again and guess what happened this time? The screen changed to the main screen like it was supposed to. Go figure.
Henry Tamburin has been a respected casino gambling writer for the past 50 years. He is the author of the Ultimate Blackjack Strategy Guide and was editor of the Blackjack Insider newsletter. You can read his latest articles on blackjack, video poker, and his personal playing experiences at .