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Player sues Oregon Lottery, charging video poker game rigged

Oregon LotteryOregon Lottery: Player sues Oregon Lottery, charging video poker game rigged
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PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon State Lottery's rigged video poker games have cost players $134 million, a man claims in a class action lawsuit.

Lead plaintiff Justin Curzi claims the video poker machines' "auto-hold" feature misleads players about how to increase their odds of winning a hand.

The auto-hold feature recommends playing strategies, and allows players to automatically discard and draw new cards with a single button, according to the complaint.

"Thus, relying on the auto-hold feature is the easiest and fastest way to play video poker, and the player must actively elect not to rely on the auto-hold feature in order to avoid following its recommended strategies," Curzi says in the complaint.

He claims that the auto-hold feature sometimes recommends strategies "that materially decrease a player's chances of playing a winning hand when compared against the best possible strategy."

The state lottery was audited by Gaming Laboratories International in 2009, and the audit found that "there is virtually no difference between actual payouts and the payouts achieved by following the recommendations made by the auto-hold feature," the complaint states. "These payouts, however, are more than 3 percent less (on average) than the payouts that would be achieved if the auto-hold feature actually did recommend the best playing strategies."

Curzi claims the State Lottery knows that video poker players believe that the auto-hold feature offers the best playing strategy, but has not informed them that it is not the case.

"Instead, the Lottery publicly advertises the theoretical payouts for each video game, including on its website, without disclosing the fact that the auto-hold feature is programmed to pay out at less than those odds," the complaint states.

Curzi claims that poker players "lost an estimated $134 million as a result of defendants' wrongful conduct."

Also named as defendants are IGT Inc., GTech USA, and WMS Gaming Inc.

Curzi seeks class certification and at least $134 million in damages for fraud, misrepresentation, negligence and unjust enrichment.

He is represented by Jay Zollinger with Outside General Counsel Services, of Beaverton.

Thanks to Doug for the tip.

CNS

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13 comments. Last comment 2 years ago by Stack47.
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HaveABall's avatar - rocket

United States
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Posted: January 7, 2015, 6:59 pm - IP Logged

Well, I don't know if this 3% is accurate or not.  Yet, I don't understand card games and odds much.  So, I'll be interested to follow this story to learn what unfolds.

Lurking

Having several millions of dollars in my financial accounts means receiving several valuable services each day!

Disney

    eddessaknight's avatar - nw paladin.jpg
    LAS VEGAS
    United States
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    November 22, 2006
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    Posted: January 7, 2015, 8:48 pm - IP Logged

    The Oregon State Lottery's rigged video poker games have cost players $134 million, a man claims in a class action lawsuit.

    Lead plaintiff Justin Curzi claims the video poker machines' "auto-hold" feature misleads players about how to increase their odds of winning a hand.

    The auto-hold feature recommends playing strategies, and allows players to automatically discard and draw new cards with a single button, according to the complaint.

    "Thus, relying on the auto-hold feature is the easiest and fastest way to play video poker, and the player must actively elect not to rely on the auto-hold feature in order to avoid following its recommended strategies," Curzi says in the complaint.

    He claims that the auto-hold feature sometimes recommends strategies "that materially decrease a player's chances of playing a winning hand when compared against the best possible strategy."

    The state lottery was audited by Gaming Laboratories International in 2009, and the audit found that "there is virtually no difference between actual payouts and the payouts achieved by following the recommendations made by the auto-hold feature," the complaint states. "These payouts, however, are more than 3 percent less (on average) than the payouts that would be achieved if the auto-hold feature actually did recommend the best playing strategies."

    Curzi claims the State Lottery knows that video poker players believe that the auto-hold feature offers the best playing strategy, but has not informed them that it is not the case.

    "Instead, the Lottery publicly advertises the theoretical payouts for each video game, including on its website, without disclosing the fact that the auto-hold feature is programmed to pay out at less than those odds," the complaint states.

    Curzi claims that poker players "lost an estimated $134 million as a result of defendants' wrongful conduct."

    Also named as defendants are IGT Inc., GTech USA, and WMS Gaming Inc.

    Curzi seeks class certification and at least $134 million in damages for fraud, misrepresentation, negligence and unjust enrichment.

    He is represented by Jay Zollinger with Outside General Counsel Services, of Beaverton.

    Thanks to Doug for the tip.

    Generally speaking the game provider self serving recommendation, would be an action that would help their bottom line & thereby not offering the player an increased opportunity by overcoming the losing proposition that has been dealt Unhappy

     

    Fortes Fortuna Juvat

    Eddessa_Knight Sun Smiley

      HaveABall's avatar - rocket

      United States
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      Posted: January 7, 2015, 11:31 pm - IP Logged

      Todd, I haven't read anything from you this evening.  Are you okay? Wishing you well.

      Having several millions of dollars in my financial accounts means receiving several valuable services each day!

      Disney

        Gleno's avatar - Lottery-001.jpg
        New Jersey
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        September 25, 2009
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        Posted: January 8, 2015, 10:21 am - IP Logged

        Looks like someone has big bucks to spend on lawyers but doubt it is worth the effort. Just don't play the game if it's  fraudulent.

        What?

        Just like the Monopoly Game, people caught on real fast to the pretext of multiple millionaire winners.
        The game has come and is now gone.

        NJ Cash five jackpot has jumped from $431K to $626K overnight. Looks like I'm breaking my first new years resolution of buying only one ticket a week.

        Good Luck to LP players for the coming new year.

        Coffee

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          Wyomissing, PA
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          November 15, 2014
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          Posted: January 8, 2015, 12:52 pm - IP Logged

          In my view, it's a legitimate lawsuit. A fraction of a percent would be one thing, but 3% is a meaningful difference and definitely adds a nice chunk to the lottery's take. Many players would assume auto-hold recommendations are the best, ideal play. I've noticed at casinos that some hold recommendations, while within strategy, may not be ideal. For example, holding a mixed suit of face cards, while likely a good strategy, takes the odds of getting royal flush to zero. I've hit numerous royal flushes by only holding one face card instead of going with the recommended auto-hold of mixed faces.

          On Jokers Wild, I've seen many machines when dealt a wild also auto-hold a mid-number card (ie. 7-9). Not sure why? Maybe that improves odds, but if that's so why not at least auto-hold a face card to go with the wild - many machines won't - it will still auto-hold a mid number card even there's also a face card(s) too. Doesn't make sense to me to hold a 7 with a wild - if anyone knows why, love to know. Maybe the idea is to get a straight flush, but one can do that with a face card too. Bizarre. Maybe it's one of the non-optimal auto-holds the complainant is referring to. Be interesting to see how this plays out.

            mikeintexas's avatar - tx avatar-1.gif
            Texas Panhandle
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            December 20, 2012
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            Posted: January 8, 2015, 2:02 pm - IP Logged

            Well, I don't know which came first, but the Oregon Lottery logo looks an awfully lot like the one of The National Lottery in the UK.


            A people that elect corrupt politicians, impostors, thieves and traitors are not victims...but accomplices.
             - George Orwell

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              Kentucky
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              Posted: January 8, 2015, 4:48 pm - IP Logged

              Even if the auto-hold feature was the only choice, there is nothing forcing anyone to play. It's about the same as suing MUSL, a state lottery, or the store owner because your PB QP didn't win after reading that QPs win about 70% to 80% of the jackpots.

              Curzi claims the State Lottery knows that video poker players believe that the auto-hold feature offers the best playing strategy, but has not informed them that it is not the case. "Instead, the Lottery publicly advertises the theoretical payouts for each video game, including on its website, without disclosing the fact that the auto-hold feature is programmed to pay out at less than those odds," the complaint states.

              The WVA lottery placed the same type of video poker machines with the "auto-hold" feature at their race tracks over 20 years ago  If the "auto-hold" suggests the player keep a pair of Queens, there is no chance to get a Straight, Flush, Straight-Flush, or Royal Flush, but the player is still paid even money for "Jacks or better". But that still didn't prevent the player from drawing for one of those hands.

              It's not the first time a player sued a state lottery because they didn't understand the rules and won't be the last.

                LottoMetro's avatar - Lottery-024.jpg
                Happyland
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                September 1, 2013
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                Posted: January 9, 2015, 11:06 am - IP Logged

                The Oregon State Lottery's rigged video poker games have cost players $134 million, a man claims in a class action lawsuit.

                Lead plaintiff Justin Curzi claims the video poker machines' "auto-hold" feature misleads players about how to increase their odds of winning a hand.

                The auto-hold feature recommends playing strategies, and allows players to automatically discard and draw new cards with a single button, according to the complaint.

                "Thus, relying on the auto-hold feature is the easiest and fastest way to play video poker, and the player must actively elect not to rely on the auto-hold feature in order to avoid following its recommended strategies," Curzi says in the complaint.

                He claims that the auto-hold feature sometimes recommends strategies "that materially decrease a player's chances of playing a winning hand when compared against the best possible strategy."

                The state lottery was audited by Gaming Laboratories International in 2009, and the audit found that "there is virtually no difference between actual payouts and the payouts achieved by following the recommendations made by the auto-hold feature," the complaint states. "These payouts, however, are more than 3 percent less (on average) than the payouts that would be achieved if the auto-hold feature actually did recommend the best playing strategies."

                Curzi claims the State Lottery knows that video poker players believe that the auto-hold feature offers the best playing strategy, but has not informed them that it is not the case.

                "Instead, the Lottery publicly advertises the theoretical payouts for each video game, including on its website, without disclosing the fact that the auto-hold feature is programmed to pay out at less than those odds," the complaint states.

                Curzi claims that poker players "lost an estimated $134 million as a result of defendants' wrongful conduct."

                Also named as defendants are IGT Inc., GTech USA, and WMS Gaming Inc.

                Curzi seeks class certification and at least $134 million in damages for fraud, misrepresentation, negligence and unjust enrichment.

                He is represented by Jay Zollinger with Outside General Counsel Services, of Beaverton.

                Thanks to Doug for the tip.

                If the feature recommended the best playing strategies, then what would be the point in having players choose their hand? Seems pretty obvious IMO.

                The deviation from payout also isn't significant. And if it is incorrect, all it would take is a simple machine audit from the game board to determine what the payout was set at. How will he prove the payouts are off? You would need to play and record many thousands of hands to prove a statistical deviation.

                The plaintiff is a business consultant so I'm sure he either has substantial proof or has been unable to find work and wants an easy payout.

                If the chances of winning the jackpot are so slim, why play when the jackpot is so small? Your chances never change, but the potential payoff does.
                If a crystal ball showed you the future of the rest of your life, and in that future you will never win a jackpot, would you still play?

                2016: -48.28% (13 tickets) ||
                P&L % = Total Win($)/Total Wager($) - 1

                  spartan1707's avatar - Lottery-050.jpg
                  Tucson
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                  Posted: January 9, 2015, 11:56 am - IP Logged

                  I'm thinking about sueing the Arizona Lottery as well.Boxing

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                    Posted: January 9, 2015, 2:24 pm - IP Logged

                    "In my view, it's a legitimate lawsuit."

                    Among the problems with that notion is that it's not the state's responsibility to teach people how to calculate odds and play poker. Auto-hold is an automation that usually makes the best choice. It will do better, on average, than all but the small minority that are extremely good at making the decision, and those that are better are morons if they're blindly relying on auto-hold to play for them.

                    Then there's the fact that, under the official rules, the game is designed to return a specific percentage to the players and give the state a specific profit on every dollar wagered. The audit shows that it does that. If auto-hold always made the perfect choice and that would result in higher payouts then the lottery would have reduced payout amounts to maintain the targeted profit. Net result: players win the same amount they've won with the imperfect auto-hold. There is no $143 million in excess profit.

                    "holding a mixed suit of face cards, while likely a good strategy"

                    I take it that means you don't actually know what the expectation values are for the multiple choices you could make? If that's the case you're not likely to do better by guessing than by relying on auto-hold. That would make you a good candidate to use auto-hold.

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                      Wyomissing, PA
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                      Posted: January 9, 2015, 3:15 pm - IP Logged

                      "In my view, it's a legitimate lawsuit."

                      Among the problems with that notion is that it's not the state's responsibility to teach people how to calculate odds and play poker. Auto-hold is an automation that usually makes the best choice. It will do better, on average, than all but the small minority that are extremely good at making the decision, and those that are better are morons if they're blindly relying on auto-hold to play for them.

                      Then there's the fact that, under the official rules, the game is designed to return a specific percentage to the players and give the state a specific profit on every dollar wagered. The audit shows that it does that. If auto-hold always made the perfect choice and that would result in higher payouts then the lottery would have reduced payout amounts to maintain the targeted profit. Net result: players win the same amount they've won with the imperfect auto-hold. There is no $143 million in excess profit.

                      "holding a mixed suit of face cards, while likely a good strategy"

                      I take it that means you don't actually know what the expectation values are for the multiple choices you could make? If that's the case you're not likely to do better by guessing than by relying on auto-hold. That would make you a good candidate to use auto-hold.

                      Even if the lottery's official rules state X% is returned and that's what players are receiving, there's still the issue of the theoretical payouts is being widely touted in promotional materials, website, etc - which by extension, many players would assume the auto-hold feature would be adjusted toward that advertised value verses something less optimal.

                      Agreed, it's not the lottery's responsibility to teach one how to play, but it is the lottery's responsibility to clearly disclose the limitations of the auto-hold feature, and detailing what the difference really is verses ideal, theoretical play.

                      On an aside, most video poker machines these days will auto-hold on a jackpot winning hand; not allow the player to draw. They didn't always do that resulting in some players throwing such hands away. Video poker manufacturers are well aware that most players need guidance. It's disingenuous for such machines to be recommending holds that are less than optimal without proper disclosure and/or taking other measures such as making multiple auto-hold recommendations and allowing the player to choose which, if any.

                      As for my comment regarding holding mixed face cards, that's likely the optimal strategy, but maybe it sometimes isn't. Since the lottery acknowledges that auto-hold isn't programmed to be optimal, going against the recommendation may sometimes be better - I don't know, and hence the comment.

                      A mystifying auto-hold to me when playing Joker Poker, which I'd welcome someone here to explain, is the suggestion of holding a mid-number card with the joker even when a face card is also showing. Why hold a 7 with a joker instead of a face? Or better yet, auto-holding the joker only and allow the player to choose what to hold with it, if anything. Even experienced players aren't fully aware of every strategy and will likely, at least at times, also rely on auto-hold.

                      Be interesting to see if the lawsuit goes anywhere. Most likely the lottery / manufacturers will somehow get out of it, but in my view, to reiterate, it's a legitimate complaint. While it's easy to dismiss the difference as an "oversight", these companies employ experts in math, statistics, etc, and know even a fraction of a percent makes a meaningful difference to the bottom line, including their own - the machines may be leased with the manufacturer getting a slice of the net proceeds. In short, even legalized gambling is a very shady business - one should always be skeptical of its operations.

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                        Kentucky
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                        Posted: January 9, 2015, 6:29 pm - IP Logged

                        If the feature recommended the best playing strategies, then what would be the point in having players choose their hand? Seems pretty obvious IMO.

                        The deviation from payout also isn't significant. And if it is incorrect, all it would take is a simple machine audit from the game board to determine what the payout was set at. How will he prove the payouts are off? You would need to play and record many thousands of hands to prove a statistical deviation.

                        The plaintiff is a business consultant so I'm sure he either has substantial proof or has been unable to find work and wants an easy payout.

                        The lowest payoff percentage I saw on the Oregon video poker was almost 92%, but that game has a bonus feature. The Jacks or Better games had the typical around 95% payoffs we see in casinos.

                        "How will he prove the payouts are off?"

                        I believe Curzi is trying to prove players will get 3% less in overall payoffs by following the "auto-hold" feature compared to an optimal playing strategy.  The auto-hold feature is designed to give the best strategy for one hand which probably includes always keeping a pair of Jacks or better. According to the Wizard of Odds, their simple strategy gets a 99.46% return, but I don't see anyone suing the casinos for not offering the Wizard's strategies on all their games.

                        Maybe he plans to offer a Video Poker Hand Analyzer as evidence.

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                          Kentucky
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                          Posted: January 9, 2015, 6:59 pm - IP Logged

                          Even if the lottery's official rules state X% is returned and that's what players are receiving, there's still the issue of the theoretical payouts is being widely touted in promotional materials, website, etc - which by extension, many players would assume the auto-hold feature would be adjusted toward that advertised value verses something less optimal.

                          Agreed, it's not the lottery's responsibility to teach one how to play, but it is the lottery's responsibility to clearly disclose the limitations of the auto-hold feature, and detailing what the difference really is verses ideal, theoretical play.

                          On an aside, most video poker machines these days will auto-hold on a jackpot winning hand; not allow the player to draw. They didn't always do that resulting in some players throwing such hands away. Video poker manufacturers are well aware that most players need guidance. It's disingenuous for such machines to be recommending holds that are less than optimal without proper disclosure and/or taking other measures such as making multiple auto-hold recommendations and allowing the player to choose which, if any.

                          As for my comment regarding holding mixed face cards, that's likely the optimal strategy, but maybe it sometimes isn't. Since the lottery acknowledges that auto-hold isn't programmed to be optimal, going against the recommendation may sometimes be better - I don't know, and hence the comment.

                          A mystifying auto-hold to me when playing Joker Poker, which I'd welcome someone here to explain, is the suggestion of holding a mid-number card with the joker even when a face card is also showing. Why hold a 7 with a joker instead of a face? Or better yet, auto-holding the joker only and allow the player to choose what to hold with it, if anything. Even experienced players aren't fully aware of every strategy and will likely, at least at times, also rely on auto-hold.

                          Be interesting to see if the lawsuit goes anywhere. Most likely the lottery / manufacturers will somehow get out of it, but in my view, to reiterate, it's a legitimate complaint. While it's easy to dismiss the difference as an "oversight", these companies employ experts in math, statistics, etc, and know even a fraction of a percent makes a meaningful difference to the bottom line, including their own - the machines may be leased with the manufacturer getting a slice of the net proceeds. In short, even legalized gambling is a very shady business - one should always be skeptical of its operations.

                          "Agreed, it's not the lottery's responsibility to teach one how to play, but it is the lottery's responsibility to clearly disclose the limitations of the auto-hold feature, and detailing what the difference really is verses ideal, theoretical play."

                          Every state lottery website gives the odds against matching every prize on their jackpot games, but to my knowledge none of them give the odds of winning nothing. Where it written that state lotteries, retailers, and clerks have a responsibility to tell everybody buying an MM QP there is a 65.4% chance their ticket will not match one number or a bonus number and has a 93.3% overall chance of winning nothing?

                          The payout percentage is based on the pay table and there is no different when the auto-hold gets a player two pair or an optimal strategy gets two pair. It's like comparing a wheeling lottery system with QPs and saying "when five of your 15 numbers hit, you'll get a bigger payoff than a like number of QPs". How will Curzi prove his strategy will get better results when he can't prove the actual results?