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Ask the Slot Expert: Dragon Link denominations and bonus rounds

12 December 2018

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: How does Dragon Link work with the different denominations ($0.01 to $2) and the lines played (50 lines for one and two cents, down to 5 lines for the one and two dollars)? I was playing $0.02 denom for $5 a spin and won more on bonuses than I did playing higher denoms for $5, $10 and $20 a spin. Do fewer lines at higher denoms cause that?

Answer: Playing fewer lines usually means that you won't hit as often. How frequently the bonus hits is not necessarily affected because the bonus symbols are usually scatter pay, not line pay.

I believe what you experienced is just the randomness of outcomes. I don't always win more in bonus rounds when I'm making larger bets. And I can't tell you how many times someone next to me had a really big bonus round with a low bet and I've gotten toll money in the bonus round on a max bet.

Although I think randomness is the explanation for your results, your question gives me the opportunity to do a quick discussion about slot machine design and bonus rounds. When I played a Happy and Prosperous Dragon Link machine today — the first time I played a Dragon Link game — I noticed a message on the bottom of the screen indicating that a new reel layout was loaded when I switched denominations. That makes sense because the nature of the game changes from a penny machine model with 50 paylines to a more traditional reel-spinning machine model with only five paylines when you switch from the coin denominations (up to 10 cents) to the paper denominations ($1 and $2). The denomination selection screen even displays the two sets of denominations in different colors.

Slot designers always have to balance how much the base game pays with how much the bonus game pays. If the base game doesn't pay enough, players can get frustrated and give up on a machine between bonus game hits. If the base game pays too much, then there isn't anything leftover for the bonus game. Hitting the bonus becomes ho-hum because you can't win much from it. Some jurisdictions may even regulate how much a machine's payback can be put into its bonus game.

Slot designers also have to balance how frequently a bonus game hits with how much it pays. A bonus game that hits frequently can't pay very much. Slot designers have to work out the math so a bonus game hits frequently enough that players don't say that they never get the bonus on it and so that the bonus games pays enough — not every time, but frequently enough — that players get excited about the possibilities when the bonus does hit.

Because the math of the game changes at the higher denominations, it's possible that the game has more of its payback in the base game than at the lower denominations and the bonus round at the higher denominations is therefore less generous.

But again, I don't think that's the explanation. You were lucky at the lower denominations and not so lucky at the higher and your sample size is far too small to draw any valid conclusions.


A friend of mine recently asked me to check her math analyzing a casino's promotion. You can get a gift card after earning a certain number of points. Analyzing this casino's promotions is tricky because different video poker games earn points at different rates.

Her math was correct. I noted though that it would take over $5,000 in action playing NSU Deuces to earn the 30 points for the gift card. Even though video poker games earn points at different rates based on their long-term paybacks, all slots earn points at a flat $5 per point. It would take about two hours playing deuces to get the card, but one can run $150 through a slot in no time at all.

I came up with three questions. One, is one video poker pay table better than the others? Better in this case meaning that it has a lower expected loss for the amount of action needed to get the gift card. Two, how much worse would it be to play a slot? And three, is it worthwhile playing the slot just to get it over with lickety-split?

This casino's calculators must have been working overtime. Given the amount of action needed to earn a point, the expected losses on video poker (NSU Deuces, 9/6 Jacks and 8/5 Bonus Poker) and slots (assuming 90% payback) were all about the same. It was pitcher's choice. You could play an hour or two of video poker or a few minutes of slots and end up with the gift card and the same expected loss. Slots could even have a higher payback (and lower expected loss) if you played a traditional reel-spinning quarter or dollar machine instead of a penny machine.

Even if the slot option turned out to have a higher loss, I would still seriously consider it. If I had another casino I wanted to visit that day, I could see myself zipping through the slot action, collecting my card, and getting on my way.

It's true that if you always play with an advantage, you should come out ahead in the long run. But a couple of dollars played on a slot machine every once in a while is far from the long run. Pros moreover recommend occasionally running some money through a slot machine just so you're not classified as a video poker player in the slot club database.

Now, I don't think anyone is going to be fooled by a mix of 99.9% video poker and 0.1% slot action, but if the slot club software has a plays only video poker flag and not a plays mostly video poker flag, it might work.


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

 

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John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots