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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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A warning about slot tickets with cents

29 May 2006

Hi there,

How come if these newer casinos and resorts want your business so bad they would allow their slots to be as tight as they are? You would think that the owners of these brand new, huge, beautiful casinos would know as well as the middle- to lower-class players from Wisconsin that we simply aren't playing at their casino cuz their machines DON'T HIT. I and just about all other gamblers in my income class all know better than to gamble in those ritzy places.

We all seem to gravitate to where the money is, which is the older, off-the-beaten path casinos. When are they going to wake up and see that all the whales in the world aren't going to add up to all the vacationers like me who spend a couple thousand dollars a trip? I believe that Vegas shouldn't be in such a hurry to tear all the old places down, cuz when they do, Vegas is going to be in trouble.

Another thing. Whatever happened to "competition" among the casinos? I will continue to go to the Riv, Stardust, and probably all the casinos downtown to spend my money. As far as the fancy new places, they sure are nice to look at.

Thanks for listening. Take care.

The Gamblin Flatlander fron Wisconsin

Dear Flatlander,

It's true that many Strip casinos are targeting a more well-heeled patron. A recent article in the New York Times described how average room rates on the strip have been climbing. Like you said, many visitors are now going off-Strip to find cheaper room rates and better-paying machines.

The Strip has never been known for having the highest-paying games in town. Many casinos have high-paying video poker machines, but not in the quantities that the locals casinos have.

So far, the strategy to target a more affluent patron is working. Wynn Las Vegas is very successful, and the older high-end properties (Bellagio, Venetian, Mandalay Bay, etc.) are also doing well. And I think there was record visitorship to Las Vegas recently.

A date for knocking down the Stardust has been set. Tropicana will get demolished after Aztar sells it. The Riv, so far, is still safe from Controlled Demolition.

I miss some of the old Las Vegas too. And by old, I mean the 1990s. I really miss the Desert Inn. But it's a different world today and these upscale properties are very profitable.

Even Station Casinos built a billion-dollar casino!

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I work in a casino and I find that the biggest problem with tickets is with residual credits.

For example, a player cashes out a ticket for $20.75, and then inserts the ticket into a $1 game. The machine, depending on manufacturer and settings, will add 20 credits to the game and print a $0.75 ticket. Many times the patron will take the 75¢, thinking that the game rejected their ticket, and walk away leaving the 20 credits on the game. Usually they will then insert the 75¢ ticket into another game, and when they only get 75¢ worth of credits, they think that the game stole $20. Usually when the problem is tracked back the 20 credits are long gone and the patron is out of luck.

Please warn your readers to always check their tickets.

Thanks for giving us this "heads up." It's something that I think many people never thought about.

We wouldn't put a bill in a machine without first checking its value. In addition, we also make a mental note of what we expect to happen. For example, when we put a $20 into a quarter machine, we expect to get 80 credits. But when we put it into a dollar machine, we expect only 20 credits.

Do the same thing with a ticket. Look at how much it's worth and then figure out what should happen. If you're putting a ticket with cents into a dollar machine, expect that the dollars will go to your credit meter and the cents will be refunded to you in a new ticket. After you put in your ticket, make sure that the machine did what you expected it to do.

Thanks again for bringing our attention to this possibility,
John


Hi,

I am also a slot player here in Indiana we go to Caesars Indiana Casino Boat quite often.

We have found by going in the wee morning hours, say 1 a.m., we do better than ever. The slots are played all day by others and by 1 a.m. it seems they're ready to hit.

Weekends aren't fun there. That's when they take in all their money.

Also, I have found that if I push the Max button in the same spot it doesn't work for me. I push in different spots and if the numbers to the left go down on a spin then I push Max to the right. Might not have anything to do with it, but seems to work for me.

By the way, what is RNG?

YOU NEVER ANSWER MY QUESTIONS. HOPEFULLY YOU WILL THIS TIME.

Thanks,
Karen

Dear Karen,

Today is your lucky day. I'm going to answer your e-mail.

Let's start with your question. The RNG is the random number generator. It is the mathematical procedure that the computer program running the slot machine uses to determine the outcome of a spin. You can find a wealth of additional information about the RNG on this site by using the search feature. For now, it's important to know that the results of a spin are determined at random. The result is not affected by how well or poorly the machine has paid out in the past. The result is also not affected by time of day, day of week, time of year, or level of activity in the casino.

Given that the results are determined at random, the slots are no more ready to hit at 1 a.m. than they are at 1 p.m. Your chances of hitting a winning combination on a machine are the same on every spin. The key phrase in your statement is "it seems." It seems as if the machines are ready to hit in the early morning hours, but they're also just as ready to hit in the afternoon hours.

Now, it's funny you should mention your experience with the Max Bet button. I recently replaced an old light switch with a modern rocker switch. It seems that the light is brighter when I turn it on by pressing the upper right-hand corner of the switch than when I press the middle of the switch. The light also seems dimmer than usual when I turn it on by pressing the upper left-hand corner of the switch. I was going to get a dimmer switch, but it seems like I don't need one. It seems like I have the functionality of a dimmer switch with this plain vanilla light switch.

It seems like I was being a wiseacre in that last paragraph, but that's wrong. I was definitely being flippant.

The Max Bet button is a switch and a switch has only two states: on and off. When you press the Max Bet button, it sends a signal to the program running the slot machine. The program then checks to see if you have enough credits for a maximum bet. If you do, it deducts a max bet from your credit meter and plays a spin with a maximum bet.

Just like my light switch cannot tell my light bulb where I pressed the switch, the Max Bet button cannot tell the computer program where you pressed the button. The button is either pressed or it isn't. There's no signal that says the button was pressed in a particular place.

If changing where you press the button seems to work for you, then keep doing it. I won't argue with success. But, as you suspected, where you press the button has nothing to do with anything.

It's very difficult for us to deal with random events. We want reasons for why things happen, the cause for the effect. But there is no reason for why a particular combination appeared on a slot machine. The results are determined at random, without any outside influences whatsoever. Despite this fact, we still try to find causes for why we're lucky or unlucky at the slots. Then we compound the error with our selective memory, remembering evidence that reinforces our theory and discounting or forgetting evidence that disproves it.

If you were to play enough spins and keep careful track of your results, you'd find that you're just as likely to hit at 1 p.m. as at 1 a.m., that you can win on the weekends, and that it doesn't matter where you hit the Max Bet button.

Slot superstitions fall into two categories, benign and malignant. Your superstitions are benign. You're not going to do any damage to your bankroll by playing in the early morning, avoiding weekends, or altering where you hit the buttons on the machine. I used to always try to play the same video poker machine — my lucky machine — at The Desert Inn. It really didn't matter which 9/6 Jacks machine I played, but I always tried to play that one. It was a stupid superstition, but it didn't cause any harm.

A malignant superstition does harm your bankroll. An example is thinking that a poorly paying machine is due to hit, so you up your bet or keep feeding it money. It may hit while you're playing it, but it isn't due. The odds haven't changed just because it hasn't hit for a long time.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take several months for your question to appear in my column.

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