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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Always Play Max Coin?

21 August 2004

Hello,

How old do you have to be to play the slots in Delaware? Can anyone go into the casino?

The minimum gambling age is 21. I didn't find any regulation giving a minimum age to enter a casino.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi,

Do video poker machines deal as randomly as cards or do the casinos have a way to determine their output?

Don

Dear Don,

Video poker machines must deal randomly, as if you were dealing from a deck of cards at your kitchen table. This should be the case for any machine you find in a U.S. casino.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Slot question: Do all the slots machines in Las Vegas have to pay back a certain percentage? How about the Indian casinos in Oklahoma? They are regulated by the federal government and are they required to pay back a certain percentage. I have been to a few of the more than eighty in Oklahoma and it seems their machines pay back about ten percent and they keep ninety percent.

Carl

Dear Carl,

There is a statutory minimum payback for slots in Nevada, but it's incredibly low, something like 75%. No machine pays back that little because competitive pressure forces the paybacks higher.

As for the Indian casinos in Oklahoma, I think they are a mix of Class II and Class III gaming. The tribes with Class III, Las Vegas-style slots have compacts with the state and must follow the state regulations. The tribes without compacts have Class II devices and are self-regulated.

I doubt that the machines are paying back 10%. You can't put in $100, cash out $90, and say the machine pays back 10%. I think you're neglecting to include replayed winnings in your calculations.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

We are heading to Vegas soon, and saw the new slot machine called Rich and Famous Bars in a slot magazine. Could you tell me at what casinios these new machines are at, so we might visit them?

Thanks.

Gee, I wish I could but even the manufacturers won't say which casino has which machines, unless there's an exclusive for the launch of a new machine.

There are so many new machines introduced each year, and so many machines on casino floors today, and casinos change machines so frequently, I could tell you that Casino A has this machine and it might not be there by the time you get to the casino.

Even inside information doesn't always pan out. When we did the loose slot tour in Tunica for Frank Scoblete's Jamboree, we were assured by one casino that a particularly high-paying bank of penny machines would be there for many months to come. By the time I led the tour, a few weeks later, the machines were gone.

Your best bet is to ask a slot floorperson if the casino has the machine.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Every time I see information from a slot machine expert, I never read any advice on playing slots on Indian reservations. I have noticed that the machines are different from the other casinos for some reason. The method of play is different and there are not arms on their machines. Is their set-up different and there is no advice because of different format? Can you tell me, why no arms? I love pulling levers sometimes. What advice can you give on beating these machines?

Curious Arm Puller

Dear Curious,

First, the easy question. The handle on a slot machine is a vestigial appendage now that there's a Spin button and it's just another thing that can break. Goodbye handles.

Now, the harder question. Some Indian casinos do not have state compacts to offer Las Vegas-style (called Class III) gaming, so their games have to be based on bingo drawings. These games (called Class II) do not require state compacts.

The method of determining the result may differ on Class II and Class III games, but the advice for playing is the same. The results are determined at random on both types of games, so there's no way to predict what will happen in the future. Thus, play only with money earmarked for entertainment, and have some sort of money management method in mind to ensure that your bankroll lasts as long as you want to play.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


"Play max coin" is usually true.

Here's why.

Check the payout tables. By law, the machines can't change the odds of any spin appearing on you when you bet more coins. Therefore, if (as is usually the case) the higher payouts are better than 2x for 2x the money on ANY of the payout values, then the expectation is higher for the multi-coin game.

Let's take a two-coin machine with a jackpot of 2000 for one coin, and 5000 for two coins. Even if all the other two-coin payouts are exactly twice the 1 coin payout, you still have a better vig with the 2-coin game. That's why, unless you are playing a straight "multiplier" slot (all pots are simply base x coins), you always have better expectation with the max-coin bet. That's simple logic.

Other slots are "pay for play" slots. With these, the bigger wins DO NOT PAY if you do not bet max. These are tougher to analyze, but you're gonna kick yourself if the pot spins in and you get nothing cause you did not bet max coin! Even though you can't say for sure your vig is better, conventional wisdom is the chance at the big hits makes up for the money lost on the small hits.

Lastly, there's the bonus game slots like Wheel of Fortune, where you only get to spin the wheel if you bet max. These are impossible to analyze, unfortunately. Basically, they are seriously twisted versions of pay for play.

Chuck

Dear Chuck,

If it weren't for "simple logic" and "conventional wisdom", corporations wouldn't be able to build billion-dollar resorts. Or, to quote Penn Jillette, "Las Vegas is a city built with money won from people who aren't very good in math."

It is true that you will have a higher payback when you play full coin on a Bonus Multiplier. But that is not your expectation. You have to take into account the amount you are wagering per spin to get your expected win or loss.

Let's put some numbers on your example. Let's say the one-coin payback is 95% and the two-coin payback is 97%, and that this is a dollar machine. Our expected loss playing one coin at a time is 5 cents per spin (5% of $1) and our expected loss playing two coins at a time is 6 cents per spin (3% of $2).

The only time it makes economic sense to increase your bet is when there is a corresponding decrease in the house edge.

Another example: Your expected losses would be the same playing one coin at a time and two coins at a time if the paybacks were 90% and 95%, respectively. In both cases, your expected loss is 10 cents (10% of $1, 5% of $2).

I have analyzed over 1,000 slot machine payback programs and I can say that it is almost never the case that it makes economic sense to bet more than one coin at a time on a Bonus Multiplier. As I always say, even large bonuses on the jackpot lead to small increases in long-term payback.

I do however recommend betting full coin on Buy-A-Pays and progressives. For more info, see my series called The Best Number of Coins to Play on this site.

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 two or more 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