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Are There Any Tricks for Winning at Slots

18 July 2005

By John Robison

Why do most casinos make a big deal about "silver mining"? Aren't card counters and bucket/purse thieves more of a threat?

You sound like someone who has been evicted from a casino for silver mining.

For those who may not be familiar with the term, silver mining is walking around the casino looking for coins or credits left in slot machines.

I don't think your average card counter is as big a threat as casinos make him or her out to be. In any case, the difference between card counters and the other types you mention is that the card counter affects only the casino, while silver miners and thieves affect the patrons.

Here's an example of why casinos and slot players don't like silver miners. I was playing a machine at Treasure Island that was by the big corridor going to the shops and the escalator to the parking garage. There's a lot of traffic going through that area.

I was ready to cash out and there were no buckets by those machines. I had to go to the bank next to it to get a bucket.

I wasn't out of my seat for five seconds before someone sat down at the machine. I had to shoo him away.

Another reason casinos don't like silver miners might have to do with how their regulations specify they should handle abandoned money. You can search on this site to find more articles about this topic.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

I'm new with all this and recently went to Charles Town Slots in Charles Town, MD.

I don't understand how these slots work and how anyone can really win. Are there any tricks or advice you can provide for playing slots? One particular one was the Black Jack Slot. I know there are so many, so this may mean nothing to you, but it has bar, sevens, and Black Jacks. A row of three for each spin. Is there a trick to winning or is it sheer luck? Can they rig these machines so no one wins? Or that the winnings are low? Is that how they make their money? What advice can you give to me about playing slots?

Just curious.

Dear Curious,

Casinos can't rig the machines so that no one wins. Player winnings may be low because that's the nature of the game. Slots have some of the highest house edges of all games in the casino -- that is how casinos make money on slots. In addition, payouts on slots are volatile, so a very few people win a lot of money, more win a fairly large sum, still more break even, and the majority lose most or all of their session stake.

Winning on slots is sheer luck. What slot players can do to improve their slot sessions, however, is play machines that suit their personalities and goals, stretch their bankrolls by playing the best number of coins in each type of machine, gamble only with money earmarked for entertainment, and have fun while playing. You can search on this site to find more articles about these topics.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Can I buy Life of Luxury to play on my computer?


* * *

Do you know whether or not "Reel Em In":Cast for Cash is available on CD yet and where can I purchase it?


Dear Dan and Ameesah,

That's not one of the slots I know of that is available for home play. I don't think there are home versions of any WMS games, but I could be wrong about that.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

I have a friend that works at a game room and he is almost certain that people are using cheating devices but he doesn't know what to look for or if they are handheld or in purses or what? He said that people have "zappers"?

Please reply,

Your friend's best bet is to contact the manufacturers of the machines to see if they have any bulletins available about cheating devices.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

On the multi-denomination games that I see increasingly, do the odds change with the coin change? I.e., is there is a set of odds for a 25-cent denomination bet and a higher set for a $1.00 denomination bet?


Dear MsBeth, It's definitely possible for paybacks on a multi-denomination machine to change based on the chosen denomination. You can prove this by looking at the video poker paytables. On most machine, the paytables on the higher denominations will be more generous than those at the lower denominations.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Hi, John,

More questions about the time and mechanisms for changing the Telnaes maps. You recently answered that a multi-denom machine had more than one map stored, and could select it (some hot, some cold) based on the denomination played.

Well, if that's true, and I'm sure it is, and further that two maps at least are stored in ROM for tournament use of some machines (such as the Double Diamonds at Grand in Gulfport, MS), then it seems highly likely that the casinos are routinely electronically switching maps, not requiring a ROM chip replacement at all.

Of course, this could be based on time of week and time of day (by timer routine interrupt servicing); it also could be loaded from either a cluster controller or another "management" computer out there on the network (and most of the machines do seem to be on the network).

I'd be interested in your comments on this rather key topic; which you in the past have glossed over with a pat answer that is just a little too pat for what happens in the casino. Glazer, another expert on slots from the past, suggested in his book that these "hot phases" were just statistical aberrations in the RNG (whether it be hardware or software). This, too, doesn't explain the hot and cold phases of the same machine that will go into a burst of output then turn cold again and stay that way for hours. Certainly this technique of map switching (if used) would draw in the players and keeps them "donating" with great enthusiasm to the machines.

Thanks for any information you can give.


Dear Jon,

The kind of map switching you referred to is illegal in all jurisdictions with which I'm familiar. I don't know who Glazer is, but if you want to call hot cycles on a slot "statistical aberrations in the RNG" you can, but then you also have to call a string of heads or tails in a coin flip a statistical aberration in the coin. Hot and cold streaks are just examples of local non-randomness, which is a requirement for randonmess. The results are just a consequence of randomness. I hope that answer isn't too "pat" for you.

As for tournament machines, I don't know why you claim that they didn't switch chips in the machines. What proof do you have that the casino did not change chips in the machines for the tournament?

Slots are on a network, but today the network is used mainly to report events back to the slot management system and the slot club system. Some casinos also use the network to download credits to machines as part of a bonusing system.

IGT will be showing a prototype of a server-based gaming system with games downloaded to machines, but today no jurisdiction in the United States has approved the use of such systems and they are illegal.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Dear John,

I just read your answer to a writer that had a question pertaining to payback percentages for multi-denomination machines. Specifically, the sentence that got my attention is as follows: "It is definitely possible that the long-term payback for a particular game increases as you increase denomination on a multi-denomination machine."

Is it also definitely possible that the payback percentage DOES NOT increase as the denomination increases?

If this is true, then I do not want to play a multi-denomination machine that, for example, has the same payback percentage for nickels as it does for dollars. That very possibility will cause me to pass up a multi-denomination machine every time.

Thanks for answering questions from us slot aficionados!


Dear Tommy,

Well, there is that possibility, but I don't think you have much to worry about. The casinos want to encourage use of multi-denomination machines, so they're not going to short-change the higher denomination players. The dollar paybacks should be higher than the nickel paybacks.

Still, only the casino knows for sure.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at 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