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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask The Slot Expert

31 August 2000

Dear John,

I'm sure you get thousands of e-mails just like mine, but I'd really appreciate some help on Atlantic City gaming! My girlfriend and I went to Vegas under a year ago and came home defeated. I have to blame myself for not playing smart and knowing when to quit--but it was a learning experience nonetheless. I would really appreciate whatever answers you can give me, especially if you gear them toward Atlantic City in particular.

Now we're planning a little getaway next week to Atlantic City / Jersey shore and would like some advice for the novice gamers. Here's what I want to know:

Atlantic City regulates their payout on slots to give us a better advantage there than in Vegas. Is this true? Does it really matter?

Loose slots are best found in high visibility areas so that others can see people winning, and usually tight slots are near the loose ones. Does this mean that I should find the highest visible machines? Or should I walk around the room all night looking for what looks like it might hit soon?

I've heard conflicting stories about nickel slots. Some say that if you bet the max on the nickel slots you get a better payout than with quarters for the same bet. Others say that the nickel slots give you a lot worse odds. What do you think?

Is progressive betting with mini-baccarat a good idea?

Which casino in Atlantic City has the best low-limit tables?

Thank you,
Brian

Dear Brian:

Atlantic City's slots tend to pay less than those in Las Vegas. That is, an Atlantic City slot may pay back 90% of the money played through it in the long run, while a Las Vegas slot may pay back 92%.

Does it matter? Yes and no. First, it takes a lot of play, more than 100,000 spins, for a few percentage point difference in payback to have a greater effect on how much you win than randomness. Second, Atlantic City's slot clubs tend to be a little more generous than many of the Las Vegas slot clubs. Because the AC slots earn a bit more for the casinos, the clubs can afford to give back a little more. Finally, I assume it costs you less to get to AC than to Las Vegas, so you can lose more to the machines and still have the same total out-of-pocket expense.

For a recreational player, I think it's a wash. What you lose in payback, you gain in cashback and comps and reduced travel expenses.

You can even things out a bit by playing video poker. There are many machines in AC that pay back over 99%. You can tell which ones they are just by looking at the paytable.

You can find out more about Atlantic City's slot clubs and the video poker each casino offers in my book Inside Atlantic City Slot Clubs. It lists for $10 and is available from Paone Press at 800-944-0406 or online from www.americancasinoguide.com.

Every slot manager has his own theory about how to lay out his slot floor. The art of arranging a slot floor has changed quite a bit since most of the slot books were written. With the variety and high entertainment value of today's machines, slot managers no longer have to encourage people to play by sprinkling loose machines on their floor. Now people keep playing machines because they want to get to the bonus screen one more time.

It can't hurt to play machines in highly visible areas. But again, it takes many hundreds of thousands of spins for a small increase in payback to have a greater effect on how much you win than randomness.

There's no way to tell when a machine might hit soon. Walking around the casino does have two positive aspects. First, you'll get some exercise. And second, you're not risking any money while you're walking.

As for the new nickel slots, the best I can do is confirm the conflicting stories. Some slot managers see "nickel" and order a typical nickel payback of under 90%. Others look at the amount most people will bet per spin, see that it's about the same as a quarter machine, and order a higher payback for the machine.

Mini-baccarat is an incredibly fast game that can eat your money even though it has a low house edge. You're usually better off at the big baccarat table. Even though you have to bet more per hand, you have far fewer hands per hour.

Progressive betting doesn't work. The house edge is the same regardless of whether you flat bet or use a progression. Progressive betting does work in one sense, though. Say you are normally a green chip player. Instead, you start with a $10 bet and progress up to $25. You will lose less money this way in the long run. The reason you lose less money is because you risk less money than if you had bet $25 on every hand.

I usually play slots and video poker in Atlantic City, so I'm not very familiar with who has the best low-limit tables. I would try Tropicana, because it is pretty big, and Claridge, because they have to offer something to get people in the door.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos!
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@home.com.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
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