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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask The Slot Expert

5 October 2000

Dear John,

I play the slots quite often and I have a couple of questions that I hope you can answer for me.

  1. I have been told that the numbers inside the machine determine whether the machine will pay or not. They say that the number on the first row has to start with the highest number, say 778904123 (that's how much the machine has taken in) and the second row has to start with a much lower number, say 487654 (that's how much the machine has paid out). Is there any truth to this? I would appreciate your opinion.
  2. What do they mean by a "loose" machine and a "tight" machine. From the books that I have read, they say to look for a loose machine, but they don't explain how to tell the difference or what to look for.

I would really appreciate it if you could answer these two questions for me. I thank you in advance.

Sincerely,
Yolie

Dear Yolie:

The numbers on the meters you can sometimes see inside a slot machine are used for accounting purposes. The order of the meters isn't necessarily the same from machine to machine.

You can't use the numbers on the meters to tell whether or not a machine will pay. The Random Number Generator (RNG) in the computer program running the slot machine chooses the symbols for each reel at random. And the RNG doesn't care how much money the machine has or hasn't paid out.

"Loose" and "tight" are terms that describe how much a slot machine is set to pay out in the long run. "Loose" machines pay out more than "tight" machines. They're relative terms. A "loose" machine in casino A may pay back 95% while a "loose" machine in casino B may pay back only 92%. It's a good idea to play "loose" machines because you'll win more money on them in the long run.

There are a number of problems with that advice to only play "loose" machines. First, there's no way for you to tell that a machine is "loose." Just because a machine hits frequently, that doesn't mean that it's "loose." Perhaps you've played a nine-line video slot. That machine can give you a hit of a coin or two on practically every hand and still be a "tight" machine.

Second, it takes hundreds of thousands of spins for a slot player to feel the effects of a few percentage points difference in payback. The randomness of slots has a bigger effect in the short run than a small change in payback.

Finally, the advice is outdated. In the past, slot managers used "loose" machines to encourage slot play. Players would see or hear another player winning and be encouraged to keep feeding their machines.

Slots are so entertaining today, slot players don't need to be encouraged to keep playing. They want to keep playing until they get one more spin on the Wheel of Fortune or one more fishing expedition or one more time around the Monopoly board. As a result, all of the machines of a particular denomination in a casino have roughly the same percentage payback.

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