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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask The Slot Expert

5 November 1999

Dear Slot Expert:

The slot world is changing so quickly, it's difficult for me to keep pace with the changes. The new machines and new technologies are rewriting all of the rules about slots and slot players we've followed the last five to ten years.

What's a slot manager to do?

S. M.

Okay. A slot manager didn't really send me this letter, but it echoes the statements I've heard from many slot managers at slot seminars: New machines and new technologies are rewriting the rules about slots. Let's take a look at how new developments in slot machines are upsetting the status quo.

Denomination Is Irrelevant

Two trends in slots are making the denomination of a machine irrelevant. The first is tokenization. Tokenization means that the machine accepts only dollar tokens, displays dollars not credits on its meter, and lets the player choose the value of a credit on the machine. You can decide that you want your credits to be worth a nickel and the person playing next to you can play with credits worth a dollar. One machine serves nickel players all the way up to dollar players. You can experience tokenization yourself on a bank of machines at Sunset Station near Las Vegas.

The problem that tokenization causes for the slot manager is in deciding which payout program to have on the machine. The slot manager wants to give a better gamble to the higher denomination players, but the machine can have only one payout program.

The second trend that is making denomination irrelevant is the Australian invasion of multi-line, multi-coin machines. Australian casinos have all but eliminated denomination on their machines. Players put their money in the bill validator and decide how much they want to bet per line in one-cent increments.

The Australian invasion also creates what I call the Denomination Paradox.

Nickel Players Are Dollar Players

A person playing 45 coins at a time on a nickel machine is wagering as much as or more than many of the people playing dollar machines. These players need to be treated like the dollar players they really are.

Slot managers must revise their thinking and their computer systems. Slot managers today have to realize that their higher-denomination players are dropping down in denomination to play the multi-line, multi-coin machines, yet these players are still betting the same amount or more per spin than when they were playing the dollar machines. To retain these customers, slot managers need to give them a dollar slot experience on this nickel machine.

In the good old days--last year, say--slot managers decided what percentage payback they wanted for each denomination of machine on their slot floors and ordered payback programs close to that percentage. If a slot manager wanted an 87% floor for nickels, she would order programs near 87% for all her nickel machines. That methodology worked fine when her nickel player was betting a maximum of 25 cents per spin and the average was close to 15 cents per spin. But now she has people playing a nickel machine and wagering dollars per spin.

The secret the slot managers need to know to make the Australian-style slots a hit with both the players and, as a result, their bottom lines is to disregard the denomination of the machine and order the payback program they'd order for a dollar machine. A 45-coin nickel machine with a payout program similar to that of a 3-coin nickel machine will sit idle in the casino once the players experience how quickly that machine drains their wallets.

Slot systems need to be revised, too. Some slot club software programs identify players by the denomination of machine they play the most. Now players who played only dollars before will be playing dollars, quarters, and nickels today. And there will be new players who play only the low-denomination, multi-coin machines. Any computer program or marketing effort that focuses only on dollar and above players as being most desirable will miss a large segment of highly desirable players.

In addition, slot accounting systems that generate summaries by denomination should be updated to treat multi-line, multi-coin machines as a separate type of machine. It doesn't make sense to lump 45-coin nickel machines in with 3-coin nickel machines.

Denomination used to be the ideal way to separate the players and the machines, but today it all comes down to this: Denomination is irrelevant.


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