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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: A casino promotion with diminishing returns

20 February 2019

Some follow-ups on previous columns.

A few weeks ago I wrote about casinos that were discouraging play. In the following week, I corrected that description and said that the casinos weren't discouraging play so much as they were missing opportunities to encourage play. Well, here's a promotion that does discourage play.

The promotion is a "play now, get free play later" promotion. The second column in the table below shows how much free play you earn after you play the number of points in the first column.

PointsFree Play
5005
2,50010
10,00025
25,00050
50,000100
100,000250

You earn $5 for playing 500 points. That's pretty good. But what if you play more?

The next threshold is 2,500 points. For that amount of action, you get $10 in free play. You play five times as much action and get only twice as much free play.

Let's add two more columns onto the table.

PointsFree Play500=$5Actual %
500551.00%
2,50010250.40%
10,000251000.25%
25,000502500.20%
50,0001005000.20%
100,0002501,0000.25%

The third columns shows how much free play you would earn if the formula of 500 points equals $5 were constant on all of the thresholds. You can see that players who play more are getting short-changed as they move down the table.

The fourth column shows the percentage of your action that is returned to you in free play. It falls until it reaches its low point, then climbs up a notch again.

You would think that the percentage might actually climb a little as you play more to encourage you to play more. But here, your return falls — which might discourage some people from playing more.

There's a simple explanation for why the free play is the way it is, Once you know it, you should see that these numbers make sense from a casino marketing point of view.

The reason the free play numbers are the way they are is because the point requirements are the same for slots and video poker. In past promotions at this casino, video poker required more points than slots to earn the same reward. This promotion doesn't distinguish between the two.

A 1% return is very generous. There's no way the casino could offer that at all levels. Including what you normally earn from play, you would have about 0.5% advantage playing 8/5 Bonus Poker. That's not as good as the advantage you could get years ago, but it's about the best you can get today.


I also wrote about how I was no longer receiving offers from a casino once it merged into the marketing of the chain that had acquired it. Up until that time, its marketing was separate and I received mailers from the casino and the chain. Now I only rarely get a mailer from the casino.

Well, this casino really knows how to throw away the welcome mat for its previous invited guests.

It recently had a scratch card promotion. Invited guests might have gotten their scratch cards for free, but my mailer said I had to play 100 points for mine. That's not too bad.

The first line at the promotions area was to get your card swiped to verify your eligibility. You were given one of three different colored cards.

Now you moved to the second line. This line is to draw your scratch card from one of three buckets based on the color card you were given.

Next stop is the third line, in which you can scratch off the card and collect your prize. While there was a lull in the second line, I asked the rep manning it if some of the buckets had better prizes.

He said, "Gold, silver, bronze. What do you think?"

I said, "Oh, those were the colors." I showed him my top tier players card and said, "You'd think I would have gotten a gold card."

"You got silver?" he asked.

"No, bronze. My offers from your casino disappeared after you merged into the chain's marketing."

An important contributing factor is that I haven't been playing as much at this casino as I have in the past. When the offers stopped coming, I stopped going. And this casino's not doing much to encourage me to come back.


Last year I wrote that I was behind in hitting the high-paying hands (four deuces and royals) playing NSU Deuces. If I looked far into the future, I expected to see that I would have hit the deuces and royals with a frequency very close to that expected. Moving forward from today, the most likely way to get to that point in the future is to hit the hands with the expected frequency. With many more hands under my belt, this stretch of bad luck would have a negligible effect.

Less likely, but also possible, is for the gods of Chance to look at my situation and say, "Let's try to make up some of his shortfall."

I've been a deuce-hitting machine the past week. I've gotten at least one set of deuces in each session. I may play a little bit more than the average bear, but certainly not enough to expect a set of deuces in each session — or even every other session.

But I've gotten a set each time I played and once I even got two sets.

And I tied my personal best and got three sets of deuces in one session. File this under Deja Vu All Over Again. The other time I got three sets of deuces in a session was on the same machine.

I was able to use my joke at the cage when I cashed my ticket.

"It's my fault if you have trouble making payroll this week."


Finally, is there anything more frustrating than getting a natural four-of-a-kind when playing Deuces Wild?


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