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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: A missed big payday on Triple Play Super Pay?

24 August 2016

Question: Do slots spin the same no matter how many coins you put in? In other words, if you hit a jackpot on one coin, would that same spin have produced a jackpot if you had played three coins?

Answer: The random number generator (RNG) in a modern slot machine runs continuously. The program running the slot machine gets the numbers needed to determine where the reels will stop for a spin after you have started the spin by pressing the Spin button, the Bet Max button, a bet amount button or whatever other button a machine has that starts a spin.

If you had started the three-coin spin at the exact same moment in time as the one-coin spin, you would have gotten the same result.

That's not very likely, though, especially with a traditional reel-spinning slot. It takes more time to press the Bet One button and then the Spin button than to just press the Bet Max button.

The situation is a little different on some of today's slots that have a series of bet amount buttons. You can position your hand over the next amount you will bet while a spin is taking place. There's a much better chance that you could have started a spin at the exact same moment in time as another spin in an alternate universe but with a different bet.

Much better, but still not likely. The RNG generates hundreds of numbers each second. A few milliseconds one way or the other and you get a different result.


Question: Last night I was at the Rivers Casino in Des Plaines, Illinois. I was playing my favorite video poker machine. It's the one that pays 2, 3, 5, 8, and 10 times.

My initial hand was As and 7s with an 8 times pay multiplier. Normally, I would keep the As and discard the 7s, hoping to catch four aces instead of keeping both and hoping for a full house.

On this particular night, the machine was not cooperating. I thought I had no chance to catch four aces, but a better chance to catch a full house. On my draw, I caught two full houses.

Out of curiosity I noted the draw sequence if I would have just kept the aces. It made me sick. On the draw was a 3 and two aces. I would have won 8 times 2000 quarters instead of 320 quarters for the full house.

Is it true that, because of the way the cards are dealt and shuffled after the discard, I might have not gotten the four aces?

Answer: It looks like you're playing Triple Play Super Times Pay with a Double Double Bonus paytable. You held two aces and two sevens from the hand you were dealt and received an ace in two hands and a three in the other. And your question is whether you would have gotten those three cards in your base hand if you had just held the aces.

Definitely not those cards -- well, not two of them. The discards in each hand are replaced with cards from separate decks.

Let's say you drew the three in the base hand and the aces in the other two. If you had held just the aces, you might have gotten the three in the base hand. You might also have gotten two more aces, but they would be different cards from the aces that you received in the second and third hands.

Seeing the aces in the second and third hands tells you nothing about what you would have gotten in the base -- or any other hand -- had you held just the aces. But wouldn't you still have received the three and the two aces in their respective hands?

Almost definitely not. It would have taken you less time to hold two cards than four, so you would have hit the Draw button at a different moment in time. The RNG would be in a different state and you would have gotten different cards.

Finally, you should always hold the combination of cards with the highest expected value regardless of whether a machine has been cooperating. I've been tempted to break that rule many times -- particularly in NSUD where you frequently have to give up a low-paying hand to go for a high-paying hand -- but I never do.

The combination of cards with the highest expected value will be worth the most to you in the long run. You will win the most money in the long run by always holding that combination of cards.


Question: Does Mohegan Sun have Class III video poker machines? I know the 9/6 Jacks or Better does not give you any comp points. It says so on the machines.

Answer: Mohegan Sun does have Class III video poker (and slot) machines. It's unfortunate that they don't give comps for play on 9/6 Jacks. With mathematically perfect play, the highest return a player can get is 99.5%. That's about the same house edge as blackjack player playing Basic Strategy and I bet they comp the blackjack player.

Of course, the blackjack minimum is probably $10 or higher and the video poker player could be playing as little as $1.25 per hand. Still, they could give the video poker player comp points even if it's going to take a while to earn anything.


Question: What is the difference between a Class II and a Class III machine? Can you give me some examples so I will know which is which? Can they be easily set to go in cycles of, say, two hours on, three hours off?

What kind of regulation, if any, and payout percents do the Indian casinos in Oklahoma have?

Answer: Class II and Class III are designations defined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act (IGRA). A Class III machine is like the ones you find in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Tunica. These machines have internal random number generators and determine their outcomes independently.

A Class II machine, on the other hand, is really a bingo drawing under the hood. A Class II machine needs a central server, which conducts the bingo drawing and sends the numbers drawn down to the machines participating in that drawing. Each machine contains an internal bingo card. The pattern covered on the card determines the outcome of the game.

Native American casinos must negotiate compacts with their states in order to have Class III games. A Native American casino can have Class II games, on the other hand, as long as their state allows bingo or similar games.

It used to be easy to tell a Class II machine from a Class III machine at a distance because the major Class III manufacturers did not manufacture Class II machines and vice versa. I had never heard of the manufacturers or seen the slot games before when I visited a casino with Class II games for the first time.

The Native American casino market is large and the Class III manufacturers wanted a piece of that pie, so they made Class II versions of popular Class III titles. There are now Class II versions of Blazing 7s, Double Diamonds, etc.

You can still tell a Class II machine up close. A Class II machine should have the ability to display the bingo card used to determine its outcomes and maybe even give you the option of changing the card.

The Native American casinos in Oklahoma have to abide by the regulations set forth in the IGRA. According to the American Casino Guide, there is no publicly available information about the paybacks in Oklahoma.

Finally, the machines cannot be set to have cycles. The results of each spin on a Class II machine are still determined at random, even though it uses a different method than a Class III machine.


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