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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Are casinos afraid of players winning on slots?

9 November 2016

Question: You wrote: Based on reports from 88 Fortunes players, it's possible to hit the Grand jackpot on less than a max-coin bet. Also, your choices during the pick-em bonus round are irrelevant because the program running the machine has already chosen which progressive you will win.

If you’re tapping which coin to pick (until you pick three like coins), how could your choices be irrelevant? If the machine has already placed the minor, major, etc. jackpot symbols underneath all the possible picks before the screen appears for you to pick from, you have to have a choice at the progressive. The only way this could not be true is if the choices were switched under the coins as you picked. I understand there are only, say, three coins with the progressive win that have to be chosen, and many more for the lower jackpots, making it much harder to pick the correct three. But, they are available all the time. After your three choices have been picked, they show which coins had the various jackpots hidden beneath them.

Answer: You're making some incorrect assumptions about 88 Fortunes. For one, the machine does not reveal the values under the coins that you did not pick.

There are only 12 coins in the bonus round, so it appears as if there are three coins for each of the four progressives. It appears as if you have an equal chance of hitting each of the four progressives. But reports from players indicate that they hit the lower progressives much more frequently than the upper progressives.

I have been unable to get a PAR sheet for the game or a response to my questions from the manufacturer, but one slot manager told me that it is possible to be awarded any of the four progressives when the bonus round is triggered.

Notice that I said awarded. It appears as if the software running the machine randomly chooses the progressive you will win when the bonus round is triggered, then it fills the screen with two coins each for the progressives you weren't awarded and four coins for the progressive you were awarded.

There is no way to win the progressives you were not awarded because there are only two coins for them. Your choices don't matter because only one progressive has enough coins to be awarded.

I think this machine is misleading because it gives you the impression that you can win any of the progressives in the bonus round. One could argue that the bonus wheel on Wheel of Fortune gives the impression that each amount is equally likely and we accept the fact that that is not true, so why shouldn't we just accept the same fact about the progressives on 88 Fortunes.

I think player interaction makes the difference. On Wheel of Fortune, the machine spins and stops the wheel so it's clear that the software has determined the outcome. On 88 Fortunes, you pick coins and the machine gives the misleading impression that your choices determine the result.


Question: I had a situation a couple years ago at Planet Hollywood.

My sister and I had been going there since its opening -- before its opening, actually, when it was the Aladdin. My sister goes at least three times a year a week at a time; me, just one week a year. Both of us reach very high tiers on our cards and have the same host, who looks after everything.

On this particular trip she decided to keep all her winning tickets above $500 and cash them in on our last day, if she could last that long. She had a run of good fortune for the whole week and on that last day cashed in just over $20,000. I'm not sure it's relevant, but she had also gotten some hand pays during our stay.

After she cashed in those tickets -- and I mean immediately after -- she sat down to play and noticed her card was not counting points. She went to guest services to get the card resolved.

Boy, did she cause a stir. She was asked to leave and never set foot in their casino again. This was from a floor supervisor. When she started to protest, a manager came in and sent the floor supervisor away. I was ready to assist my sister in any means necessary, My sister explained what she did. She and the manager went over her recorded history. He fixed her card and gave her 10,000 points to bring her to the next level. We left Vegas; all was good.

Since then I have won $21,000 in one day in the Hard Rock Casino in Vancouver British Columbia. Canada. As soon as you get hand payouts over $10,000 in the same day in BC casinos, you are put on a watch list and you are interviewed with each hand pay.

From these instances I have to assume that casinos are afraid that there is a way to win on the slots, no matter how random the wins seem to be. To me it is simple math. You take a standard video machine with five reels with 15 objects on each reel and three of those objects have to match to get a payout. The odds of your matching three on a pay line are worse than state lotteries. The wins have to be programmed in. I figure there has to be a way to beat that or the casinos would not be so scared.

Have you any input on why casinos don't like people winning?

Answer: On the contrary, casinos love winners. So much so that they put their pictures on monitors, video walls, billboards and websites. The casinos hope that players will see ordinary folks win big and think that if that person could win, so could they.

I did some research online and as I suspected, Canada, like the United States, has regulations requiring the reporting of large cash transactions to combat money laundering. According to a page on the British Columbia Lottery Commission website, "Players must produce government ID to receive payouts for transactions over $10,000" Because you've hit the $10,000 threshold, each additional handpay also requires government ID. You're on the watchlist not because you've won, but because of the amount you've won. And it's due to government regulations to prevent money laundering, not casino procedures to punish winners.

In the United States, you have to provide ID for jackpots of $1200 or more for the creation of the tax form. Casinos used to be required to report jackpot payouts over $10,000, but that requirement was lifted about 10 years ago because there was very little risk of money laundering when a casino paid a jackpot.

I recently won $10,000 on a video poker machine. I was paid with a banded brick of 100 $100 bills. I thought I was going to have a problem when I deposited the money in my bank, but the teller didn't even bat an eyelash. Because of the amount, he had to have the manager verify the deposit. When she said that the amount was correct, I said that it should be. The money came from the Suncoast Casino. The bank may have had to report the transaction, but I didn't have to fill out any forms or prove the source of the money.

I don't know what happened at Planet Hollywood. I've never heard of a slot player who wasn't caught cheating or bothering other players being barred from a casino. Video poker players, yes, but not slot players. The extra tier points given by the manager seem to indicate that the supervisor made some sort of mistake. I've heard of players being given conciliatory slot points, but being given tier points is rare.

Casinos aren't afraid of people legitimately winning on their machines. The Slot Director at the Desert Inn told me this story. He was playing golf on the DI course when the assistant director called him on his cell phone.

"Someone just hit a royal on the $100 video poker machine in the High Limit room," said the assistant. That's $400,000.

"Everything okay on the machine?" the director asked.

"Yes. What should I do?"

"Pay the man."


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