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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Are new slot machines limited in how much they can pay?

6 May 2015

I understand that some slots work as if they are lottery scratch-off tickets. Does that mean a limited number of winning tickets?

It seems to me you can play for a top prize that has been awarded and never know it had already been claimed. I think this is unfair to the player, who is thinking that a max bet will achieve a jackpot but that jackpot has already been paid.

You're right that this model of determining slot machine outcomes involves a finite pool of outcomes and, unlike on machines that use RNGs, your chances of hitting any particular combination can change from spin to spin. For this reason, some players think these machines are not as fair as their RNG-based counterparts. And, for that matter, they also think scratch-off tickets are unfair because the lottery is still selling the dream of hitting the top prize when all of the top prize tickets have already been sold.

On the slot machine, when all of the outcomes in one pool have been used, a new pool is started. It's possible that, as a pool is running out of outcomes, the high-paying outcomes have already been used.


When a slot machine or poker machine is moved from one location in a casino to another and obviously has to be shut down, does this change the odds of this machine paying out? In other words, does the machine become like a rebuilt engine in a car with no mileage on it? The casino I patronize in Connecticut moves a bank of machines every so often for no apparent reason.

On a Class III, RNG-based slot machine, the result of the current spin is not affected at all by what has happened in the past. Your chances for hitting any winning combination are the same on every spin.

Turning off the machine, with or without moving it, has no effect on the odds.


My wife and I are regulars at several of our local casinos in the Chicago area. We also are in Vegas from time to time.

I was at the Potawatomi Casino in Milwaukee walking through the High Limit room and saw something I had never seen before. Just wondering how rare it really was.

A man and wife were betting $20 on a machine and hit a jackpot. While they were waiting for the payout they moved to the next machine. They hit a jackpot again. Before they were finished they repeated it twice more. There were four machines in a row, all jackpots with hand payouts.

I've never been fortunate enough to hit multiple hand-pays in a short period of time, but I've certainly spoken to and heard of people who have.

What you witnessed may not be as rare an occurrence as it seems. At $20 per spin, players only need to hit a winning combination that pays 60 times the bet for the machine to lock up and the players to win a W-2G along with their cash. W-2G lock-ups and hand-pays are more frequent at the high-limit machines.


When a new slot machine is introduced to a casino, does the machine have a total dollar value that it can pay out?

No, on a Class III, RNG-based slot machine, the top jackpot on a slot machine can be hit on its very first spin on the slot floor. There's nothing that limits how much new machines can pay.

Back in the late 1990s, during the building boom in Las Vegas, I frequently went to the new casinos on opening night. I saw people waiting for hand-pays for jackpots when there was no possible way that the machines could have won enough from their players to pay for the jackpot.

In fact, I was at Bellagio on its first afternoon of operation playing a dollar progressive video poker machine. I hit a royal flush and won the progressive, over $5000.

There I was, with so many hundreds in my wallet that I couldn't fold it over. After getting paid, I hurried to the buffet so I could get in while the lunchtime price was still in effect.


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