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Ask the Slot Expert: Betting advice for Dragon Link games

2 January 2019

A few odds and ends to close out the year.

Question: I just got back from a short trip to Vegas where I played bubble craps at several locations. Coincidentally, I read your column both before I left and after I returned. Several observations about malfunctions:

In the past the machines seemed to automatically re-roll after one of the dice was tilted against the wall of the pit. This time there were occasions when no auto re-roll occurred, but the machine went into a tilt mode and an attendant had to be called to reset the machine. This happened to me on two consecutive rolls and the attendant said that he had never seen that before. And yes, once the tilted dice showed a "seven out" and the machine auto re-rolled to a winning number.

Finally, I think the annoying "press the button" is the Shoot to Win machine, not the other.

Answer: You are correct. It is Aruze's Shoot to Win that has the annoying hostess saying "Press the button." I think the installation at Red Rock also periodically emits an air horn sound. I try to avoid playing near these machines. I lovingly refer to the one at Palms as the Smoker's Circle. Fortunately, Palms downgraded the paytables on the video poker machines near its electronic craps, so I no longer play in that area.

My apologies to Interblock for unfairly denigrating its machine. And my apologies to Aruze for not giving its machine the disparagement it deserves. Press the button!


This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a birthday party for Jean Scott thrown by her daughter. A topic that came up in passing is how some players say that a casino has removed a machine because it paid out too much money. Of course, they say this after they have won on a machine or seen others win on it or heard stories of other people winning. Sometimes even a slot attendant will say that paying out too much is the reason a machine is gone.

I'm always skeptical of these stories. Casinos have PAR sheets for every game on their slot floors. They know exactly what the probabilities are for all the payouts. They know how much a machine will pay out in the long run. They know the range a machine's payback will fall into on the way to the long run.

The only surprise a casino should have on a machine is when its jackpots are hit. A machine may have occasional fits of philanthropy and pay its players well — some casinos even post a list of hot machines for the past week — but those hot streaks are extremely small parts of the total play a machine receives and has no effect on its actual long-term payback percentage.

If a casino truly removes a machine because it paid out too much, somebody didn't read the PAR sheet.


I hadn't played any of the games in Aristocrat's Dragon Link series. One casino had a Dragon Link installation next to some good video poker machines. The volume on one machine was set to 11. Every time players got paid a money orb bonus on that machine, all of the video poker players got to celebrate along with them.

I finally played one a few weeks ago to research an answer to a question in a previous column. I chose the $1 denomination. Then from force of habit, I guess, I pressed the far right bet button. Fortunately, it took me only two spins to realize that I was betting $25 per spin and not the $5 I had intended.

Most video slots don't let you choose a denomination, but you have to be really careful that you're betting the amount you intend to bet on the ones that do.

I had time to kill between drawings on New Year's Eve, so I played some Panda Magic and some August Moon. Of course, the lady who sat down at the Panda Magic machine right after I moved to the August Moon next to it hit the free spins on her second spin.

When I took a peek to see how much she had won on my free spins, I noticed she was playing the penny denomination and betting two cents per line. I was betting the same $1 per spin, but I had switched to the 2-cent denomination because it increased the values of some of the progressives (only the mini and the minor, I believe). I was lucky enough to collect both of them.

On the Dragon Link machines, increase denomination before increasing amount bet per line.


I played a number of the skill-based games from Gamblit Gaming the past few weeks. Having grown up playing Scrabble, the first game I tried was Lucky Words. You're shown a grid of letters and you have 30 seconds to make as many words as you can by swiping your finger over adjacent letters. There are five payout bars. Each bar is randomly assigned a payout value. The more letters you use, the more payout bars you fill. You win the amounts assigned to the payout bars you fill. You earn two of the payouts even if you spaz out and don't fill any payout bars.

The game is fun, but I don't like the stress of a time limit when I'm gambling. Also, many times I filled all five payout bars and won less than a push. It seems like I should have scored more for making so many words. I'm left with the impression that there isn't a strong correlation between my skill and the amount I win.

I also played a search game called Brew Caps. A set of three to five beer bottle caps are shown at the top of the screen. You have to find the number of matching caps displayed below each cap in a field of bottle caps in the middle of the screen before time runs out. The logos on the caps are in the correct orientation on the target caps, but the caps in the field are rotated to make the logos more difficult to recognize. If you still haven't found all of the caps you're supposed to find as time gets close to running out, the matching caps are highlighted to help you find them.

Again, more time stress I don't need. And also again, there's seems to be almost no correlation between skill and amount won because I almost always lost money on a game even when I found all of the caps.

Another game I played was 3Volution. You're presented a grid of squares, either in the ocean or on a savannah. Some of the squares have obstacles and some have animals. The game presents a sequence of animals, which you have to place in an empty square. The goal is to get three of the same animal in adjacent squares, which causes them to evolve into the next higher animal in the evolutionary chain. When you get good, you can set up chain matches. You make a chain match when a group of animals evolve onto a square adjacent to a group of the next level of animal.

The first time I played it the game ended because I had filled up the grid. After I had gotten the hang of the game, I had to end it on my own. Like Monopoly, this game can last forever.

Making a match triggers a wager. The amount you win for the match is chosen randomly.

There's no time pressure on this game. You can take as long as you want to place an animal. Because the amount you win per match is chosen randomly, again I think there's only a loose correlation between your skill and how much you win.

I also played a little Deal or No Deal Poker. On this game, you're dealt five cards. A series of briefcases are above each card. You choose which cards you want to hold. A card is inside each briefcase. You choose a briefcase to reveal a replacement card for each card you didn't hold. The cards in the briefcases you didn't choose are also revealed. If you have a paying hand before you've chosen all your replacement cards, you get a call from the banker with an offer you can accept in lieu of playing out the hand.

If you can estimate the expected value of the cards you're holding, you can determine if the banker's offer is higher and thus a good deal. Or, of course, you can always decide to take the sure thing. A bird in the hand, as they say.

This game seems to be the one with the most direct correlation between skill level and winning potential. But maybe I'm too harsh on the other games. There's a random element in video poker, too.

The best video poker players in the world will still lose money if they don't get the cards. I can fill all the payout bars in Lucky Words and still lose money. That's like holding the combination of cards with the highest expected value and not ending up with a paying hand.

But with video poker, I'm confident that if I keep playing skillfully, I will win money in the long run. I'm not so sure with the Gamblit games.

I have seen these games in only two casinos, so far. At one casino, its pod of four games disappeared after a week or two. At another, one pod turned into two. The jury is still out.


Happy New Year!


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