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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Can a cell phone affect a slot machine?

18 March 2015

Your answer to the slot ticket scam letter was not good.

I had this exact problem with a $10 bill in a casino in Colorado. The slot attendant checked the machine and it said the last bill was a $20 bill. I insisted that I put in a $10 bill. He then got someone else to watch and they opened the cash box and found my crumpled bill in the cash box on top.

It's obvious that this person did not complain up the management tree. It can sometimes be hard to find the next level management, but you can always immediately complain to the Casino Commission if you have the time.

Many people do not realize that the Casino Commission is there to arbitrate between the customer and the Big Casino machine.

Last week's column contained a letter from a lady who thought that her slot machine did not properly credit her for a ticket she inserted. When she reported the problem to a slot attendant, the attendant practically accused her of trying to scam the casino out of the value of the ticket - about $10.

One must always take jurisdiction into account. What's possible in some jurisdictions may not be possible in others. For example, New Jersey's casinos used to have a representative from the Casino Control Commission on premises 24/7. No longer. You're lucky that you had a representative on site.

Your advice is well taken, though. Sometimes we must insist that a supervisor be called when we have a problem. Perhaps the lady who had the ticket problem could have had the cashbox opened to prove that the system malfunctioned and missed her ticket.


I play slots all the time. I noticed that if I have my cell phone on, the machine won't pay. But if I power down to save my battery, the machine starts paying some hits. Sometimes I get my bet back; other times I get $100-$200 wins.

Can the cell phone interact with your machine?

Many years ago (the late 1990s), a casino upgraded the walkie-talkies it used on the slot floor. The new equipment had the unfortunate side effect of energizing the hopper payout circuitry whenever the talk key was pressed in close proximity to a machine. If a slot attendant was at a machine and keyed the mike to talk, the machine would spit out a coin. Needless to say, the casino switched to different equipment very quickly.

Slot machines today are tested to ensure that they are not affected by external radio frequency interference. It's very unlikely that your cell phone is having any effect.

I almost always have my cell phone with me and on when I'm playing. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose. My cell phone has no effect on my results.


When a casino comps a person, whether it's a free room or food, are the comps based on the amount of time spent on a slot machine or are they based on the total amount of cash you have put into the machine?

Casinos may sometimes relate comps to playing time (e.g., $3 per spin for four hours), but that's only because players can easily measure the amount of time they spend playing. In reality, comps are based on how much money you play through the machines and the casino's expected win from that play.

In the early days of slot clubs, a dollar played in a video poker machine earned as many comps/points as a dollar played through a reel-spinning slot machine. Those days are long gone now and it might take two, three or even more times as much play through a video poker machine to earn the same level of comps as on a slot. That's because the house edge on video poker can be 2 to 3 percent - and sometimes even close to 0 percent - while the house edge on slots is usually much higher, 5 percent to even 12 percent.

Note also that it doesn't matter whether you win or lose - the casino knows we have to win sometimes - your comps are based on the casino's expected win from your play, not its actual win.


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