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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Changing the minimum bet on a slot machine

7 December 2016

Question: I play Double Double Bonus Poker at the Parx Casino in Pennsylvania. I have always wondered if I'm playing a VLT or RNG machine. At times I have been dealt two pair and discard one of them and still get two pair. Or if I hold just the high cards, I get the same payoff. This was my shot at testing the machine, but I have not run a significant number of tests because I don't want to give my money away.

Do you know for sure if the Parx Casino slots and specifically the video poker are VLT or RNG?

Answer: The machines at the Parx casino in Pennsylvania use internal Random Number Generators (RNG) to determine their results and do not depend on an external server, as a Video Lottery Terminal (VLT) might.

Many players like Double Double Bonus because of the big payouts on quads with kickers. I don't play it for two reasons. First, it's too volatile a game for me. You tend to lose too much in between those big quad payoffs. More important, there are paytables with higher long-term paybacks available at the casinos in which I play.

I double-checked the strategy for 9/6 Double Double Bonus on the Wizard of Odds site. Because two pair pay the same as a high pair and quads pay so much, it makes sense to think that one should hold only one of the high pairs when dealt two high pairs or a high and a low pair.

According to the Wizard's strategy chart, one should hold both pairs unless one pair is a pair of aces, in which case hold just the pair of aces. If you're not playing 9/6 Double Double Bonus, you can use the hand analyzer page on the Wizard's site to verify that the strategy applies to your paytable too.


Question: I was at the Tropicana Casino in AC for two nights this past weekend. I only play the minimum bet on slot machines. Sometimes I win and sometimes I lose.

I was playing up and down a row of slot machines. Finally, I decided to switch between just two of them. They were fun. The minimum bet on both was 40 cents and behind that row were keys for a better chance at the jackpot with additional credits played. Finally, I quit playing them and walked around looking for other slots to play.

After an hour or two, I came back and the first machine had the minimum bet at 80 cents. The second machine, which someone was playing, was still at 40 cents. She then left and I played it hitting the bonus numerous times within relatively few spins. Nothing big but fun. I then decided to retire for the night.

The next morning I told my daughter about the change in minimum bet and said I couldn't believe it. When we were ready to leave, I said let me show you. We went to the machines and the first one was still 80 cents and the second one was now also 80 cents.

Are these server-based machines? I didn't realize they could change the amount of the bet remotely like that. I thought it was the programming inside the machine. I would assume all the bets on those two machines changed but I never looked at anything but the minimum.

Answer: Server-based gaming has two meanings now. The first meaning is the one to which you are alluding, the one in which a central server is used to determine the results of a play. These machines do not have internal RNGs that determine their results. They depend on a central server, which simulates a bingo drawing or lottery scratch-off tickets, to send the result to the machine. Native American casinos without state compacts and some casinos run by state lotteries use this type of server-based gaming. Atlantic City does not have this type.

The other type of server-based gaming can be called by a more descriptive name -- downloadable games. (Some jurisdictions may call this type server-supported gaming.) With downloadable games, the central server functions as a game library and software distributor. Instead of having to visit each machine and change chips to alter these machines, the casino can instruct the central server to download new game programs to them. The change does not happen right away. The change is queued pending certain events on the machine.

The time parameters may differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but generally speaking a machine will not accept a game change until it has been idle (that is, no one has been playing it and it has no credits) for four minutes. The machine will then accept the change and display a message indicating that is being reconfigured while the change is being made. The machine then displays a message that it has been reconfigured for a minute.

There aren't many machines that support downloadable games on slot floors. It's possible that the Trop could have been able to change the minimum bet remotely, but enough time passed without your seeing the machines for someone to have visited each machine and reconfigured them. I couldn't find anything online about New Jersey's regulations for changing the minimum bet on a machine, but I assume that it wouldn't require much DGE paperwork or involvement if the math on the remaining bets didn't change. It's just like players decided to bet more than the (old) minimum on the machines.

By the way, 80 cents is a pretty hefty minimum bet. I'm sure the long-term payback on that bet is similar to betting one coin on one of the Trop's dollar machines.

Yes, I can hear everybody laughing.


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