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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Check rules for casino promotions before you play

9 October 2019

I live about a mile away from a Starbucks, close enough that I almost always walk there. Having lived most of my life in New Jersey, I'm more of a Dunkin' Donuts person, but they're few and far between in Las Vegas, so I go to Starbucks more often now.

I walked down to Starbucks for breakfast last Saturday to complete a menu challenge to earn bonus stars. I was halfway through the challenge. I had already ordered a Frappucino and lunch sandwich. All I needed now is a Cold Brew and a breakfast sandwich to complete the challenge.

I stopped to place my order using the mobile app when I was about five minutes away. My Starbucks sometimes runs out of Cold Brew, so I was prepared to see the dreaded red text "Sold out at this store" on the Cold Brew page. I was in luck. My Starbucks was still pouring Cold Brew.

Normally I double-check what you have to order for a menu challenge before placing my order, but this time I was just so happy to see that my Starbucks hadn't run out of cold brew, I just repeated my last order — a cold brew and a Double-Smoked Bacon, Cheddar and Egg sandwich.

I don't remember why my prior order included that sandwich. I usually get the Bacon, Gouda and Egg sandwich. I prefer cheddar over gouda, but I don't need the 150 extra calories that come with the croissant bun on the sandwich with cheddar as opposed to the artisan roll on the gouda sandwich.

After I got home, I checked my progress on the challenge on the app. It showed that I had ordered only three of the four required items. Sometimes it takes the app an hour or so to update your challenge status, but I've never seen it only partially update. I must have screwed up somewhere, I thought.

Sure enough, I screwed up. Any lunch sandwich would do for the challenge, but for breakfast you had to order the sandwich with gouda. I suppose that that didn't really register with me as a requirement because it is what I usually get anyway.

Sometimes it pays to double-check the rules for a promotion before you act.

There have been a few occasions when I really should have checked the rules for a casino's promotion.

A few years ago I was at Sam's Town early — 9:30 a.m., early for me — to play a kiosk game. After I had earned the 10 points needed to play the game, I went to a kiosk. The game wasn't available. Maybe I was mistaken about the number of points needed to play the game.

Nope. That wasn't the problem. I pulled up the rules using my phone and I learned that the promotion didn't start until 10 a.m. I could have slept in.

A few weeks ago I played more slots than I normally do because I wanted to earn drawing entries in a promotion in which only slot points counted. I wanted to try Fortune Coin and, fortunately, I was able to get a seat at one. I was hot for a while, but then things turned ugly. I stopped playing a little before 2 p.m. when I had finally earned the number of drawing tickets I wanted. Good thing too. When I reread the rules on my mailer, I learned that the earning period for the drawing ended at 2 p.m. That would have been a good thing to know before I started playing. (No, I didn't get called in the drawing, but as they used to say in the New York State Lottery commercials, "You gotta be in it to win it!")

I didn't make a mistake on this next example, but I've been in line behind others who have. Sometimes you have to earn a certain number of points to get a gift being given away that day, and sometimes it's "free for invited guests." You might get some gifts without playing and you might be required to play to get others. Check your mailers.

My final example is about a time that I was glad that I had double-checked the rules. I played in a combination blackjack/video poker tournament a few weeks ago. It's been about 20 years since I've played blackjack, so the night before the tournament I printed out a basic strategy chart and practiced using the trainer on the Wizard of Odds site. I didn't know whether the other people at the table would be as upset as some get at a real blackjack when you make a basic strategy mistake, so I figured I would apologize for any mistakes I made before we started playing and I would check the chart or ask for help when we played.

At about 1 a.m. I went over the three pages of rules again just to ensure I knew exactly how the blackjack round was going to work. I hadn't gone beyond the section with the boilerplate rules of reserving the right to cancel the tournament, change the rules, yada, yada, yada, before. This time I looked at all of the rules and I found after the boilerplate rules the rules that state the players are not allowed to bring papers with them to the table and they are not allowed to talk to spectators or other players during the round.

I had long since forgotten the mnemonics I used to remember basic strategy, so I found a simple basic strategy chart on the Wizard's site and worked on memorizing it. Then I practiced on video blackjack at the casino before my scheduled time.

As it turned out, I didn't need to be as concerned as I was, but that's a story for another time. The moral for today is that it pays to double-check the rules before you play.


What would you do in this situation?

I had some time to kill, it was a multiple-points day, and I felt like trying a few bucks to go far a big payout. I saw a progressive Deuces Double Bonus bank with the payout on four deuces with an ace over $4,500, so I sat down to try a Benjamin or two. The message on the screen said, "Win 4927." Not really thinking it through, I thought that the prior player cashed out a big ticket. Then I saw the "Paid $30.00" message in the middle of the screen and realized that the last hand won $4,927. Then I took a look at the middle of the screen. It said, "Royal Flush No Deuces," and underneath was a royal in hearts (only the king and jack were held from the dealt hand, if you're interested). Who pays attention to the last hand played on a machine?

What would you do? The screen shows a royal. Would you play the machine or another one?

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