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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Dealing with slot machine button bangers

8 May 2019

Question: Great column about the Borgata returning money to a player. Here’s my story.

I often (too often) visit a casino here in Pittsburgh. I go every Sunday morning to buy lotto tickets for the week and to play craps.

About a month ago I exited the elevator upon arrival and was counting out $200 while walking to the restroom. After the restroom I got a cup of coffee and then went to the crap table. I bought in for $200 and when the box counted the money he said, "$180."

I clearly saw there were nine $20 bills. I checked my wallet on the side where I keep my gambling money and there was no $20 bill. Oh, well, probably ANOTHER senior moment. I didn’t think about it any further.

About 15 minutes later someone tapped my shoulder and said my name. I turned around and there was a security guard who handed me a $20 bill. He said, "You dropped this shortly after you entered the casino." I signed a receipt. I asked if I could find out who returned it and he said, "No."

When I think of all the steps that were taken including, at a minimum, reviewing the video footage, to return the $20 to me, I am amazed.

Sometimes, the system works.

Answer: Thanks for sharing your story. It's always nice to hear about casinos going the extra mile for their patrons.


Question: In regards to your article about people pushing the Stop button.

Last time I was in Vegas, there were some people that were literally beating the crap (no pun intended) out of the machines. Irritating and distracting. I'm surprised the slot attendant didn't throw them out.

Answer: Well, the button-bangers are not doing anything wrong. Once I was near a player who constantly switched video poker games and he would whale away on the Bet Max button to get the next hand displayed quickly after every game change. And I've occasionally been near a lady who plays Whack-A-Mole when she hits the buttons. And I've noticed that some people hit the Spin button like they're in a slot tournament when they get to the fire orb bonus in the Dragon Link games.

Casinos will put up with a lot. In one slot tournament I played in, the game required you to hit a balloon when it appeared on the screen. As the day wore on, more and more machines were out of service because players were hitting the screen so enthusiastically that they were breaking something with the touchscreen.

I once had an acquaintance who did not handle losing well. One time when he was one symbol short of a good payout, he got so mad that he hit the top glass on the machine hard enough to break it. Security came immediately — not to escort him out, but to ensure he was OK. The guard said that it happened all the time. This happened in Downtown Las Vegas. Maybe it does happen frequently there. I've never seen anyone break the glass on a machine on the strip or in the locals casinos I frequent now.

There actually is a slot machine that encourages you to show no mercy in beating the button. It's Lightning Zap from Everi.

I wanted to ensure that I remembered how the machine works correctly, so I checked the information available on the Everi site. Unfortunately, it didn't have a description of game play in the text on the page. I took a quick look at the videos and they didn't help me.

Fortunately, I found a few videos of people playing the machine on YouTube. I'm amazed at the number of people who played the game, thought it was really bad, and never looked at the help screens to see if they were missing something about the game. You see, there are no reels, paytables or paylines on this game.

The game screen has a tower reminiscent of Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower on Long Island in the center. Prize amounts are in ovals on either side of the screen. When you press the button, an energy column rises in the center of tower. If the energy column reaches the plasma orb on the top of the tower, bolts of lightning shoot out from the orb and hit the prize amounts. You win whatever is hit. If you don't get enough energy to reach the orb, the energy column just falls back down to zero.

Now, you could hit the button, watch the energy column rise, hope that it reaches the orb, wait for it to fall back down, and let the machine display Play Again.

If you had read the instructions, however, you would have known that you don't have to wait for Play Again to appear before you hit the button again. Plus you would have known that the amount of energy from this play would get added to where the energy column is when you hit the button, so the energy column will reach the orb much more frequently than if you waited between each play and relied on the energy from a single play to reach the orb.

I have to admit I got a number of dirty looks as I used my best slot tournament button-hitting technique on this machine. Maybe I didn't have to hit the button so quickly. I just had to hit it before the energy column starts to fall.

In the comments on the videos, some people said they made some money playing this machine and others said they lost lost — especially the ones who didn't know the secret. Sometimes it pays to read the help screens on machines.

Taking another look at the videos on the Everi site, I see now that they did reveal the secret to playing the game. About seven seconds into the Promo video is a screen that says, "Charging the orb awards prizes...Keep zapping to charge the orb!"

You have two choices if you end up near a button masher: move or grin and bear it. You could even put in a pair of earbuds, even without playing something through them, to muffle the noise a little.


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