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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Do I have to play off a slot jackpot?

14 January 2015

I am retired and play slot machines frequently. On a number of occasions, I'll have a few credits on the machine and I'll hit something large enough for it to lock up. After being paid, the attendant will say to make another bet to clear the machine.

If I want to withdraw all my credits, why should I have to pay with another bet to clear it?

One time when I was betting the max of 180 dimes, the machine hit and locked up. After I was paid the attendant pushed the button to clear it, costing me $18. I told them I wanted my money back to no avail. Have you seen this happen?

It's not uncommon for the casino to ask you to play off a jackpot. Many players won't play a machine showing a jackpot combination because they think the machine won't pay well because it has to earn back the money it just paid out.

That's nonsense, of course. Your chances of hitting any winning combination, even the jackpot, are the same regardless of whether the machine shows a jackpot or a losing combination.

You are under no obligation to play off the jackpot. In the old days, if you didn't play off a jackpot, the slot floorperson would take a coin out of the hopper and play it. I'm not sure what they do today with ticket-based machines. I don't leave a machine just because I've hit a jackpot on it.

The attendant overstepped his bounds if he hit the repeat bet or max bet button even if he asked you first. You should be the only one pressing the buttons when your money is on the line. You should have been able to play just a dime to play off the jackpot instead of $18.


What percentage of people really keep a written log of their gambling? We tried it. Good lord, what a pain. We stopped.

I feel very few do this because of the aggravation of it.

Judging by the number of people I see write anything down in the casino — none — it seems like nobody is keeping a log. But I've played with people who I know keep records even though I didn't see them write anything down.

If you haven't already done so, read Jean Scott's Tax Help for Gamblers. If you read the publications on the IRS site, the recordkeeping it seems is required is indeed daunting. But Jean and her co-author Marissa Chien looked at what has been accepted as adequate records by the IRS. You may have been keeping more detailed records than are required.

Following the guidelines in the book, I break the day into three time periods — morning, afternoon and evening. I note my starting bankroll and my ending bankroll for each session. I also note whether I received any W-2Gs during the session.

I find these records very easy to keep and I have the records needed to deduct losses when I file my taxes.


If you stop a spin on machines that allow you to do that, are you changing the RNG or does the machine still stop in the same spot that it would have if you had not stopped the spin? In other words, do you have more control over the spin outcome on that type of machine?

Just about every video slot will let you "short-circuit" the spinning of the reels and cause the reels to move immediately to their stopping positions. You're not changing the outcome of the spin, you're just eliminating the spinning of the reels (the show in industry jargon) before the outcome is revealed.

This is true for the Class II and Class III machines you find in Native American and corporate casinos. I've had readers claim that they can use skill at stopping the reels on some machines found in bars in the South, but I've never been able to verify the claim.


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