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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Do I win less when I use a player's card?

26 September 2018

Question: My wife thinks that the casino can regulate how much it will let you win based on your card being in the machine or not. She thinks she wins more with her card out of the machine than in.

Is there any correlation to this myth or can the casinos assist winning or not winning when your card is in the machine?

Answer: The use of a player card affecting slot machine results is a frequently believed myth. It's a perfect example of the yin and yang of slot machine myths.

Some people believe that you don't win as much when you use a player's card. The casino has to pay for the benefits you get from the slot club, so it cuts back on how much you win from the machine.

Other people believe that you win more when you use the card. The casino assumes that you want to play a lot there because you took the time to get a card. The casino will let you win a little more when you use your card to reward you for your loyalty.

Both hypotheses can't be true. So neither is true. Using your player's card has no affect whatsoever on how much you win at a machine.

The programs running today's slot machines use output from a random number generator (RNG) to determine the results of spins. Slot regulations require that the RNG operate without any outside influence whatsoever. The RNG is not influenced by time of day, day of week, holidays, promotions, how crowded the casino is, past results on the machine or whether the player inserted a players card.

There's nothing the casino can do to affect the results on a machine. If there were something a casino can do, what would prevent a casino employee from throwing the jackpot switch for friends and then splitting the winnings?

The casino is the only place where all men and women are truly created equal. Each player playing a machine has the same chance of winning.


Question: I have a question based on recent observations in LV casinos.

What factors are in play regarding the noticeable disappearance of classic slot games on the casino floors in LV? I would suspect there are economic factors, but what are they? Are the increasing casino cost structures a factor? Is it possible that the slot managers get tired of classic slots? Is there a technology factor that drives older, classic slots off the floor?

Answer: There's a rule in investing that you should not fall in love with a stock. Stocks are just a way to make money, not girlfriends or boyfriends, husbands or wives.

Slot managers likewise don't fall in love with — or get tired of — slot machines. The only thing that matters to them is how much money the machines are earning. If players grow tired of a machine, then the managers will replace them. As long as players keep playing a machine a manager will keep it on the slot floor.

Of course, there are some circumstances that will cause a popular machine to be removed. The hardware and software in an older machine may not support a new function that the casino wants to implement. Also, there might be a vulnerability in the hardware or software that wasn't discovered during testing. There might be a change in slot regulations moreover that makes the machine non-compliant.

Finally, I can't ignore another reason why a popular machine might be removed. The casino could be lowering the average payback on its machines and this old machine pays back too much.

The classic slot titles (Double Diamond, Triple Diamond, Blazing 7s, Wheel of Fortune) are still on slot floors, though not in the same numbers as before and you may have to go to a few different casinos to find all your old favorites. Most of today's players love playing video slots, so they have largely driven out the old machines. If the older games are disappearing, it's only because slot managers are trying to have the machines that their players want to play.


Question: I don't know if you've been asked this in the past, but in your opinion are slot machine payoff percentages pretty equal between cruise ship casinos and those on land or is there a disparity?

Answer: Being a confirmed landlubber, I don't have any personal experience with cruise ship casinos. The anecdotal evidence however is overwhelming. Almost everyone reports that the slot machines on cruise ships pay back less than those on land.

The problem with these reports is that no one plays enough during a cruise to make a statistically significant estimate of how much a machine pays back. We can make an inference about the paybacks on cruise ship slot machines though based on the video poker. I've never heard anyone report that a cruise ship had good video poker pay tables.

Competition has an amazing power to force the paybacks at a casino to be close to those at its neighbors. When a casino has a number of competitors nearby, it has to be competitive with them or risk losing players.

There is no competition for a casino on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean, so it can have poor paybacks by land-based casino standards.


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