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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Do slot machine bonus rounds have to pay something?

3 February 2016

Question: If a slot machine has a bonus round, does the bonus round have to pay something?

Answer: I wish that were true, but there's no requirement that a bonus round has to pay anything. It's incredibly disappointing to finally get to the rare bonus round on a machine and then not win anything during the round.

I occasionally play some Bally machines that have variations of Blazing 7s games as their bonus rounds. You advance to the bonus round when three or more symbols representing these games land on the reels. One by one, the machine displays the reels for the different Blazing 7s games whose icons landed on your reels. For each game, you win what the combination that lands on the payline(s) pays.

It's not unusual to have one or more of these games end with a losing combination and, every once in a while, all of them end without a paying combination. You finally get to the bonus round and you win a big, fat goose-egg. Very disappointing. And frustrating.

There oughta be a law -- but there isn't. Bonus rounds don't have to pay anything.

I've won nothing or toll money on some of my trips to the bonus round on these machines. But then I've also hit the top jackpot a few times and won $100 or more.

Sometime stingy bonus rounds can be very profitable. I'd never played one of Aristocrat's Buffalo slot variations until two weeks ago when my local casino was offering 15x points on the games. Ironically, the casino had replaced a bank of non-smoking video poker machines -- including one that dealt me a royal flush in hearts -- with a bank of new Buffalo games. These machines must have low hit frequencies for a video slot. I had losing spin after losing spin on the first machine I tried. I switched to a different machine and finally got to the bonus round, which consists of free spins. I won more free spins during the round, then more and more and more again. I had attracted a bit of crowd due to the noisy bells that rang each time I won for free spins..

My run finally ended after 198 free spins (I really wanted to break 200!) and a win of over $200. Not bad for a 50-cent bet.

I tried to catch lightning in a bottle again on last week's 15x points day, but I won nothing or a couple of bucks on the few times I got to the bonus round.


Question: I was playing Deuces Wild video poker this past weekend. Two other ladies, who were together, were also playing. One hit four deuces and then shortly after went to the restroom. When she returned, she sat down at the machine next to the one on which she had just won. Her friend asked her why she didn't go back to the machine that had just given her the four deuces. She said, "It won't pay off again."

Was she right? Would the machine not pay off again?

Answer: No, she was not right. Her chances of hitting four deuces again or a royal flush or any other paying hand were the same after she hit the four deuces as before.

Each hand on a video poker machine is dealt from a freshly shuffled deck of cards, exactly the same as if you were dealing the cards at your kitchen table. After a hand, you return the cards that were used in the hand to the deck, shuffle and then deal again.

Just like the physical deck, the electronic deck doesn't care -- or even know -- what happened on the last hand. Each card in the deck is equally likely to be selected on the draw and on the deal.

The odds don't change from hand to hand. The only reason you don't see many high-paying hands hit in a clump is because they are not likely to hit in the first place.

It has never happened to me, but I've heard of people who hit back-to-back or nearly back-to-back royals.

We should all be so lucky.


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