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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask the Slot Expert: Does betting more on a slot machine increase hit frequency?

24 June 2015

About slapping buttons on VP machines: Sometimes the buttons stick, possibly due to previously spilled beverages. Several times I have touched a button to hold a card and it didn't take, so then I have to slap the buttons to get them to work.

That's a good point. Sometimes the buttons don't work unless you use a little force, whether due to baptism by beer or just worn contacts.

When you find a machine that has some mechanical problem, let a slot floorperson know. The casino wants all of its machines to be in good working order and it depends on players to let them know when there are minor problems.

If a machine's bill acceptor is broken or there's a problem that makes it very difficult to play, the casino will know there's a problem because of the drop in action on the machine. But it won't know about minor problems that players work around unless we report them.


Is it true that slots with lower jackpots are looser?

I've received a few e-mails with a similar question. I'm not sure what I wrote that gave the impression that slots with lower jackpots are looser.

I think it might be a statement I made about the proposal to lower the W-2G jackpot threshold to $600. I wrote that lowering the threshold could actually be a positive move for players.

Lowering the threshold could actually be a positive development for some players. The jackpots on some machines are $1,199 to avoid triggering the tax paperwork. Paytables on new machines could be designed with a top jackpot of $599. In order to maintain the same long-term payback as on the $1,199-jackpot machine, the jackpot has to be made more likely to hit, or the lower-paying combinations have to pay more or be made more likely to hit, or some combination of the three options. The lower threshold and the resultant lower jackpot on some machines would be a gift to players who like low-volatility slot games.

Notice that I wrote "to maintain the same long-term payback." A machine with a top jackpot of $599 could have the same long-term payback as one with a top jackpot of $1199. Its long-term payback could also be lower and it could also be higher.

We can't tell anything about a machine's long-term payback from the value of its jackpot.


Another “simple” question.

I think there seems to be a connection between hit frequency and amount bet on the slot.

A 30-cent bet on a penny slot will not hit as often as a 120-cent bet on the same machine.

What do you think?

I think the answer may not be as simple as you think it would be.

If the same number of lines are played under both scenarios, then the hit frequency is the same. On the other hand, if you're activating more paylines with the 120-cent bet, you will hit more frequently.

In addition, there are some machines that give players who make larger bets a better deal. Some video Megabucks machines in Nevada have additional progressive jackpots in addition to the biggie. You win one of these additional progressives when special sections of the reels in which the symbols are enclosed in lozenges land on the payline. If these sections land on the first two reels, you win the smallest progressive. Symbols in lozenges on the first three reels gives you the next progressive, and each additional reel with the special section gives you a higher progressive.

According to the instructions on the machine, you can increase your bet to increase your chances of getting a special section. If you bet less than the max, a special section could land on a reel and not be activated.

Increasing your bet may increase your chances of hitting one of the progressives, but it doesn't mean you will hit them more often than someone who bets less. I always bet the maximum of $3, and it's very frustrating to see the person next to me hit one of the progressives betting only 30 cents -- especially if I haven't hit one yet!

This wrinkle on the video Megabucks machines affects a secondary game, not where the reels stop.

The places where the reels stop are determined by numbers from the Random Number Generator (RNG). The RNG is not influenced at all by how much is bet. If you counted your hits playing, say, 100 spins at 30 cents per spin and 100 spins at 120 cents per spin, you should find that the hit frequencies under both bets are very close.


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