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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Does raising the denomination on a multi-denomination slot machine raise the long-term payback?

4 July 2018

Question: I've been experimenting with playing a higher denomination with a lower bet rather than max bet at a penny.

I've noticed some subtle differences, which has peaked my curiosity on the inner workings of the machine. For example, Dragon Link raises the minor or mini payout from $10 and $50 to $100 and $500 when betting 10 cents a line rather than a penny. I can play 50 coins at 10 cents a spin for $2.50 rather than 250 lines for a penny. Sitting next to someone playing a penny, I noticed our wins and bonuses are almost the same dollarwise, except for when we hit a minor or mini bonus. I noticed a similar pattern with Lock-It-Link.

Does changing the denomination change the payout tables inside the machine? We hear over and over again higher denominations have higher payouts but what about multi-denomination machines?

Answer: First, let me do a little clean-up on terminology.

Higher denominations tend to have higher long-term paybacks, not payouts.

The paytable tells us how much each winning combination is worth. You mentioned changing from penny denomination to dime, a tenfold increase. The values for the payouts you mentioned were also multiplied by 10 ($10 to $100, $50 to $500). The number of credits awarded by each payout did not change. The value of a credit changed.

If you compared the paytable screen(s) in the help when the penny denomination is selected with those when the dime denomination is selected, you'd see that they are identical.

Slot machines do many things to encourage you to bet more. They might have progressives that are available only when you bet max coin. Or higher bets may trigger additional game elements that are not a result of a combination on the reels, like a randomly triggered bonus event, more frequently.

These tactics all involve higher bets at the same denomination. What happens if you change the denomination?

It's possible that selecting a higher denomination on a multi-denomination machine will load in a higher long-term payback program. We can see that on multi-denomination video poker machines. Penny and nickel paytables have fairly low long-term paybacks. Quarter, half and dollar paytables are usually the sweet spot and have the highest long-term paybacks. The paytables at $2 and up may be as good as those at dollars, but sometimes they fall back a bit.

We can tell when the long-term payback on video poker changes because the paytable changes. We can't tell on a slot machine because the paytable remains the same, the reel layouts change.

Even though it's possible that changing denomination could load new reel layouts, we can't verify it so I wouldn't count on it.

The safest assumption on a multi-denomination slot machine is that the long-term payback is the same across all denominations and the long-term payback was chosen based on the lowest denomination available on the machine. So, in your case, I would assume that you were betting dimes and getting a penny long-term payback.

But, in your case, it didn't matter. You scaled back the number of lines you played at dimes so you were betting the same dollar amount per spin. Betting fewer lines causes your hit frequency to drop.

I'm not surprised that the bonuses you received and the bonuses that your penny-playing partner received were about the same. Bonuses are frequently based on total bet, and you both went into the bonus with a bet of $2.50.

Your reel-based winnings should not have been so similar, though. Your neighbor, betting fewer coins on more lines, should have hit smaller amounts more frequently and you, betting more coins on fewer lines, should have hit larger amounts less frequently.

In the long run, you'll both end up in the same place (same expected loss) because you're both betting the same amount at the same long-term payback. Your ride should be a bit bumpier (higher ups and lower downs), though, because of your lower hit frequency and larger line bet.

To sum up, it's true that higher denominations tend to have higher long-term paybacks. On a multi-denomination slot machine, it's safest to assume that the long-term payback is the same for all denominations offered and that the long-term payback is commensurate with the lowest denomination offered.


Most of the card readers for the first slot clubs I belonged to in Atlantic City displayed the incredibly informative message ACCEPTED. Today's readers all display the number of points you've earned -- sometimes the total number of points you've earned that gaming day (daily points), sometimes the number of points you've earned since you inserted your card on that machine (session points).

I recently overheard a discussion between a somewhat exasperated slot club rep and a foreign lady whose English was good, but limited. This particular casino displays session points on its card readers. The lady apparently had been back to the booth a few times concerned that her play was not being properly recorded. Every time she inserted her card, the display said she had zero points.

The rep kept explaining that the points displayed resets to zero every time she pulled out your card. She could check her daily total at a kiosk. I had the impression that the lady was still skeptical that her play was being recorded when she walked away.

Which point total do you prefer to be displayed: session points or daily points? Are there any advantages to one over the other?


On this Fourth of July, I think it is appropriate to end with part of the Preamble to the Declaration of Independence, the document we are celebrating today. We've fallen short of honoring the truths that Jefferson detailed many times in our history, but later generations always tried to do better.

Read it and ask yourself whether the United States today is still guided by these words.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

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