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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: How much should I bet on a penny slot?

4 December 2013

John,

I love, love, love your column! You are so smart.

I have a question about the amount to play. I play penny slots mostly and have heard different things. Some say you should play the lowest or a lot of people say you should play the max to really hit!

I am so confused about this, I thought I would ask your opinion.

Linda

Dear Linda,

Thank you very much for your kind words.

Let's look at what your goals might be for playing a certain number of coins.

Maximize hit frequency If you want to maximize your hit frequency, play at least one coin per line. You need to make sure that you play enough coins to activate each line and each winning combination.

Maximize long-term payback The number of coins you need to play to achieve the maximum long-term payback on a machine depends on its paytable. If every coin played on a line just multiplies the one-coin payoff and there is no bonus for playing maximum coins on a line, you might be able to get the maximum payback by playing just one coin or one coin per line. If there is a bonus for playing maximum coin, like on a progressive, then you have to play maximum coin (which might be a few dollars) on the machine to get the maximum payback.

Maximize playing time Bet the minimum bet possible per spin.

Now let's look at the alternatives you presented. Playing the lowest bet possible will stretch your bankroll to the limit, but winning a few cents or, at best, toll money on a winning spin may not get your blood flowing.

Playing maximum coin will increase the amount you can win on a spin, but it also significantly increases your risk because you're betting so much more per spin. Although the rewards can be large, your bankroll also has to be large to see you through cold streaks. In addition, if you're going to bet dollars per spin, you can usually get a higher long-term payback on a dollar machine.

I like to play somewhere in between minimum and maximum. I usually bet one coin per line at a minimum to get the highest hit frequency possible on a machine. If I hit a hot streak and my credit meter starts climbing, I increase to two, three or more coins per line. When the streak appears to be over and my credit meter starts falling, I decrease the number of coins per line.

Some machines, like Star Trek, allow you to make an extra bet per spin that enables an intermittent bonus event. These extra bets don't usually increase hit frequency or long-term payback. What they do, however, is increase volatility. You bet more per spin, so losing streaks will cost you more. But then you also have the potential to win more on a winning spin if the extra bonus is triggered. I don't make this extra bet as a matter of course. I'll only make it if I'm on a winning streak.

To sum up, I think betting the lowest bet possible on each spin on a machine won't be exciting enough for most players and their bankrolls can support a larger bet. Betting the maximum on each spin, on the other hand, is too risky and expensive. I recommend you play one coin per line and vary the number of coins you bet per line depending upon how well you're doing. If the machine offers an additional bet, make it only if you're doing well.

Hope this helps,
John


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