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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: How much to tip for a slot machine jackpot?

1 March 2017

Question: When hitting a hand-paid jackpot, what is the courtesy regarding tipping the slot attendant that pays you? Do you tip higher for bigger jackpots? I hit for $1,300 and $8,000 last week and it seemed to me the attendants were truly appreciative of any tip.

Answer: Something strange seems to be going on with hand-paid jackpots. It used to be that the last hundred was always paid in twenties or tens, but I've gotten a number of $4,000 jackpots recently that were paid entirely in hundreds.

I tip more for bigger jackpots, but not a fixed percentage. There's not much more work to pay a $2,000 jackpot compared with a $4,000 jackpot. On the other hand, a restaurant with $25 entrees gives a higher level of service than a restaurant with $12 entrees. Percentage-based tipping makes sense in a restaurant, but not in a casino.

An extreme example: I saw someone hit a $20,000 jackpot last year. He was paid with two banded bundles of $10,000 each. No counting, just handing him the first bundle and saying "ten thousand dollars" and handing him the second bundle and saying "anther ten thousand dollars makes twenty". By the way, he tipped $200.

Two hundred dollars is 1% of $20,000, and that's my starting point for figuring out what to tip. Then I make it easy by rounding to a whole bill.

Some real-life examples: I tipped $20 to each attendant on $4,000 royal flushes. (I keep two twenties in a separate compartment in my wallet so I'm always ready in case they don't give me any twenties in the hand pay. I'm sorry to say that I haven't needed them for quite a while.) I also tipped $20 on a $10,000 jackpot. All they did was hand over the bundle and, as I said, I try to keep tipping easy. On $1,200 and $1,300, two fives or maybe even two tens if I know the attendants.

I've had the same experience that you've had in regards to tips. Every slot attendant has appreciated every tip I've given him or her.


Question: I always enjoy and learn from your articles. Please keep up the informative work. My question to you has been bothering me since my last visit to a casino. If anyone had told me this I would have felt they were mistaken or a conspirator, but I saw this with my own eyes.

I was at an Indian casino playing at a circle of non-bingo slot machines. Beside me was an empty $5 credit machine (Aftershock). On the other side of it was a guy who was playing another Aftershock $5 machine who had called an attendant over to inquire why his current spin on his machine had not resulted in what he had won on the machine that was next to me.

The attendant pulled up the rules and read them to the guy, but he still wasn't satisfied. So the attendant then put his key in the machine, put in a number code and the spin outcome the guy was disputing came up. No spinning to get it. It was there first spin by the attendant. They discussed the spin, then the guy said, "OK, I understand," and he left. The attendant then opened the machine door, fiddled with something, shut the door and put in another number code and whispered to another attendant with his back to me.

I do need to state I was trying not to look too obvious at what was going on so I didn't see what exact spin was in dispute, but it satisfied the guy's question.

Long story short... How random is a slot machine that all you need is a number code to bring it up? To me this seems fishy. Maybe casinos can control the slots more than we think. Can you help restore my brainwashed mind into thinking randomness again?

Answer: Most, if not all, jurisdictions require a slot machine to store and be able to display a certain number of the last plays on the machine. One of the reasons, as you witnessed, is for use in resolving player disputes.

When the attendant used his key, he took the machine out of Game Mode and put it in Maintenance Mode. He then used the Maintenance menu to display a prior spin.

He was not able to display a particular result, only prior results that had occurred on the machine.

So what was the code he entered? You may have noticed slot attendants inserting their cards into the slot club card reader and entering a code on the keypad. In many casinos, the surveillance room gets notified whenever certain events, like door open, occur on a slot machine. The attendants then have to enter their employee numbers or some other code to tell the slot accounting system that the event was initiated by a legitimate employee and not someone who found or stole the key. That's why the attendant entered a code, to let the system know that an authorized employee caused the event.

The results on slot machines are indeed determined at random and there is no way for the casino or a player to influence the results -- not legally, at least.


A few weeks ago I had a question about the Russian slot cheats who were stealing from certain slots in the United States and abroad. Here is a video called "Attacking a Slot Machine's RNG," which gives a good description of the method the cheats used and why it worked.


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