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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask the Slot Expert: I'm a lucky charm for other slot players

30 September 2015

QUESTION: I have been dealing with the issue of big spenders winning on their max bets to my measly minimum bet and it pisses me off they always seem to be sitting next to me. I feel like their "lucky charm."

I actually do win small amounts with my bets but have a problem leaving when breaking even or up a little. I have told myself more than once I am not going back but, unfortunately, that never happens.

I plan to go back to playing infrequently. I absolutely believe that whenever I am able to have the money to play max bets that I too will reap the rewards.

I realize that slots all are designed the same -- to make you feel, think or hear that you could possibly hit the big one, but I learned quickly it is about timing, how much money you are willing to put in and luck.

I do have a question: Is there a strategy in beating the odds at the slot machines?

Thanks a lot and I hope you can help me feel better about my losses thus far. Although sensibly the best solution is to never return again, right?


ANSWER: It's true that a surefire way to limit your losses playing slot machines is to stop playing them. Unless you hit some million-dollar jackpot, stopping is the only way to guarantee that you will be a winner playing slots. Even if you quit while you're ahead or even, the house edge starts eating at your bankroll the next time you sit down to play. About the only way to be a long-term winner playing slots is to hit a jackpot so large that it takes more than your lifetime to play it all back.

I sometimes play the minimum, sometimes the maximum, and sometimes something in between. It depends on the machine and, sometimes, my luck. My cousin, on the other hand, has a smaller bankroll and is usually betting the minimum or just above. There are times when I've had really good luck at max coin and there are times when I've had really bad luck. Sometimes my cousin has hit some nice combinations on a minimum bet. A $100 payout is nice when your bankroll for the evening is $20. She's even won $200 on a 30-cent bet.

Comparing minimum and maximum bets, your money will last longer when you bet the minimum. The downside is that you won't win as much when you get a hit. But then agin, you won't need as much money to weather a cold spell. As they used to say in the ads for the New York State Lottery, "You gotta be in it to win it."

As for your three-pronged theory, I agree that luck is a factor. Timing, however, is not. There is no aspect of timing that can help you win. How much you are willing go to put in is half a factor. How much you bet per spin does not affect the result of that spin, but having a large bankroll lets you keep playing through dry spells.

There's no way (legally) to beat the odds at the slot machines, but there is a strategy to be a "winner": Play within your means, play the machines you enjoy playing, stop playing a machine when it's no longer fun to play it, manage your money to ensure that it lasts for as long as you want to play, and join the players club and use its benefits. You may not be a financial winner, but you will have had a good time.

And that's what playing slots is all about.

Q: If slots are random, why and how does this always happen when we play Sex and the City at Monticello and Saratoga casinos in New York and not at any Atlantic City casinos?

In this slot game there are many bonus screens on a spinning wheel. If you look at the Sex and the City slot machine next to the one you are playing (there are always two machines at these casinos side by side) and note that, for example, the bonus CHARLOTTE is several dollars more than your machine, without fail the outcome will always be the same, the slot machine with the higher payout will win.

Let me make it clear. No matter which option you choose during the bonus play -- you could be blindfolded, turn your head, close your eyes or have a stranger pick for you or choose yourself, it doesn't matter -- you will always win that bonus if your machine has the higher amount of money in the payout. It never ever fails.

When we point it out to other players and tell them that they will land on Charlotte on their next spin (as long as there is no change in the amounts) and win her bonus amount and it happens they are amazed!

This result also applies to any of the other bonus screens like Miranda, Carrie and Samantha, as long as one slot has a higher payout amount than the other by about $3 to $5 or more the next spin will always be as stated above.

I hope you can come up with a rational answer for this. When I asked the slot supervisor, he couldn’t explain it to me. He thought the "control computer in Albany was slow and that's why this outcome happens."


A: Sometimes I'm amazed at how little some casino employees know about how slot machines operate. The "control computer was slow reason" is nonsense. If the computer were slow, then the machine would not be able to show the result.

If I may digress, in a recent conversation with a slot technician, I realized how much the slot technician job has changed over the years. In the early days, a slot technician had to be handy with a screwdriver and maybe even a welding torch. Today slot technicians need to have a basic understanding of computer electronics, architecture and networking. The slot tech is like a PC tech with a gaming license.

Getting back to your question, I believe the explanation is this: The slots at New York's racinos operate like scratch-off tickets. They get their results from a central system. The slots in Atlantic City use an internal RNG. These machines poll their RNGs to get the result of each bonus round. One machine does not affect another.

I realize this doesn't explain exactly why the NY machines seem to force the awarding of a character's bonus on one machine once it's higher than value of the character's bonus on the other machine, but it does explain why the machines operate differently.
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