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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: 'Proof' that player's cards affect results on slot machines

20 March 2013

Hey John,

I, for one, believe it is illegal for the casino to control a machine, but I still believe the tracking cards we play with allow it to control the payouts on machines. It's like logging into your computer.

I have held the highest-level card at a casino in my area for the past 10 to 12 years. I have a second-level card at another casino. My best offers come from the casinos where I have the lower card level.

For years, I went two to three times per week to play slots and, as I told you in my previous letter, the same two men were winning all the jackpots and the monthly drawing. One man took home two motor homes in one month. They took home the top diamond giveaways too.

I have always been verbal about the things I think are wrong and, after complaining to the casino, it changed the way it announces payouts. Instead of announcing the winner by name, it says, "And we have another lucky jackpot winner from...." No names.

I want to share a great test for anyone wondering if their casino controls payouts. When it's obvious that my card is cut off and no longer wins, I do what I call "stack cards."

Example: Take cards from other family members, friends, and even cards found left at machines. Take the same amount of money for each card you intend to play with. Find a machine that pays a little and then stay on it. Start with your card. If it is dead, try playing without a card on the same machine. Then start alternating the cards you have on the same machine, allotting the same amount of money, and almost all the time you will find that one of the cards will trigger payouts when the others don't. So, that must be someone the casino wants more business from.

One night, my card was dead so I proved my theory to a group of friends at the bank we were on. I had donated quite a bit in a machine with and without using my dead card. Not one good hit!

Finally, very frustrated, I said, "Watch this." I took my card out and put in a friend's card (she hadn't been there in a while) and her card won me a $400 hit right off. I played it as long as it was hot and, when it slacked off, I put my card back in and dead, dead, dead.

So, again I said, "Watch this." I put in a card from another friend in my area and I hit $700. All those big hits on the same machine within 30 minutes and by playing two friends' cards. The people playing on that bank said, "Man, I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes." I said, "At least I got my money back. When the casino takes you for granted and cuts you off, play a card of someone whose business they want more than they do yours. It pays."

I now play, with or without my card, and I put points on the cards that win me the most. I do not take advantage of my high card level that often, so really the points do not matter to me any more. I am only donating to the casino. I spend enough to well afford a room or meal if I want it. I play to win and have fun, not for the empty perks I pay royally for and seldom use.

All of my best offers come to me from the casinos where I have the lowest card. I get free rooms, meals and play money at them all -- and I must say all of their gifts are much nicer than the casino where I am highest card.

Just another way to beat the house at their own games.

J H

Dear J H:

It can't be both ways. It can't be illegal for a casino to control the results on a machine and then allow the casino to use a player's card to control the results.

I'm not surprised that you get better offers from the lower-tier card, but we have to be careful to what we ascribe the difference. Many casinos today are trying to be more efficient with their offers. In addition to sending you offers that you actually want (like sending more buffet and casual dining offers to someone who is not interested in the gourmet restaurants), the casinos also want to send you only enough to get you to come back. They may send you only $20 in free play because you've shown in the past that that is enough to get you to come back, while other players may get $25, $30 or more because they need more of an incentive. Your "lower-tier" casino may know it has to offer more to get you to come back.

One nightmare of slot directors is having the same people win most of their giveaways. The slot directors want everyone to think they have a chance to win and having the same names win again and again gives the impression that the giveaway is rigged. The simple truth is that the people who play more tend to have more entries in a drawing, and the more entries one has, the more likely one is to win. Big, frequent players do tend to win the drawings, but it's probability not fraud.

Now, let's look at your test. I find it amusing that all of the descriptions of these theories have disclaimers (e.g., "almost all of the time", "usually") that water down the theory. If the theory were true, why doesn't something happen all the time? When I drop something, it always falls down, never up.

I'd like to convince you that the only thing your test shows is the randomness of the outcomes on a slot machine. Maybe these questions will do it.

You say you switch cards while you play and sometimes play without a card. Has it ever happened that you did poorly with cards inserted and then hit something without a card? Why would the casino want to reward someone it knows nothing about instead of someone who at least has taken the trouble to get a player's card? There's a saying in marketing: It's easier to turn a customer into a good customer than a non-customer into a customer.

And consider this scenario: Let's say you do poorly on your card. You switch to card A and continue to do poorly. Switch back to your card and your bad luck continues. Switch back to card A and hit a nice jackpot. If the casino wanted to reward the player with card A, why didn't it pay off the first time you used the card?

It's illegal in the U.S. for a casino to manipulate the results on a slot machine. The machine must display the result from the RNG and the RNG cannot be affected by any external factor.

Although I don't agree with your theory about player's cards (my advice is to use yours all the time), I do agree with your advice to play to have fun and not for the perks. As you say, you may pay royally for those perks.

Jackpots for all,
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