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Gaming Guru

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Ask the Slot Expert: Pulling your slot club card during a bonus round

24 April 2019

Question: In your 10 April Gaming Guru “Ask the Slot Expert” article, a reader questioned why a player would remove their player’s card during a bonus round, thinking it might be related to recording winnings.

I’d like to offer a possible reason: On several occasions I’ve had the card holder light change from green "inserted" to red "reinsert" status when the bonus round lasts an extended period of time. My card has even been declared "abandoned" in this situation, requiring me to go to the Player’s Club and have my card reset for use.

Answer: The slot department is supposed to choose a timeout value long enough that cards don't time out when a player is in a bonus round. But some bonus rounds can last an unusually long time, like a free games bonus in which you can win more free games. I once had 200 free games on a Buffalo machine. And I've written before about an old Lord of the Rings machine on which my card would frequently time out when I went to the bonus round.

At that casino, the only penalty for having your card time out was having to reinsert it. I think the casinos that deactivate your card and force you to go to the Players Club to reset it are being too strict. I guess they're just far too worried about cheats trying to earn points off of another player's play. If it's any consolation, other readers have written to say that their casino also deactivates a card after it goes abandoned.

Have you ever forgotten to take your card when you've left a machine? At these casinos you better hurry back to the machine and hope you get there before your card times out. Otherwise it's a trip to the club desk.


Question: I have played slots and gotten into a bonus and, with repeats, etc., the bonus has gone on for several minutes.

During that time the card reader decided that I had abandoned my card and essentially shut it off. Unfortunately, at least at Potawatami in Milwaukee, it shut off my card at all machines and I had to go to the club booth to get it reactivated.

At the booth I was told that if I took out my card during the free games, I could re-insert it after the games were finished and resume play.

The downside of that is that every time you remove your card, the countdown to your next point re-starts, so you lose portions of a point if you do it, but at least you won't need to go get your card re-activated.

Answer: Many early slot clubs, especially in Atlantic City, originally had this countdown nonsense. These clubs warned players that they would not earn any points if they didn't complete the countdown. No, that's not quite right. As I recall, they tried to put a positive spin on this situation by reminding players to "complete the countdown to earn the point."

One of the big selling features of the Acres slot club software in the late 1990s was Follow-Me Points — the countdown would follow you from machine to machine, so every dollar you played counted.

I'm disappointed that Every Dollar Counts did not become the standard. The Boyd casinos recently went from Every Dollar Counts to mostly Every Dollar Counts. Every dollar still counts for points for free play and comps, but you have to complete a hidden countdown to earn tier points. The club discloses that one tier point is $5 played through a slot machine, and the amount of play needed to earn a tier point on video poker varies with the pay table. A tier point requires over $100 in play on the video poker pay tables that you want to play.

The card reader displays don't display how much play is required to earn a tier point. The only way to find out is to check message boards online. The displays also don't show tier points as you earn them or how close you are to earning another tier point. You have to keep an eye on the number of points you've earned to know how much you've played to calculate how many tier points you've earned.

At a different casino, I once played near a man who played a few hands at one pay table, then switched to another pay table and played a few hands on it before switching to another paytable. This casino uses Every Dollar Counts for points and tier status. If it used a tier point countdown, he could have played for a long time and not earned a single tier point.

In a prior column I said that pulling your card to prevent a big win from being recorded on your account doesn't work today. The slot manufacturers have taken steps to ensure that the complete results of a game will get logged to your account even if you pull your card in the middle of the game.

What about if your card times out in the middle of a long bonus round? Does that prevent the system from recording your win in the bonus round?

Nope. The same defensive programming put in place to thwart card-pullers also enables the system to capture your good fortune even though your card has timed out.


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