CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Ask the Slot Expert: Reconfiguring slot machines

11 December 2019

Question: I recently spoke to a fella who used to work both at Vegas casinos and slot machine companies. This person told me that currently casinos can change the payback percentages and/or other parameters of their slot machines from the "back room" without having to manually change any components in the machine (i.e., change the chip) or contact the local gaming commission. Given that most newer machines are more computer than old-style nuts and bolts machines, this statement seems more plausible than not.

What do you say?

Answer: I say the fella was about half right. Some slot machines can be reconfigured from a central server. But it can't be done without reporting the change to the gaming commission. In addition, if a casino wanted to change the payback percentage on a single-game slot machine, that would be considered as replacing the old machine with a new machine and the casino would have to go through the close-out procedures for the machine with the old payback percentage and the new-machine procedures for the machine with the new payback percentage.

You're right that today's slots are just computers; that has been the case for over 30 years. Computer-controlled slots are far more secure, far more difficult to cheat, than the electro-mechanical machines they replaced, so Nevada and New Jersey stopped approving electro-mechanical machines and required new machines to be computer-controlled.

Finally, I've learned to take many things casino employees tell me with a grain of salt. Once a casino employee contradicted something the manufacturer told me earlier that day.

I think there are a number of reasons why some casino employees give out bad information. Maybe they don't understand the question. Maybe they're concerned about giving out information that could potentially be used to cheat a machine or the casino. And maybe they just don't understand randomness, probabilities, and how computers work.


Question: Your article on November 6 about free play was interesting. A couple of years ago my wife's name was called in a promotion. She spun the giant wheel like they have on The Price is Right. You won 10x whatever the wheel landed on, but there was a jackpot if you hit the 100 spot.

She landed on 75 and won $750, but it was $750 in free play. We were leaving town the next morning and this drawing was in the evening, so we needed to play a lot more than we normally do in order to use it all. So we got an extra card of hers and both of us played, sometimes next to each other, sometimes not. But truly, I played a bit of her free play.

We hit nothing big. I think we walked out with about $550 in cash-outs from the play. But I wonder what would have happened if I hit a jackpot using her card and her free play, especially if she was at the other end of the casino at the time.

Answer: Getting $550 cash out of $750 in free play is not bad at all. Not as good as the $1000 I won for hitting four deuces on my last hand of $100 in free play today, but still not bad.

Some of the casinos here in Las Vegas give you more time to play off the larger amounts of free play. Five to 25 dollars, for example, may expire in a few days, $50 and up in a week, and $500 or more in a month. That schedule gives people who visit frequently a chance to use their free play without having to have a marathon session.

Jackpots go to the person playing the machine, who presumably, but not necessarily, matches the card in the reader. The slot card is just marketing; the jackpot belongs to the person who pulled the handle.

Here's what would have happened here in Las Vegas if you had hit a jackpot. The slot floorperson would have pulled out your card, checked the name on it, and said, "You're not Mildred, are you? Please give me your drivers license." Depending on the casino, the floorperson may ask you to use your own card going forward unless the club allows joint accounts.

At least, that's what would happen if you were playing cash. The next time I see him, I'll ask one of the slot supervisors I trust to give me good info whether the fact that the jackpot was won using someone else's free play would be a problem. I know people who collect another person's free play when someone is away and they didn't tell me that they have ever had a problem. I don't think they've ever hit a handpay, though. I'll find out and report if they had any hassles.


Question: We just returned from a trip to Reno and Lake Tahoe. While in Reno, my wife stopped at the promotions counter to receive an upgraded players card. The transaction required her to produce her drivers license as proof of her identity. The two old cards and the drivers license were on the counter as the clerk produced the two new players cards. In handing them over to my wife, she said that she would shred the old cards and swept the old cards -- and my wife's driver's license -- off the counter and turned to the shredder.

My wife, turning away from the counter with her two new cards, noted that she had left her purse unlatched as she went to put the cards in it. It dawned on her that she did not get her license back and that it was heading to the shredder. She turned back and shouted after the clerk to stop and that she was holding her license with the old players cards. The clerk stopped in her tracks and looked at what she was holding. She turned to my wife with a look of horror on her face. She quickly turned over the license and apologized.

Just a moment of distraction could have made a mountain of trouble!

We hand our license over so often in a casino: in getting new cards, when getting a hand pay if you are not in the system, and even using your players card to use reward points for a hot dog and a Coke. It is easy to miss the return of your license in a place so full of distractions, flashing lights, and excitement.

Answer: Yesterday I put down my nearly finished iced coffee on the shelf behind a kiosk. There was a used cocktail glass there too. While I was using the kiosk, the cocktail waitress came by. I saw her reach out to the shelf and then I saw my iced coffee in her hand. While I was saying "no," I heard the thump of the cup landing in the trash receptacle next to the shelf.

She apologized and said that she thought it was discarded because it was nearly empty. (Never mind the question of why someone who was finished with it would put it on the shelf instead of in the trash two feet away.) She offered to buy me another. I declined because, as she said, it was nearly empty.

Another time, I played at a casino after having seen a movie at the theater in the casino. I put my annual refillable popcorn tub on top of the slant-top machine I was playing. One of the casino cleaners came by on his rounds. As he was reaching for the bucket I said that I still wanted that.

I guess those two examples pale in comparison to losing a driver's license.

I rarely take my license out of my wallet at the casino. I know I'll have to take it out when I first join a slot club and I've learned which casinos need to make a copy of the license or record the license number when I win or redeem certain rewards, but most of the time the casino rep just needs to check that my face matches the face on the license and the name on the players card matches the name on the license.

I keep my license in a folding card holder and tuck one side of the holder into the money compartment in my wallet. When I need to show ID, I just flip the free half of the holder over the outside of my wallet. I can then close my wallet again. I have the license with its top at the card holder's fold so that when I unfold the card holder over the wallet, the license will be right side up when the wallet is right side up. There's no telling what would fall out my wallet if I had to hold it upside down!
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