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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask the Slot Expert: Shutting down a slot machine

30 October 2013

We were recently at a casino in Nevada and my husband watched a slot tech go to someone to "help" them. He turned the machine off that the person was playing and the player went off to eat or to the bathroom or whatever. About 15 minutes later the player came back and the tech turned their machine back on.

WHAT??? This is acceptable??? We had never seen anything like that before. When my husband asked a casino host about it, he said if you need to leave your machine but want to keep playing it, just let us know we will do the same for you.

I guess THAT is good customer service -- we just wondered if it is acceptable and legal casino practice.

Thank you for knowing all the answers for all us "lay people".

Putting a machine out of service for a player is acceptable and legal -- at least in Nevada. Each casino has its own policy for when and for whom it will shut down a machine. For example, the casino may only do it for members of its slot club or only premium-level members. The casino may also take into account how busy the casino is and be more flexible about whom it will shut down machines for when the casino is not busy. It may also not shut down machines at all when the casino is very busy.

If you're a high roller -- and I mean HIGH roller -- the casino may even leave a machine out of service so only you can play it.

About 10 years ago, I witnessed a confrontation about shutting down a machine A man was playing a banking bonus machine. I think it was called Fort Knox. Once you had landed a certain number of a particular symbol, the combination on the safe would be revealed and the player would win the bonus in the safe. This man was two numbers short of filling in the combination when he ran out of money. He was not a regular player at the casino and he was staying at another casino.

He wanted the casino to shut down the machine while he went back to his hotel to get more money. The casino refused. Not just because it would probably take him an hour more to come back -- if he even did come back.

The casino was packed that night for a special event and nearly every machine was in constant use. There was no way they would take a machine out of service for an unknown player. The man was going to sit there until the casino shut down the machine. He eventually gave up and stormed out of the casino.

I've never asked to have a machine shut down, but I have asked slot personnel to hold a machine for me while I ran to bathroom.

If you need to leave a machine for a brief (and I stress brief) period of time, ask if the casino will shut it down for you. You've nothing to lose.


I prefer playing the $1 reel slots over the penny slots because they have higher payouts. However I have found that the reel slots (even the $5 reel slots) aren't paying as they did a few years back. My question is, does the machine also need to have players playing on it to get it to pay out a decent win?

The reel slots sit idle as most people play on pennies or video machines. I can put $100 in a reel-spinning machine, play 100 spins and not even win above the $100 stake.

I understand about the RNG, but in order to have a chance for a decent win must there also be play on the machine? If so, am I wasting my time and money on the reel slots? Should I just play the penny slots because they get massive play time along with the RNG?

Thank you for sharing your insights with us throughout these many years. We look forward to each one.

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

I always say that your chances for hitting a winning combination are the same on every spin, regardless of what has happened in the past. If that statement is true -- which it is -- the amount of play a machine has gotten in the recent or far past has no effect whatsoever on the results of the next spin or the results of the next 100 spins. The RNG is not affected by how much play a machine gets.

The fact that the video slots are getting more play doesn't mean you are more likely to hit a decent win on them.

Play the pennies if you like the themes and have fun playing them, but don't switch to them just to get a better chance at a decent win. In fact, your chances of winning a given amount, say $500, are almost definitely better on the dollar and up machines. Video slots tend to pay out frequent, smaller payouts while reel-spinning slots tend to pay out less frequent, larger payouts.

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