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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Skill in a slot tournament

23 October 2013

Is there any skill at all for winning a slot tournament? Or is it all luck?

The good news (or bad news) is that winning a slot tournament is 99.99 percent luck. There are a couple of things you can do, though, to improve your chances.

One thing you can do is to keep the reels moving by constantly hitting the Spin button. You might be able to get in an extra spin by minimizing the time your reels are idle between spins. What you win on that extra spin might be enough to move you up to a higher prize tier.

Constantly hitting a button can get fatiguing, so take advantage of any rest opportunities you have. In most of the tournaments I've played in, the machines awarded credits one by one. I could take a break from hitting the Spin button when I hit the jackpot or another high-paying combination. In one tournament, though, the machines awarded the first 20 credits one by one, and then the rest in one fell swoop. There was no opportunity to rest in that tournament.

That pretty much covers the skill you can use in a slot tournament. Winning really comes down to landing a lot of high-paying combinations. I've seen constant button hitters lose to relaxed players because the relaxed players hit more jackpots.


At the Tampa Hard Rock I was playing a slot and a slot tech came up to me. He said to get off the machine because he had to do regular maintenance. Nothing was wrong; the slot was working fine.

There are over 5,000 slots at Hard Rock. He had to throw me off. I wasn't even winning that much.

I have never had this happen ever, anywhere. Have you? They pulled the ticket hopper and what looked like a flash drive, shut down the slot and walked away. Is this poor customer service or what? At 10 in the morning there are a lot of empty slots they could work on.

As a matter of fact, I did have something similar happen. At Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. But I think the slot technician who asked me to stop playing a machine was much nicer than the slot tech you encountered.

It's possible that the techs had to perform some operation on a group of slot machines. The easiest way for them to ensure that all slots are done is to go systematically through them. Your slot may have been the next one in order.

That said, these sorts of things are usually done at night when fewer players might be inconvenienced. And the banks of machines are usually roped off to prevent anyone from playing one of the machines to be serviced.

I sympathize with the slot tech. He may have had hundreds of machines to service and he was probably under pressure to get them serviced quickly and back in action. Still, every employee who interacts with customers must be polite.


Here in Washington State it is said that the moment you spin for the first time, it's set whether you'll win or not. That is so because some sort of "lottery" decides. Is this true, John?

If true, then what if a bonus round is bagged during the session? If each spin is truly random, how can it be fixed that you have already won or lost when you start playing? Surely the machine did not program, during spin 1, how much you'll make during the feature.

Bless you for your patience and clear explanations of slot matters all these years.

Thanks for the kind words.

Your slots in Washington are responsible for many of the disclaimers I sometimes have to give in my answers. Explaining how slots work was much easier when only Nevada and Atlantic City had slot machines and they all worked the same way.

According to the Washington State Gambling Commission's website, your machines are unique to your state. Your slots use a system like a scratch-off lottery ticket to determine their results. When you spin, your machine gets its result from a central system that is, essentially, giving you value of the next ticket in a bundle of scratch-off tickets. The virtual scratch ticket you get determines the amount of your bonus. Once the central system has gone through all the scratch-off tickets, it starts over with a new, complete bundle of virtual tickets.

So, your machine did know exactly how much you were going to win in the bonus round at the start of the spin.


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