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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Slow machines in a slot tournament

13 June 2012

John,

I’ve been playing the slots for decades and have been in more slot tournaments than I can remember. For slot tournaments that are time-based rather than credit-based (most of them I think), I have always thought, “He who can hit the spin button the fastest generally gets the most spins.” The more spins you get, the better the odds of getting more 7s or whatever symbols the tournament machines use for the higher wins.

I recently played in a 10-minute slot tournament in Laughlin and experienced the “slowest” machine I ever played. I counted from 6-7 seconds from the time I hit the spin button until the reels stopped and registered the outcome. Two machines on my right were unoccupied but the third one was in play. Because my machine was so slow I had time to glance at the lady using the neighboring machine. I counted around 3 seconds elapsed time from when she hit her spin button until the reels stopped on her machine. I asked for a tech to check out the machine after my round. He manually compared it to the one next to it, which was not used in the tournament. That machine was a good 1-2 seconds faster than the one I had used. Since I did not have a particularly great first round, I was not concerned about winning anything but only about “fairness”. Slot participants generally think everyone has the same random chance of winning, but I doubt that is the case if some people get twice as many spins as others.

The tech’s explanation was that the machines used had an older platform and quite often the programming “cycles” itself and some machines will run slower than others. I found this explanation strange. If the machines run on a computer chip or chips, how can the electronics “slow down” the number of spins? I can see the mechanical side slowing down, which may affect the number of spins allowed, but not the electronics. I would appreciate an answer from you and your expertise on this matter. The machines used in the tournament were the Red, White & Blue 7s machine.

I think it is a discredit to the casino and eminently unfair to its patrons to run slot tournaments where you are at the mercy of not only the RNG but also specific machines that may only allow one half the spins of other machines in the tournament. And for an added comment, I probably had the lowest score for two days of tournament play (around 2300), to which a passerby stated that he played that same machine several tournaments back and had a similarly super low score. I know it’s the luck of the draw, but give me a break!

Thanks for your input.

Don

Dear Don,

You are absolutely right. The strategy in a time-limited tournament is to get in as many spins as possible. Keep the reels moving.

There are many different formats for slot tournaments. Most slot tournaments use machines in which the normal payback programs have been replaced with supercharged programs that hit the jackpot and other winning combinations much more frequently. I've been in freebie tournaments that used the standard payback program, though, so the scores were much lower than with the supercharged programs. I've been in tournaments in which all of the machines are identical and I've been in tournaments in which some people played Double Diamonds, some Triple Diamonds and others still other machines.

I think all of the machines used in a tournament should be identical. In your case, everyone played RWB 7s. All of the machines should have had the same firmware and same tournament payback program. They all should have performed identically, so players' results are determined by how quickly they can hit the spin button and their luck.

That said, as long as the machines were assigned randomly and every player had an equal chance of getting a fast (or slow) machine, the tournament was fair.

You've probably noticed that some spins take longer than others. Machines vary the length of time spins take. Some jurisdictions even have a minimum spin length. The programming controls the length of the spin. The stepper motors act as commanded by the program; they don't influence the programming. The program tells the motors to start spinning, to stop spinning and where to stop.

As for the tech's explanation, I find it unlikely that the programming would "cycle," whatever that means exactly, in the middle of a spin as a normal procedure. I wonder whether some of the machines may have been configured to have longer spins than the other machines.

Jackpots for all,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

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