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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Someone cashed out money I left on a slot machine

17 April 2019

Question: My wife and I have been playing slots for over 20 years. We almost always play Q Hits, the three-reel, old-fashioned type. Three Q Hits on the center line used to pay out $5,000. Now most pay out $10,000.

Over the years my wife has been quite lucky. I haven't been as lucky, but have no complaints.

I keep a reasonable record of all our winnings and money spent. Through the 20 years, we have been fortunate and have done well enough to keep a little on the plus side and enjoy our slot times.

We only have one casino near where we live and go there frequently. Over the last six months, we have not had much luck and many of the experienced slot players we see at this casino are saying the same thing.

I find it strange how we over 20 years have had a good time playing and not expended a lot of money. Now suddenly we hardly ever have a win. I personally have not won in a few months.

Another thing I noticed: From time to time over the years, I will play other types of slots. I did very well on a number of these slots when I first started playing and I would win a couple of hundred dollars within a reasonable period of time.

Seems strange, once the machines have been in the casino for a number of months and I stop by to play, I never win more than a few dollars. I never win as I did previously.

Answer: I do most of my playing at one casino. Because I don't like playing video poker machines in the middle of a bank and I like machines that deal quickly, most of my play is on six machines. Over the course of a year, I'll play more than 100,000 hands on these machines.

I've had all sorts of results from these machines. Machines might be very generous to me one day and then take back everything I won and more the next time I play them. More good days occur in the future — and more bad days — as I continue to play those machine.

Nothing has changed on those machines. My differing results are due to randomness.

Players frequently say that casinos tighten machines after they've been on the slot floor for a while. They won on the machines in the past. Now they can't win again, so they say that they're not going to play the machines again now that the casino tightened them.

This supposed strategy doesn't make sense to me. Why would a casino build up a player base for a machine only to destroy it in the future? It's not like the players have to play those machines. They'll just play other machines. Maybe the casino would have won more money from more people playing the machine when it was loose than fewer people playing the machine now that it is tight?

Randomness explains my experiences with the video poker machines and it explains your results with machines you only occasionally play. Randomness and small sample size. When you have play a machine for just a little while and have some good hits, it seems like the loosest machine in the world. When you go back to the same machine and don't get the same result, it seems like the casino has tightened the machine. A few spins, even a few hundred spins, are far too few to draw any kind of conclusions.

There's another reason why you may not be winning as often on the machines you play more frequently. You said that the top prize on them was raised from $5,000 to $10,000. In order to keep the long-term payback the same with the different jackpot amounts, the lower-paying combinations have to hit less frequently. With more of the overall payback in the rarely hit jackpot, there's less money to be won in the the other combinations. That makes it tougher for you to have a profit when you don't hit the jackpot. And it's even tougher if the casino also lowered the long-term payback on the machines with the bigger jackpot.


Question: I went to play at a casino in AC and had $750 in a slot machine. I received a phone call on my cell phone and walked around five feet to the door and stood outside for a minute answering the call.

When I returned and proceeded to play I realized that someone had cashed out my ticket.

By the time security researched the ticket it had been redeemed.

The casino wants to give me nothing.

Do you think I have any options?

Answer: Many, many years ago when slot machines still used coins, Treasure Island put some slant-top slot machines just outside the casino proper in the corridor from the parking garage. At this time TI was also trying to maintain a look so there weren't any coin cups on top of the slant-tops. If you left a cup on top of a slant-top, a slot floor attendant would move it to the space between upright machines.

When I wanted to cash out after playing one of those corridor machines, I had to go get a bucket from a carousel about 15 feet away. It couldn't have taken me more than a few seconds to get to the carousel, but when I turned around I saw someone about to sit down at my machine. I shooed him away, cashed out and never played another one of the corridor machines again.

It's like the old joke that the smallest interval of time measurable is the time between the light turning green and the New York City cab driver behind you honking. Someone will sit down at a machine with credits left on it in a New York minute.

But not always. New Year's Eve a few years ago. I was playing a video poker machine in the high limit room. It was a few minutes before midnight, when the earning period for the drawing that took place at 12:15 ended. I entered how much money I was going to cash out, $600, and the number of points I played in a note on my phone. I pulled out my card and went to the bathroom.

When I was committed to another procedure, if you know what I mean, I realized that I had never cashed out. I finished as quickly as I could and motored back to my machine. Fortunately, my money was still there. For some reason very few people played in the high limit room that night.

Never leave a machine with credits on it unless you have a friend or casino employee watch it. Another time when I was playing in that same high limit room, another player hit a hand pay. He moved to another machine at the other end of the room while waiting for his money. They paid him at his alternate machine, but they had to wait for him to go back to the first machine after they cleared the hand pay because it still had credits on it.

I think you're out of luck at this point. It sounds like the casino already did what it could. It checked the logs to get the ID of the ticket issued by the machine on which you left the money. It then checked the logs to see when that ticket was redeemed. The only other thing it could do would be to check surveillance footage to see if anyone recognized the person who stole your money, but he was probably long gone before security was able to identify the ticket and he probably won't return to that casino for a long time, if ever.


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