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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Stopping a slot machine's spin

27 January 2016

Question: I was watching the player next to me play a $1 Double Diamond machine with a maximum bet of $3. He would push the spin reels button and almost immediately stop the reels with the same button.

Is this a good thing to do, does it give an advantage, or is the result already decided?

Answer: The answers to your questions are: Not really, no and yes.

The outcome of a spin is determined shortly after you start the spin by pressing the Spin button, the Max Bet button or some other way. After the spin has started, you can either sit back and watch the show or press a button again and cut out the show and have the reels go right to their stopping points — the points that were determined right after you started the spin. So, yes, the result was already decided when your fellow player stopped the reels and, no, stopping the reels does not give an advantage.

Is stopping the reels a good thing to do? Not really, in my opinion. If you're not playing a positive expectation video poker machine, then the faster you play, the faster you'll tend to lose your money. One way to stretch your bankroll is to SLOW DOWN.

On the other hand, if you're trying to minimize the time it takes to play a certain amount of action for some sort of promotion, then stopping the reels might be OK. For example, I usually set the speed to the slowest level when I play video poker because I like a leisurely playing experience. But sometimes I need to earn a certain number of points, so in order to have enough points for a free dinner at, say, 6 p.m. instead of 7 p.m., I'll increase the speed on the machine. On slots, though, I never short circuit the spin.

You can also usually short circuit the awarding of credits. Many machines award larger jackpots faster than smaller jackpots, but they can still take a while to pay you what you've won. Before you've heard the "awarding credits" music so many times it becomes an earworm, you can press a button on the machine to have it award the credits all at once and skip the music. On some machines, the first press puts the credit-award speed into turbo mode and a second press awards them all.

I like to watch the show so I almost always let the machine take its time to award the credits, but I have to admit that I have short-circuited the credit award process on some machines after I've gotten tired of the credit-award music.


Question: I have a question about the slot parlors in Illinois.

From what I understand these places are only allowed to have five machines and have to pay back a minimum of 80%. The state gets 30% of the revenue, a central server system gets less than 1% and the rest is divided 50-50 between the operator and owner of the machines.

How do these places make any money?

They have salaries to pay, rent to pay, utilities and other overhead. I just don’t get it. How can they stay open?

Answer: I suspect that the situation with video games in Illinois' bars, cafes and restaurants is much like the situation with lottery terminals in convenience stores -- the locations get a large part, maybe the majority, of their revenue from the video games or lottery ticket sales.

According to this article in the Chicago Tribune, 25% of the revenue goes to the state, 5% to the municipality, less than 1% goes to system monitoring, and the rest is split between the location and the machine operator. Each location must have a liquor license to have machines, unless it is a truck stop.

According to this article by John Brokopp, whose articles you can find in the archives on this site, during the month of August 2014, the machines in service at the time got $734,297,513 in action, players won $675,222,500 (about 92% payback) and the games held $59,075,013. Government, state and local, got $17,722,766. Deducting another 1% ($590,750) for monitoring, leaves $40,761,497 for the operators and locations to split. There were 18,125 machines in operation that month, so each machine earned an average of $2,249 for the operators and locations.

John writes that "a substantial, yet comparatively small, cut winds up in the coffers of the establishment owners." If the split is 50/50 between location and operator, the location is getting about $5,500 per month for a gaming area with five machines.

And according to this article in the Daily Herald, three companies alone account for 107 of the cafe casinos. The machines in the cafes in Oakbrook Terrace generate more gambling revenue than the machines in the restaurants and bars there, so the location's cut can be even more than $5,500 per month.


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