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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Stopping the reels on a slot machine

19 September 2012

Here is a question for you. On machines that have the bonus triggered by scatter symbols (as compared to bonuses that trigger when you get three on a pay line), an interesting strategy emerges. Just play 1 line, 1 coin. Your bankroll will last a long time and the bonus will trigger anyway. I know that many bonuses are multiples of coins played, so those bonuses won't pay a lot. But on jackpot machines, such as BIG BEN and GONG, you get the jackpot when 12 chimes occur.

What do you think? Love your column!

Paul

Dear Paul,

You have a good strategy.

When the bonus amount is just a multiple of the number of coins played, you're not giving up anything in long-term payback by playing just one coin. You are stretching your bankroll and decreasing volatility compared with playing more coins per spin.

I can see only one downside. Assuming you're playing a nickel machine and you won five coins in the bonus, can you get excited about winning 25 cents?

Jackpots for all,
John


Hi John,

Always enjoy your column and appreciate your efforts to separate fact from fiction, especially with respect to the superstitions and fantasies believed by many slot players. The letter from “Kentucky Slot Player” about taking machines off the floor if they are “paying too much” is nothing more than an urban myth. Reports showing coin-in, coin out, Jackpots (hand pays), hold percentages and amounts, are generated for each machine every day. These reports are generated for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is to determine if the machines are getting acceptable levels of “coin-in.” As any slot manager will tell you, it’s all about coin-in. The more money in, the more money held. Machines that have huge coin-in will naturally pay jackpots, and that’s a good thing for the player lucky enough to hit one, and for the casinos that love to advertise what they have paid out.

I play at the native casinos in Washington state and frequently see new machines come, and other machines go. But it is not because they pay too much. Rather, it is a refreshing of the slot floor, replacing under-performing machines with ones that will hopefully raise that all-important coin-in. In fact, the casinos I visit attach signs to the tops of machines showing the amount of the jackpot paid out and the date hit. This entices players that believe in “hot” machines to play those, while encouraging others to play the machines that have not recently paid a jackpot because they must “be due.”

With equal payback percentages, no machine is more or less likely to pay a jackpot. If you’re lucky you might win, and if you’re not, well at least play a machine you find entertaining.

Regards,
"Slots for fun, blackjack for profit"

Dear "Slots for fun,"

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

I agree with everything you wrote, with one small exception.

Long-term payback doesn't say anything about the chances for hitting the jackpot. Two machines can have the same long-term payback, but different probabilities for hitting their jackpots.

In any case, your final statement is the best advice anyone can give to a slot player and it's the advice I give when I'm asked how to win at the slots -- play machines that you enjoy playing. I can't guarantee that you'll win money, but at least I can guarantee that you'll have a good time.

Jackpots for all,
John


Oh, slot genius! I always read your column and enjoy the advice.

Recently I tried stopping the reels while they were rolling on my favorite penny machine and started hitting winners quite often. It kept lining up the "WILD" symbols for high pays. Is this just by coincidence or can you actually gain an advantage by mixing up the RNG doing a "quick stop" of the reels?

Larry

Dear Larry,

Thanks for the kind words.

If you're playing a Class II or Class III machine, stopping a spin just causes the machine to stop the reels at the positions chosen by the RNG. Stopping the spin doesn't affect the outcome, just how long it takes to display the outcome.

There's nothing a player can do to "mix up" the RNG. It's just a coincidence -- a lucky coincidence -- that you started hitting when you started stopping.

Jackpots for all,
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