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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: The best way to play free slot play

16 December 2015

Enjoy your columns. Thanks for the work.

I can't believe some of the stuff, such as the $660 voucher from New York. No way to make this stuff up. Serves him right for trying to be a bit dishonest.

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

Last week I posted a letter from a player in New York who enlisted a stranger to cash his ticket for him. New York's racinos are required to check a "deadbeat database" to see if the player owes money to the state or for child support or alimony whenever they redeem more than $600. My correspondent owed money for New York state income tax, a debt that he was disputing. My correspondent's friend redeemed the ticket for him and then disappeared with the money.

It is ironic that the whole point of having the stranger redeem the ticket was so that my correspondent could get the money -- and he ended up not getting it anyway!


I live in Florida, but was in St. Louis recently where I hit a Double Double Bonus video poker machine for $4000. When they came to pay me, they withheld 4% ($160) for state income tax. Should they have done that as I am a Florida resident and we have no state income tax?

Congratulations on your win! And welcome to the world of income earned outside of your home state.

The amount the casino withheld for state income tax is for Missouri state income tax, not Florida's non-existent income tax. Most (if not all) states with an income tax want a piece of any income you earn from activity within that state. For example, Golden Touch Craps has to file a return for any state in which we conduct craps classes if that state has a state income tax.

You'll have to file a non-resident return for Missouri to get the $160 back. According to a post on the FlyerTalk forum a few years ago, when you take into account the income exemption and standard deduction, you should be able to get the entire amount refunded when your Missouri gambling winnings are less than $7500 if single or $15,100 if married. These amounts may have been adjusted since that post was written.

As I always recommend, consult a professional tax preparer if you need help with any tax-related matters.


The casinos today run a lot of tournaments. In the good old days, they paid in hard cash and you took it home with a W2G. Today they want their money back so they pay in casino TITO tickets.

What do you recommend as the best way to turn these back into real dollars with the best expected return?

If you win $10,000, you get a W2G and it would be nice to at least take home part of that money. Some casinos also permit play at tables, but it usually is restricted to even money bets. I'm not sure that I wouldn't get bored trying to play all that on a short stay after the tournament.

For the best expected return, I would play video poker. Depending on the casino, you might be able to find a paytable that pays back 99% or more. You still have to deal with volatility, of course, so you may end up with more than 99% of your ticket amount and you may end up with less.

Another option, which may not give you the best expected return but might give you a good return if you land a few high-paying winning combinations, is to play a $5, $10 or higher reel-spinning slot machine. Your chances of hitting, say, two Double Diamonds and a Triple Bar are usually about the same regardless of the denomination of the machine, but you win a buck-twenty on the quarter machine and $4800 on the $10 machine.

If you can play at the tables, you can try the red/black, odd/even or low/high bets at roulete. Even though the house edge is higher at roulette, your chances of winning the bet are almost 50/50. The house edge really only comes into play in the long run, not a few dozen or hundred hands. An option with a lower house edge is the pass line bet at craps.

I've played free slot play both ways -- well, actually three ways. I've played all video poker, all high-limit slots, and a mix of the two. I can't seem to hit anything good on the high-limit slots, but I recently turned $10 of free play into $1000 by hitting 4 aces with a deuce on a quarter Triple Double Bonus video poker machine -- which I don't usually play because of its high volatility even though it pays back a little over 99%. I was trying to catch lighting in a bottle -- and I did!


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