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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: These are a few of my favorite slots

7 June 2017

Question: I'm a fan of the Top Dollar and two- or three-coin Double Diamond games. What are your favorite games?

Answer: For video poker, I like Not So Ugly Ducks (NSUD) because that is frequently the highest-paying video poker pay table that gives full slot club credit in the Las Vegas locals casinos. Some casinos have Full Pay Deuces Wild and 10/7 Double Bonus (which are positive expectation pay tables), but they may not be offered above quarters or they require something like four times the action as other video poker machines to earn a point or they're set to deal v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y or some combination of the three. For non-wild card pay tables, I like 9/6 Jacks, but that's sometimes tough to find — and frequently at a casino that also has NSUD, which pays back a bit more in the long run. If a casino doesn't offer 9/6 Jacks, it usually has 8/5 Bonus Poker. And if the casino doesn't have any of those pay tables, you're not going to find me there.

For slots, I like games that have progressives on scatter-pay symbols, e.g. Quick Hit. I also like games on which you win their progressives by hitting the jackpot on a classic Bally slot game like Blazing 7s. Twin Fire is game that gives you two ways to hit its progressives — one by landing the appropriate number of Quick Hit symbols and two by going to the play-a-classic-Bally-slot bonus and hitting the jackpot on one of those games. I was also fond of Bally's Fireball After Burn, but it's a very volatile game — frequently a wallet-emptier — and I found it very tough to get to the bonus round. Another slot I've been known to drop a few bucks in from time to time is Megabucks Emerald Sevens, which also has a set of toll moneyprogressives you can win in addition to the big one.

Although I know they're not the best-paying slots on the slot floor, I like slots based on licensed properties. It took me a while to appreciate it, but I eventually thought that Aristocrat's Game of Thrones slot machine was the best machine Aristocrat has made. I also liked to play IGT's Sherlock Holmes slot, though I'm more Basil Rathbone than Robert Downey Jr.

Three slots that I think have fantastic music are IGT's Wyland (based on the artwork of Robert Wyland, a marine life artist), Multimedia Games' (now Everi) Starry Night and an old version of WMS' Clue. I remember waiting to pull away from the gate on a flight from Las Vegas to Newark about seven years ago and falling asleep to the music from the Clue slot machine playing in my head.

My all-time favorite slot is Star Trek: Starship Enterprise. I was too young for Classic Star Trek when it first ran, but I frequently saw the show with my older brother and sister. The only thing I remember from seeing the show as a little kid is being afraid of the picture of the alien from The Corbomite Maneuver that was used as the final image in the closing credits. I never missed the show a few years later when I was in high school and WPIX in New York ran the show weekdays at 6 p.m. Dinner and Trek. At one time, you could give me an episode title and I could tell you the plot and vice versa.

I don't know why I wasn't a regular at the Las Vegas Hilton when it had the Star Trek exhibit. I think it was because the Hilton was off the strip and I was staying at the Desert Inn and Treasure Island and Caesars Palace most often at the time. And because the attractions were based on the newer Star Trek versions and I was a Classic Trek guy. Fortunately I was able to see the exhibit once before it closed when Frank Scoblete suggested seeing the exhibit as one of his daily nongaming activities one of the times when he and I were both in Las Vegas.

I played the original, episodic Star Trek slot when I finally stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton when the G2E was still held at the Las Vegas Convention Center. This is the one where you created an identity that would track your progress as you collected medals and moved up in rank. I'm not surprised that this machine isn't on slot floors anymore because the identity feature required the machine to be able to communicate with the outside world — a potential entryway for hackers.

On that trip there were six Star Trek slots. Next trip there were only four. Eventually the entire Space Quest casino area was gone and the property was called the LVH. But now there were two Starship Enterprise machines on the main slot floor.

I used to play Starship Enterprise for hours at the LVH. Unfortunately, I think I was the only one. I was really looking forward to playing the machines when I returned a few months later, but they were gone.

I knew that was a possibility. The machines had stickers saying that you could not use your free play on them. That statement means that there's something unusual about how that machine made it to the slot floor, usually that the casino did not purchase or lease the machine. Casinos frequently give manufacturers control over some areas on the slot floor in exchange for a share in the machine's win. These areas have frequent machine swaps because the manufacturer can put any approved slot machine it makes in the area.

Seeing your favorite machine disappear from your favorite casino — and maybe every casino — is something slot players have to live with. In that sense, you're lucky that you like Double Diamonds. That's a slot theme that may never disappear from the slot floor.


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