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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Using casino credit

10 August 2016

Question: My wife and I enjoy playing Banana King slots by Aristocrat. As you no doubt know, occasionally the player gets a bonus game called Match Card, in which you may win the Major, Minor or a consolation prize. The Major often runs in excess of $1000. You pick cards that are face down on the screen. Should you pick 5 gorilla cards from the 12, you win the Major.

I recently had 4 gorilla cards showing, with 3 cards left from which to choose. My question is: Am I really picking a card that determines the outcome, or has the RNG already decided if I will win the Major, regardless of which card I actually select?

I have had the opportunity to go for the Major roughly 20 times, without winning it, although I have won the Minor several times. In my opportunity, I did not get the Gorilla, and only won the consolation prize.

Answer: Something insidious has happened to pick-em bonus rounds over the last few years. Perhaps my memory is faulty, but I recall pick-em bonuses ending with displaying the values associated with the items you didn't choose. Readers questioned whether those values were really there during the bonus round.

I recall writing that displaying the values doesn't prove that those were the values during the round, but no gaming jurisdiction would allow a machine that was so deceptive as to reveal bogus values, so we can be sure that the values are genuine.

Over the past few years, there have been more and more pick-em rounds that do not reveal the values for the unchosen items. That leaves us with the question of whether we had a chance to win each of the prizes available and our choices determined the prize we won, or the program had already determined our prize using the RNG and our choices had no effect other than determining how quickly the predetermined prize was revealed.

The first non-revealing game I encountered was 88 Fortunes. I've since found many other Asian-themed games that do not reveal at the end of their pick-em rounds.

The newer games may not reveal unchosen items, but they have a revealing sentence in their help screens: Player interaction during the bonus round does not affect the outcome.

In other words, the program has already chosen your prize and your choices are irrelevant in determining what you win.

The rule I follow is this: If the game does not reveal, the game used the RNG to determine your prize.

I hope that all gaming jurisdictions will require a statement in the help screens when your pick-em prize is predetermined and your choices don't matter.


Question: I'm a nickel and quarter video poker player. Recently I was approved for a $500 line of credit at Main Street in Vegas. I wanted the credit line so I wouldn't have to carry cash or look for a branded ATM. Since I'm brand new to casino credit, can you explain to me what the casino expects of me in terms of play and use of my credit line? I know I'll be signing markers and can pay them before I leave town or they'll send me a bill for it, but otherwise, I'm clueless.

Answer: Each casino seems to have its own credit procedures -- at least in Las Vegas. In Atlantic City, if I remember correctly, state regulations governed how casino credit operated and each casino had the same procedures.

As you said, casino credit means you don't have to carry large amounts of cash or pay the sky-high fees on the casino ATMs and be subject to withdrawal limits.

Casino credit is essentially a check-cashing service. The marker you sign is a check drawn against your bank account. If you don't settle your marker before a certain time, the casino will deposit the check. You have use of the money, interest free, until you settle the marker.

Let's go through the steps of applying for, setting up and using casino credit.

Each casino has a minimum credit line. I have seen some casinos advertise credit lines as low as $250. Other casinos may have $500 or $1000 minimums.

The assumption underlying the amount of your credit line is that this is the amount of money you're comfortable losing on a trip. Some casinos may have an offer for opening a credit line of a certain amount and some casinos may send special offers because you are a credit player.

The casino credit application is a little bit longer compared with consumer credit applications. In addition to name, address and employer, you have to provide a bank account. All of the applications I've filled out had spaces for two bank accounts and I have always provided two, but one may be sufficient.

The main criterion for approving consumer credit is whether you have the income to make the payments on the credit extended. The casino credit decision, on the other hand, depends not on what you earn but on what you have. The credit office wants to see that you have liquid assets sufficient to cover the line of credit that you requested.

The credit office will contact your bank references to find out how much you have on deposit. As part of the credit application, you may have to sign a release that the credit office will send to the bank to allow the bank to discuss your balance. The balance is usually given as a general characterization of the average amount, such as high fives. That means your balance is typically over $70,000 -- five digits in the balance and at the high end of the five-digit range. In addition to high, your average balance could be characterized as being in the low or medium sections of the range with that number of digits.

The credit office may check your consumer credit history. In Las Vegas, the casino checks with Central Credit to see what other casinos you have credit with and whether there have been any problems with repayment. Some casinos even promote the fact that they do not check your consumer credit report.

After your credit line has been approved, you have to drop by the cage for a little more paperwork, like signing a signature card and providing a copy of your ID. Now you're all set to use your credit line.

There are two ways to access your credit line, called taking out a marker. At the tables, they can handle all of the paperwork there. Just say you want a marker. For slot play, go to the cage and say that you want to take out a marker. In either case, provide your players card. You may also be asked to show your ID or provide you birth date to verify your identity.

The cashier or pit clerk will check that you have credit available and, if so, print out the marker. You then sign the marker and the cashier will give you cash or the dealer will give you chips.

The casino is lending you money interest free with the expectation that you will use it to play in the casino. The casino may close your credit line if you take out a marker and don't play, called walking with a marker.

Now let's look at settling a marker. If you're ahead at the end of play, you're supposed to settle the marker. If you're behind, you can either write a check to settle the marker or wait for the casino to send you a statement. You can then either send the casino a check or let it deposit the marker.

Here are some differences in how various casinos handle credit that I've seen. Some casinos give you more time to pay off larger markers. If that is the case and you're like me and you tend to take out multiple small markers, you can consolidate your markers into one, larger marker to get the extra time.

One casino I play at treats your credit line like a revolving line of credit. Say you have a $5000 credit line and you take out a $2000 marker. If you don't settle at the end of your trip, $2000 of your credit line will be locked. You can come back a few weeks later and still be able to access the other $3000 of your credit line. Once you settle the $2000 marker, you will once again have that amount available in your line.

At another casino, taking out a marker starts a 14-day clock. You can access your credit line during this period. At the end of the fortnight, your line is locked until you settle. Using the prior example at this casino, you aren't able to access the remaining $3000 in your credit line until you settle the marker.

The most important part of using casino credit is settling the marker. One credit clerk told me that her casino doesn't care if you settle at the end of your trip, send a check in response to the statement, or let the casino deposit the marker. The only thing the casino cares about is getting repaid.

One final note. Your credit line is tied to your players card. Now that you have a credit line, you may have a special type of account known as a cage account. The credit office needs to control changes to your personal information so it knows where to find you so the casino can get repaid, so editing the account is restricted to the cage and the credit office. I am not able to make any changes to my contact information online or at the players club booth in the casinos at which I have a line of credit. I have to go to the cage.


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