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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask the Slot Expert: Where are 95 percent payback slot machines?

18 February 2015

Love reading your column. Don’t always agree with you but, hey, that’s life.

In your most recent column about casinos and racinos you talk about a 95 percent payout is a 95 percent payout. I’m hung up on the 95 percent, not what you explained in the column. If you know of any casinos in the state of Arizona, Illinois, Nevada or anyplace in the USA that have a 95 percent payout, I would love to get their names. I have been playing slots for over 30 years and at one time I believe they paid out 95 percent, but not in the 21st century.

I believe the Arizona gaming pact requires at least 80 percent payback and that has become very difficult to believe. Most players give you a horse laugh when you question them about the 80 percent Arizona requirement. Thanks for the fun column.

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

I used a value of 95 percent in my statement that "a 95 percent payback machine is a 95 percent payback machine regardless of how its results are determined" just as an example.

That said, the slot paybacks in a recent Strictly Slots show about 95 percent for dollars and up in Nevada and even for quarters in some areas. In Illinois, only the Argosy Alton reported 95 percent long-term payback on nickels, but many properties reported 95 percent for quarters and dollars. It is getting tougher and tougher to find 95 percent payback slots, but they are still out there.

Arizona gaming pacts do require that slots pay back at least 80 percent, but that doesn't mean that you will walk into a casino with $100 and walk out with $80 or put $100 into a machine and cash out $80. Considering that many players play until they run out of money, I can see how they don't believe payback requirements. I've had many players say that they started with $20 (or $50 or $100 or ...) and walked away with nothing, how can that be 90 percent (or 95 percent or 98 percent or ...) payback?

There are two hurdles in the way of players verifying that machines pay back at least the statutorily mandated percentage. First, players don't keep track of their bets and results to be able to calculate the payback they experienced. They have to keep track of total amount bet and the total amount won on each spin to calculate their payback.

Even if players did keep track, the randomness and volatility of slot results means that their actual paybacks may be far away from their machines' long-term paybacks over a small number of spins — casting doubt on the actual long-term paybacks even though the paybacks experienced fall within the statistically predicted range for the number of spins played.

You can rest assured that the State of Arizona has ensured that every Class III slot machine in the state pays back at least 80 percent, even though you may have difficultly verifying that fact.


At Parx casino in Bensalem, Pennsylvania, they want you to "spin the machine one more time" after you hit a jackpot at Parx casino.

I've argued the point because I have found, after more than 40 years of playing the slots, that the chance of getting a win twice in a row, at least on a dollar machine, is slim.

They claim it is their policy and will shut down the machine if you refuse to pull the handle one more time.

Let's say that the chances of hitting a particular winning combination is 1 out of 100 on a machine. If you sat down at the machine, your chances of hitting that winning combination twice in a row is 1/100 times 1/100 or 1/10000 (1 out of 10,000).

Now let's say that winning combination is displayed on the reels when you sit down. What are your chances for hitting that winning combination again? They're still 1 out of 100.

It's true that hitting two rare events in a row is rarer still, but the fact that the event has already occurred once does not affect the chances that it will occur again. Your chances for hitting the jackpot on a machine are the same regardless of whether the jackpot combination or a bust was the result of the prior spin.

I've never been lucky enough to experience back-to-back or near back-to-back jackpots or high-paying spins, but John Grochowski has, and he has published accounts from people who have.

Because we so rarely see jackpots and more rarely see back-to-back jackpots, it's natural to assume that the chances of hitting the jackpot go down after it has just hit. But it's a false assumption; the chances don't change.


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