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Ask the Slot Expert: Why Do I Win Fewer Jackpots Today?

21 August 2013

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

I'm a heavy slot player at the Hard Rock in Florida. I lose 5-10k a day. I was in the high limit slot area and I put $100 into a machine and played. I hit a few hundred here and there. When I cashed out I noticed $5000 in the machine. I have no idea what portion is mine. The casino called me the next day and told me to return all the money.

What is the legal thing to do? They are threatening to call police.

The legal thing to do is return the money. In many jurisdictions, money left on a slot machine belongs to the casino, not to the player who finds it.

You should only have to return the money that was on the machine when you sat down. Assuming you used your players card, the casino should be able to figure out how much you won or lost from your play. Knowing that and how much you cashed out, we know how much was on the machine when you started.

Jackpots for all,

I read your columns quite frequently. I understand you have a Masters in Computer Science.

My question is this. Years ago, I frequented casinos a lot. I won jackpots often. Today, however, I have won none. That is in the past 3 years. I don't see lights going off, or whistles blowing. All I hear is a lot of complaining from other folks also losing.

Yet, you continue to say winning depends on the RNG in machines.

I don't see, or hear, the winners of yesteryear. The joy of winning on a slot machines is a thing of the past.

Many changes have taken place on the slot floor in the past decade. They might explain some of the changes you've seen.

Winning on a slot machine still depends on getting the right numbers from the RNG (at least on a Class III slot machine). That hasn't changed for the past 20+ years. One thing that has changed, though, is the currency of play. Coins and tokens have been eliminated in favor of tickets. As a result, there are many fewer handpays and no hopper fills. Machines lock up much less frequently today. That accounts for some of the decrease in lights going off.

The move to lower-denomination video machines also contributes to what you've experienced. Traditional, reel-spinning slot machines typically don't offer much in the way of entertainment except going for the jackpot. As a result, they hit their jackpots fairly frequently.

A video slot, on the other hand, offers much more in terms of entertainment. And most players play to get back to the bonus round, not to win the jackpot -- although they wouldn't turn it down if it hit! The machines have to pay for their high hit frequencies and the money won in the bonus rounds, so they do this by making the jackpot hit fairly infrequently.

One final change: Most of the video slots are low-denomination machines with low long-term paybacks. The video slot's higher hit frequency tends to give the player a less volatile ride than a reel-spinning slot, and its lower long-term payback tends to make the player lose more money in the long run.

Jackpots for all,

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