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Ask the Slot Expert: Why do some casinos have both Class II and Class III slot machines?

21 March 2018

Question: Why is it that some casinos have both class II and class III slots? Four Winds in Michigan is an example. They seem to have both types of slots. Do they do this because one type of machine has lower payouts?

Answer: One class of machines does not necessarily pay back more or less than the other class. Each class of machines can pay back as much — or as little — as statutorily allowed.

A casino may have both classes of machines because it opened with Class II machines and then negotiated a compact with the state, allowing the casino to now offer Class III machines. There will be a mix of machines as new Class III machines are added to the slot floor, possibly replacing underperforming Class II machines. The casino may eventually go all Class III or it may hold on to popular Class II machines and add hot new Class II titles.

Now that the major slot manufacturers have entered the Class II market, you can't tell whether a machine is Class II or Class III just by the manufacturer. Class II machines, though, have to display or give the player the option of displaying the underlying bingo card. If the machine displays a bingo card, then it's a Class II machine.

According to the Michigan Gaming Control Board's website, the Pokagon Band of Potawatomi Indians, who own the Four Winds casinos, entered into their compact with the state of Michigan at the end of 1998, well before their first casino opened in New Buffalo in 2007. It's not likely that they have any Class II machines.


Question: Phil Ivey lost his U.K. Supreme Court case for edge sorting and the case is dividing opinion. While the judge seemed not to entirely grasp the whole concept of what casinos do, it could be argued that Ivey had an unfair advantage (i.e., used deception instead of some legit system) to win.

Do you have an opinion on what he did?

Answer: Ivey and his partner won about $20 million playing baccarat in casinos in Atlantic City and London. Courts in both New Jersey and the United Kingdom have sided with the casinos in lawsuits.

When playing cards are manufactured, the pattern on the back of the cards may be such that the left edge of the card is slightly different from the right edge. Ivey knew of one brand of playing cards that has this particular quirk.

In the London casino, he and his partner had a private session of Punto Banco, which is similar to baccarat. They requested this particular brand of playing cards. As the cards were used in the game, they requested that the dealer rotate all of the sevens through nines — the most valuable cards in baccarat and Punto Banco — 180 degrees. When the shoe was over, they requested that the cards be used again instead of using new decks, which is usually done in baccarat.

The casinos obliged because high-end baccarat players frequently have superstitions. The main reason that casinos have to use new decks for each shoe at the big baccarat table is because players have bent the cards.

Now, the goal of rotating and reusing the cards is to arrange the cards so that the high-value cards all have one pattern on their right edges and the low-value cards have the other pattern. Ivey and his partner could then tell if the top card in the shoe favored the player or the banker by looking at the edge pattern and they could bet accordingly.

I'm surprised that this technique worked so well. I thought that the dealers would do a wash shuffle in between shoes and that would eliminate any edge sorting.

In any case, is Ivey a cheater or a champion?

I'm going with cheater.

If he and his partner sat down at a table, played for a while and noticed a defect in the equipment or a lapse in casino procedures and used that to their advantage, then they'd be OK.

But they had to take extraordinary steps to create the conditions that gave them the advantage. They had to request a certain brand of cards. They had to get the dealers to rotate the cards to their specification. And they had to get the dealers to reuse the sorted cards. They had to manipulate the dealers.

What do you think? Did they cheat?


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