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Ask the Slot Expert: Why do some ticket redemption machines always give me twenties?

1 July 2020

Question: Why do the ticket redemption machines in some casinos always give you five $20 bills when it could have given you one $100 bill?

Answer: That's one of my pet peeves about redeeming tickets at a machine. If I want $20 bills, I can break a $100 bill. I was very happy when I found one redemption machine at Palms that wasn't configured to force twenties, but now Palms is closed and there's no reopening date on the horizon.

(Palms management still thinks it's the late 2000s when it attracted the younger crowd, famous or not, visiting Vegas. Palms isn't even on my 30-year-old nephew's radar. He and his friends stay at Aria or Cosmopolitan. Palms management said they would see how the casinos that reopened on the strip fared before setting a date to reopen Palms. Palms is still trying to compete with strip casinos. I think the property did much better when it was an upscale competitor to the Gold Coast across the street.)

I thought I had figured out the algorithm for how a machine would pay a ticket at a Stations casino. If you redeemed a ticket worth less than $120, the machine would pay the $100 with five twenties. At $120, however, you would get one $100 bill and one $20 bill. Whenever I cashed out more than $100, I always made sure that it was for some hundreds and $20. I already had envelopes filled with fives and ones in my drawer. I didn't need an envelope filled with twenties.

That plan worked for a while until Stations changed the algorithm. Now the machine gave me six twenties for a $120 ticket, instead of a twenty and a C-note. Worse, a $200 ticket was paid with five twenties and one Benjamin. The new algorithm seemed to be this: pay the hundreds with five twenties and however many $100 bills needed and pay the rest of the ticket as you would expect.

When I didn't want twenties, I redeemed tickets at the cage. One time when the cashier asked me if I wanted all large, I said, "Yes, please. That's why I'm here. There doesn't seem to be any way to avoid getting five twenties from a redemption machine."

She replied, "I know. You're not the first person to tell me that."

Now it doesn't affect me much. Instead of redeeming tickets at the end of each visit, I switched to the way Jean Scott handled her tickets: hold onto them for the next visit. Holding onto the tickets also made balancing my books at the end of each day easier.

So, why do casinos configure their ticket redemption machines to give five twenties instead of one $100 bill? According to a friend who is a slot supervisor, the thinking is that you're more likely to spend a $20 bill or put a $20 bill into a machine than you are a $100 bill. A machine might catch your eye and you might want to give it a try, but you don't want to put $100 into it and cash out at $80 and then have to go redeem that ticket. You might, however, think that you're willing to try one of the twenties that you got the last time you redeemed a ticket.

Casinos have their ticket redemption machines give twenties instead of a hundred because they think you're more likely to spend the $20 bill than the $100 bill.


Much has changed in Nevada since last week's column. The state has reported spikes in new COVID-19 cases and our governor has now mandated that everyone wear a mask in public. The good news, if you can call it good news, is that there was a delay in reporting. The huge spike (971 cases) reported on Saturday for Clark County, included 240 cases "from Tuesday laboratory reports" and 380 from Wednesday reports. There were actually only 351 new cases reported from Friday to Saturday. That's still on the high side for daily case reporting.(High virus case numbers due to delayed reporting)

Last week I said that I was going to start posting data from the CDC number-of-cases web page. I saw the pictures of people crowding into bars, restaurants, concerts, wherever -- people ignoring social distancing and not wearing masks. I thought that as the case counts were no longer the lead story on the network newscasts and states were reopening, many people would think that the crisis was over.

Well, the virus stepped up its game and it is the lead story again. I don't have to keep reminding people that we're still in this crisis.

Let's see how we did this past week. Data is from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
06/30 2,581,229 126,739 18,131 536 278,941 6,406 4,367 26
06/23 2,302,288 120,333 13,764 510

We'll see what the trend is next week.

As we continue to learn more about this virus and how it is spread, more studies show the effectiveness of physical distancing and wearing face masks. One recent article is Physical distancing, face masks, and eye protection to prevent person-to-person transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19: a systematic review and meta-analysis in The Lancet. This article, Growing body of research shows the role of face coverings in curbing the spread of the coronavirus, in Business Insider, discusses the Lancet article and other studies for an audience without a medical degree.

A few more Nevada-related developments:

The last article was interesting to me because I received an email saying that the Lucille's BBQ at Red Rock, which I sometimes go to, was closed again. No reason was given in the email, but with the subject "Your safety is our number one priority" I could guess. Clicking on the link in the email, I learned that four employees tested positive. They voluntarily closed the restaurant to "deep clean and sanitize and allow team members to get tested before re-opening".

I was surprised to see on the Stations Casinos website that Red Rock is going to have 4th of July fireworks again this year. I thought they would be canceled. Red Rock is going to control the crowd size by allocating part of the parking lot for public viewing and limiting the number of people allowed in, and by restricting the poolside viewing area to invited quests only.


Tell me about how your casino experience has changed. Is your casino shutting down alternate machines or just removing chairs? Has your casino downgraded its video poker offerings? Have table minimums gone up? Has your casino changed anything about its players club, like how many dollars it takes to earn a point or what the points are worth? Is it easier or harder to move up tier levels? Have your offers been much better than those B.C. (Before COVID-19), about the same, or worse? Are masks required and are people wearing them? Is the casino more or less crowded than you expected? Do you have difficulty getting on the machines you want to play?

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