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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Ask the Slot Expert: Would I be denied a jackpot if I played using a friend's players card?

16 October 2019

Question: Back in December I wrote you about a jackpot I won ($12,500) on Dancing Drums aboard a cruise ship and you published it.

Last week, I was on the same ship and when I walked into the casino, the host greeted me with "Welcome back, Jackpot King!" After a few pleasantries, I asked if anyone had won a jackpot in the intervening nine months. The answer was yes. One person, same machine. Roughly the same amount (greater than $12,000).

Unfortunately, I was unable to re-create history.

How random! Two jackpots greater than $12,000 on the same machine, funded by all of the action on all of the other Dancing Drums machines.

Answer: Sorry to hear that you didn't get another jackpot, but I'm sure they'll let you keep the Jackpot King title.

We don't have enough information to question the randomness of the jackpot. For example, how much play do each of these machines get? Does the one that has hit the jackpot twice get more play than the other? If one machine gets more play than the other, we would expect it to pay more jackpots than the other in the long run.

How many bets are made at each bet level? On the Dancing Drums machines I've seen, you have to make a max bet to be eligible for the Grand jackpot. When I walk through a casino, I see more players playing less than a max bet than playing a max bet on video slots. At $8.80 per spin, I doubt these machines see many max bet players.

The number of bets at each amount also goes into the value of the Grand jackpot. Unless one sailing is themed for casino players, I would expect that the amount of play the casino gets and the amount of play each game gets is about the same from one sailing to another, especially on the larger ships. Landlubber that I am, I have no firsthand experience with cruise-ship casinos. Correct me if I'm wrong.

The bottom line here is that we, as players, see incredibly small slices of activity on a machine and it takes much more data than the little we see to make any kind of determination about randomness.


Question: Slot machines work differently from time to time at Harrah's Casino in Cherokee, North Carolina. You can not tell me that the same program applies to a slot machine by the way it reacts differently from one time to another through the RNG program.

Is it possible that they can be controlled by a different force of electricity passing through the machine from time to time slowing up or speeding up the way a machine performs better or worse from time to time?

Answer: Let's look at two aspects of a machine's performance.

First, payback. It's not unusual for a machine to be your personal ATM one time you play it and for it take back what it paid you and then some another time. It's the same RNG function in both cases. Nothing has changed in the machine.

I've had video poker machines give me multiple sets of four deuces on some occasions and then I've lost money playing the same machines other times. I don't believe that anything has changed in the machines. The simplest explanation is that my results are merely the result of the random selection of the cards.

And consider this: Would a regulator want a casino or any entity to be able to influence the results on a machine? What would prevent a casino employee or other person from upping the payouts when they or a friend was playing?

The second aspect is something that I'll call the spin profile. Slot machines can use a separate RNG function to determine aspects of a spin separate from the results, like how long the reels spin before stopping or whether the machine displays some special animation before revealing a big payout.

My conclusion to the question above applies here too: It's all randomness.


Question: If I use my friend's players card instead of mine and win a jackpot, would I get denied the jackpot because my card was not being played?

Answer: As long as you're over 21 (or the legal age to gamble in that jurisdiction), you will get the jackpot. The players card is for marketing. The casino considers the person who hit the Spin button to be the owner of the jackpot.

Someone from the slot club, however, might remind you that playing on another person's card is against their rules and warn you that they better not catch you doing it again. The casino might suspend your friend's account, but you'll still walk away with your winnings.

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