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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Atlantic City Joker Poker

22 July 2004

John,

In the past we discussed how bad the CN casinos are and boy, do I agree.

In Tunica there are several good games. I've been playing 9/6 JOB and Aces and Faces. So far we've done well. The Grand even has a 6-deck BJ game that allows you to resplit aces.

I've learned so much from you and Frank that I should send you half my winnings, but you'll have to settle for book royalties.

Last night while at the Grand, I noticed that all of the better machines were busy and the poorer machine were vacant. Also the 4-deck constant shuffler game was vacant. It looks like the people down hear are reading and paying attention. I was in line with a couple of guys talking about how they learned to play craps from a book and were now doing well at the game and having fun.

I love Tunica.

Bill

Dear Bill,

I'm glad to see that players are sticking with the good games and letting the bad ones sit idle. That's the best way to let a casino know you want good games--vote with your bankroll.

I can't speak for Frank, but I personally would be happy to receive half your winnings. Any losses, though, are your own.

As Las Vegas is becoming more and more run by large corporations that don't seem to realize that volcanoes and canals and other spectacles get people to come to the casinos, but good games keep players coming back, the Tunica casinos are filling the void with good games and friendly comps. I've always had a great time when I've gone to Tunica.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Do an article about home slot games: Bally, Hoyle, IGT.

Thanks.

Okay. Most of the questions I get are for home versions of casino machines, so let's look at those discs only.

First off, I have to admit that I don't have any of these games, so I don't have any firsthand experience playing them. I don't know what the paybacks are on the home versions. I haven't heard anyone say that the home games pay off like tournament machines, so I suspect that the paybacks are similar to those you'd get on a casino machine. I do know that at least one game (Cash Encounters) has slightly different rules than the casino version.

Masque Publishing (www.masque.com) sells four discs of slot machines. The "Slots from Bally Gaming" disc has 46 video and reel-spinning slots. Video slots include Popeye, Cash Encounters, Blondie Double Feature, Movie Star Betty (Boop), and Soap Opera. The reel-spinners include 24 Karat, Blondie's Meal Ticket, and three different versions of Millionaire 7s.

The "IGT Slots and Multi-Play Video Poker" disc includes Balloon Bars, Casino Night, Double Diaming Deluxe, Fourth of July, Haywire, Hot Peppers, Triple Diamond, and other popular IGT slots. The disc also has 11 different video poker paytables.

The "Slots II" disc contains more Bally games: 99 Bottles of Beet, Boxcar Bonus, Hot Hot Hot, Play the Market, Blazing 7s, Rich and Famous, and Wild Rose, among others.

The "Video Slots" disc has five Bally video slots that I've never seen (Bonus Blazing 7s, Bonus Sevens, Captain Jackpot, Sunset Beach, and Take It or Leave It), plus 20 games Masque created for the disc.

All of the Masque discs list for $24.99.

Phantom EFX (www.phantomefx.com) also has at least one disc with a home version of a casino machine. The "Real Deal Casino: Shuffle Master" CD has the Press Your Luck slot on it. It might have other machines from Shuffle Master on it too. Phantom EFX also has five other discs with slots on them. I don't think these discs have any casino machines on them, but I'm not sure. I can't beleive that Phantom EFX doesn't list the games available on each disc on their website.

As far as I know, none of the Hoyle discs have casino machines on them.

John


I think Scobelete covers dropped money at a casino. It is the property of the casino. They reason that if you found money on the floor while a guest at someone's home, you wouldn't pocket it. You would hand it over to your host.

Thanks for the info,
John


"The only thing the RNG does is generate a stream of numbers that appear to be chosen at random. The RNG has nothing to do with the long-term payback of a game. On a slot game, the layout of the virtual reels determines the long-term payback."

Am I correct in thinking that the EPROM chip is what determines the payback percentage, and is set at the factory? If not, what does? And, if the RNG has not anything to do with hold percentage, what keeps an 80% machine from paying out as much as a 95% machine over infinity, assuming that the randomly generated numbers could conceivably come up with the "jackpot number" if the software was not written to a percentage of "good" stops.

I suppose I thought the software was written at a percentage to begin with, with a higher percentage of "trash numbers" corresponding to non-paying virtual stops on high-hold machines, and a lesser selection of trash numbers on lower-hold machines.

Does my question even make sense, or can you hopefully make sense out of my question?

Thanks.

It doesn't really matter whether questions make sense or whether I can make any sense out of them. When writing this column, I follow the advice I was given for taking tests in the Humanities courses I had to take while I attended an engineering school: If you don't know the answer to the question, just answer a question to which you do know the answer.

Seriously, though, the layout of the symbols on the virtual reels determines the payout of the machine. The virtual reels are usually stored in an EPROM, but they could be stored on a CD, a Flash memory card, or even a punched card.

The software is not written to a particular percentage. All the software does is choose virtual stops at random. The layout of the symbols on the virtual reels determines how frequently combinations will appear and that determines the payback of the machine. Over time, 80% machines pay back 80% and not 95% because the frequencies with which the winning combinations appear get closer and closer to the frequencies determined by the virtual reels. See the section on Random Sampling with Replacement in a Statistics book for more detail.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi,

My husband and I always play the Joker Poker (5 of a kind top pay machines) in Atlantic City. We used to always win! It seems like now it is a losing battle.

I have a question about the rules of play. If I get a pair plus the joker (3 of a kind) dealt out or 4 to the straight flush, which cards should i keep? I seem to believe that going for the straight flush is my best bet and my husband thinks differently.

Also do you know why some people are holding just one card and sometimes just one card and the joker together and win the 5 of a kind? And which casinos in AC have the best joker poker machines?

Very truly yours,
Jessica

Dear Jessica,

I stay away from the Joker Poker machines in Atlantic City because of their relatively low 97.2% payback. Many people love them, though, because they hit their 4,000-coin 5-of-kind jackpots about four times more frequently than other machines hit their royal flush jackpots.

Given this hand (Joker-6c-6d-7c-8c), holding the pair plus the joker has an expected value of 21.0. Holding the joker plus the three-card straight flush has an expected value of 51.5. It's not even close; you're better off going for the straight flush. Now, it's true that most of the time you'll end up with nothing and that you're guaranteed to have at least 3-of-a-kind with your other option, but the times that you do improve the partial straight flush more than make for the times you don't get anything.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take two or more months for your question to appear in my column.

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