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Best of John Robison

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Buying Your Own Slot Machine

27 November 2003

Hi!

I read your article regarding the Plinko slot machines. I agree, I love it!! I'm addicted and my question is can I get one of these? Or at least a smaller version? Please let me know if you have any info!!

JQ

Dear JQ,

Depending on where you live, you might be able to buy your own Plinko machine. There's a chart that lists which games can be legally purchased in each state at www.royalbell.com.

There's no home version of the machine that I know of.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


What is the difference between a Class I and Class II gaming device?

Sandy

Dear Sandy,

The Indian Gaming Regulatory Act created three classes of gaming:

Class I - social games solely for prizes of minimal value or traditional forms of Indian gaming as a part of tribal ceremonies or celebrations;

Class II - bingo and related games, including pulltabs, lotto, punch boards, tip jars, instant bingo and some card games, excluding house banking card games such as blackjack and baccarat; and

Class III - all forms of gaming that are not Class I or Class II, including slot machines and blackjack.

I don't know if there is such a thing as a Class I gaming device. Class II gaming devices can look like a Las Vegas-style slot machine, but they're really based on bingo drawings or pulltab-like games under the hood.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

I enjoy playing Jackpot Party by WMS Gaming. However, I have a burning question. When you receive the bonus game and the boxes are revealed, is your win already determined by which character is behind the scenes instead of what boxes you pick? Example: Alien = 1 pick, Man smoking = 2 to 3 picks, Young Boy = 10 to 20 picks, etc.

From my experience, it seems to not matter which box you pick, the character will determine what you will ultimately win. I can't imagine being so unlucky as to receive the pooper 4 times in a row. That seems almost impossible, especially when you are revealing boxes in the same area.

Any help would be appreciated.

Michael

Dear Michael,

Jackpot Party assigns values to the boxes and the bonus you get is determined by the boxes you pick. The machine does not predetermine what your bonus will be.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

Love the newsletter. Here's a couple quick (maybe) questions for you:

Do you know if tribal casinos have different payouts/rules for their slot machines than non-tribal establishments? My mom and I go to Vegas every year or two but I mostly just drive 20 minutes to my "local" little casino on a reservation. Just curious.

Also, a man I met at the local casino swears that he can "read" the machines and knows how many coins it "wants" the person to play on any given spin. He claims to have won three 9-of-a-kind jackpots in one night but now "they won't let him win any more" because they watch him and control the machines from some master computer. Should I become his apprentice or should I just smile and nod at the crazy man :)

Thanks!
Jayme

Dear Jayme,

Thanks for the kind words about the newsletter.

I have to admit that I don't know much about the tribal casino regulations, but I have been learning more about them as more and more people ask questions about them.

I believe the answer to your first question is that it depends on the state and the type of games offered. If the casino offers Class II gaming (these devices can look like slot machines you'd find elsewhere, but the results are determined by bingo-like drawings or simulated scratch-off tickets under the hood), the tribes can regulate those games themselves provided that they meet some conditions specified in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.

Regulation of Class III gaming (these are house-banked table games and slot machines that determine their own results) is governed by tribal-state compacts. The state could require the tribal casinos to follow the same regulations as the non-tribal casinos in the state.

As for the man who can "read" the machines, I won't call him crazy, but I will say that he was fooled by randomness. He thought he found a pattern that was backed up by empirical evidence, and now that the system doesn't work, he blames its failure on some outside force.

What really happened is he made a couple of lucky guesses--and I'm sure there's plenty of selective memory going on here--and now he's just not as lucky. And the reason is because the results are chosen at random and there's no way to predict the results.

I would ask him one question: If the casino won't let him win anymore, why is he still playing there?

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

I love the information you provide about slots and casinos! I was reading a question you addressed to "Garry" who was interested in video blackjack in Las Vegas, and I wanted to add a comment. I was in Las Vegas last month (September 2003) and found video blackjack machines in the Excalibur Hotel and Casino, I didn't bother playing them as I am not a blackjack fan, but perhaps Garry and his wife would like to give the machines a spin.

I also have a question for you: Are payback odds better when playing video nickel machines with bonus rounds, even though there are more characters/pictures available to land on the pay lines which may have no value unless the bonus round is initiated, or is it better to play three-reel nickel slots without bonus rounds where the number of characters/pictures on the reels are fewer? For example, Soap Opera or the Addams Family from IGT or Double or Triple Diamond?

Thank you for your help!

Cindy

Dear Cindy,

The casino's marketing plan has much more to do with the paybacks on the machines than the presence of bonus rounds. Most machines have a variety of payback programs available for them and the casino can order whichever payback percentage they want for the machine.

That said, a smart casino will order higher paybacks for their multi-line/multi-coin nickel machines than for their reel-spinning nickel machines. Reel-spinning nickel machines usually max out at 15 or 25 cents per spin, while many video slots max out at $4.50 or more per spin--and many players max out these machines. Anyone risking a dollar or more per spin deserves a dollar-machine payback.

However, I'm afraid that most casinos see "nickel machine" and order a payback in the low 90s or high 80s because that's what they've traditionally paid on nickel machines--never mind the fact that many of the people playing the nickel video slots are betting more per spin than many of their dollar-machine players!

If I were a casino operator, though, and I had plenty of patrons willing to wager a couple of dollars per spin at 90% payback on a nickel video slot instead of at 98% on my dollar or $5 machines, why would I want to change that?

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I have a question.

Suppose you have a quarter slot machine and a quarter video poker machine sitting side by side. Pretend that both machines have the same pay back.

In order to have an equal chance of winning, would the person playing the poker machine have to play every hand perfectly? If so, it seems to me that the person playing the slot machine would have the best chance.

Thanks in advance for your help.

Well, I don't know what you mean by "equal chance of winning." The two machines would probably have different hit frequencies, but over the long run they would both return the same amount of money to their players.

We're really being a bit imprecise when we refer to a video poker machine's payback. Because players choose which cards they hold, there's strategy involved and we really have to talk about a particular video poker paytable's payback when played with a particular strategy. One strategy is the mathematically perfect strategy and playing that strategy gets the maximum payback possible from the machine. But nobody can play the mathematically perfect strategy because there are too many penalty card situations to take care of.

So, I really can't answer your question, but I can say that even a monkey will get the theoretical payback from a slot machine in the long run because the only skill involved is being able to hit the Spin button.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I enjoy your articles immensely and have found them quite helpful. Lots of info and insight to my favorite game --- SLOTS!

I recently went to the new Seneca Niagara Casino in Niagara Falls, New York, and have found it to be beautiful, quite large, and with excellent customer service. I play nickel and quarter slots because they have more of them there and the same variety that you can find in Vegas and Atlantic City -- Jackpot Party, Neon Nights, I Dream of Jeannie, Munsters, Reel 'Em In, etc.

I love these bonus games. What I don't understand is that in Vegas and A/C,you can play one nickel, but in Seneca, also in Mountaineer in West Virginia and Wheeling Island in West Virginia, the minimum coin play on a nickel machine is two or three.

Is this because they are regulated by the state lottery commission or that the casino wants you to play a higher amount machine rather than nickels? If this is the case, why do you see more and more penny and nickel slots everywhere? A fad?

I live in Pittsburgh so I travel to the West Virginia casinos in less than an hour and to Niagara Falls in three hours. Granted, I am just a "nickel/dime" player, but they are fun and a great way to spend an evening. Besides, all three have great eateries and entertainment venues.

Any takes on this? Have you any opinions on Seneca Niagara?

Thanks alot and keep up the great articles.

Thanks for the kind words about my articles.

I've never been to Seneca Niagara (and I think the last--and only--time I've been to Niagara Falls was in 1965), so I can't offer any opinions on the place.

I don't think there's anything in the compact the tribe has with the state of New York that says the minimum bet must be 10 or 15 cents, but it's possible.

More likely, the casino just wants to increase the minimum bet possible on the machines and I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing for them to do.

Players can play anywhere from five cents to $4.50 or more per spin on these machines. The person loading up the machine should enjoy a higher payback than the person playing one coin at a time, but there is a limited number of ways that the machine's programmers can reward the max-coin players. The only things they can do are 1) pay more on the last line, and 2) pay a bonus for playing the last coin. They are not allowed to program the machine to use different payback programs based on how much the player is betting.

It's possible that Seneca Niagara chose to make the minimum bet two or three coins on their machines so they can afford to have higher paybacks on them. It's also possible that they're using a very low payback program on them and they need that minimum bet for the machine to generate the desired profit.

We're seeing more and more nickel and penny machines because people love to play them and coinless technology has eliminated the problems of dealing with large numbers of small-value coins. Nevertheless, a casino can't offer a high payback on a machine if many players play just a few cents per spin on it. Until the slot manufacturers come up with a way to scale the paybacks based on the player's bet, I think you'll find more and more machines that have minimum bets of more than one coin per spin.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I understand the RNG is running constantly on the slots. Is this also true on video poker?

Thanks,
Grace

Dear Grace,

Yes, the RNG on a video poker machine is also constantly running, in effect constantly reshuffling the electronic deck of cards in the machine.

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.


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