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Changing the Telnaes Map on a Machine

15 August 2005

By John Robison

Hi, John:

We only go to Vegas once every one to two years. We have a small bankroll, usually a few hundred bucks. We usually play slots, but on our last trip we started playing video poker and did reasonably well (that is, we didn't lose as much as usual!). Since then, we've been practicing with online games and think we have the video poker strategy down pretty well. We haven't played many table games but are starting to practice some blackjack strategies.

I'm just wondering if you have any tips for occasional players. We are trying to improve our odds by moving away from low denomination slots, but our small bankroll doesn't allow for a whole lot of play on higher denomination machines, and we still aren't comfortable with most of the table games, which also require a higher minimum bet. Do you have any tips for small fry like us to get the most out of our limited time and bankroll in Vegas?

We go to Vegas for fun and we know that the odds are against us. We look at our bankroll as our entertainment expense for the trip. But still, we'd like to stretch it as far as we can, and it would be nice to come home a winner (even a small one!) now and then. Any suggestions?


Dear Becky,

Sure, I have some suggestions.

You've already started playing video poker. It's a great alternative to slots because video poker machines tend to have higher paybacks than slots and you can tell the long-term payback from the paytable. If you haven't already done so, read a few books about video poker (like Victory at Video Poker by Frank Scoblete and The Video Poker Answer Book by John Grochowski.) Also invest in video poker software (like Jean Scott's Frugal Video Poker or Bob Dancer Presents WinPoker) because online casinos won't warn you when you make a strategy mistake.

Playing table games, believe it or not, is also a good way to strecth your bankroll. Although the minimum bet at a table game can be much higher than the minimum (and even the maximum) bet at a slot machine, the pace is much slower and the house edge usually much lower. Blackjack Basic Strategy is relatively easy to learn and cuts the house edge to the bone.

Finally, take advantage of all the comps that the casinos offers. Read Jean Scott's The Frugal Gambler series to learn how to get the most from the casino comp system.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,


I live I Vegas. I only play at the local poker bars. Can I, playing 50-cent poker or whatever game, with a bankroll of $250, realistically stick to a $75 profit and walk away, every day, and create a nice part-time income or is this not a good, reliable way?

It takes discipline to walk away and I'm not greedy so could this work for me?


Dear Chris,

Ah, the old "quit-while-you're-ahead" gameplan. The problems with the plan are what happens when you lose $75--or your entire bankroll--instead of winning $75.

See John Grochowski's article on this site about why the quit-while-you're-ahead plan doesn't work.

The only way your plan will work is if you play only 100%+ video poker. Then you might be able to get a nice part-time income, but it won't be reliable because it will be subject to randomness.

If you're playing negative expectation video poker, then your plan is hopeless. The house edge doesn't care when you quit. In the long run, the amount you lose will be the house edge times your action.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

I am studying the slot machines in the Grand Casino at Gulfport, MS. Like you (as I hear) I am a computer scientist and software engineer, been in the busines for 50 years starting as a grad student of astrophysics at IU in 1956 with an IBM 650.

I cmme across the term Telnaes map... perhaps in your book or an online response. My question is simple: does the Telnaes map change require a ROM replacement, simply throwing a switch to select a different one, or even downloading the map from a "master controller"?

Thanks for your response. I enjoy reading your answers.


Dear Jon,

I was in the middle of writing my response to your question when I realized I could answer it with one word: Yes.

On a single-game slot machine, you have to change a chip to change the map.

On a multi-denomination machine, differents maps for the same game are available and chosen based on the denomination the player chooses.

In the not-so-distant future--but not today--machines will download game programs from a central server. We might see this system in Nevada as early as 2006.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,


I was wondering if you have any experience with the slot machines at Indian casinos. I live in Oklahoma and all of our casinos are Indian run. Each slot machine has approximately 10 different "bingo" patterns that you can choose from when you start the reels spinning. My question is:

Do the "bingo" patterns each have their own RNG? Does it matter which pattern you choose or are they just there to satisfy the gaming laws?

Thanks so much for your time,
Mary Ann

Dear Mary Ann,

The games you describe are known as Class II gaming devices. They look like slot machines, but they're really bingo drawings under the hood.

A central server has the only RNG in the system and it uses the RNG to draw numbers at random. Those numbers are sent down to the machines, which cover their electronic bingo cards, and use the pattern created by the covered numbers to determine the symbols that will land on the payline.

It doesn't matter which you choose. Your odds are the same on them all.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Dear John,

Do you know of any sites or in-store pc casino games that feature the "BOOM" slot machines. If you do please let me know.


Dear D.K.,

I don't know of a site or PC-based collection games that has Boom. If anyone does, please drop me a line and I'll publish the info in a future column.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at 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 several 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