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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Chips in Tournament Machines

20 May 2004

Good day, John,

This is in re: cell phones.

This is strictly information. I do have a question below which may or may not be useful for your column.

In my last trip to Biloxi a few weekends ago I was amazed at the number of folks chatting on cell phones. In one casino alone I must have witnessed about 20 folks at a time chatting away (The Grand). This was in the common areas and folks sitting at and playing at the slots.

When I pulled my cell phone out of my pocket at the craps table (President Casino) and momentarily placed it on my chip rack in order to get tip change for the cocktail server, the pit crew about went ballistic. In short I was told NOT to do that! Later, when I inquired as to why - they mumbled something about magnets. (Gee, do you think they load the dice?) They did say if I got a call, I was to take a step or two back from the table and that would be ok. Yet if I had placed it on the rail where the drinks were kept it wouldn't have been a problem (strange, isn't that a bit closer to the dice - if that was the actual concern?) Only saw one person talking on a cell at the tables (it was some sort of card game) - phone in pocket and wearing a headset.

As to the question. In a discussion group someone posted a question about slot tournaments in re: how the machines were set up. Talking to a casino host about that myself, I was told that they used a chip that eliminated the white spaces. I'll assume that chip controls the stepper motor. Anyway, one person in the group stated:

"For what it is worth, I have been told that the machines can have two chips. One for tournament play and one for regular play. There can be keys on the side of the machines, that they use to put the 10 minute time or x units for use in the tournaments. The chips are selected by a key on the side."

Any truth there? Do the machines the casinos use for tournaments contain both? In the past, I have observed slot mechs actually open the machines and spend about 10 minutes per, doing whatever it is they do, to set them up for tournament play and then the machines were blocked off from the public until the tournament was over. But I am sure technology marches on and it would be cheaper in the long run, labor-wise, to use two chips rather than manually set the machines up for tournaments (a reason for EZ-Pay machines - less human workers needing to be employed).

Which brings me to another question. You and I have discussed casinos controlling payout on their whim. You have always remained steadfast about the RNG being the controller. But what about the chip(s) that interpret the RNG number and send the interpreted data to the chip that controls the stepper motor which controls the wheel stops (I'll assume that could be a single chip depending on the circuitry engineering)? I see a potential whereby a slot could be "loosened" at will and then reverting to being "tight" depending on the whim of the casino just by manipulating the number of white spaces the machine would stop on w/o the need for ever touching the RNG. Thoughts?

Arnie

Dear Arnie,

You've probably seen the shows about cheating in casinos, so you know that the cheats take common objects and put miniature cameras and other gizmos in them to help them cheat. I can see why they would prohibit devices on or near the playing field. That may be why putting the cell phone on the drink rail would be okay. Down there, the device would not be able to "see" the playing field.

I suppose, though, that they're concerned about the possibility that you would put gaffed dice in the game and then use your gaffed cell phone to control the device. Never mind the fact that, as you pointed out, they asked you to put your controller closer to the dice!

In any event, I think most casinos now will ask you to step away from the table when you want to take or make a call on your cell phone.

As for the tournament chips in slot machines, the bottom line is that the machines long-term payback, which is determined by the layout of the virtual reels, is much (much, MUCH) higher on the chips used in a tournament than on the chips used in normal play.

Now, I don't know this for a fact, but I don't think any jurisdiction would ever allow a machine to have both normal-play chips and tournament-play chips in it at the same time. It would be too easy then to have someone working on the slot floor switch the machine to tournament mode for a friend. Rather, the situation is as you described. A slot technician must replace chips to change a machine from normal play to tournament play and vice versa.

As for your last question, the things that determine the payback of the machine are the virtual reels. The RNG has nothing to do with payback. If you want to tighten or loosen a machine, you change the layout of the symbols on the virtual reels. The RNG stays the same. Any process that changes the result of a spin from what the number from the RNG maps to is illegal in every jurisdiction with which I'm familiar.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

We were just at Las Vegas. My husband hit the Triple Double Diamonds for a $400 jackpot on Friday. Then on Saturday at the same time, another person hit the same jackpot. Does this mean that this jackpot has a good chance of being hit at this time everyday? Or was it mere coincidence?

We were thinking that the RNG continually plays the same wheel placement. Once it's out of plays, it starts over at the beginning.

Thanks,
Cindy

Dear Cindy,

It was just a coincidence that someone hit the same combination at about the same time the next day.

The RNG generates hundreds, if not thousands, of outcomes every second. Your husband and the other player just happened to have hit the Spin button when the output from the RNG mapped to the same combination.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I really enjoy your writing. We are going to Tunica, Mississippi in a few weeks. What is the best way to get comped in a casino? I understand that Tunica is a very friendly place with 9 casinos.

Thanks,
Andy

Dear Andy,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

Tunica is definitely a very player-friendly and comp-friendly place.

The first step in getting comped is to get a player's card. If you're going to play slots, go the player's card booth and sign up. For tables, the pit boss might be able to sign you up right at the table. Either way, you can ask how much play is required for the comp you're interested in.

Then use your card every time you play.

At the slots, you'll have to earn the required number of points for the comp. There's not much negotiating possible with slot play.

There's more flexibility at the tables. Hosts and pit bosses can frequently issue low-level comps before you've given the required action. Let's say, for example, that you need four hours of play for the buffet, but you want to take a break and get something to eat after only three. A host or pit boss may write the comp now because they're pretty sure you'll come back after your meal to play some more. The "power of the pen" seems to be dimishing, however, as more and more casinos tighten their comp policies.

Now that the bean counters have taken over the casinos, the best way to get comped is to give the required action for the comp. And the second best way is to ask. You never know what you might get.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


On the Cherry Master Video Poker Machine, what should my payout be? Should the value of my payout be ONLY equal to the 'credits' shown in the bottom left hand corner of the screen?

Or, should it include any other bonus numbers shown on the screen (e.g., top left side of screen shows bonus of 5000, and bottom right side extra bonus of 600), though credits on bottom left side of screen only shows 737?

Thanks for your time and input.

Sorry, I'm not familiar with Cherry Master Video Poker. If anyone knows the proper payouts on this machine, I'd be happy to publish them in a future column.

John


Dear John:

I have been told the following things by casino personnel:

  • You should stick with one machine instead of moving from one to the next.
  • If you change up your bet, switch from one to two coins or two to three coins or back to one coin, you'll have a better chance to win.

I don't believe either of these statements. Do you? Why would the floor walkers tell people this?

I also read where you suggest sticking with one coin on the types of slot machines that I like to play, such as Wild Cherry and Double Diamond, and that's what I generally do. (I avoid machines that require max plays to win some combinations, and multiple line slots.) Unfortunately, every time I hit a jackpot, there is always some helpful person available to tell me I should have played the max coins. I'd like a good response to give them.

Thanks for your column. I always look forward to receiving it.

Sue

Dear Sue,

The second statement is complete nonsense. Changing you bet does not give you a better chance to win.

As for the first statement, I don't know that their reasoning is for sticking with one machine. I say you should play a machine as long as you're having fun playing it. If it's no longer fun, move on.

I have never been able to come up with a really good response for the people who tell me I should have played max coin whenever I hit a nice payout. I've tried explaining to them that the hit frequency and long-term payback on the machine is the same regardless of whether I play one coin or max, and I only increase my risk by betting more than one coin. Their eyes usually glaze over about halfway through my speech and then they invariably say that I could have won two or three times as much money.

The next time I'm going to say that I would have run out of money before I hit the jackpot had I been playing full coin and see what their response is to that. Or I might try this one: "Had I known I was going to hit the jackpot on this spin, I certainly would have bet more than one coin."

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