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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Comp Help

3 October 2005

Hi, John,

I travel to Vegas twice a year with my husband and two other family members, usually staying at a different location every visit. This, of course, has resulted in a bunch of player cards and very few comps. Between the two of us we probably spend about $3000 - $4000 on gambling (mostly slots and some blackjack) during a typical three-day weekend.

In your opinion, which casino would be the best comp-wise for us to stay at? I know there are a lot of variables to consider – Which atmosphere do we like the best? Where were we treated the best? Etc. etc? While obviously staying at a low-end place – say Lady Luck - this level of play might get us treated like a "whale" and the same at Bellagio might get us a buffet -- if we beg.

We would like to become 'regulars' at one location – any suggestions on how to find the best comps without having to stay at a dozen more places? And in your opinion for that level of play, what comps should we expect?

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you,
Eve

Dear Eve,

I'm not sure if I understand exactly what you mean when you say you "spend" about $3000-$4000 on gambling. I assume you mean that you usually lose this amount during a typical stay. If you figure that a casino comps around 10 to 20% of your expected win, you should be getting around $300 to $800 in comps -- not very few. I infer that you drop most of this where you're staying. But if it is spread out over many casinos, you may not be giving any casino enough play to show up on their comp radar.

My first suggestion is to get Jean Scott's Frugal Gambler books. She's far more experienced in working the comps programs than I am and has a lot of good advice in her books.

Second, it's time to pick your favorite casino or casino company and concentrate your play there. As you said, there are many variables, so I'm not going to suggest any places. Instead, I suggest you start by listing the places in which you've played or stayed. Cross off the casinos that you didn't like, for whatever reason. You're not going to become a regular at a casino in which you don't feel comfortable playing, or that has bad food or dirty rooms, no matter how good its comps are.

At this point, you're going to have to apply your own criteria to choose a casino or two of your list to be you home bases. If you're lucky, all the casinos will be part of one company, so you can use choose whether to stretch your comps at a value-based (How's that for a PC way to say low-end?) property or splurge at a high-end property.

An example from my own experience: I was a regular at the Desert Inn. It didn't have the best comps or the best games, but I liked its small size, I almost always had a room with a Jacuzzi, and I was treated like a king whenever I stayed there. For me, the whole experience is important, not just how good the comps are.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

Maybe Mr. Robert Schuman should wonder or look into why the common conception (or misconception) is that tribal gaming alters the payouts on their gaming machines. Most players I know feel this way. Example: in an area of a seasonal (snowbirds) retirement community when the population goes up, payouts seem to become less. When the population goes down, payouts seem to go up. You would think it would be the other way around, but it isn't.

Another incident is when the local casino advertised they would replace their older casino with a multi-million dollar new casino. Most players I talk to (including me) felt the machines just got tighter. Maybe it is a misconception because the payouts are so low that most players hardly ever hit enough to play a while. They claim the payout is around 92%, but then no employee can tell you for certain what it is. Arizona gaming requires a payout range from 80% to not more than 100%. I doubt they pay out 80%. I wonder where the saturation point is, since we now have casinos almost as thick as convenience stores.

Jim

[Jim is referring to a letter about how tribal casinos have stricter regulations than many state-regulated casinos.]

Dear Jim,

You know, players have made the same observations about casinos owned by corporations. It seems like whenever a casino expands or improves its property, players always say that the machines got tighter to pay for the improvemnets.

I think every jurisdiction should have the majority of its gaming regulations available on a website. (They need only post regulations concerning how the games should operate and casino-patron interaction. Regulations concerning security and game protection need not be posted.) Being able to see the tribal gaming regulations would go a long way towards dispelling at least your first conception -- or misconception.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


RE: Question from Anne: Will the machine deal cards according to what one chooses to hold? Your answer seemed to indicate that the machine will deal on a random basis (it will) regardless of what is held. However, say, one has two jacks held--the machine will not deal five jacks even if randomly selected--it can only deal at most, three jacks randomly selected plus two other cards.

That's right. The replacement cards will be drawn randomly from the cards remaining in the deck.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


In your article of June 27, 2005, you state:

"The machine can either use one poll of the RNG to decide the symbols on all three reels or it can poll the RNG separately for each reel. My understanding is that most machines today use separate polls of the RNG for each reel."

If the second premise is used, how can they program the machine to fit the criteria for Las Vegas on the minimum payoff percentages?

Thanks,
Joe

Dear Joe,

Whether the machine uses one poll or one poll per reel doesn't matter. Either way, the machine needs a random number for each reel.

You may be thinking that in the one poll method, the machine looks to see which combination corresponds to that number and acts accordingly. It doesn't work that way. The one number would be factored into three numbers, one for each reel and representing the virtual stop chosen on that reel.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi,

My question is about the virtual layout of Wild Haywire Deluxe machines. I frequently play this game at Thunder Valley casino in Roseville, Calif. I notice more frequent hits of a different variety from one machine to another right down the next aisle.

Is this just random or is it the virtual layout?

To put it simply, I play 200 spins and get some small hits like single bar repeating five times and two double bars -- about 150 dollars. Yet the same machine down the way consistently never gets double bar hits, maybe a triple bar once in a while, but why?

Thanks,
Mike

Dear Mike,

It's possible that the two machines have different virtual reel layouts, but I think it's more likely that your sample is way too small to make any kind of conclusion. At this point, I'd say it's just randomness.

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 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
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