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Declare Your Independence from the Slots

4 July 2002

By John Robison

On this Independence Day as we celebrate 226 years of independence from the tyranny of the British, consider making your own Declaration of Independence from the tyranny of the slot machines. You don't have to stop playing machines altogether. Just switch to playing video poker.

Okay, you don't have to give up playing slot machines completely. Just consider allocating some of your gambling bankroll to video poker. If you're already playing a mix of slots and video poker, consider playing a little more video poker and a little less slots.

Video poker has many advantages over slots. Video poker's biggest advantage is that each machine is an open book. You can tell the long-term payback of a machine simply by looking at its paytable. And two machines with identical paytables have the same long-term payback.

Such is not the case with slot machines. A Double Diamond machine at the Golden Nugget may pay back anywhere from a fraction of a percentage point to a full percentage point or more than a machine at Treasure Island, even though they have the same paytables. In any casino, furthermore, a Double Diamond machine in one slot aisle may be more or less generous than a Double Diamond machine in another aisle. There's no way to tell the long-term payback of a slot machine just by looking at it.

Even seemingly identical machines in a carousel may not have the same paybacks. I know one slot manager who experimented with lowering the paybacks on two machines in a carousel of Five Times Pay machines. His casino earned a percent or so more on the money played through those machines and none of the players ever knew they weren't as loose as the machines next to them.

Video poker machines also tend to have higher paybacks than slot machines. That's why many slot clubs require more play from a video poker player than from a slot player for the same benefit.

Another video poker advantage is that video poker machines tend to have high hit frequencies. Winning a hand of video poker is frequently just a little bit worse than a 50/50 proposition. Very few slots give you a 50/50 chance of at least pushing on a spin.

As good as these advantages are, the best advantage video poker offers is that some machines pay back more than 100 percent. In the long run, these machines will actually pay you to play them. You'll never find a slot machine that pays back more than 100 percent. Add in slot club benefits and you have a powerful plan to profit from your time in the casino.

All of these advantages do not come without a price. The casino is always ready to give you a shot at its bankroll, but the really good bets require some work on your part. Just like blackjack players need to learn basic strategy to pare blackjack's house edge to the bone and card counting or another advantage-play technique to turn the tables on the casino, video poker players need to learn the proper strategy for each paytable to play at the maximum payback possible.

Eleven-score and six years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation. This year, bring forth a new notion on your casino visits and play more video poker.

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