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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Do casinos manipulate slot machines?

21 November 2005

Hi, John,

Last week my wife and I were up at Mystic, Conn., and we went to Mohegan Sun. Nice place. We played 25-cent slots only. That's all we can do (oh well . . . grind players).

I tried to follow all you pros' advice and do one coin at two-coin machines. I tried a couple of $1 machines and lost $30 in minutes. I played many 25-cent slots even by cashier's booths and busy aisles away from the table games, round carousels, although Mohegan seems to have tables intermixed all over.

I managed to win over 200 quarters but these were won only with cherries and multiplier symbols (only one triple 7s). No bars. Plenty of blanks on 1st reel. This was just like Las Vegas all over again last year when we were there five nights. The video poker was $1 denomination and that was a no-no for me for five coins a spin. The table games were $25 a hand. I know how to play Blackjack and Pai Gow Poker and Caribbean Stud but at $25 a shot . . . forget it.

I just wanted to play these at the real casino but reality ($) prevented that. I've had software at home for these games (Masque and Bicycle Microsoft). OK, at home is not like the casino but in order to play these I have to learn the strategy from the pro websites such as Bill Burton Pai Gow, Wizard of Odds Caribbean and others. Masque gives you Blackjack strategy and Spanish 21 (and beautiful but very tight IGT and Bally slots).

To get back to slots. I intended to have in my left pocket the total money to spend on slots and winnings in the right pocket. After the left pocket is empty I would count up the winnings and then a decision to play further would have to be made. That's the hard part when you want to stay longer. However after the way the machines were not giving much I forgot my plan and machine hopped. I was really upset knowing that casinos use us to make 60 to 70% profits.

In reality we all expect to walk out with the session money and even a small profit. That's not possible. But the feelings are there nevertheless. I also like to spend a few hours there. We were there 5 hours. I wasn't steaming per machine however. As we covered both casinos of Sky and Earth I did not see a lot of coins dropping. Only a couple of persons along the way. I think in your book you say you like to do 100 spins. I do up to 15 before I give up on a dead machine. What am I doing wrong, John?

Win or lose. Regardless of RNG, I believe electronic devices can be manipulated from RNG to the reels. I did not think this when I played. I don't want to be sour grapes. But when these machines are giving so little your frustration can think this.

Thank you,
Frank

Dear Frank,

I don't put much stock in loose machine placement theories today. Most slot directors order roughly the same payback percentage for all of their machines of a particular denomination. I don't think you have anything to lose by playing machines in highly visible locations, but I also don't think you have much to gain.

Keep in mind that the Play One Coin Strategy works best on multipliers. It shouldn't be used on buy-a-pays.

I don't know when or where you stayed in Las Vegas, but I guess it was one of the high-end resorts. You have to expect high minimums all the time at high-end resorts and everywhere else too when a lot of visitors are in town.

Even though your expected loss may be less at the $25 table than at the quarter slot, you have to have the bankroll to see you through dry spells. A bad run of luck and your bankroll is gone and you're out of the game. Next time you go to Las Vegas, try Treasure Island or the off-Strip casinos for lower minimums.

I'm not sure what you mean when you refer to 60 to 70% profits. No machine has that high a house edge. It is true, however, that the slots can provide 60 to 70% of total casino profits.

As for manipulation, it's illegal. It's perfectly natural though, as you point out, to try to find a reason for why we have bad luck. Pure chance just doesn't cut it.

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