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Do casinos pay out more (or less) when they're busy (or slow)?

18 October 2008

Hi John:

I wanted to ask if there is any truth in the notion that when certain casinos are busy or slow, they either pay out more or less than normal.

I have gambled in Atlantic City for many years, and have noticed (so I think) that certain casinos only pay out well when they are really busy, or when they are really slow. Before I begin play — and I usually play video poker — I always take a look around to see how in general people seem to be faring and I also take a look at the cashier cage. I can't tell you how many times I have noticed that the cage is devoid of customers and the machines are not paying out — while the place is jam packed — and when it's empty in the casino, the reverse is true. For some casinos, it seems to work in reverse.

In years past, when I played at Harrah's in Atlantic City, I noticed that late night play (after 10 p.m.) always worked better for me than during the a.m. or afternoons. Now late night play nearly guarantees you to lose.

Can you shed any light on this phenomenon?

Harry

Dear Harry,

Yes, I hope I can shed some light on the subject.

The number of people in the casino has no effect whatsoever on how much the casino pays out. But other things related to the number of people in the casino may give the impression that there is a relationship.

Some people claim that casinos pay out more when the casino is crowded. As they walk the aisles in search of their next machine, they see many players hitting. They therefore conclude that the machines hit more frequently when the casino is crowded.

They should really look deeper and see if there's a more logical reason for why they see more players hitting. There is a simpler reason than looser machines. The mere fact that more people are playing at the time means that there will be more players hitting.

But you said that the machines were not paying out and no customers were at the cage when the casino was jam-packed. When the casino is crowded, we'd expect it to be fully staffed and all cage windows to be open, thereby reducing the mean waiting time for patrons needing cage services. That could be a simpler reason for why you didn't see any patrons at the cage.

Now, even if the casino could make the machines pay out less when the casino is crowded, would that necessarily mean that no patrons would need the cage? Would more players go broke and therefore not need to redeem a ticket, or would those players just hit their loss limits sooner or lose more money and still need to redeem tickets, albeit of lesser value? Tighter machines do not necessarily result in a significant decrease in patrons at the cage.

You wrote that some casinos payout when they're crowded, and others pay out when they're slow. I think if you kept careful track of your impressions, you'd find that there is no pattern in the casinos. Each casino will sometimes pay out when it's crowded and sometimes pay out when it's slow. There's no pattern because the results of each spin or hand on a machine is determined at random, without any regard for the number of patrons in the casino.

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 reply to every question.

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