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Best of John Robison

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Do slot machines hit less frequently on free play?

2 February 2009

Dear John,

I really love reading and learning from your column. It has helped me understand why and how these slots work. I have also made some extra money (sometimes) while using your advice.

However, my question concerns the "free play" on slot machines that you receive from "comps" from the casino to get you back in. It appears to me that when using the "casino free play" voucher in the machine, either through the bill slot, or the number keypad on the machine itself, the entire free play money is exhausted almost immediately, with the exception of a few minor hits. I am talking sometimes a few hundred dollars worth of free play. Only after the free play is finished and you are on your money will the machine hit anything of any size. Why is this happening, if the RNG is the controlling influence for the winning combinations?

Dan

Dear Dan,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

The RNG doesn't care — or even know — if you are playing on the free play or with your own money.

A key phrase in your letter is "it appears to me." Let's apply the scientific method and get some hard evidence. The next time you play you take advantage of a free play promotion, keep track of the number of spins and the number of hits you get from the free play. Then, play the same number of spins on your own dime and, once again, keep track of the hits. Calculate the hit frequency (hits divided by number of spin) for the free play and for your money. The two frequencies should be very close. The same outcome selection process is used for the free spins and the paid spins. You might need to repeat this a few times on the same machine until you have 1,000 or more spins.

I think you're the victim of selective memory. Your hypothesis is that the machines hit less frequently and for smaller amounts when they do hit when you're playing with the free play than when you're playing with your own money. As a result, you tend to remember the times that you don't hit much on free play and forget the times that you did. That's why we need to keep track and not rely on impressions.

Please write back with your results if you're able to conduct the experiment I described.

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