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Best of John Robison

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Do winning combinations on unplayed lines affect payback?

6 October 2008

John

,

While taking my daily walk, I thought of an interesting subject that I haven't seen you address in your weekly articles and letters. Can you set those of us who play slots straight about payback percent when one plays a 20-line machine activating only 10 lines?

My question is that if the program for the machine is set at 87-90% payback then what happens to that percentage when you eliminate certain lines (in the case above 10 lines eliminated) and the RNG maps a combination that is not activated but would have been on one of the other lines therefore not payable.

Seems to me that would alter the payback percentage drastically as those hits that do not comprise part of the 87-90%. Somewhere in your archives I have read many times that you suggest at least one coin and activate all the lines in the game if you can afford to play that way. However I believe you also said that it doesn't matter whether its one line or 20 that you activate if you have the stomach to see a big winner and no payback due to cutting lines out of the game. It seems to me you must activate all lines to get the potential payback as we are at a 10-12% disadvantage to the house to begin the game.

Thanks for the good work and time you put in to these letters.

Jack

Dear Jack,

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

Let's start with what the RNG chooses. It chooses the stops that will land on the payline. The symbols that are on the other paylines are a result of how the symbols are placed on the reels.

Winning combination that land on paylines not played have no effect on payback because there is no money wagered on those lines. Losing combinations landing on unplayed lines have no effect for the same reason.

As long as there is no bonus for any winning combination when you play max coin, the payback for each payline is the same. So your payback will always be, say, 87% whether you play one line or 20. Each payline can be treated independently; winning combinations on one payline do not affect the payback calculations for another payline.

I do recommend that you play one coin per line on most video slots. Most video slots have no bonuses, so their pay tables are Straight Multipliers. One coin per line will give you the machine's highest hit frequency (the long-term payback is the same no matter how many lines you play). One coin on one line will actually give you the lowest expected loss per spin, but playing only one line is no fun on a video slot.

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