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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Going With Your Gut Instincts at the Slots

16 May 2005

I was reading your articles, and one guy wanted to know about his betting strategy. I've been successful with this strategy. If I go on vacation (which I do a lot of, about 6 - 7 times a year) I will take maybe $5K to $6K with me for a 6-7 day trip. I will divide my money up over those days so I will only play maybe $700 - $800/day.

They way I do it is this. I take $800 for the day and place it in, say, my left pocket. I walk up to a machine and put $200 in a machine (dollar machine) and hit for $500. I cash out and take the $500 and place it in my right pocket. I still have $600 left in my left pocket so I can still play, but I know that at this point, the most I'll be down for the day is $300.

I go to another machine and put, say, another $100 in it and hit for another $500. I cash out, put that money in my right pocket, which now has $1K in it. Now I know that I can still play another $500 for the day and still leave the casino that day a winner with a minimum of $200 profit.

I've been very lucky at the casinos with slots. My favorite is Cleopatra, where betting max is always a good bet. On the average, taking $5K-$6k with me on a 6-7 day trip, I've come back usually $300 - $500 down and collected a whole ton of points. Sometimes I've come back a few thousand up from a trip and just recently I came back $6K down. This was actually the first time I lost at the casinos.

Also, another thing that your readers should pay close attention to is your gut instinct. I say this as somebody who didn't do it.

The story transpires like this:

I was in Las Vegas, October 2001. I was hot. I was winning everywhere. I won in a slot tournament. I had $200 in a dollar slot machine that let me play for approx. 5 hours and netted me about $2800. I walked up to a dollar Wheel of Fortune machine and it wouldn't take my money. After trying every bill I had, I thought to myself, "Well, place the money in the next machine, cash it out and take the tokens and place it in this one that doesn't want to take your bills". I didn't do it and walked away. A lady came up behind me put $20 in the machine and hit for $5.9 million dollars. If you don't believe me, go to the "New York New York casino hotel" in Las Vegas and look at the wall that says "these people got THEIR piece of the big apple". The actual date was October 30, 2001.

Also, the odds of hitting on a machine increase as you increase in the denomination of the machine. This is due to the fact that the casino only gets a percentage of each coin placed in the machine. Also, the higher the denomination, the casino knows that these people have a little bit more money so want to keep these customers a little happier so the machines really DO hit more often the higher the value you play. But I emphasize to your readers, do not play more that what you can afford. Besides, those 9-line nickel machines like Cleopatra (my favorite) pay off pretty good sometimes. I put $50/$100 in these machines and will often hit for $600 - $1K.

Thanks for sharing your system and your experiences.

Your system -- at least your description of it -- suffers from the same problem that most systems I've seen suffer from. They only tell you what to do when you win. What do you do when you lose?

You're hitting $500 jackpots right and left in your first few paragraphs, but then you wrap up your description by saying "I've been very lucky" and then saying that on the average you come back "$300-$500 down." You then say that you recently came back "$6K down" and this was "actually the first time I lost at the casinos", yet right before you said that on the average you come back $300-$500 down. Didn't you lose those times too?

That said, your system has a number of good aspects. You're dividing your bankroll to ensure that you have some money to play with each day. Then you're further dividing your bankroll to make sure you don't blow your daily bankroll in your first session. And further, you're putting aside some or all of your winnings to go back towards replenishing your bankroll or guaranteeing a profit.

Higher-denomination reel-spinning machines do tend to have higher hit frequencies than lower-denomination reel-spinning machines. Activity in high-limit rooms and on high-limit machines generates excitement in the casinos. The higher-denomination machines also tend to have higher paybacks, but you made the mistake of connecting payback with hit frequency. The two are independent of each other.

I don't think that betting the max on Cleopatra -- or on almost any other machine, for that matter -- is always a good bet. The only time increasing your bet makes "emotional" sense is if you get something for your increased wager, like increased hit frequency. And it only makes "economic" sense to increase your wager if your expected loss goes down -- and that rarely happens.

Finally, don't beat yourself up over not having played that Wheel of Fortune machine. The lady won only because she started a game during the fraction of a second that the jackpot combination was chosen by the RNG. You probably would not have started a game during the small time period.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I have read your book many times. I read it out loud to my husband as we were driving the six hours to Atlantic City.

What I want to know is would you suggest staying at the same slot machine for a considerable amount of time? I can't seem to figure that out from the book. I tend to be a 10 to 20-pull person and then move on.

Thank you,
Cathy

Dear Cathy,

The chances of hitting winning combinations are the same on every spin on a slot machine. Thus, there's no mathematical basis for staying at or leaving a particular machine based on its past performance.

When there's no math we can use to help us make a decision, we can use our emotions. Play the way you like to play. Stay at a machine as long as you're having fun playing it. If you like to move on after 10 to 20 spins, then do so. If your husband like to spend more time at a machine, then let him. You're both right.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Is there a way to stop the thief [sic] of EEPROMs from slot machines? I am doing a project for a systems class at the University of Nevada Reno and we are looking into ways to stop this from happening.

Thanks,
Puett

Dear Puett,

I don't know exactly what you're asking, but I'll try to answer anyway.

I would think that the multiple keys needed to access the logic drawer in a slot is an effective method to prevent the theft of the chips from the machines. And even if someone could break into the machine, removing the logic board and prying off the chips is going to be tough to do without someone noticing.

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