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How do casinos set machines for slot tournaments?

20 September 2008

Hi John,

Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy your articles. They are very informative.

I've read time and time again that the casinos can't change the payout on a slot machine once it leaves the manufacturer, but if that is true then how do you explain slot tournaments? I've stood and watched the players in the tournaments get hit after hit on a bank of slot machines that normally don't pay off that well. How are the slots set for the tournaments?

Thanks.

Mary

Dear Mary,

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

It's not true that casinos can't change the long-term payback (payout) on a slot machine. A machine's long-term payback is determined by a chip that contains the virtual reel layout. Depending upon the rules in its jurisdiction, the casino can either change the chip itself, change the chip while the jurisdiction's gaming commission witnesses the change, or request that the jurisdiction's gaming commission change the chip.

Machines used in slot tournaments differ from regular slot machines in two ways. First, the virtual reel layouts used in tournament machines have many more ways to hit winning combinations than regular machines. The other difference is that tournament machines run a tournament program and not a regular game program. Some of the differences of the tournament program as compared with the regular game program are: free play, a time limit on play, and maybe awarding credits for winning combinations all at once instead of one-by-one.

I've seen casinos set up tournament machines in many ways. Sometimes casinos hire a company that brings its own machines to run the tournament. Sometimes machines have both the tournament and the regular game programs on their logic boards and the casino changes from one program to the other by inserting a key into a lock on the machine and turning the lock from one position to another. The last way I know of that a casino can set up a machine for a tournament is to change the chips in the machine from the chips that contain the regular game program to the chips that contain the tournament program.

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