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Loose and Tight Slot Machines

25 February 2000

By John Robison

Dear John,

Are there really loose and tight machines?


Dear R.S.,

Yes, there are loose and tight machines, but keep in mind, as Albert Einstein might have said had he been a slot player, "It's all relative."

Slot manufacturers offer many different programs for their machines. Double Diamond, for example, has about two dozen programs available. Each of these programs has a different long-term payback.

There is no standard that says a machine that pays back x percent is loose and a machine that pays back y percent is tight. But we can say that a machine that pays back more than another is looser. We should really talk about looser and tighter machines.

The manufacturers offer so many programs for two reasons. First, some casinos want to earn more from their slot machines than other casinos, so they order tighter machines. You can see this effect in the slot payback percentages published in Strictly Slots. Some casinos consistently have higher paybacks than others; these casinos ordered looser programs than the other casinos.

The second reason manufacturers have different programs is because some casinos want to mix looser and tighter machines on their slot floors. Frank Scoblete, in Break the One-Armed Bandits, interviewed a casino executive who told him where he placed the looser machines on his slot floor to encourage other players to play.

All the best in and out of the casinos!

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at

For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
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