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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Money Management at Ticket Machines

15 July 2004

Dear John,

I would appreciate it if you could answer my questions. I am going to play video poker and I may spend more than $5000, in a few days.

1. Is it true that a machine will give a royal flush only after it collects more money from its customers?

2. Is it better to take your win and play again in the same machine without paying too much attention to the royal flush?

3. What is your opinion about doubling? Is it better at a Joker machine or Jacks or Better?

Thanks, Hamad

Dear Hamad,

1) That is not true. All cards are dealt randomly without regard for what has happened in the past.

2) The odds of getting any winning hand are the same on every hand. It doesn't matter whether you switch to another machine with the same paytable or continue playing the same machine.

3) I don't like machines that have the Doubling feature active because I rarely double. I might occasionally try to double a small win, but usually I just hit the key to not play the Double Up game. Doubling isn't any better or worse on a Joker machine than on a Jacks or Better machine.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

Thanks for all the great information you have gave me in the past with your great emails.

I have a question. I was wondering if Indian casino payouts are the same as non-Indian payouts, Vegas, for example. Does the gaming commission require Indian casinos to go by state regulations when having payouts or is it that Indian Casinos can determine their own payouts? I have noticed that I don't win, hardly at all, when I go to Indian Casinos and when I do go to Vegas the payouts are much better.

Please help!
Confused

Dear Confused,

I'm not an expert on Indian gaming, but I think the answer is: It depends. Here's my limited understanding of the situation.

If the casino has Class III games, then there is a compact with the state and the casino must abide by any state regulations.

If the casino has only Class II games, then it is just like a charity and the tribe self-regulates the games. Still, the casino must follow the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act and any state regulations for charity games.

That said, I think the main reason that payouts at some Indian casinos are below those of other casinos is due to competition. When you're the only casino in a 20-mile radius, you don't need to have high payouts.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John:

My wife and I love your writing -- good advice presented clearly and with good humor at times!

I'm a craps player myself but my wife plays the slots. It took me YEARS to get her to use a money management technique. Finally I convinced her to use this one:

She would insert $5 in a quarter machine and immediately "cash out". The $5 in quarters goes into bucket #1 and she plays until either 4 no hits in a row or until the $5 is gone. Now comes the second "cashout" -- the winnings, which go in bucket #2 -- never to be replayed. Next machine, same technique, etc. It worked well and she was a winning player more often than not.

Now come along these new EZ Pay machines and you can't use coins at all. No buckets -- just tickets.

We haven't been able to come up with a similar money management system. Any ideas?

Thanks for the kind words about my writing.

If I were a more cynical person, I'd think that the only reason slot manufacturers added Spin buttons, credit play, bill acceptors, and ticket systems to slot machines was to get slot players to play more, faster. Of course, that is one effect of these developments, but they also made life easier for the slot player.

The switch to ticket systems does make any money management system based on handling coins impossible to implement.

Here are two ideas:

  1. Put $5 in a machine. Cash out when the credit meter falls below $2.50 or goes above $7.50 (or whatever numbers you choose).
  2. Use what I call Plateaus. Put $5 in the machine and set your first plateau at $2. If your credit meter falls to $2, you cash out. If your credit meter increases to $8, you raise your plateau to $5. Now, you will be guaranteed of breaking even on the machine. If your credit meter continues to increase and it reaches $11, you raise the plateau to $8 to protect some of your win. You continue raising the plateau as you continue winning, and you cash out if your credit meter ever falls to or below your current plateau.
  3. Treat each session like a stock investment and set a trailing stop. Put $5 in a machine and set a trailing stop of $3 below the credit meter. Your trailing stop increases whenever you reach a new high on the credit meter and, like the Plateaus, it never decreases. For example, you first trailing stop is at $2. You win a few coins on your first spin, and your credit meter is now $7. You raise the trailing stop to $4. You don't hit anything on your next few spins; your trailing stop is still at $4. You hit on the next spin, and your credit meter is at $10. You raise the trailing stop to $7. Your good luck is over and your credit meter falls to $6.75. You cash out.

Note: If your credit meter reads coins and not dollars, use the appropriate number of quarters for the cash-out trigger points.

Your system is a nice, tactile system. My systems require more thought and are not as easy to use. I like any system that gets the player more involved with playing the machine, though.

The first method is easy to play, but it doesn't have you continue playing a machine that has been good to you. I'd rather use a method that has me stick with a machine that has been paying off. The second and third methods have you keep playing as long as you're winning. The third method protects more of your winnings because you raise your stop point anytime your credit meter reaches a new high-water mark. It's more difficult than the second method, which has you raise the stop point only when you hit "milestones" on the credit meter.

Notice that none of my methods have you stop playing a machine after a certain number of losing spins. I don't use that in any of my money management methods because nothing has changed on the machine just because it's had four losing spins. The odds of hitting a winning combination are still the same. Also, I'm not bothered by having four or more losing spins in a row. There's nothing wrong with including a consecutive losing spin count in your method, though.

Of course, there's the easiest money management system of all and ticket systems don't make it one iota harder to play. This system has only two steps:

  1. Put money in machine.
  2. Play until it's gone.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Sir,

Hope all is well. My wife is a BIG video poker fan. We're planning a trip to Las Vegas next month, and I'm wondering where you would recommend I take her to play. I know the Palms is supposed to have the best payout, and she's had better luck downtown than on the Strip (which makes sense).

We'll be staying at the Mandalay Bay, which I'd imagine has lousy payouts. However, if there's a place on the South part of the Strip that's better than others, it would be nice to know that as well. Also, I'd imagine we'll make a trip downtown, so if you have a recommendation there, that would be great.

I guess what I'm asking is:

Where's the best place overall?
Where's the best place downtown?
Where's the best place on the South part of the Strip?

My wife usually plays $.25 machines at $1.25 per play. She usually plays Jacks or Better as opposed to Deuces Wild or other variations.

As a side note, she has started playing the machines that play three hands at once. Do you have any advice on this vs. standard one-hand machines?

Thanks,
Steve

Dear Steve,

Sir? You must have been in the military. No one calls me "Sir" around here.

I'm afraid we have another instance here of my reply being published long after you've come back from your trip. I hope you had a good time.

The Palms is known for having very good video poker. The authority on video poker offerings is Skip Hughes' Video Poker Homepage (www.vphomepage.com). According to them, the Palms has lots of 9/6 Jacks or Better in quarters. Caesars Palace also has a good selection of 9/6 Jacks machines. Sadly, as much as I like the most of the guys who run Mandalay Resorts, Mandalay Bay has never had a playable video poker machine. You'll have to go to Excalibur to use your One Club card on a quarter 9/6 Jacks machine.

I haven't been downtown in a quite a while, but many of my friends have good things to say about Main Street Station. The Golden Nugget used to be the class act downtown. The new owners want to return the property to that status again. You might want to drop in to see if they've also put in some playable quarter machines. The Horseshoe probably still has some quarter 9/6 Jacks machines.

I can't say what's best for you because there are too many personal factors. For example, the El Cortez has 9/6 Jacks in quarters and low table minimums. I remember playing dime roulette there many years ago. The chips stuck together and I had to pry them apart. There was an old guy with fewer teeth than toes playing at the foot of the table. The aroma in the casino was a mixture of smoke, deoderizer, and (I've been told) urine. The El Cortez gets a somewhat different clientele than, say, Bellagio.

Now, for some people, payback is all that matters and they play anywhere as long as they had the advantage and they felt safe playing there. For others, the availability of rooms with Jacuzzis outweighs all other considerations. They gladly give up a point or two in payback in order to end the day in bubbling water.

Multi-hand machines don't require any strategy changes. Just keep in mind that you have wider swings in your bankroll when you play three hands at a time than when you play one hand at a time at the same denomination. If you can drop down in denomination and have the same paytable (for instance, playing five hands of nickel 9/6 Jacks at a time), you can decrease the swings in your bankroll. It's really tough to find decent paytables at the low denominations, though.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi,

Could please tell me where I could play Yukon Gold Game on line or purchase the game for PC use?

Thank you.

I don't know of any site that has Yukon Gold. It's not available for the PC, as far as I know. I was in my local Best Buy this past weekend and I noticed quite a few slot CDs there. Keep your eye on the software shelf and you just may find it there soon.

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 two or more 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