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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Paybacks on Multi-Denomination Machines, Due Machines

13 November 2003

Dear John,

My wife and I play the slots at an Indian casino called Little River Casino in Mainstee, MI. We "think" they can turn the slot machines and payout levels on and off at will, but everything I've read says the payout is set at the factory. We often see two machines next to each other hit hand payouts at the same time after an hour of not paying out even a little. We've been playing "hot" machines for an hour and suddenly they stop almost completely and pay out nothing and we'll look at our watch and it will be exactly 6 PM. We know certain areas in the casino that have machines that get hot specific hours every time we visit.

It's so prevalent that we can walk through the casino and see which areas are playing "hot" and see the same machines (say Crystal 7x) paying out throughout the casino and there will be times when suddenly there are lots of hand payouts all over and other times there are none. It changes from week to week with different machines being hot one week and cold the next and we have learned that the hot machines on any given day pay out best just before people would decide to leave for supper or just before and after giveaway drawings on weeknights (to keep the guests longer). And, get this, when people start lining up at a certain popcorn machine before they leave to go home, the Ten Times machine adjacent to this area starts paying out (other times it's stone cold).

Is this possible? Can they manipulate the virtual reel in the machines from their computers in the control room?

Best Regards,
MF

PS: By the way, this casino pays out better than any other we've found so this isn't a complaint.

Dear MF,

What you described (altering the payouts on machines) is illegal in every jurisdiction with which I'm familiar. Native American casinos aren't always subject to the same regulations, so it's possible this casino may be allowed to play these sorts of games. Still, if the machines are made by IGT, Bally's, or any of the other major manufacturers, the machines should operate identically to ones in Nevada, New Jersey, and other state-regulated jurisdictions.

Almost everything you described (hot machines going cold, different machines being hot each week, etc.), in fact, can be explained as normal consequences of random results.

In any case, if you are able to predict which machines will be hot at certain times in that casino, go for it!

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I am in a bit of a fix here and I'm wondering if your expertise might help me. I will attempt to give you a briefing of what dilemma I am facing. Here goes:

On a recent trip to Florida to visit my parents, while having lunch with my 78-year-old Dad, he was telling me about this "guy" at one of these legend clubs that wants him to invest in a slot machine with him. This "guy" is asking my Dad for $4,000, which this "guy" says is half the cost of the slot machine (a touchscreen type machine, from what I understand). In turn he will give my Dad 25% of the profit (about $500) from this machine on a monthly basis.

Although I am aware that gaming is illegal, I just don't want to see my Dad taken advantage of financially. This "guy" told my Dad to check the costs of these machines himself through a company in South Carolina called SED or something to that nature, who sells these "same" machines that he "builds from scratch" for $13,000.

Can you tell my what these machines could possibly cost (low and high end)? Should this "guy" be avoided like the plague? I have seen machines selling for as low as $199 and as high as $2,499 in person and on various web sites.

Thank you for your time with this matter, I don't have anywhere else to turn.

A modern slot machine costs about $8,000 to $10,000, and maybe a little more, new. The amount is about right.

Still, I'd stay away from this guy. I don't know what the laws are in Florida for gaming devices, but I don't think they're allowed anywhere. (One state, I think it was Louisiana, allowed video poker machines in bars for a time.) Operating the machine is probably against the law.

In any case, I'd be very wary of a machine he "builds from scratch." If operating the machine is legal, is he using approved software in it?

You definitely have to find out where he's planning to operate the machine and then find out if it's legal to operate the machine there.

John


Do we trust WinPoker to be "perfect," that is, statistically correct?

Yes, WinPoker will tell you which combination of cards has the highest expected value in a hand.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hello, John,

I really enjoy your newsletters and have learned a lot. A quick question for you:

I have noticed several slot machines that are "multi-denomitation," the player chooses how much to play, either .05, .25, .50 or $1.00. You and many others have said that the higher the denomination the better the payback, but how does it work on these machines? Is there one chip determining the payback on all or are there several chips (a different one for each denomination played)?

Again, thanks for a great newsletter,
Mike

Dear Mike,

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

To tell you the truth, I don't know whether the multi-denomination machines use one chip or a set of chips. At one time, manufacturers were testing CD-ROM-based machines, so it's possible that all the game programs are stored on a CD.

In any case, it doesn't matter. On every multi-denomination video poker machine I've played, the higher denomination games have had higher paybacks than the lower denomination games, so I'd assume that the same would hold true for the slot paybacks too.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

I frequent the Indian Reservation casinos in Prescott, Arizona. I chose the lower pay-out machines as I read they pay out more often (or at a higher percentage). This was true for a couple of $1 slot machines (Wild Cherry) which would pay up to 5000 coins for hitting 3 cherries on the win line, or 500 coins for hitting 3 cherries in any order (by this I mean just slightly above or below the pay-line). I took less than $400 on three different occasions within about 10 days. I would usually only have to invest $50 or less to start hitting little wins before it would start accumulating up to $200, $300, etc.

My husband warned me that if one machine was paying out too much, the casino would recognize it and re-program it.

Sure enough, the next day when I went by there, I invested $150 and never could get anything going.

What do you think happened?

Deborah

Dear Deborah,

It is extremely unlikely that the casino did anything to the machine.

What happened is that you experienced the randomness of the outcomes on the machine. Sometimes a machine is hot; sometimes it's cold.

Nothing's been done to the machine, though. Streaks are just a natural result of randomness.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi,

I live in South Africa. Please give me some tips on how to win on the slot machines.

Thank you,
Ragani

Dear Ragani,

The only way I know of to win on the slot machines is to play with money that you can afford to lose, to play machines that you enjoy playing, and to stop playing if it ever stops being fun.

There's no legal way to ensure you win money all the time.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hello, John:

When I am playing the slots, the person next to me will often say, "I just put lots of money in the machine you're playing and won nothing, so it should be ready to hit."

Is this true or just a myth?

Jerry

Dear Jerry,

Myth.

All of the results on a slot machine are determined using a number from the Random Number Generator (RNG), and the RNG doesn't know anything about how well the machine has been paying in the past.

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.

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