Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

author's picture

Pitching Your Own Slot Machine

28 March 2005

By John Robison

I was just wondering if there is any way to know which slot machines at a casino will pay out before playing them?

I was also wondering if it's better to play the progressive machines or the regular machines? And which denomination is better to play -- pennies, nickels, quarters, dollars, etc.?

I also wanted to know when playing a machine and your money runs out on it. How do you determine to play it again as far as is the machine about to hit or not?

Mrs. Spend-a-lot

Dear Mrs. Spend-a-lot:

I have a pair of dice in my hand. I want you to tell me what number I'll roll next.

You can't do it because dice rolls are random events. Unless the dice are fixed, there's no way to know what number will roll next.

The results of spins on slot machines are also random events. There's no way to know what combination will land on the payline next. There's no way to know which slot machines will pay out -- before you play them and even while you're playing them. The result of each spin is chosen at random without any regard for what has happened in the past. If you run out of credits while playing a machine, there's no way to determine whether it will hit if you put more money in it. If you're still having fun playing the machine and you still have money left in your bankroll, put more money in the machine. If you're frustrated that you ran out of credits and you're angry at the machine, move on.

As to your middle group of questions, wide-area-progressive machines tend to have lower paybacks than other machines. Standalone progressives and progressives that are confined to one casino or one company's casinos do not necessarily pay back less than non-progressive machines. When it comes to denomination, higher denomination machines tend to have higher paybacks than lower denomination machines.

You asked if it's better to play progressives or non-progressives and which denomination is best to play. I can't say what's best for you. It all depends on your goals and your bankroll. It's really irrelevant to you that dollars pay back more than nickels if your bankroll is $20. And if your goal is to win a life-changing amount of money, you have to play the big money progressives -- but keep in mind that you're more likely to become a millionaire by getting hit on the way to the casino and suing the person who hit you than you are by playing the machine.

Although I can't say what's best, I can make recommendations. I recommend that you look at your bankroll and pick machines to play such that your bankroll is able to fund 100 or more spins. That large a bankroll should be enough to see you through a few hours of play, unless you're extremely unlucky -- and I can say from personal experience that 100-spin bankrolls sometimes don't even last an hour!

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Hello, John,

I have an idea to design a slot machine, and have written several pages on the concept using the ones I have played as a start. The uniqueness would be in the theme and the bonus rounds, as I imagine the general engineering and methodology would have to follow suit with the other machines.

Could you provide some direction as to how I can get started? Would I need to go through IGT or WMS? How does such an idea get pitched?

I imagine a patent would need to be submitted as well.

Thanks very much for any information that you can provide.


Dear John,

Strictly Slots had an article about pitching your own slot machine to a manufacturer a few years ago. You might be able to get a reprint of it from them.

I would start with sending query letters to the manufacturers, much as an author sends query letters to publishers. Ask about their submission processes. There will be a protocol involved to protect the manufacturer from being accused of stealing ideas from unsolicited submissions. They will also tell you what sort of protections (patent, copyright, etc.) you have to have in place before they will look at your idea.

You should have the game worked out completely before you pitch it. That is, you should have graphics of all of the symbols and storyboards that show how the bonus rounds are played. You should also work out the math of the game. Provide a sample reel layout and the probabilities in the bonus round. Calculate the long-term payback for the machine based on the reel layout and the bonus round math.

The company may change nearly every aspect of your game in the production version, still your game should be fully developed before you pitch it. You can't present a vague concept and expect them to work out the details.

You mentioned engineering. You can do anything you want to on the screen -- that's just programming -- but your game can't require extra buttons on the button deck. Hardware changes can be very expensive to implement and will be an additional hurdle you'll have to clear.

Although it's true that you could make the most money from having a major manufacturer buy your concept, you might have a better chance for success with a smaller manufacturer. I see by your area code that you live in New Jersey. A.C. Coin and Slot is in Atlantic City and might be a company to try.

You can query all the manufacturers about their submission procedures at once, but submit your idea to only one company at a time. You have to wait for the company to pass on your idea before you can try another company.

Let me know how you make out.


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