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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Quitting While You're Ahead

5 August 2004

Dear John,

I have enjoyed reading your articles. I have been frustrated for quite some time here in Northern California. I have been to Reno and Las Vegas many times and have always enjoyed the slots. Now that we have several Indian Casinos nearby, I have been fighting the urge to frequent them too often. I have even gone to some Gamblers Anonymous meetings to try and fight the desire.

The truth of the matter is, I can oftentimes put in $40 or so on a nickel machine and very shortly thereafter be up to $200 and then some on some certain machines I have come well acquainted with. Unfortunately, even though I know it is time to cash out, I have had the occasions where I have been able to continue to double that amount, so I don't cash out. Before I know it, I have zeroed out, just like all of the slot tips advisors warn you about! I tell myself I will not do that the next time, and bingo, I do it all over again!

I have had months with just staying away completely. I have gone when I really don't have the extra cash to spend. I really want to learn the discipline to cash out every time I get ahead. There is nothing worse than thinking about the $500 I should have had if I had just cashed out! I become mesmorized and greedy! I get so caught up in the excitement when I get that big win, and then almost always after, I kick myself from here to tomorrow!

Maybe I should try something else. I get bored with the blackjack nickel machines, but I don't lose on those.

Thanks so much for your advice.

Determined to become disciplined,
JES

Dear JES,

Thanks for the kind words about my articles.

I associate problem gambling with people who gamble away money on which they need to live. That doesn't sound like you. You sound like you're playing with money earmarked for entertainment. If instead you're playing with the rent money and you can't stay away from the casinos, then Gamblers Anonymous is where you should be.

I think you're just trying to learn to quit while you're ahead. It's true that you can sometimes turn $40 into $200 and then $500, but the house edge is always there and the machine will take back everything you've won from it if you play it long enough.

There will be an article about setting and sticking to win goals by The Midnight Skulker on this site tomorrow. You might find it helpful.

Another idea is to use what I call the Plateau System. It's a lot like a trailing stop, if you're familiar with that term in stock trading. Simply put, you set a loss limit and you keep increasing it as you keep winning on a machine. You never lower the loss limit, only raise it.

Let's say you start of with $40 and you set a loss limit of the whole thing. You play and hit a nice payoff and you have $120 on the machine. You raise your loss limit to, say, $50. If your credit meter hits $50, you cash out with a $10 profit. Your good luck continues and you now have $200 on the machine. You raise your loss limit to $100. You continue to play, but Lady Luck has left the building and you have only $100 on the machine. You cash out a nice $60 profit.

I don't like a plain win goal/loss limit money management system because nobody likes to leave a winning machine. The Plateau System will keep you playing a hot machine and make you leave the machine once it starts taking back your winnings. Give it a try. I think it might give you the discipline you desire.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear Slot Expert:

Please settle this argument I'm having with my spouse.

Here in Washington State at the Indian casino, we have machine that you can "stop" in the middle of a spin.

I say that it makes no difference (the outcome) whether you stop it or not. The machine is preprogrammed to hit and that stopping it does not affect the outcome at all.

Who is right?

What say you, oh slot guru?

Jo

Dear Jo,

Here's my answer, with one qualification: The machine has already determined which stops will land on the payline by polling the RNG. Pressing the Stop button does not affect the outcome. It only cuts out the show of the spinning reels.

Here's the qualification: Some people claim that a certain machine called a Cherry Master does not work this way and you can influence the outcome by when you press the Stop button. Other people say this is nonsense. I don't have any contacts at the company that makes the Cherry Master machine, so I don't know for sure. But I side with the folks who say it's nonsense.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hey, John,

Got a quick question. My husband and I had a quirky thing happen up at Seneca Niagara Casino (Niagara Falls, New York). We had just moved in the middle of the week to our new home. We decided to make a quick run to three casinos to play and change our address (we had not changed our licenses). Well, at the two Canadian casinos, they gladly took our word at the change (so we could be updated on our comps, etc.). The next morning we stopped at Seneca and they refused to change our address without it being on our drivers license AND they informed us that if we hit a jackpot they would refuse to pay us because of the incorrect address. We kept telling them if the amount was over $1200 the W2 form goes off of the social security numbers. They refused so we went back into Canada to play. Of all the places--Atlantic City, Mississippi and Las Vegas--we have never had this ever happen.

What do you think?

Thanks!
Nancy

Dear Nancy,

I think it's strange, but there might be a reason. Some of the Las Vegas casinos offer different (better) deals to locals than to visitors. Some out-of-towners would try to pass as local by renting a post office box or mailbox at a mail drop (like The UPS Store nee Mailboxes, Etc.). I think those casinos started requiring a drivers license or utility bill with the address to prove you were a resident.

So, if your new home changes your status (local versus tourist) at the Seneca, that might be why they wanted proof.

I agree with you about the W-2G. The important piece is the SSN. And if they have to put your old address on the form, then so be it. Maybe one of the casino executives who reads my column will be able to offer more insight on this. There may be some obscure regulation that I'm not familiar with because I've never been in your situation.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi,

First off, like a lot of people apparently, I'd like to say how much I enjoy your articles. You've given out so much valuable information that I no longer walk around in a complete fog. Still somewhat foggy, but not entirely.

I'd like to ask about the Grand Casino Coushatta in Kinder, La. It's a lovely casino and hotel, very airy (not smoky) and I've had nothing but the greatest service there. Haven't always come home a winner (I primarily play nickel slots) but have won on a few occasions. My question is if this is a "Grand Casino", do you know if they'll be affiliated with the larger Park Place Grand Casinos like in Las Vegas or Mississipi or if they were at one time?

Like I said, it's very nice and is my favorite to go to. You have to visit if you haven't been already.

Have a nice day, Mary Lou

Dear Mary Lou,

I'm glad you enjoy my articles. Thanks.

If I have this right, Grand Casino Coushatta was once managed by Grand Casinos (the casino is owned by the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana). When Park Place bought Grand Casinos in 1998, it did not buy all of Grand Casinos' assets. Lakes Gaming was spun off from Grand Casinos and it acquired the assets Park Place did not buy.

So, Grand Casino Coushatta was once part of the Grand Casino empire, but it's not part of Caesar's empire (Park Place Entertainment's new name is Caesar's Entertainment) and is not likely to be.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I just wanted to send a warning to your readers. A few months ago I was at the Mirage in Vegas. I was looking for $1 Double Bonus Poker. I found a bank on one of the main walkways. I put $100 bill in, hit max bet. Well, I didn't get anything. I went to hit it again and to my surprise...no money!!!

After very close examination I saw a small brass plaque with black lettering (in a dark casino) that read 100 coin max. As I looked around, in shook, I saw 2 other people looking around in disbelief. Three people in 3 minutes lost $100 each! This felt like a trap! I gamble very frequently and have never seen such a thing.

Thank you for letting me vent,
Clara

Dear Clara,

I know those machines. These are usually good machines to play because they give you the full 800-to-1 payoff on the royal on every coin you play.

I understand your frustration, but I think the machines are clearly marked. Plus, the paytable looks a little bit different from a five-coin video poker machine's paytable.

We can all learn from your story that we should always look closely at any machine we're going to play and make sure we know how to play it, how the paytable works, and how much a max bet is before we put our money in the machine.

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