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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Quitting while you're ahead

21 August 2006

Dear Mr. Robison,

I frequently play Wild Haywire Deluxe dollar slots at Thunder Valley casino in Roseville, Ca. My question is about the virtual layout or reel in these machines. Is it possible for the layout to vary significantly from one machine to another yet still have the same payback percentage? Can one machine be programmed with lots of small hits but no substantial ones or vice versa?

Thanks,
Mike

Dear Mike,

It's definitely possible for two machines with the same payback percentage to have different hit frequencies.

You see proof of this every day in the casino. Most slot directors order roughly the same payback percentage for all of their slots in one denomination, so the dollar slots at Thunder Valley probably pay back about the same percentage. Yet some machines hit frequently for small amounts and others hit less frequently but for larger amounts.

You're not likely to find this phenomenon in a particular game, though. The game designers usually decide what personality (hit frequency) a game will have and stick with it throughout all the different payback programs. In other words, Wild & Loose, for example, will always have a high hit frequency regardless of whether it pays back 88% or 98%.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

In reference to "Quit While You're Ahead" game plan, have you ever heard of a video poker expert named Rob Singer?

He markets a video poker plan for quitting while you are ahead. He claims to have won over $200,000 on this program.

Is this possible?

Steve

Dear Steve,

Yes, I've heard of Rob Singer. (Not his real name, incidentally. It's a play on Bob Dancer, which is also not his real name.) I have the same response for his plan as I have for the people who tell me they win more by playing at night or hitting the Spin button in a certain way: If it works for you, I won't argue with success.

It sure seems like quitting while you're ahead should work. It seems like we're usually ahead at some point during our sessions, and if we just quit then instead of continuing to play, we should be able to winners.

There are two problems with Quit While You're Ahead. First, sometimes you never are ahead. I can't tell you how many times (I really can't because I haven't kept track!) I've played a machine and never gotten above my initial buy-in.

The big problem with this plan, however, is that it assumes that somehow you can trick the house edge by arbitrarily breaking up your playing sessions. As far as the house edge is concerned, you have one big session and it doesn't care when you take breaks. In the long run, you will lose an amount of money equal to the action you've given times the house edge against you — and it doesn't matter what rules you use to determine when to stop playing.

There's only one way that Quit While You're Ahead works. That's if you truly quit and never play again. How many of us can do that?

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

My 86-year-old father-in-law recently returned from a trip to Oakland to visit his son. While there he visited an Indian casino about an hour and a half away where he hit a $1,300 jackpot on slots. They refused to give him his winnings because his driver's license had expired (he recently gave up driving) and his State of Hawaii identification expired two weeks earlier. Instead, they gave him a receipt and informed him that he can come back anytime within a year, with a valid ID, to collect his winnings. Needless to say, this is not going to be easy, especially at his age.

Is there anything we can do short of making a special trip just to collect his $1,300. Why can't he have a power of attorney document be drawn up and sent to his son, along with the receipt and a copy of a valid State ID, and have him pick it up?

Thanks for any help you can provide.

Dale

Dear Dale,

My 81-year-old mother has the same problem with identification having also stopped driving. She now uses her passport when photo ID is required.

I suppose the real problem here is identification for tax purposes.

I don't know what your father-in-law should do. The easiest course of action is just to return with the ID they require. That's quite a burden considering your father-in-law lives in Hawaii.

I think you're going to have to work with the casino on this one. Call them up and find out what kind of documentation they need to release the money to a third party. I hope they have some kind of provision for this situation.

I've never heard of anyone in a similar predicament, so I don't have any real-world-proven advice to offer. Please let us know how things turn out.

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 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
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