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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Randomness in Keno

10 October 2005

Dear John:

Love your columns. My family and I are planning a trip to Vegas this month. I have a couple of questions. Is there a list of casinos with the highest-paying slot machines, both in video poker and slots, in all denominations? Since we will be on a limited schedule there, I thought we could maximize our time there, if I had an idea. Also, if you are able to comment, what are the best mid-priced meals in town for American, seafood, buffets, and fast food?

Thank you,
Susan

Dear Susan,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

Nevada doesn't release paybacks by casino, so there's no official list of paybacks by casino. The next best things are lists of high-paying video poker machines in casinos. I use Skip Hughes' Video Poker Homepage (www.vphomepage.com), which is a subscription service. Casinos with many high-paying video poker machines tend to have high-paying slots too.

In 2001, Michael Shackleford, the Wizard of Odds (www.wizardofodds.com), did a survey of nickel video slots in Las Vegas casinos. He had access to the machines' par sheets, so he was able to determine exactly which payback percentage each casino had purchased. You can see the complete list and a detailed description of his methodology in the Slots section on his site. The data is a bit stale, but it does corroborate the rule of thumb that casinos that cater more to locals than tourists have better-paying games.

I would suggest that you play where you enjoy playing and choose strictly by payback. Unless you play a lot very frequently, randomness is going to have a bigger effect on your results than long-term payback.

As for the meals, check out the info at the Las Vegas Advisor's website (www.lasvegasadvisor.com). The members of the LVA community have collectively sampled far more eateries than I have.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hello, John,

I would like to thank you for putting out this column. It has educated me about slot machines and strategy and I no longer take it personally if I don't win big!

I would also like to respond to Kevin who asked you on 9/26/05 about Wheel of Fortune. In Vegas, my husband and I loved that machine, but at Foxwoods near our home it doesn't seem to win for us, so we tried Monte Carlo slot game and it was great. The one we tried was 25 cents/3 coin. With the third quarter you can get the bonus "spin" similar to Wheel. There is also a progressive jackpot. Even if you don't win big, it seems that you can make a twenty last a half hour or more consistently. I realize that our experience is just a "slice" of a machine's life, but it is a fun game with many chances of winning just enough to keep you playing longer than average. An added bonus is you don't have the "Wheel...of...FORTUNE!" soundclip constantly in your head after.

Thanks for listening,
Diane

Dear Diane,

I'm pretty certain that the Monte Carlo machines you played were standalone progressives, which tend to have higher long-term paybacks than wide-area progressives like Wheel of Fortune. It's true that you have very small slices of these machines' lives, but in the long run I'd expect you to do better playing the Monte Carlo machines instead of the Wheel of Fortunes -- unless you happen to hit the big Wheel of Fortune progressive!

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I recently tried several different nickel machines for the first time. I will use "Tobasco" for my question. I understand the concept of the RNG. Does this apply for the bonus rounds as well? Example: when you are awarded the Tobasco country store bonus round, you have to choose blindly at numerous squares to have your bonus determined. My question is this: Is the bonus received truly what I picked or was it pre-determined before I ever picked anything?

Thanks for any and all help.

Jeff

Dear Jeff,

According to the manufacturers, your choice does matter. The RNG is used to distribute the values to the squares, but not to choose what your bonus will be regardless of what you pick.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I'm hoping you can clear up a confusion I have with video keno. I have read previous articles (8/24/2000, 2/26/2004) and they seem to contradict each other.

Which is correct?

  1. The RNG determines if a win is on that play like a slot machine and that the numbers that come up are just for show and don't really matter -- they just indicate the appropriate win -- so it doesn't matter what numbers you pick (the 2000 article says it does).
  2. Or, the RNG picks 20 out the 80 numbers and if they correspond to your numbers you win, just like live keno does, so the numbers you pick do have an effect on the outcome of the game. But if this is true, how can they adjust odds for a truly random drawing?

Sorry for being long winded, but I wanted to try to be clear with the question.

Enjoy reading you.

Thanks,
John

Dear John,

Your second scenario is correct. The RNG is used to pick 20 of the 80 numbers and then the program checks to see how many matches you have.

Casinos and manufacturers cannot adjust the odds on a keno machine. The odds are whatever the math says they are. The only thing that can be adjusted is how much you get paid for a certain number of matches.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


On the "Wheel of Fortune" does it matter when I hit the "Stop Spin" button? You said it didn't matter on the video slots, and my wife wants to know if her hesitating has any effect on the outcome of the spinning "Wheel of Fortune".

Thank you.

It doesn't matter when you press the Stop Spin button. Where the wheel stops is determined by a number from the RNG. The probability that the wheel will stop on any particular segment is the same regardless of when you hit the button.

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