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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Selling Slot Machines

25 June 2005

Dear John:

I understand that the payout percentage increases with higher denomination slot machines, i.e., $0.25 machines have better odds for the house than $1 or $5 machines. Does this principle, if true, continue with machines that allow you to select your denomination on that one machine? For example, I just hit a nice payout on a Muchero Dinero machine playing quarters. A person nearby said it probably wouldn't have hit the same if I had selected $1 on the machine. My question is: Does the payback vary on one individual machine, depending on the denomination selected on that machine? Are they sophisticated enough to handle different payout percentages for each possible denomination?

I always read your columns. Thanks for answering a question that has been bothering me since the roll-out of "flexible denomination" machines.

Barb

Dear Barb,

It is definitely possible that the long-term payback for a particular game increases as you increase denomination on a multi-denomination machine. For a slot game, the machine just uses a different virtual reel layout. For video poker, the machine uses a different paytable.

You can verify this fact for yourself by looking at the video poker paytables on a multi-denomination machine. On all of the machines I've seen, the paytable when the dollar denomination is selected is more generous than the paytable when the quarter (or nickel) denomination is selected.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

Can you tell me about the marketing strategies slot manufactures go through in order to attract casinos to their machines?

Dan

Dear Dan,

I've never been able to sit in on a sales meeting between a manufacturer and a casino, so I can't tell you what happens there, but I assume it's pretty much the same as any other sales meeting.

I can however tell you what the manufacturers do at the big trade show, Global Gaming Expo (G2E). Each manufacturer has a huge area on the show floor. They have all of their newest machines on display and set for free play. You can play the machines just as a regular player would on the slot floor or you can do something you can't do on the slot floor.

The machines are usually running a special demo program that has a menu that lets you force the game to play a bonus round. I remember once I forced a Jeopardy machine to a bonus round and hit the big payoff. Bells went off and someone had to scramble to find the key to reset the machine.

Manufacturers frequently throw parties during the trade show. I haven't been too lucky in getting invitations lately. Note to manufacturers: Contact me for the address to which to send my invitations.

And let's not forget the special events on the show floor: celebrity photo signings, particularly if he or she is part of a new slot machine; contests, everything from drawings to skill competitions like sinking putts; and, my personal favorite, free snacks. Casino Data Systems used to have freshly popped pop corn. And IGT sometimes has smoothies. But they serve them in these miniscule paper cups like the ones the hospital uses to give you your meds. It takes a dozen or so of them to get a decent amount. And the same two guys usually hang out by the machine. Boy, did I feel uncomfortable going back for my eighth time.

Now that the G2E has a special casino food area, you can wander those aisles to get your lunch. Sure beats the $5 hot dogs sold at the snack bar.

All in all, I think slot manufacturers use the same techniques that any other manufacturer uses.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I frequent the casinos in Indiana and Illinois and stay all night at the Blue Chip in Michigan City, which is a favorite of mine.

We usually stay on Friday night and on Saturday morning it seems the slots pay off really good, but it is beginning to seem it is like every other time we are there they don't pay off until after 1:00 pm Saturday afternoon. Do they change the machines or what is going on here?

Thanks,
Barb

Dear Barb,

The casinos don't change the machines. Doing that would require changing chips in the machines. There's no way for the casinos to throw a switch and make the machines pay off.

I think the key phrase in your question is "it is beginning to seem". It may seem like the machines don't start to pay off until the afternoon, but if you kept careful track over the long run, you'd find that the machines are just as likely to hit at 11:00 am as they are at 1:00 pm.

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