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Should I Play Quarter or Dollar Slots?

23 January 2010

By John Robison

I read your article where you answered the guy who wrote about his slot strategy. By the way, I love your column. Have taken your advise many times in playing slots.

My question is: Is it better to play 3 credits on a quarter machine than to play one credit on a dollar machine? To me, it would be catastrophic to hit the big jackpot on a dollar machine and only be playing one credit.

Thank you for all your good advice. Keep up the good work.

David

Dear David,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

The answer to your question is: It depends.

Three coins on a quarter machine is only 75 cents per spin, so a given bankroll will buy more spins on a quarter machine than on a dollar machine.

On the other hand, the long-term payback on a dollar machine is usually higher than the payback on a quarter machine. But is the difference in payback enough to offest the increased risk per spin? It could be. If you played 1000 spins on each machine, you'd play $750 through the quarter machine and $1000 through the dollar machine, 4/3 more than the action on the quarter machine. If the house edge on the dollar machine is 3/4 that on the quarter machine, your long-term expected loss is the same on both machines. (Example: Suppose the long-term payback on the quarter machine is 92% and the long-term payback on the dollar machine is 94%. The house edges are 8% and 6%, respectively. The expected loss for 1000 spins on the quarter machine is ($750)(8%)=$60 and the expected loss on the dollar machine is ($1000)(6%)=$60.) If the house edge on the dollar machine is less than 3/4 that on the quarter machine, your expected loss will be lower on the dollar machine.

Now, as for the catastrophe of hitting the jackpot on a dollar machine with only one coin in, the chances of hitting the jackpot on any machine are pretty small, so you really don't have much to worry about. In addition, you can play straight multipliers, machines that don't pay a bonus for full coin play. Your per-coin winnings are the same no matter how many coins you play on straight multipliers, so there's no lost opportunity for not playing full coin on them.

My choice is to play one dollar per spin on a straight multiplier.

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 reply to every question.

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