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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Slot player's bankroll

1 November 2010

Hi!

My question is about budgeting for slot play on a casino trip, specifically land-based (not online) slot machines, not video poker.

How much money do you recommend the average slot player bring for each day (for overnight + trips) or hour (for a quick trip)?

I am looking for a formula such as: "x" * Total Cost per Spin * Hours of Anticipated Slot Playing.

Thanks a lot for your help. Have a great day!

Dolly

Dear Dolly,

Your formula is a good start, but there are a few problems. First, we don't know an absolute cost per spin. We only know an average, which is the house edge on the machine. Your results can vary considerably from the average. Hit a jackpot and there is no cost to playing the machine. Hit a cold streak and the house edge may appear to be 25%, 50% or even higher.

If we had access to the virtual reel layout, we could estimate the range in which the payback you experience will fall. But that leads us to another problem. On a slot machine, time is measured in spins, not ticks of a clock. The payback range would be for a certain number of spins, not a length of time. How long those spins last depends on how quickly you play.

Oh, and there's one really big problem. That average house edge that I said we knew, most of the time we don't know it. Casinos give no indication of the long-term payback on the vast majority of machines on the slot floor.

The rule of thumb that I usually follow is to have enough bankroll to pay for 100 spins per hour that I want to play. So, if I wanted to play a dollar machine at $1 per spin for three hours, my bankroll would be 100 x $1 x 3 = $300. If I wanted to play a penny machine at $0.25 per spin for two hours, my bankroll would be 100 x $0.25 x 2 = $50.

I like to play high hit frequency machines and I try to pace my playing, so these amounts are frequently enough for me. If you like to play machines that don't hit as frequently or you like to play at a faster pace, you will have to multiply by 110, 120 or an even higher number. You can start with 100 and then, if you find that you frequently have to toss in a little extra money to keep playing, you can increase your 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
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