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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Slot Tournaments, Slot Clubs and the IRS

8 January 2004

Hi,

I'll be participating in a slot tournament next month and would really appreciate any advise you can give me as I've never been in one before. Is there any strategy involved?

Thanks for your help,
Nancy

Dear Nancy,

There are many different formats for slot tournaments. The strategy is the same regardless of the format: Get in as many spins as you can in your session.

The most common format is to have a timed session with machines in free-play mode, that is, you don't have to put in any money to play the machine. In this format tournament, you just want to hit the Spin button as quickly as you can.

Watch the session before yours. Look to see if the machines short-circuit the awarding of credits for jackpots. Some slot machine tournament programs take as long to award 1,000 credits as they do to award 10. In these cases, you have to keep hitting the Spin button all the time. Other tournament programs do not short-circuit the awarding of credits and 1,000 credits takes much longer to award than 10. In these cases, you can take a rest while your machine is racking up the credits.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos--and in your tournament,
John


I am enjoying reading your responses to questions and your articles. I truly appreciate so much information for free. I have several questions, and bet (haha) you are the one that can answer.

I play in Oklahoma Indian Casinos.

1. They cash out the machines from 7-9 am. Does that make any difference in how they play?

I have had them hit good. But didn't know if it is only a coincidence. I am an early bird and never go in the evening.

2. If you plan on putting $10-$15 in one machine, is it silly to think that putting $5 in and going to $0 and then putting another $5 in could possibly be different from putting in a $10 all at once?

3. I am still trying to understand how to identify the machines and how you describe them. It is still a little confusing for me. If I play a 25-cent machine, other than the payout, does it make any difference for the RNG to play 1-2-3....1-2-3...? Does the machine count a 50-cent spin as 2 spins and a 75-cent spin as 3 spins? Plus can switching around from 1, 2, or 3 make any difference?

4. I believe I read in one of your responses to a question that if a machine doesn't win after 3-4 spins, move on. Was this just for a $1 or larger machine or any machine?

I live for the bonus spin!

I will continue to read your information and now I have started taking notes hoping that seeing it in writing will help me "quit while I'm ahead."

Anytime I have been winning, I thought it was me that was hot and now I have discovered through your writings that it is the machine.

Thanks so much.

Thanks for the kind words about my column. To answer your questions:

1) Collecting the money from the machines does not affect how they pay in any way.

2) Yes, it is silly to think that putting $5 in twice is different from putting in $10 all at once, no matter what you do in between the two $5 bills. It doesn't affect the RNG at all.

3) The number of coins you play does not affect the RNG. The only time the number of coins you played is considered is when the machine has to figure out how much to pay you. A spin is one spin, regardless of the number of coins you played. The only advantage in altering your bet is that you will risk less money than if you played max coin all the time. Altering your bet doesn't affect the results of the spins.

4) I have never recommended switching machines if you don't get a hit after 3 to 4 spins--at least, I have never recommended it without a qualification. The odds of landing a winning combination are the same on every spin, so there's no mathematical reason to switch machines after any number of losing spins. On the other hand, you may feel frustrated playing a machine that is not paying off. If it makes you feel better to switch machines after a certain number of losing spins, then do it. That's a good emotional justification for switching, but there's no mathematical justification.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi. Thanks so much for taking the time to answer so many questions!

I have one regarding Aces Deluxe video poker. I noticed this game on a Game King at Cactus Pete's in Jackpot, Nevada. It pays 4000 coins for 4 aces without a kicker along with the same payout for a royal. The other quads have been reduced from Double Bonus to 200 coins for 2-4 and 125 for 5-K. The full house pays 7 for 1 and the flush is 5 for 1. It also pays 10 for 1 for two pair.

Is this a recommended game? The same payout for aces and royals was really tempting but I wasn't sure if the reductions in other areas on the pay table make it worth it.

Thanks!
Teri

Teri,

There must be another change to the paytable because when I calculate the payback I get a number well over 100%. I tried to find the paytable on the Skip Hughes Video Poker Homepage (www.vphomepage.com), but I couldn't find anything similar. If you (or someone else) could note the complete paytable on your visit and send it to me, I'd be happy to calculate the payback.

John


I frequently visit Lincoln Park casino in Rhode Island to play the slots and I always seem to lose. One night I ran into an old friend who has a good job there and he told me the pay back was only 65%.

Could this be true? If so, it explains why I never win. Is there a way to find out what the payback percentage is?

Lenny

P.S. I enjoy your column.

Dear Lenny,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

Rhode Island does not release payback numbers, but I find it very unlikely that the video lottery terminals at Lincoln Park pay back 65%. Lotteries typically pay back around 65%, but not gaming devices.

I found some information about paybacks at www.americancasinoguide.com. According to William DiMuccio, Gaming Manager for the Rhode Island Lottery, the machines are programmed to pay back from 92% to 99%, depending on game and denomination.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


If you are a member of a slot club and you receive cash back or a gift based on your play (or any comp for that matter) do you or the casino have to report that to the IRS?

Thank you,
Chris

Dear Chris,

Casinos do not report cashback, gifts, and comps to the I.R.S. The only thing casinos have to report to the I.R.S. is a slot win of $1200 or more.

And you don't have to report them either. I believe these items are not considered income, but instead are considered a return of some of the money you paid to the casino--sort of an "after the fact" discount or a reward for your patronage, like a free cup of coffee after buying five.

You bring up an interesting point. If you're deducting losses to offset a W-2G win, should you reduce your losses by the cashback, gifts, and comps you received? And if you're filing as a professional gambler, should you include these items in your income?

I don't file as a professional gambler, but I know pros who include cashback when they file and I know pros who don't. Personally, I never include these items when I figure out my losses to offset reported wins.

From what I understand, the I.R.S. regulations for reporting gambling wins are very vague.

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.

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