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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Strategic Slot Play

7 March 2005

Dear Mr. Robison:

It's all very nice that you review the new slot machines, but I would really like to know what my odds are of winning. Can you help me try to make some sense of the virtual mapping involved and how this mapping affects the odds of winning? How do we try to make sense of playing strategically if we don't know the odds with regards to the virtual mapping on 3 reel slots?

Thank you,
Juanita

Dear Juanita,

Unfortunately, there's no easy way to know what the odds are on a slot machine and casinos and slot manufacturers don't release that information.

The only strategies for playing slots are to play the best number of coins based on the type of machine, play machines that suit your goals and your playing personality, and ensure that you have a sufficient bankroll.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

I've got a bunch of questions for you. I'm a video slot player. I love the bonus games!

Are near misses programmed? For example, my favorite game is Tiki Torch. To get into the bonus, you need to get at least three pearls on adjacent reels starting at the far left. It never fails that if I get at least two pearls but not left to right, I will get the pearl that I needed on the very next spin. I've tried waiting a longer or shorter amount of time before spinning again and I always get the missing pearl one spin too late. I've also noticed other near misses. The symbol that I need is either right above the top line or just below the bottom line. This happens too often to be a coincidence.

We play mostly at the boats in the Chicago area. You can no longer find a 9-line nickel slot at Argosy, they are all 20 lines. I learned the hard way to always play all of the available lines. I played 10 lines only to get the jackpot on the 12th line missing out on $125.00. I'd much rather play 9 lines X 2 credits for 18 nickels than 20 lines X 1 credit for 20 nickels. Do you know if Harrah's will also be switching to 20 lines?

We've heard that Argosy was recently purchased by the Hollywood Casino (in Aurora, Illinois). Do you know what if any changes that will be made at Argosy's Empress in Joliet? Will any changes affect their Pharaoh Club?

We also travel to Ho-Chunk in Wisconsin several times a year. The service there is horrible. We've had to wait over an hour for a hopper fill. Complaining does no good. One slot attendant even laughed at me and said that if we didn't like it we didn't need to come back.

Over the past year or so we've noticed that the payouts there seem to go in spurts. Holiday weekends are the worst. Can Ho-Chunk change the payouts without going into each and every machine? The only reason that we keep going is because we love some of the older games like Money Grab Monopoly, Whodunnit?, Winning Bid, Yukon Gold... Do you know of anywhere where these programs can be either purchased on CD or downloaded to a PC?

Thanks for taking the time to answer! I love your site!

Taking your questions in order, near misses are not programmed in the sense that you described. I think if you kept careful track of your spins after bonus near misses, you'd find that you don't always get the pearl you needed on the very next spin. I'm not surprised that you've seen other near misses. But every near miss is just a result of the random selection of the stops to land on the payline. There's nothing in the machine that decides that a spin should end with a near miss.

Manufacturers are definitely cranking up the number of lines on many of their machines. I have no idea what Harrah's plans are. I also don't know what changes may happen at the Empress, but keep your eyes on this site. John Grochowski and John Brokopp cover the Chicago area and I'm sure they'll report any significant changes.

An hour for a hopper fill is outrageous, but it does happen occasionally. Sometimes it's just because a lot of handpays and hopper fills hit all at once and the slot staff is overwhelmed. And sometimes the slot floor is just understaffed. In any case, the slot attendant's reaction to your complaint is unconscionable. I'd take his or her advice and not go back.

In any case, Ho-Chunk can't change the payouts without changing a chip in each machine.

Finally, I don't know of any PC-based versions of WMS Gaming's machines. If they're out there, I'm sure someone will let me know and I'll pass on that info in a future column.

Thank for the kind words about the site,
John


John,

In your newsletter you mention "par sheets." What are they? Where do you get them?

I really appreciate your newsletter. To me your advice seems more straightforward, to the point, and factual than any others.

Thanks,
Tom

Dear Tom,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

The par sheet, also known as a PC sheet, tells everything there is to know about a slot machine. It tells how the physical and virtual reels are laid out, what the odds are for hitting each of the winning combinations, and the long-term payback for the machine. Manufacturers and casinos guard these sheets very closely and they are not available to the public.

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