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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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The Best Machine to Play

17 July 2003

A co-worker recently saw me on The Travel Channel and asked me, "What is the best machine to play?"

She didn't care much for my answer. I said that the best machine to play is the one you enjoy playing.

I treat slot playing much like any other entertainment option and I suggest that you choose a slot machine to play in the same way that you'd choose a book or film. Make your choice based on the type of experience you're looking for. For example, in you're in the mood for a romantic comedy, you should probably take a pass on one of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre films.

There's no machine or type of machine that is better than any other, whatever "better" means, but different machines will give you different playing experiences. Let's look at some types of slot-playing experiences and the types of machines that will give you those experiences.

The chance for a life-changing jackpot. The wide-area progressives are usually the only machines that pay the really big bucks, but sometimes a casino will have a machine that pays a jackpot that you will consider to be life-changing. It all depends how big a change you want in your life. Be aware of two things: the long-term paybacks on these machines tend to be among the lowest in the casino, and your chances of hitting the big one are pretty slim.

Many small hits to keep you in tray money. Look for high hit frequency machines. High hit frequency reel-spinning machines usually pay a push or two coins to one for the lowest winning combination. Most video slots, moreover, are high hit frequency machines because they can pay less than a push on any spin. For example, the machine can pay you five coins for a hit on one payline when you bet one coin each on nine paylines.

Not every video slot has a high frequency, though. Again, you can use the same technique as on reel-spinners--look for a machine on which the lowest winning combination pays just one or two coins per coin bet.

Fewer, larger hits. If you don't want to be bothered with onesy-twosy hits and would rather get a nice jackpot when you do get a hit, look for low hit frequency machines. Here's the rule, the higher the amount of the lowest jackpot, the lower the hit frequency. Look for machines that pay a good amount, 5 to 1, say, for the lowest winning combination.

As an aside, the reverse is not necessarily true--that is, the lower the amount paid for the lowest winning combination, the higher the hit frequency. A machine can pay a push for the lowest winning combination and still be a low hit frequency machine.

Machines with multiplying symbols also tend to be low hit frequency machines and the higher the multiple, the lower the hit frequency. Finally, Blazing 7s is a very popular low hit frequency machine.

Maximize potential/minimize risk. Play one coin at a time on a Straight Multiplier. When you play one coin on these machines, you're playing at the maximum payback and hit frequency with the lowest risk per spin. You can also play one coin at a time on Bonus Multipliers because you give up very little in long-term payback when you play only one coin at a time on these machines.

A machine that requires some thought. If you want to spin the reels and occasionally give your brain a workout, look for Mikohn's machines like Yahtzee. Most of the experience is pure slot play, but you'll have to think a bit to win the most in the bonus rounds. If you want to keep your brain active at all times, play video poker.
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