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The Best Time to Play Slots

2 January 2006

By John Robison

Hi, John,

I love reading your column as I am an avid slot player who goes to Atlantic City at least twice a month.

I read your answer to Laurie about the best times to vist the casino. I beg to differ about your answer. In Atlantic City, the best time to play is at night -- the later, the better. I have played during the day and barely broken even. At night the machines seem to just open up. I have experienced this over a period of years, so I am not speaking from just one or two visits. I am curious if any other slot players have the same luck at night as I do. My best playing time is between 12:00 am and 4:00 am.

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

I'm not going to argue with what works for you, but there's no mathematical basis for your observation. The odds on the machines are the same regardless of what the clock says.

I think what's really going on here is one or a combination of these things: selective memory - when you win at night, that confirms your theory; when you win during the day, it's just an aberration; too small a sample - even though you say you've experienced this result over a period of years, you still may have too small a sample for statistical significance.

Still, as I said before, if it works for you, who am I to argue? If nothing else, you'll have a better choice of machines at that time.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Dear John Letter

Your such a shill for the casinos! Really, a slot machine paying bacck 90% , thats such drivel, the government taxes take a very large chunk, the casino overhead likewise. Here in Florida, the Hard Rock casino pays about 19% return on money put in the machine. 90%? Really!

Get honest!

Dear J.R.,

I'd like to know where you get your 19% return figure for the paybacks on the machines at your Hard Rock casino. If I'm not mistaken, that's a tribal casino that does not release its payback figures. You can estimate a machine's payback by keeping track of your results playing it, but you'll need over a million spins to get a good estimate.

I've seen very few payback programs lower than 85% and I doubt the machines in your casino really have paybacks that low. Still, without access to the machines' par sheets or info from the state, we can't know for sure.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

I am wondering if I got ripped off.

I was playing a penny slot, and I bet max (200) on a game that had bonus spins of 15, and it re-triggered 4 times = 75 spins on a $2 bet in which those spins pay out at 3 times the bet and I only got a payout of $368.

Would they allow a max game to retrigger so many times and not even pay out?


Dear Dana,

I'm confused. You won $368 from a $2 bet and you think you got "ripped off" because the machine didn't "pay out"?

We need the par sheet for the game you played to see if anything is amiss, but it seems to me that you did pretty well.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Hi, John,

I recently was at a casino in New York and there was a power failure. All lights and machines went down. When everything came back on it seemed ok, then another power failure occurred, which shut down the machine I was playing and the one next to mine. All the other machines in the room came back on except these two. I waited 35 minutes for someone to come and fix the machine only to hear that the chip had blown due to a power surge. I just thought it odd that only two machines in the whole room were affected. Their response was these two machines were ultra sensitive. They just printed a voucher for the amount of credits I had on the machine. It was paying pretty well, enough to keep me there several hours. Ever hear of something like this.


Dear Julie,

I can't say that I've heard a tale like yours, but I think that's mainly because power failurer are so rare.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at 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