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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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The Slot Expert's Guide to Winning at Slots and Video Poker

16 August 2002

You can hear me give my slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer with Frank Scoblete, which is broadcast from Memphis on WMC 790AM Saturday morning from 10-12 CT.


First, some background.

Even though customer loyalty programs have existed probably since two merchants first competed to sell the same product, it wasn't until American Airlines introduced their frequent flyer card that the programs were formalized, computerized, and heavily promoted. Just about every innovation that has been added to a slot club recently has already been tried in a frequent flyer club. We can take a piece of advice commonly given to flyers trying to maximize their benefits and use it to maximize our slot club benefits. But we also have to keep in mind how frequent flyer and players card programs differ to maximize our benefits.

First, the common advice: concentrate your business. Pick one or two casinos that will be your home base casinos and concentrate your play in those casinos. Just as with frequent flyer programs, players card programs have minimum amounts you have to reach in order to qualify for certain benefits. When you spread your play too thin, you may not qualify for much of anything in any one casino, even though you could have gotten something nice had most of that play been in one casino.

I know how important this piece of advice is. In Las Vegas and Tunica, I've picked base casinos and I do most of my playing in those casinos when I'm in town. As a result, I've always been able to get a room when I've wanted one -- sometimes comped, sometimes casino rate, but I've never had to worry about having to sleep on the street.

I have a problem in Atlantic City, the casino jurisdiction closest to my home, though. Every year I write an article comparing the slot clubs in Atlantic City, so I have to play a bit in each club to keep current on how they work. I haven't hit the Megabucks or the lottery yet, so my limited bankroll gets spread pretty thin over the dozen casinos in town. Add to that the fact that Atlantic City has about half the hotel rooms it needs and I frequently find that I can't get a room even at the rack rate.

The last time Frank and I were in Atlantic City together, he called his host and arranged for a casino-rate room for me at one of his base casinos. I hadn't played there much for the past few years because their slot club hadn't changed at all, so the offers had dried up and I guess I was on their "flea" list. I gave them a day's worth of serious play and, sure enough, the offers have started rolling in again.

First tip: Pick a casino or two to be your base casinos and concentrate most of your play in those casinos.

So, that's some advice equally applicable to frequent flyer and players card programs because of how the programs are alike. Here are some pieces of advice based on how the programs differ.

The airline doesn't really care whether you fly two 10,000-mile trips or four 5,000-mile trips. In both cases, you've flown 20,000 miles.

Players card programs, on the other hand, frequently do care about your daily or trip average. I think the focus on averages came about with the continuing automation of aspects of these programs and a decrease in the autonomy and an increase in the accountability of hosts in regard to the comps they give out. Hosts can look at your play history and use their knowledge of you as a player and their intuition to decide what comps they'll give you. An automated system has no knowledge of you personally and has no intuition, so the only thing it can do is make an offer based on some statistics about your play and the statistic frequently used is the average amount of action you give per day.

Here are two techniques you can use to increase your trip average without increasing your action.

One, play in only one casino per day. Say you normally split your play between two casinos on a typical trip. On your next trips, alternate between casinos and play in only one casino on each trip. The total amount of action you give each casino is the same, but the computer programs now see you as a player who plays twice as long and visits half as frequently. If the daily average is the key statistic the software uses for qualification, then you'll probably see better offers from the casinos.

The second technique for keeping your daily average up is avoiding zero trips. The airline doesn't really care if you fly on a free ticket, but the casino may care if you show up to collect something without giving them a little play in return.

A trip is usually started whenever you do anything with your players club card. Anything is defined as redeeming a coin voucher, getting a comp--frequently even checking your point total starts a trip. Once the computer knows you're in the building, it starts a trip for you. And if you just collect without playing, a zero will be entered for your action for that trip and your daily average will go down.

In order to avoid zero trips, I don't collect comps or cashback when I'm not planning to play in a casino in Atlantic City. Hotel rooms are so scarce and so expensive there (I've had to pay over $200 per night on weekends when I absolutely had to be in town), I don't want to risk losing the casino rate for a $5 cash coupon.

A final word: Here's where things get gray. Each players card program is different and each one may focus on different aspects of your play. Hotels on the Strip in Las Vegas will probably be most concerned with your daily average, while a locals casino miles from the Strip and most of the casinos in states other than Nevada may be more concerned with your total action.


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net.


For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots by John Robison
Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Video Poker Answer Book by John Grochowski
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