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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

17 October 2002

For the past few weeks, we've been talking about money management. Money management to me is a way to ensure that you don't run out of money before you run out of casino time and to ensure that you don't lose more than you can afford. The goal is to get more fun from casino visits by eliminating much of the stress of dealing with money.

This week, let's talk about some things you can do when nothing is going your way. We've all been there. I remember one time getting a marker at a blackjack table. The table was so cold, by the time the pit boss came back to have me sign the marker, the money was almost all gone and I had to ask for another marker.

Another example: My second trip to Las Vegas. I had won a couple of hundred dollars playing slots on a carousel in Circus Circus on my first trip and I thought this was a pretty easy to have a free vacation. The machines that had paid for my first vacation took back what I had won the first time I had played them and my small bankroll was nearly gone halfway through my stay. I had to find other things to do.

So, what can you do when things are going poorly for you and it's clear that your bankroll is not going to last for the length of time you want to play?

First, you can take a break from playing.

Walk around the casino to see if there's anything new that you hadn't seen before. If you don't normally play nickel slots, take a stroll through the nickel area just to see the superb graphics many of these machines have. Walk through the slot floor looking for machines you might want to try sometime. Take a walk through the high-roller area to see how the other half lives. If the weather is nice, go outside. As much as I love air conditioning, every once in a while it's nice to get outside and feel the warm sun--as long as the temperature or humidity aren't too high. If another casino is nearby, take a walk over to it to check out the action there. You can also go on a souvenir run and pick up as many casino freebees as you can.

If you want a more sedentary diversion, grab a meal. Go back to your room and take a nap or watch television or get a headstart on packing. If there's a theater at the casino, you can catch a movie.

Finally, most extreme, go home. This is tough to do if you flew in to Las Vegas from the east coast, but if you're only an hour's drive away, why not take your lumps and save whatever you have left for another shot on another day.

Now, these all of these ideas make your bankroll last a bit longer because you're not playing. What if you want to stay in action?

Here's an idea that sort of keeps you in action. Casinos sometimes have promotions that you can participate in for free or very little money. Many casinos run slot or video poker tournaments that are open to all comers. Another promotion I've done many times in Las Vegas is a 40-for-20 promotion. You pay $20 to get $40 worth of credits on a special bank of machines. You have a chance to win money or prizes on your spins, but mostly you win nothing. But all is not lost. You then take your receipt to the counter and you pick out some casino kitsch that is supposed to be worth about $20. It's a pretty good deal if you want some casino logo merchandise; I've gotten some nice T-shirts and duffel bags this way.

Here are some ideas that keep you in the action.

Slow down. When you're on a machine, the pace is completely up to you. It's difficult to play slowly, but you're in complete control of the pace. At a table, the dealer controls the pace. Still, you can take your time making your decisions. In addition, you'll put less money at risk per hour if you play at a crowded table.

Switch tables or machines. Your luck won't necessarily be any better at your new location, but you have nothing at risk while you're switching.

Play a slower game. Blackjack and mini-baccarat can be lightning fast. In contrast, roulette has fewer decisions per hour. Pai Gow Poker can also move slowly and it has the added benefit of having many pushes. You can also consider craps. If you only have a bet on the pass line, you can go many, many rolls in action before a decision is reached.

Drop down in denomination. On the machines, you can drop from dollars to quarters or quarters to nickels or dollars to nickels. Before careful of loading up on nickel machines. Make sure that you're betting less per decision than you were on the higher denomination machine. At the tables, bet less per hand. It's true that lower-denomination machines and tables have worse rules and higher house edges than higher-denomination tables and machines, but we're not talking about making a permanent switch. This is just a stop-gap measure to keep you in the game with a smaller bankroll.

Finally, a warning about dropping down in denomination. It's sometimes nearly impossible to break even or come out ahead once you do it. Dollar video poker machines have nearly bled me dry a few times and I switched to playing quarter machines. It occurred to me that hitting a royal on the dollar machine would wipe out my losses in one fell swoop, while a royal on the quarter machine would merely put a dent in my losses.

To recap, you have a number of choices to help make your bankroll last for your visit when things aren't going your way in the casino. You can take a break from playing, you can stop playing, you can try some casino promotions, you can play more slowly, and you can bet less per decision.


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