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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

18 December 2001

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.


Each year around the time that the kids go trick-or-treating, I do my own version of trick-or-treat at Atlantic City's casinos. It's at around this time that I have to begin collecting information about the casinos' slot clubs for the annual slot club roundup issue of Atlantic City Insider.

Each gaming jurisdiction has its own quirky rules that affect how the casino looks or operates (e.g., boats that must cruise, casinos that have to be over water but don't have to cruise, etc.), but for the most part the slot clubs across the country work pretty much the same way--they use points as their basic currency and how much you have to play to earn a point is well publicized.

Most slot clubs work this way, but not most slot clubs in Atlantic City. Atlantic City's slot clubs operate by their own rules and in some, you don't even know how much cashback you've earned until you get a coupon for it in the mail after your trip.

Regardless of whether or not you have to wait for a letter to find out how much cashback you've earned, most Atlantic City slot clubs make you come back to collect it. When you can collect it right away, it's called "same-day" cashback. When you have to come back to collect it, it's called "deferred" or "bounce-back" cashback. Atlantic City's clubs also make extensive use of "bonus" or bounce-back cash, and no one but the marketing department knows how these amounts are calculated. Whatever you call it, collecting bounce-back money requires another trip to the casino.

And that creates a problem when all you want to do is collect. Usually, anything you do that requires your slot club card starts another trip for you in the slot club system. Some clubs use the average amount of action you give per trip as the qualification for various offers. When you redeem coupons or use a comp without playing at the casino, that trip gets logged with $0 in action. Trips with no action bring down your average.

Unfortunately, there's no way to know what marketing campaigns are based on average action without asking the people in marketing, and even if they told you, the levels needed to qualify for different offers can be changed at a moment's notice, so the information could be outdated shortly after you get it.

To deal with this uncertainty, I recommend that you play the redemption game defensively when you can't play when you redeem. If the coupon value is small and you're getting good offers for free meals or rooms that you consider more valuable than the coupon, forfeit the cash to keep those other offers coming. If you're not getting any other offers, you might as well redeem the coupon because you can't lose offers you're not getting in the first place.

If the coupon value is big, the decision is tougher. I hate to leave money on the table, but a zero trip may cause future offers to be of lower value. Again, you may be better off letting this one go unredeemed and keeping the steady flow of good offers coming. I'll have to leave it up to you to decide what to do, but I'd lean towards taking the chance that an occasional zero trip won't hurt my offers and redeem the coupon. A side note for frequent visitors: The greater the number of trips you have in the system, the less effect a zero trip will have on your average.

As I said before, there's no way to know what effect a zero trip will have on the offers you receive from a casino. In general, I recommend that you redeem defensively.

This week's tip: Don't get tripped by your slot club. Avoid zero trips.


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


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