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Best of John Robison

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The Slot Expert's Guide to Winning at Slots: Low Hit Frequency Machines

3 April 2000

The hit frequency of a machine tells you how likely it is to get a payout of any size on any spin. The higher the hit frequency, the more likely the payout. Slot players should be aware of how a low hit frequency affects how a machine plays. In this series of tips, I tell you how to identify low hit frequency machines, what to expect from them, and how to play them.

Note: 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 live from Memphis on WHBQ over the air on 560AM and over the Internet on Yahoo! Broadcast on Saturday morning from 8-10 CT.


This Week's Tip

What Does Low Hit Frequency Mean to the Slot Player

When a machine has a low hit frequency, it means that the hits on the machine are going to be few and far between. The good news, however, is that the hits you do get tend to be larger than the hits you get on a high hit frequency machine.

Low hit frequency machines are more volatile than high hit frequency machines. If you hit a bad streak, a low hit frequency machine can eat your bankroll in the blink of an eye. If you hit a hot streak, on the other hand, you'll be eating gourmet--or at least super-sizing--that night.

If you prefer a machine that doesn't pay out many low payouts but instead pays out fewer, larger payouts, look for a low hit frequency machine. If instead you want to maximize your playing time without having a huge bankroll, stay away from low hit frequency machines.

One final note. Hit frequency becomes less and less important the larger your bankroll and the more you play. Hit frequency is very important if your bankroll is enough for only a few hundred spins or less. (I once went 72 spins without a hit on a low hit frequency machine.) If your bankroll is large enough to fund at least 1,000, and preferably 10,000, spins on a machine, you'll have enough money to see you through the dry spells.

Past Weeks' Tips

Identifying Low Hit Frequency Machines From The Paytable

General Rule: The higher the lowest reward on the paytable, the lower the hit frequency.

Looking at the paytable is one way to identify low hit frequency machines. Although we can't calculate the exact hit frequency of a machine by inspecting its paytable, we can make a guess about what the hit frequency is relative to other machines' hit frequencies.

To estimate the relative hit frequency of a machine from its paytable, check the value of the lowest reward on the paytable. As a general rule, the higher the lowest reward on the paytable, the lower the hit frequency of the machine.

A machine whose lowest pay is a push or two coins can afford to pay you more often than a machine whose lowest pay is 10 coins.

IGT's Lucky Sevens is an example of low hit frequency Machine on which the lowest reward is very high. The lowest reward on this machine is 10 coins. I once went 72 spins in a row without a hit on a Lucky Sevens machine at The Desert Inn in Las Vegas.

High lowest rewards always indicate low hit frequency machines. Unfortunately, the reverse is not true. That is, paytables with low lowest rewards are not necessarily high hit frequency machines. In the next few tips, I'll show how you can recognize when these machines have low hit frequencies.

Multiplying Symbols Lower Hit Frequency

General Rule: The higher the multiplying symbol, the lower the hit frequency.

Machines with multiplying symbols tend to have lower hit frequencies than machines without them and the higher the multiple, the lower the hit frequency.

Machines with multiplying symbols have what I call "hidden paytable entries." The winning combinations with the multiplying symbol aren't listed on the paytable, but the payout program has to account for them. An example of a hidden paytable entry is the Double Diamond symbol and two 7s on a Double Diamond machine. This combination does not appear on the paytable, but it is a winning combination and the payout program has to account for it.

Consider a Double Diamond machine. Each doubled hit can be replaced with two non-multiplied hits and the payback will be the same. Similarly, each quadrupled hit can be replaced with four non-multiplied hits and the payback will be the same.

Now consider a Ten Times Pay machine. Each hit multiplied by 10 can be replaced with 10 non-multiplied hits and the payback will be the same and each hit multiplied by 100 can be replaced with 100 non-multiplied hits and the payback will be the same.

There are some machines with multiplying symbols that have good hit frequencies but, more often than not, machines that have multiplying symbols have lower hit frequencies than machines that don't have multiplying symbols and the higher the multiple, the lower the hit frequency.

Machines That Don't Look Like Low Hit Frequency Machines, But Are

General Rule: IGT's Red, White and Blue Sevens and Bally's Blazing Sevens are low hit frequency machines.

I call this way to identify low hit frequency machines "Mama's Rule," because these machines are low hit frequency machines "because I said so."

You can't identify these machines as low hit frequency machines by looking at their paytables. Their lowest payouts are low and they don't have a multiplying wild symbol. Nevertheless, these machines are low hit frequency machines because they favor mid-range payouts of 100-300 coins over payouts of fewer than 100 coins. And you have to remove a lot of low payouts in order to pay just one more mid-range payout.

The most famous, and most popular, machines of this type are IGT's Red, White, and Blue Sevens and Bally's Blazing Sevens. The real excitement on these machines comes when you land a combination of Sevens on the payline. And if you watch a bank of these machines being played, you'll notice that the Sevens come up pretty frequently, and the lower-paying bar combinations come up less frequently than on higher hit frequency machines.

Although you can't tell that these machines are low hit frequency machines before playing them, you'll know pretty soon after you start playing them. If you track your hits while you play, you'll have a good gut feeling for the true hit frequency of a machine after about 500 spins and a very close estimate of the true hit frequency of a machine after about 1000 spins.


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:

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
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