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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Thoughts on getting enough play from a buy-in

24 October 2005

Hi, John,

I agree with you that playing the slots is strictly a pastime/entertainment. However, I wish someone at the casinos would understand that if I have $100 dollars to spend and it lasts me several hours, I am more apt to come back in a week or two for another couple hours of "entertainment."

However, if the $100 is gone in less than an hour (no matter what denomination), then I will think about coming back anytime soon.

I relate this to my husband playing golf. For $100, he can play a decent course for 4-5 hours. Granted he could be very frustrated too – but the TIME played is what makes the big difference.

Your thoughts?

Linda

Dear Linda,

I agree with you completely. And so do many slot directors. I have heard many of them talk about giving players "time on device." They know that many players expect to lose — and don't begrudge losing — as long as the players feel like they've gotten a sufficient amount of entertainment value for their money.

High hit frequency machines usually give more play time than low hit frequency machines, and most video slots are high hit frequency machines. Five or so years ago, when video slots were starting to get popular in the United States, I heard one Australian operator describe why video slots were so popular down under.

He said the people would go to a club for a pint and to play the pokies (slot machines). Players not only expected to lose their 10 or 20 Australian dollars in the machines, but they also expected to get a certain amount of play from their buy-in.

Come to think of it, I've heard table managers talk about giving players value for their money too. Most players, they say, know that sometimes they'll win, but most of the time they'll lose, and the worst thing a casino can do is to take a player's bankroll so quickly that he leaves the table or machine shell-shocked and wondering what happened to his money.

Now, you and I may like getting a lot of play from our buy-ins, but other players don't care so much about how much play they get each time they feed a machine. They're looking for the thrill of hitting some high-paying combinations. They don't mind having long dry spells and feeding a machine more frequently than a newborn baby as long as they get a really meaty hit once in a while. Machines that have fewer, bigger hits rather than many low-paying hits are low hit frequency machines.

Let's say we have two 95% payback machines, one with a low hit frequency and the other with a high hit frequency, and two players to play them. Over the long run, both players will put the same amount of money into their machines, but the intervals between feedings will be very different. The player playing the high hit frequency machine will have roughly the same interval between feedings. The feedings on the low hit frequency machine, however, will sometimes be bunched together (a dry spell) and sometimes be quite far apart (after a nice hit).

One machine can't satisfy both types of players, so slot directors order both types of machines. Our trick is to find the machines that suit our playing personalities.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


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