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Best of John Robison

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Tipping for a jackpot

10 April 2006

OK, all you got to get off the HARRAH'S kick!! Harrah's may not be perfect but no Rewards Program is — you know Harrah's has one of very best rewards programs around — not only does it not take too many points to go from Gold to Platinum to Diamond compared to many others, but I find the customer service is incredible!

Yes, this program has its problems and downfalls but I am sure MGM does too and so does Station Casinos and probably all the rest! So do us all a favor and find something else to report about.

Just as a point of information: I have a friend who stayed at New York New York, which belongs to MGM (I believe), about 7-8 months ago and he spent $1000+ gambling — to date he has not received anything from MGM or New York New York — not even a comp room. So do me a favor get off of Harrah's — Harrah's Laughlin has by far one of the most aggressive marketing departments around — if you don't like Harrah's than find someone else. END OF STORY!

bj

Dear bj,

Okay, bj. You're right. We've heard from both sides now. Players can vote with their feet and wallets.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

Question for you in regards to tipping on a jackpot. I am a new resident to Las Vegas and I wasn't familiar with how much should be tipped on a jackpot. Back in December, I hit a $1,600 jackpot at The Orleans. When they came over, I didn't know the procedure and I think they took advantage of that. After being told I would need to produce a license and social security card, I did and they brought back my $1,600 in all large bills. Not having anything else smaller on me, I tipped both of them large ($100 each). I got a simple thank you, no smile and that was that.

The following day, I hit the exact same jackpot at the Santa Fe. This time I knew the deal, produced my ID and they came back over and paid out with the last hundred in smaller bills. Not knowing any better, I tipped large again. This time the reaction was one of shock, to the point where I was even asked "Are you sure? This is far too generous." It was at that point I did some research and came upon your newsletter and found that, in that situation, $20 or $40 was plenty on a jackpot of that size.

My question is this: Do you think that I was taken advantage of initially and they paid off in all large bills knowing they would either get a very large tip or none at all? I was just wondering if you've seen or heard of this at all.

Thank you,
John

Dear John,

I think I've seen all of the possibilities for how a hand pay can be done. I've had jackpots paid in the fewest bills possible (presumably to make the process faster and easier for the slot personnel and the eye-in-the-sky to verify) and with the last hundred or two broken into smaller bills (presumably to make it easier to tip). I've seen slot personnel hang around after paying me in anticipation of a tip and I've seen them leave without giving me an opportunity to offer a tip (OK, that only happened once.).

Deciding how much to tip can be a nerve-wracking experience. I think it's silly to use a flat percentage, as some sites recommend. Tipping a percentage for meals makes sense. You probably receive enough extra service on a $150 meal compared with a $15 meal to warrant the extra money. But there's really very little difference between making a $1,500 hand pay and a $5,000 hand pay.

I don't think you got ripped off. I think The Orleans just paid you in the way that was most convenient for them. Their philosophy may be that most players have small bills on them, so there's no reason for them to take extra time and have more chances for making a mistake by paying part of the jackpot in small bills.

On the other hand, should the people who paid you have questioned your intentions as they did at the other casino? Absolutely. A $200 tip on a $1,600 win is so far above the norm that I think they had the duty to make sure you knew how much you had given. Telling you that it was too much would be the "home run" of customer service.

I make sure I have some small bills before I sit down to play. I make sure I have some singles for drinks and some larger bills for hand pays. I decide how much I want to tip while I'm waiting to be paid and put the money for the tip in my pocket. That way, if I can't pay the tip using the bills in the hand pay, I can use the money in my pocket.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

Thanks for answering my letter "Do casinos manipulate slots?" Rather it's not the casino I meant but the layout of the virtual reels, not manipulated to deceive, however.

You said in a Mid-West Gaming and Travel "near misses" interview that slots tease. You said it's the fun of playing, and it's not the programming that's at fault, but the layout of the virtual reels.

For the sake of us readers and players I 'd like to point out something I read from another source that should answer our questions about RNG and near misses. The key word not usually mentioned in answers to us is it's legal. The article states that since the virtual reels are random and three physical reels are independent, virtual reel weights are legal.

Virtual reel stops on the payline are unbiased events, as you know. However, they do affect the probability of symbols seen just off the payline. Near misses off the payline such as those that can be enhanced by virtual reel weights are not illegal. The Nevada Gaming Commission approved this in 1988 (since then.. I don't know). Some may say it's still unfair but a saying from another source is, "Casinos are honest but not fair". These are games of chance and a plan must be made prior to play.

From your book and two others I made up a plan before going to the casino. What bankroll, type of slot, hours spent, 2 coin (1's, 2's) and 3 (1's, 3's) coin patterns, two each totaling 40 credits per session with about 25 to 30 spins each, loss limits, etc. All within the bankroll. I applied it at Borgata February 26 and came home with $230 profit and brought the session money home too. Mostly all 1-coin play. In fact my son-in-law after a few 1 coin spins got 800 ($200) credits from a cherry slot with a bonus spin feature.

So thanks to you and Larry Mak for your books. Hope to keep it up. The key was that I got hits before 30 spins and pocketed the loss limit tickets and winnings and did not touch them again. Later they totaled $580. I think the ticket idea is not bad since you can save them until later. I think 80% of the 60 to 70% profits casinos make on slots is player-related, pressing winnings, not accepting early hits, etc.

A question or two:

  1. If we can't identify 99% payback slots, why advertise them?
  2. Is the only difference between two machines — 99% and 88%, let's say — the fact that one will wear your bankroll down faster than the other?
  3. Is that in the short term, a session, or many sessions on the same machine?
  4. If most slots in the casino are not high 90s, is it best to not play the same one over and over? So it's best to move around. True?
  5. Playing them one can not see the difference in hits. True?
  6. Inside the machine the only difference is to change the probabilities per combination for paying trios thereby lowering the totals pays while the total combination total (cycle) are both equal in each machine. True?

Thanks again,
Frank

Dear Frank,

Congratulations on your good fortune at the Borgata.

To answer your questions:

  • Many casinos do put their high-paying machines in carousels or areas with signs that identifies the machines as high-paying. In any case, advertising that a casino has 99% payback slots gives the impression that the casino's slots pay better than other casino's slots. The advertising is seductive because there's the possibility you might play one of these machines.
  • The difference between a 99% payback machine and an 88% payback machine is that a casino will hold 1% of the money played through the 99% machine and 12% of the money played through the 88% machine in the long run. The payouts are so volatile that some players may be able to play for hours on the 88% machine (especially if they hit a high-paying combination) and be wiped out quickly on the 99% machine — all on the same buy-in amount. In addition, the 88% machine could have a higher hit frequency, so it would tend to keep you in tray money and playing longer.
  • It's the long term. See above. Also, payback is really something only the casino experiences. Players don't play anywhere near the hundreds of thousands or millions of spins needed for the difference in payback to have a greater effect on their results than randomness.
  • It doesn't make any difference mathematically speaking if you park yourself at one machine or move around. There are some advantages to moving around, though. Your money is not at risk while you're in motion, plus you get some exercise.
  • I don't understand your last two questions.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

In you article on Monday, March 6, 2006, you had a question from Charles. In his message he mentioned the casino moving his favorite machine and putting a tight one in its place.

This happens all the time, casinos periodically move machines around. My solution is when I find a good machine, I write down the type, game name, denomination, number of maximum coins and all the numbers on the right side of the machine. That way I immediately know if it's the same machine. If not, I go looking for all the things I wrote down and "lo in behold" I generally find my machine. If you play in several casinos, be sure to write down the casino name by the other information.

Hope this will help Charles and others that tend to lose the machines that they really like,

Thanks for all your articles.

Barbara

Dear Barbara,

Thanks for your kind words about my articles and thanks for your tip about keeping track of favorite machines.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Tournament machines at the turn of a key? I think what the patron perhaps witnessed was the reprogramming of the "credit meter" which must be set to a certain time limit rather than coin for play. If this is not the case, then "Houston, we have a problem."

Kathy

Dear Kathy,

In addition to free play, tournament machines usually also have much higher paybacks. I thought that jurisdictions would have wanted to keep the tournament game programs and reel layouts completely separate from normal game programs and layouts and not let the two be resident in one machine at the same time, but apparently there are enough safeguards in place that it can be done.

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