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Types of Machines

8 May 2003

By John Robison

I have received a number of e-mails asking how to recognize the different types of slot machines, so let's review the different types now and some general advice for playing each type.

There are four paytable types:

Multiplier

There are two types of multipliers.

Straight Multiplier: For all payouts, the amount you win when playing two coins is twice the amount you win when playing one coin; the amount you win when playing three coins is three times the amount you win when playing one coin, etc.

Play one coin at a time on straight multipliers. Playing one coin at a time stretches your bankroll (it can fund double or triple the number of spins compared with playing two or three coins at a time) and you don't give up anything by not playing full coin. You still get the maximum payback and hit frequency possible from the machine.

Bonus Multiplier: On a bonus multiplier, one or more combinations pays out a bonus above and beyond the straight multiple of the number of coins played times the one coin payoff. An example of a bonus multiplier is a three-coin Double Diamond machine that pays 800/1600/2500.

Play one coin at a time on bonus multipliers. It's true that you give up a little in payback because you won't be eligible for the bonused paid on some combinations. It's also true that those combinations hit so infrequently that you'll rarely be missing out. Because even a large bonus leads to a small increase in long-term payback, it's not worth the extra risk of playing more than one coin at a time.

Buy-A-Pay

On this paytable type, additional coins activate additional combinations. On a Blazing 7s machine, for example, the first coin buys the bar combinations and the second buys the 7s combinations.

Play full coin on buy-a-pays. The paybacks on the additional coins are sometimes high enough to offset the additional risk of playing the additional coin--and sometimes the payback on the additional coin is over 100%. To put it another way, you lose less money in the long run betting full coin than one coin even though you're betting more per spin.

Multi-Line

This is the old-style multi-line machine on which you can bet only one coin per line. The last line, which you activate by playing full coin, usually has some sort of bonus on one or more combinations.

Play one coin or full coin. As with a bonus multiplier, it's usually not worth the extra risk to play full coin. You just don't hit the combinations that pay a bonus frequently enough. But a psychological factor comes into play on multi-line machines. It can be very frustrating to land winning combinations on inactive paylines, combinations that would have paid had you played more coins. In addition, playing more coins raises the hit frequency. I usually play full coin on multi-line machines.

Multi-Line/Multi-Coin

This is the Aussie-style video slot. These machines let you bet one or more coins on one or more lines. These machines are part multi-line and part multiplier. Let's look at each aspect separately.

First, the multiplier aspect. Additional coins on a line usually just multiply the payoff (a straight multiple), so there's no reason to play more than one coin per line. There's the multiplier part. Looking at the multi-line aspect, playing more lines raises the hit frequency, but usually not the payback.

Play only one coin on one line or one coin per line. This is essentially the same as treating the machine as the old-style multi-line machine. Again, I usually play one coin per line to eliminate the frustration of winning combinations landing on inactive paylines.

That's it for paytable types. Let's finish up by looking at two different jackpot types.

Progressives vs. Flat Tops

Flat tops are non-progressive jackpots. They never change. Progressives, on the other hand, take a portion of each wager and add it to one or more combinations. You usually have to play full coin to qualify for the progressive.

Always play full coin on progressives. Otherwise, you're just building the progressive for someone else with no chance of winning it yourself.

An exception to the rule: Think twice before playing full coin on multi-line/multi-coin progressives. Here's why. You triple your wager when you jump from $1 per spin to $3 per spin on a Megabucks machine. But jumping from one coin per line ($0.45) to 10 coins per line ($4.50) is a jump to 10 times my recommended wager (and whopping 90 times the minimum wager on the machine). I rarely play these machines (or any progressive, for that matter), but when I do, I usually play one coin per line. Sure, I'll be disappointed if I lose out on the jackpot, but look at how frequently the jackpots hit on these machines. I don't think I have much to worry about.

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