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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Video Poker Anomalies

20 June 2004

Hi,

Do you know, on average, what percentage of the time a slot machine is in use over the course of one day? For example, assume 1 pull takes 8 seconds...then at maximum use, a slot machine can handle 450 pulls per hour. What percentage of this number does a machine actually get used on average? I realize there are peak hours, but what would you say would be the average for one day? Also, how long does an average pull take? Is 8 seconds about right? Thanks very much.

Daniel

Dear Daniel,

Joe Kaminkow, the game design guru at IGT, was recently featured in an article in the New York Times Magazine. In the interview, he mentioned how long a typical spin takes. I saved the issue but, of course, I can't find it now. I think he said the typical spin takes about 6 seconds. Eight seconds, in any case, is too long. For what it's worth, I know German regulations require that a spin last at least 3 seconds.

The length of a spin is irrelevant to your question, though. You asked what percentage of the day a machine is in use. It doesn't matter whether a player has one eight-hour spin or 4,800 six-second spins--the machine is in use for eight hours either way.

I don't know how long a machine is in use each day. I don't think I ever asked a slot manager that question and I don't think I ever heard one give the figure in a presentation. I would guess that it is about six to eight hours per day.

One thing to keep in mind is that the average is virually meaningless because there is such a wide range of values. Machines may be in almost constant use during busy holiday weekends with players lined up to play machines. On a midweek afternoon, on the other hand, you might be able to fire a shotgun in the casino and have very little risk of hitting a player.

The average temperature where I live in New Jersey is about 60 degrees. Knowing that doesn't tell me whether I should wear shorts and a T-shirt because the temperature will be 90+ (as it will be today) or I wear my heavy winter.

Many casino exuctives and employees read this site. If any would care to share how much usage their machines get each day, I would be happy to print their answers in a future column. I would suggest giving a weekday average and a weekend average.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

I enjoy your articles and read them faithfully.

I know you have touched on this issue before, but I wondered if you have specific knowledge of Indiana regulations. My wife and I play once a month for two days at Belterra Casino. They recently changed their Video Poker Machines, replacing some. The problem we see is that now most of the time when we have two pair and discard the odd card it is replaced by the same denomination card of another suit. Also if we are holding four cards to an outside straight, we draw one of the same cards in the straight that was adjacent to the discard. In other words if we had 9-K-6-8-7, we will draw a 9 or 6 to replace the king.

We have also noticed that in the last three visits, we have not seen one Royal hit anywhere. We know you and other experts have warned that not all venues, especially cruise ships, have the same regulations as Nevada on card game type video games and therefore the paytables may not reflect true expectations. Do you know what the Indiana regs are? I have e-mailed this question to the Indiana Gaming Commission but not received a response.

Thanks!

I did a quick search and didn't find a site with Indiana's slot regulations. That doesn't mean the regulations aren't online, just that the site didn't appear in the first few pages of a Google search. My understanding is that a machine produced in Nevada must follow Nevada's regulations regardless of its ultimate destination.

There was a group of avid video poker players in Nevada who claimed that they had discovered a flaw in the random selection of cards in video poker machines and they described anomalies similar to those you described. I don't remember whether their claim help up once they started keeping a log. In any case, this happened four or five years ago and any anomaly they may have found would have long been fixed.

I suggest you keep a log of the card you get each time you draw to two pair or an outside straight. I think you'll find that there is no pattern to the card you receive.

Human memory is fallible and easily influenced. I suspect you remember the situations you described because the card you received was related to the cards you held or discarded. You don't recall the times when the card was not related.

I don't think it's unusual that you didn't see any royals on your last few visits. The casino may not have been as crowded as on your earlier visits or the players may just not have been as lucky when you visited. The casino is open 24x7 (or whatever the hours are in Indiana) and you see only a small portion of that. Players are still hitting royals, just not when you were watching.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


As an avid slot and video poker player, we are well versed in the state of MS from the coast to Vicksburg. My daughter, who lives in Dallas, is getting married at the Bellagio April the 4th. My wife and I are flying up to spend a week in Vegas. Our first trip to the capital of gaming. We will be staying at Bally's, since it was the best as far as our travel agent could come up with, price-wise that is. What are your recommendations on the best quarter, half-dollar and dollar machines in that neck of the woods?

You have a great column.

Jim

Dear Jim,

Thanks for the kind words about my column. I'm sorry that I didn't get to your message until over two months after the wedding.

According to Skip Hughes' site (www.vphomepage.com), Caesars Palace, Bally's, and Paris all have full-pay video poker. It couldn't be a coincidence that they're all Caesars Entertainment properties, could it?

You're going to be busy with the wedding, so I suggest you just play at Paris. You don't want to waste your limited time walking over to the other casinos.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

Does the RNG continually run in the background on a normal slot machine or is it only activated when you press the Spin button?

Can you tell me which casino in Council Bluffs, IA has the best payout rate? They have 3: Ameristar, Harrah's, and Bluffs Run. The last two are both owned by Harrah's.

Just read you column for the first time and found it very interesting. This is a new adventure for me. Just recently retired.

Thank you.

Congratulations on your retirement!

The RNG does run continuously in the background.

Strictly Slots magazine publishes the slot payback figures that the states release. In March 2004, the paybacks were as follows for Ameristar, Bluff's Run, and Harrah's: 5-cent 90.8%, 90.4%, 89.8%; 25-cent: 94%, 92.3%, 93.2%; 1-dollar: 94.8%, 93.2%, 94.3%.

Ameristar is the winner in these denominations for payback. Factor in how easy it is to get to these casinos, how much you like the casinos, and the slot clubs in addition to payback when you decide which casino to patronize.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Like reading your articles from time to time, but tell me one thing.

How many secrets do you know about slot machines that you can't reveal to the gaming public, and also why?

If I told you, I'd have to shot you.

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 two or more 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