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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Video poker paybacks

7 November 2005

Dear John,

This is in response to J.M.'s question in your Sept. 19 column. After visiting the cage to be paid on several tickets, he became alarmed when they requested his players card and began tracking his wins.

I work in the cage in a riverboat casino in the Midwest and the gaming commission requires us to log transactions at $3,000 and at $10,000.

I don't know the rules in Louisiana, but I suspect this is why they did what they did.

Thanks,
BU

Dear BU,

Thanks for giving a possible explanation for what happened to J.M.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I read your articles regularly and I'm afraid you did not get to the root of the question about slot machines "on the end" paying off "better."

I think the root of the question is the practice of some casino slot directors to "seed the floor" with better-paying slots in "high-profile areas."

This has been discussed in TV news reports by casino managers. I have presented this information in TV news broadcasts on KCAL-TV in Los Angeles.

Best wishes,
Alan Mendelson

[Alan is the Business and Consumer News reporter for KCAL-TV.]

Dear Alan,

You're right. That's why some slot directors might place better-paying machines in those locations.

I don't know how widespread the practice is today. Slot machines and slot floors have changed a lot in the past few years. In interviews with slot directors that I've read, in conversations with slot directors that I've had or had recounted to me, and in seminars I've attended, the slot directors have said that they order the same payback percentage for all of their machines in a particular denomination. They encourage play by designing slot floors that make players feel comfortable and welcome and by having machines that players want to play.

In one seminar I attended, a slot director was asked if he followed a loose machine placement philosophy. He said, "I read the same books the players do. I had some low-paying machines that I inherited from another location. I put them in the locations the books said should have the high-paying machines."

I have a multi-part series starting soon in Strictly Slots in which I discuss how changes in slot floor design and slot machine design affect these loose machine placement strategies.

Finally, please consider this. There is no correlation between payback and hit frequency. Slot directors can place high hit frequency machines in the high profile areas. Passersby will see players hitting right and left, while in reality the paybacks on those machines may not be any better — and could be worse — than the paybacks on other machines on the floor.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

I have a question that may be kind of stupid but . . . I recently have become a diamond club member in a casino we play frequently in Atlantic City. My question has to do with tipping. Do you tip your casino host? I told ours I wanted to tip him for getting us a very nice room and fight tickets he said no, his mom would be mad at him if she found out he was accepting tips!

Do you think he was just being nice? Should I have tipped him anyway? If so how much do you tip for this? I have only been going to A.C. and Las Vegas for a short time and don't know the way to handle things like this. I don't want to rip this poor guy off because he really seems to work hard.

Betsy

Dear Betsy,

There are no stupid questions, only stupid answers (c.f. Car Talk).

Each casino has its own policy but, as a general rule, hosts are not allowed to accept tips. Small, inexpensive gifts are usually OK. You can find more information about taking care of hosts in Jean Scott's Frugal Gambler books.

One thing you can do for your host is to write him or her a letter saying how much you appreciate his/her efforts to take care of your needs and make you feel welcome and that the treatment you've received is a major reason for your loyalty to the property.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John,

I need some help. I think I was intentionally ripped at the Cherokee Casino in North Carolina.

I was playing a Triple Bonanza Machine and had hit it about three good times and on the third time, the machine's hopper ran out of dollars.

When the attendant came over to fill the machine, I politely ask if she would watch my machine while I went to the restroom.

I returned up a different aisle and was behind the attendant before she knew it. She had filled the hopper and then hit a white button inside the machine on the right hand wall of the slot machine, there are actually two white buttons there. After that, this hot machine would not hit anything.

I have had many hoppers filled and never has an attendant hit these white buttons. Any idea on what these buttons are?

Also do you have any tips on Triple Bonanza Slots, I will be glad to pay for the info.

I am really concerned about this casino, for I have played slots for many years and I feel there is some hanky panky going on here. Usually the Triple Bonanaza will hit a Triple in the middle and on the right about every 200 spins, I have played this machine for 14 hours straight and then another 12 hours the next day, and this combination never showed. They will never tell you what the payout percentage is set on.

Any info you can supply will be appreciated and I don't mind paying for it.

Thanks, John

Dear John,

I don't recall ever having seen a slot attendant press a button inside a machine after a hopper fill. Slot attendants usually have to confirm hopper fills and door openings, but that would be done with the keypad, not just by pressing a button.

How were you ripped off? A hot machine went cold. That happens every day as a result of randomness. Every time a slot attendant touches a machine and a player's luck changes, the players credit or blame the change on something the attendant did. The truth is that such manipulation of a machine is illegal.

I don't know what kind of information you're looking for. I can't tell you how to win consistently — legally — on it or any other slot machine.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

I still am not clear with respect to the following video poker situation.

If a $1 video poker machine has a long-term payback percentage of 98% (for example) playing Double Double Bonus Poker, are the payback percentages the same on a quarter and nickel machine playing the same game?

Does the long term pay back percentage vary according to the game you play, i.e. Jacks or Better, Bonus Aces, etc.? Or is the percentage an average that includes all poker game variations?

Thanks again for your help.

Ken

Dear Ken,

The pay table solely determines the maximum long-term payback percentage of a machine. Denomination is irrelevant. Payback percentages are specific to each pay table, not an average over multiple variations.

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