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Best of John Robison

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Was I Just Lucky or Did the Casino Loosen Its Machines?

22 January 2005

Hi, John!

This is the second time I am writing to you with a question. I enjoy your newsletters and sound advice each contains! Thank you for your expertise and knowledge on the slot scene in the casinos. I've used several of your hints and suggestions and they have paid off!

Anyway, here is a bit of info I'd like to pass on: I just came back from a week in Vegas and had a mini-winfall. I stayed at Buffalo Bill's in Primm and the Sahara on the strip. I played 25-cent and 50-cent slots at Buffalo Bill's -- and hit NOTHING!!!! When we moved to the strip to the Sahara, I noticed a whole section of penny and nickel slots that looked like fun! I always enjoyed the bonus round machines like "Elvira," "Money To Burn," etc., because they give you a change of venue, so to speak, by injecting another game within the game to run up your totals.

Well, I played "Phantom of the Opera" and "Money Storm" and came away with $1,070 in winnings for the week! Not bad for only spending $240 in gaming money!!!! I played maximum coin per line, which in most cases was 20 coins per line on a 9-line combination. I did notice that bonus rounds hit more often when I did this rather than the usual one coin per line or just playing the center line. I played these two games at Terrible's, Sahara, and Green Valley Ranch; each with jackpot wins averaging $150 to $250 each. I know about the RNG, but it seemed that the penny and nickel machines were hitting more than the higher denominations during this week. I noticed people playing around me with moderate wins as well on the penny and nickel machines.

The week I was there, Vegas hosted the bull riding competition, rodeo, chili cookoff, anaesthetists convention, and several reunions. Can the casinos control slot "output" according to the crowd, or was this just a streak of good luck? Other years, I just donate to the cause or add to the funds to build a new casino or wing, but it's fun nevertheless!!!! It just seemed too easy to win on these two machines. My travel companion said to me jokingly: "Hey if we run out of money, just play Phantom or Money Storm for an hour!"

I do like the ticket in/ticket out for payoffs. The casinos are quieter (except for the joints downtown). I like the idea of just being able to carry a ticket rather than buckets of coins and using them in other machines in lieu of cash. I didn't think I would like it because part of the fun is hearing the clink of coins falling in the metal tray. I am glad most of the casinos are opting for this feature. A slot hostess told me in the Sahara that the hosts are happy too, fewer coin jams, fewer hoppers needing fills because the coins run out before payoffs are completed, and jackpots can be paid instantly by the printing of a ticket instead of waiting for a host to complete it (unless you hit the biggie!).

Are the odds any different for the different denominations of slots and video poker causing the lower end machines to seem to hit more frequently or is this still the product of the RNG?

Keep up the great work, and great newsletter, I look forward to it appearing in my email queue!

George

Dear George,

Thanks for the kind words about my column and congratulations on your good fortune in Las Vegas.

Your first question was whether casinos can change slots based on the crowd in town at the time. There have always been rumors that the casinos would tighten their machines then the old big computer show (COMDEX) was in town because the computer nerds didn't gamble and there were so many of them in town for the convention that there weren't any rooms left for the real gamblers.

The truth is that casinos can change the paybacks on their slot machines, but it's a time-consuming process that involves changing a chip in each machine. No casino changes the paybacks on their machines just because a particular convention is in town. You had a streak of good luck and let's hope that it continues for a long, long time.

Your second question is whether the odds are different for the different denominations. That is definitely true. Higher denomination machines usually have higher long-term paybacks than lower denomination machines.

Keep in mind that long-term payback has nothing to do with hit frequency. Penny and nickel video slots usually have very high hit frequencies and also low paybacks when compared with higher denomination, reel-spinning machines.

Also keep in mind that the RNG has nothing to do with hit frequency or long-term payback. The RNG just generates numbers. The virtual reel layouts determine the hit frequency and long-term payback.

I'm glad you like the ticket systems. Although I've been in favor of them 100% since they were first introduced, I know many people who didn't like the idea of them at all. Almost every one of those people were converted however once they had a chance to experience a ticket system. In fact, the ticket system is the most quickly adopted slot innovation in history.

Best of luck in and out of the casnos,
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