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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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What's a slot machine earn?

19 December 2005

I am having a friendly argument with friends about the house take on 25 cent slots. My opinion is that a 25-cent slot played 2 coins (50 cents) at a time played continuously should produce a profit of $75 an hour for the casino. One friend says its more like $20, another says its more like $200. Are any of us close?

Well, let's see. We have to make some assumptions. Let's say we're going to have 600 spins per hour and the long-term payback on the machine is 90%. The total amount of money played through the machine per hour is 600 spins times $0.50 per spin, or $300. If 90% ($270) of that money is returned to players, on average, then the casino holds onto $30.

Of course, changing the speed of play or the machine's long-term payback will change the amount won by the casino. Also, keep in mind that machines aren't played continuously 24/7.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Is there any certain time of day/night that is better for playing slots? And also, is it true that you should play a machine that someone has been losing on all day because as soon as they cash out it will hit?

I'm going to Atlantic City next week. I can use all the help I can get.

Thanks!
Laurie

Dear Laurie,

I've found that the best time to play is when you're awake. It's difficult to hit the Spin button when you're asleep. Besides, many casinos frown on patrons wearing PJs, never mind the problems you'll have if you like to sleep au natural.

There is no best time to play. The odds on a machine do not change with the sun. The only advantage to playing late at night or early in the morning is that the casino will be less crowded.

The odds on a machine also do not change based on past performance. The fact that someone has been steadily losing on a machine does mean it will hit as soon as a new player plays it. The machine doesn't care who's playing it and no machine is ever due.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi,

Here's an example: My aunt goes to Foxwoods and hits $8,000 on a slot machine. She is in her mid-70s. Is she required to pay tax being she is from Maine and the casino is in Connecticut. She says no. Is she right or wrong?

Thanks,
John

Dear John,

First, I am not a qualified tax preparer. If you have any tax-related questions, you should consult a professional. I can, however, tell you what I think he or she will tell you.

First, there is a difference between paying tax and having to report a win. You may be required to report a win and file a return, but you may not owe any tax.

Let's look at the federal situation first. Your aunt was given a W-2G and she will have to report this income on her 1040. She can offset this win with losses. She may or may not have to pay any taxes on the win.

Now, the state situations. Your aunt may be required to file a state return for Connecticut, even if she doesn't owe any tax to the state. Your aunt will probably also have to report the win on her Main return.

You can get more information about gambling and taxes in Tax Help for the Frugal Gambler from www.shoplva.com. And, as I said at the beginning, you should consult a professional tax preparer.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

In your recent column a question was asked about Class II Indian gaming. You stated that anyone with information to back up your answer was welcome to write in, so here goes.

Here in Florida all we have are Indian casinos. The Hard Rock Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood are run by the Seminole tribe and the Miccosukee gaming is the other tribe.

Upon my many visits to these casino I can tell you absolutely that if you don't win on the bingo card displayed at the top of your screen you don't win on your slot game. That is one reason you'll see people tapping the card to change the numbers.

The amount that you win has nothing to do with what line you win on the bingo card. Diagonal, straight, four corners are all the same. A win on the card could give you a 2-credit win or a 200-credit win. Experienced players just glance up as the reels are spinning, if the yellow lights don't come on to show a bingo line you know before the reels stop that you have lost, and vice versa. It is entirely possible that the wins that occurred all at the same time had similar bingo numbers and that is why they won.

An added bonus to changing your bingo card frequently is that a jackpot is paid, usually in the thousands of dollars, for all four corners covered in the FIRST four balls drawn. I have actually sat in an aisle where the woman did win this, so it is not a joke.

I wish Florida would allow real slots, but until then this is all we have.

Thanks for your great column, I look forward to it each week.

Eleanor

Dear Eleanor,

Thanks for the kind words about my column and thanks for sharing your experiences.

Class II games are just bingo drawings in disguise. The pattern covered on the bingo card determines how much you win — at least on the few Class II games on which I've consulted. The pattern isn't necessarily a typical bingo pattern, though.

Finally, I don't think that changing your card frequently will improve you chances of hitting the "four corners in four balls" bonus. The chances should be the same on every drawing regardless of your card.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I have a strategy question.

When playing multi-line video slot machines, say, Cleopatra, with 9-20 lines. Are you better playing 9 lines for more coins, or more lines for fewer coins in and why?

I have gotten to love the multi-line video games with the secondary games and do reasonably well, making good money on some of the bonus games, but this question bugs me.

Thanks,
Mary

Dear Mary,

We really need the par sheet for the machine to know for sure, but here's my feeling.

I think you're better off playing more lines for fewer coins. When you bet more lines, you get something for your money. You increase your hit frequency. You usually don't get anything when you increase your bet per line, unless there's a bonus on one or more combinations for betting max coins on a line.

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