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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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What's the truth about loose machine placement?

14 January 2008

Dear Mr. Robison,

All the gaming authors (Scoblete, Tamburin, Grochowski, Renzi, Thomason, etc.) write about placement of loose slots in casinos. However, you say in your book, page 47, that all of a casino's slots in a particular denomination have roughly the SAME payout. In other words, you don't believe casinos have specially placed loose slots, so your book does not address how to locate these slots. Scoblete, on the other hand, has written an entire book on how to find the loose slots. What's going on?

Jim

Dear Jim,

There's no doubt that at one time some slot floor managers did play games with placing loose slots in strategic locations. As you mention, Frank Scoblete has an interview with one in his book Break the One-Armed Bandits. But I don't believe the advice is applicable in today's casinos.

The slot world has changed since that interview took place. Today's slot director has thousands of machines on his slot floor, not the dozens of hundreds of years ago. The slot directors I've spoken with don't have time to micromanage their slots by having some special slots that require special placement.

Slot directors also want flexibility in where they place their slots. If they had loose machines that required special placement, that would limit their options in moving the machines on their floors.

Today's slots, in addition, are far more entertaining than slots from even a few years ago. Today's slot player doesn't need to see another player hitting to be enticed to keep playing. Today's slot players keep playing because they want to spin the Wheel of Fortune one more time. They want to get to a bonus screen they haven't seen yet or they want one more crack at a bonus round. Moreover, today's slot player keeps playing because most players say they play for entertainment first and to win money second.

I've probably attended more seminars on slot department operations and slot floor design than all the other authors you mentioned combined, with the possible exception of John Grochowski. In all of the seminars I've attended, when slot directors talk of machine placement, they're talking about how to lay out their floors so slot players feel comfortable playing there. Relaxed players who feel welcome on the slot floor play longer.

I can only think of two times that placing machines with long-term paybacks that differed from others of the same denomination was mentioned. In the first one, one director was so concerned that players would think that Ten Times Pay machines with very low hit frequencies were tighter than other machines (which they wouldn't have been because he orders the same long-term paybacks for all machines of the same denomination), he ordered those machines with higher long-term paybacks. The machines were placed in a bank of Ten Times Pay machines and not in special locations.

In the second instance, a director had inherited some machines from another casino in the same company. These machines had slightly lower paybacks than the standard in his casino because paybacks weren't as high at the other casino. He said that he had read all the theories about slot placement in the books and put the machines in the places where the books said the loose machines would be. No player ever complained that the machines were tighter than others of the same denomination.

The bottom line is that you've nothing to lose if you play the machines where the loose slots are supposed to be because all of the machines in a denomination have roughly the same long-term payback. But I also think that you've nothing to gain too.

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 reply to every question.

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