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When should I leave a slot machine?

29 December 2007

By John Robison

I saw a man hit 50 royal flushes on a 50-hand penny poker machine in Vegas. Unfortunately for him, he thought he could do better and kept playing. Instead of walking away with over $1000, he left with $300. I believe that is called greed or stupidity. Take your choice.

Well, if this man was going to play again that day, the next, or even a year later, it really doesn't matter whether he walked away with $1000, $300 or $0. I usually continue to play a machine after hitting a jackpot on it and I usually leave the machine before I've lost back about 25% of the jackpot.

But I know that even though leaving the machine at that point may make me feel victorious for that session, it has no effect on my overall results. If I'm going to play any machine after that point, I could have just continued to play that machine. You can't beat the house edge by following a "quit after jackpot" or "quit while you're ahead" strategy unless you quit completely.

I wouldn't call what that man did either greedy or stupid, unless he needed that money to buy food or pay the mortgage -- in which case he shouldn't have been in the casino in the first place.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

You refer so often to Class II slots. Can you explain what they are and how do you identify one?

I enjoy reading your comments from others. If we can truly believe that the Random Number Generator is used all the time, you had better only be playing slots for the fun of it, not to win.

Class II is an artificial designation defined in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act to refer to games like bingo, pull tabs, and scratch-off tickets. Native American casinos can have Class II machines in their casinos as long as their states allow charities to run similar games. Most Class II machines use a bingo drawing to determine the results of spins, so they have bingo cards on their screens in addition to the reels. At this time, Class II machines are only in Native American casinos.

I don't see why you say that using a Random Number Generator would make it so you couldn't win. Do you think that mechanical or electro-mechanical machines are inherently fairer?

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

I read somewhere that if a machine doesn't pay off, or only gives small paybacks, after 5 or 9 spins, leave the machine and try elsewhere. What do you think?

Also, is it beneficial to manually stop the spins on a machine? I've done this on occasion and after 5 or 6 manual stops, I tend to do better.

I think that what has happened in the past has no effect on what will happen in the future. Your chances have hitting something are the same on every spin. So just because a machine hasn't paid off after a certain number of spins is not a valid mathematical reason to leave a machine. By the same token, just because a machine has been paying well is not a valid mathematical reason for continueing to play a machine.

Beause mathematics can't help us here, you can use your emotions. If you get frustrated when a machine doesn't pay off quickly, move on.

Stopping the reels has no effect on the outcome. The outcome has already been chosen by polling the RNG after you started the spin. Stopping the reels just makes the machine display the already determined outcome more quickly.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at 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