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Where Are the Loose Machines?

27 May 2004

By John Robison


Is it possible that the 'slots magazine' referred to in a earlier letter is "Strictly Slots" which also has a companion magazine "Casino Player"?

Great column, always look forward to reading,

Dear Bob,

Thanks for the kind words.

I had the same thought about the magazine, but I don't see any way that someone could think that Strictly Slots magazine was just called Slots. The name is pretty big on the cover. I still think that the author of that letter was referring to a local magazine.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

A recent e-mail question mentioned a "slots magazine that may be a local publication". Your remark that it may well be caught my attention. The magazine that the writer was speaking of was probably 'STRICTLY SLOTS', which is a national publication (and a very good one at that). It also has a "sister" publication named 'CASINO PLAYER', which is also extremely helpful with many different areas of playing/staying in casinos throughout the country. I would highly recommend either one of these publications for the avid visitors to the casinos.


Dear John,

Great minds think alike!

As I said to Bob above, it's possible that the other writer was referring to Strictly Slots, but I don't think it's likely. The name is practically one word on the cover of the magazine.

I second you recommendations for Casino Player and Strictly Slots. They publish many of the best writers in gaming, including Frank Scoblete, Henry Tamburin, Jean Scott, Anthony Curtis, and (if I may be so bold) yours truly every once in a while.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Love your advice and insight! I have a question about the "Lock and Roll" machines at Harrah"s Cherokee Casino in Cherokee, North Carolina. After locking the desired reels on the first spin, is the second spin generated by the RNG or is the outcome generated at the first spin?

Thanks for your advice!

Dear Sherry,

Thanks for the kind words.

I assume that these machines operate the same way that video poker machines work. The computer program running the machine polls the RNG again to determine which symbols to land on the payline for the "draw."

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

In regards to the letter from Nancie, the Casino City website has an abundant amount of information about the size of each casino and the number and types of slot machines. Another good and fun source of information about Las vegas casinos, as to clientele and amenities, is It has a humorous edge to it that describes the ambience of each property as well as the other information requested. I too appreciate and enjoy all the info that you pass along to your readers. Keep up the good work.


Dear Brett,

Thanks for the kind words and thanks for the recommendations. I've just started to discover the wealth of information available on the Casino City website.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Mr. Robison,

Does the pressure or amount of pull on the handle determine the outcome on a slot machine? What I mean is, if you hold the hit button longer than just a push, does that change the outcome?

We just returned from aweek in Vegas. We always stay at the Tropicana and the Stratrosphere. They are smaller casinos, and my wife feels comfortable there. The slots pay good too.

Thank you,

Dear Rick,

The technique you use to push the Spin button or pull the handle has no effect whatsoever on the outcome.

Both the Spin button and the handle are merely switches. Once the circuit is closed, the computer program running the slot machine starts the spin.

The Spin button and handle are just like light switches. The amount of light from the bulb is always the same no matter how much finesse you use in turning on the light switch.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Where can I find a "Wheel of Fortune" nickel slot video poker machine? We played some last weekend in the Bahamas and can't get enough. This would be for home use only, no business venture.


It's a good thing the machine is for home use only. Most states frown on citizens opening up their own casinos.

Wheel of Fortune machines are not for sale. IGT places them in casinos as part of a Wide-Area-Progressive link only.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Finally, a slot expert who gives expert advice! Your column should be required reading for anyone interested in playing slots.

I have two questions. My first relates to the way the Nevada Gaming Control Board defines Vegas regions. I know the NGCB breaks down reported slot payback averages by area, but I have not been able to locate definitions of the areas. Where precisely does "North Las Vegas" begin and end? And how does the Board define "Balance of County"? What of the casinos west of the strip (e.g., Palms, Gold Coast, etc.)?

My second question concerns the relationship between slot floor placement and average payback. I enjoyed Frank Scoblete's "Breaking The One-Armed Bandit," which included a fascinating interview with a high ranking casino executive who stated repeatedly that casinos are very deliberate in the placement of their loose machines. Since then, I have read that slot placement has little if any relationship with average payback. The Wizard of Odds' nickel video slot analysis is a good example of this view. What gives?


Dear Joe,

Thanks for the kind words about my column.

I did a little searching at the Nevada Gaming Commission's site (, but I couldn't find anything that listed which casinos were in each area or how exactly they defined the areas.

Strictly Slots has this explanation about the areas before the Nevada paybacks:

North Las Vegas: Includes such casinos as the Fiesta, Texas Station, Jerry's Nugget and the Santa Fe. Boulder Strip: Principal casinos in this area are Boulder Station, Sam's Town and Castaways. Balance of County: These casinos are not featured in the casinos of Las Vegas Strip, Downtown, Laughlin, or Boulder Strip. The "other" casinos include the properties in Primm, and those other casinos scattered across the valley, such as Arizona Charlie's and the Orleans.

I suspect that the Palms and the Gold Coast are in Balance of County, but I don't know for sure.

As for placement and payback, both sides are correct, but I lean more towards the placement has no relationship with payback side.

The slot floor is a very different place since Frank interviewed Mr. Handle. Today's machines are far more entertaining and players don't need to see other players winning to keep them playing. Today's players will keep playing to have one more spin of the Wheel of Fortune or one more crack at the bonus round.

Most of the slot directors I have spoken with order close to the same payback for all of their machines in a particular denomination. They're concerned with creating slot floors that make players feel comfortable playing, not with peppering their slot floors with loose machines. Besides, trying to keep "loose" machines in certain places limits their flexibility in moving around machines on their slot floor.

That said, each casino has its own slot manager and each slot manager has his or her own slot placement philosophy. There might be some slot managers who still use some sort of placement strategy based on payback.

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 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