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Best of John Robison

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Where can I find the payback programs available for a slot?

10 December 2007

Hi, John,

I was going through some of your articles and I'm impressed with your knowledge of slots. My favorite machine is Double Diamonds, when I go to the casino I play them most of the time, and even switch back and forth between other Double Diamonds machines.

I'm very interested in knowing about the different payback programs for all kinds of machines, mostly Double Diamonds. Not just because they have different paybacks, but because the hit frequencies for each payout can be programmed differently on each machine, and I understand that these frequencies can vary significantly.

It would be interesting to see how the hit frequencies for each payout change depending on the payback percentage, which ones vary the most, or are most likely to be changed. I know you wouldn't be able to tell by looking at a machine which payback program it had, but it would be interesting knowledge to have. Seeing how the frequencies for certain payouts, like the 5 and 10 credit payouts, the jackpot frequency, and everything in between can vary could give somebody an idea of the kinds of extremes they can expect while playing different machines of the exact same type. It would also be neat to compare payback programs for Double Diamonds to Double Diamonds of different denominations, or Triple Diamonds.

Since we already know the probable hit frequencies for all combinations at video poker based on a deck of cards, and what they pay, thus being able to calculate the long-term payback percentage before we even play, you'd think knowing what all the possible payback programs for a certain slot machine are would be no big deal. Is this secretive information?

Is there a place online or somewhere I can find all the payback programs for a certain slot machine, or any kind of slot machine?

Thanks a lot,
Brian

Dear Brian:

Thanks for the kind words about my columns.

Hit frequency does have a wide range. But the hit frequencies for the payback programs available for a particular game fall into a narrow range. The game designers determine whether a game will be a high or a low (or an in between) hit frequency game and set up the payback programs accordingly.

Many players prefer playing games with particular characteristics (e.g., high hit frequency or low hit frequency) whether they realize it or not. Having different playing characteristics on the machines of a particular game "cheapens" the brand because players don't know what they're going to get from the machine.

For example, Blazing 7s wouldn't be as popular as it is if a good portion of the machines hit many bar combinations and few 7 combinations.

From what I've seen on par sheets, this is how the game designers devise the payback programs available for a particular game. It looks like the number of ways to hit the jackpot, and maybe one or more secondary jackpots, stays the same from payback program to payback program. They alter the number of ways to hit the smaller jackpots (maybe by changing some of the single bars on a reel to double or triple bars) to increase the long-term payback.

Yes, the payback programs available for the machines is a secret. I don't know why slot manufacturers guard the par sheets for the machines so closely. It can't be because they don't want players to know the house edge against them. People, myself included, keep buying lottery tickets and the odds are readily available for them and the odds are worse than on even the tightest slot machine. In addition, I've seen players ignore banks of machines under "98% or better" marquees and play machines with unknown paybacks instead. I think most players (video poker players excepted) don't care about the long-term paybacks on the machines they play.

There might be something on these sheets that a cheat can use against the machines. I don't see how knowing the number of Double Diamond symbols on a particular reel helps a cheat, but I don't think like a cheat.

To answer your final question, there no place online or anywhere else where you can find the payback programs available for slot machines.

And this secrecy creates a problem for me and other writers who are trying to tell the truth about how slot machines really work. The fact that players can't see the par sheets just adds more fuel to the fires about casinos controlling machines.

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