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Best of John Robison

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Why do casinos move machines?

20 April 2009

Hello John,

I have been reading your columns for a long time, but still find it difficult to understand this RNG.

But that is not what I am writing about. I wrote once about brand new machines being placed in a casino, and in the first few days, or a couple of weeks, these machines give very generous payouts all the time. Then, when you go back a week or two later, you sit to play any and all of these machines in the same bank, and not one of them pays anything at all.

This has been noticed by my husband and me, and obviously lots of other players, because now when we are in the casinos for any length of time, NO ONE is playing ANY of these machines.

So, we firmly believe they are set to lure players into a false sense of winning, for a few days, then whammo . . . there goes your money, sucker.

This has been the case in several casinos with several different games . . . it really makes you feel like a fool for falling into their trap.

And why do casinos keep moving players' favorite games? Sometimes, completely out? I know that one company took a machine out of a casino because it was paying out too much money and they were losing money on that particular machine . . . and they (there were two of the same machine) used to give big payouts . . . these were the Addams Family progressive machines, and it was never necessary to play any more than one bet per line . . . these were nickel machines, which we used to play all the time, but we no longer play them. (maybe that's a good thing in the long run) because they just eat up your money so fast. I know you say the penny machines do that too, but it's a matter of the economy right now.

Anyway, I just would like to know if you have ever found this to be true about the new machines being set to lure the unsuspecting player.

Thanks,
Mary Pat

Dear Mary Pat,

Let's start with your last topic, why casinos move games. Casinos move games for many reasons. They might be moving slant-tops and uprights, for example, to improve sight lines. They might be reconfiguring their layouts to create shorter aisles and more comfortable niches for the players to play in. Another reason casinos might move machines is to move popular into underperforming areas to see if they can improve the results in those areas. One final reason casinos might move machines is because they have an aisle in which they traditionally put new machines and now it's time to make room for another batch of new machines.

Casinos remove games for many reasons also. The usual reason is because they think they can make more money with a different game. Casinos also sometimes turn over a portion of their slot floors to slot manufacturers and let the manufacturers determine which games to put in their areas.

As for casinos dropping the paybacks on new machines after they've been on the floor for a while, I don't think the economics of this strategy works. New machines usually go through a honeymoon period in which many players want to give them a try. Demand for these machines is high enough that casinos could pay the statutory minimum on them and they would still get play. After the honeymoon period is over, the demand is down and so casinos should lower the price to play to stimulate demand.

But under your theory, the casino leaves money on the table by having a low price to play during the high demand period and then earns no money because the machines sit idle after their paybacks have been lowered. Wouldn't they have been better off leaving the payback percentage the same and maybe getting some play on the machines? Some play is better than none.

Another problem with your theory is deciding when to raise the house edge on the machines. How long should a casino wait to raise the house edge and soak it to the players? People visit casinos with different frequencies. Just because the machines are now old to you, they aren't old to someone who visits the casino less frequently than you do.

Haven't you ever played a bank of machines and done well on them sometimes and done poorly on them other times? That's the most likely explanation for what you have experienced. That and some selective memory, remembering the times you have done well on new machines and poorly on the same machines once you consider them old and forgetting the times you have done poorly on new machines.

There may also be a self-fulfilling prophecy at work. You think the new machines pay well, so you may be willing to feed them through a cold streak, maybe even quitting with a profit. Once you consider the machines old, though, you think they don't pay as well so you won't try to play through a cold streak and you're more likely to quit with a loss.

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