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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Winner at Slots Gets Heat

19 September 2005

John,

Do slot machines just sit there running random combinations constantly when idle or just when been played? I have always been curious as to is this random win programed at the say 803 pull of machine or maybe it is just the 488 minute the machine has sat there. For instance, if I had sat at a machine and played slower maybe had been there when random combination clicked in or maybe had I played 6 more pulls would I have hit?

Also you used to have better luck at $5 machines, seemed like they were looser. Now everybody plays them like dollars and $10 machines like they used to the $5 and they aren't as loose now. Do you think the $25 and $100 machines are looser now? Do you think it is better to play maximum coin on a $25 or one coin on a $100 machine?

Also I have read machines are looser close to change cages and ATM machines in almost every book but there is difference of opinion on machines next to tables. Some say they are loose so table players will hear wins and be enticed to get off tables others said they are tighter because they know table players will drop in coins as they come and go from tables. Which is it?

Thanks for your column, really enjoy it. Do you have a book published with advice for slot players?

Thanks,
Nedra

Dear Nedra,

Modern slot machines generate new random combinations even when they're idle. Wins are not programmed to occur on a certain pull or after a certain number of minutes. There's no way to predict when a hit will occur. You might have had better luck had you played more slowly simply because the machine would have polled the RNG to get the results of your spins at different times. You might have hit something had you played six more pulls. There's no way to know for sure.

I haven't done any research on this, but I don't think there's been any significant, industry-wide change in the paybacks of the higher-denomination machines. As for whether it's better to play max coin on a $25 machine or one coin on a $100 machine, the answer depends on how many coins is max coins. As a general rule, we'd expect to have a higher payback on the $100 machine, so you're better off playing $100 per spin on the $100 machine than $100 per spin on the $25 machine.

But if max coin is less than $100 per spin on the $25 machine, then you're better off playing $50 or $75 per spin on it. The reason is because even though the payback is higher on the $100 machine, it's not sufficiently higher to offset the greater risk of $100 per spin as opposed to $50 or $75 per spin.

Finally, I think the machine placement advice is outdated. It is true that every slot director will have his or her own slot floor philosophy, today's slot directors order roughly the same payback percentage for each of their machines in a particular denomination.

Slot directors may have ordered different percentages and played placement games when slots weren't as entertaining as they are today and when they had only a few hundred slots to manage. Now that they have a few thousand slots to deal with, they don't have the time to micromanage them.

I do have a book out (Thanks for asking!). It's called The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Is there any Reel'Em In slots to play online? That is my favorite game. I would like to be able to play it at home on the internet. Please let me know.

I don't visit the Internet casinos, so I'm clueless about what's available. Readers have told me that www.skybetvegas.com has many of the slots you find in casinos online. I'd try there first.

If anyone knows of a site with Reel'Em In online, please let me know and I'll pass it on.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hey, John,

I always enjoy your articles.

I recently returned from a trip to Louisiana casino. On the first day I won a $1600 jackpot. On the second day I had an unbelievable string of good luck. Every slot machine I played paid off. I am talking $800, $900, $1400, $850, $900, $300, $600. Now, no problem collecting. But on my third trip to the cage to collect, they asked me for my players card and made a call to someone. I asked them if there was a problem. They told me no that they had to log all winnings. They did not do that the first two times I collected. After that every time I collected they would make a call before they paid me. And I noticed security people around the area I was playing.

Is there anything to this?

Thanks,
J.M.

Dear J.M.,

There's nothing like a casino making you feel guilty and uncomfortable for winning.

I have no idea that the regulations are in Lousiana and what this particular's casino policies are, but I think there's a real difference in philosophy between Vegas casinos and the relatively new casinos in other jurisidictions.

Vegas casinos don't seem to sweat winners. Sure, they're going to do whatever checks they must to ensure a win is legitimate, but for wins of the size you reported they're going to say congratulations and wish you continued good luck as they pay you your money.

I'm reminded of a story that my friend who was the slot director at The Desert Inn once told me. He was out on the golf course when his cell phone rang. It was his next in command telling him that a man just hit a royal flush on a $25 video poker machine. That's $100,000.

"What should I do?" he asked.

"Pay the man," said my friend.

I suppose it's possible that you set off an alarm with them and they wanted to keep an eye on you to make sure you weren't trying to cheat them. In any case, I would be reluctant to go back to that casino. I suggest you write them a letter to let them know how uncomfortable they made you feel and ask them why they did what they did.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John,

Enjoy your q/a section.

I play video poker on a semi-pro level. I memorized Bob Dancer WinPoker on 4 different games. Still working on Double Bonus. Just hitting 96% after 2000 hands.

My question is, some of the machines I play on have the "double up" option. I play it once in a while, especially when I get a pair on a draw. What are the odds when played for each attempt? I have fooled around with it when I am having a winning session. I have only made it on three times in a row, but that's it! I am sure the odds get worse as you retry. Just looking for figures.

Keep up the good work,
Larry

Dear Larry,

The probability that you win on any attempt is 0.47. You have the same probability of losing and the probability that you tie is 0.06. The probabilities don't change from attempt to attempt.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


For good offers or comps, is it better for two people to play their own card or play one card? Is there any advantage?

Thanks,
Al

Dear Al,

This is a tough question to answer without knowing exactly how the slot club operates and how much you play.

It's possible that by combining play on one card, you'll qualify for offers that you wouldn't have qualified for had you played on different cards. It's also possible that the club has a cap on the number of comps and offers it will give and you won't get anything extra once you've reached that plateau.

I would suggest that you try playing on one card for your next couple of visits to the casinos to see if your offers improve.

I also suggest you get Jean Scott's Frugal Gambler books for a detailed look at this question.

Finally, here's a radical suggestion. You can also try asking at the slot club booth. They might know enough about the formulas used to know which method would be better for you.

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 send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take several 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
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