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Best of Mark Pilarski

Gaming Guru

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Deal me in

4 May 2007

Skip the Glamour – Look Deep Into Their Paytables

Dear Mark: I recently saw an advertisement from a casino that said their slot and video poker machines are the loosest. How do they determine what loose is? Stan F.

What you saw, Stan is advertising gobbledygook; moreover, no one can truly give you a quantitative answer as to what "loose" really means, especially when it comes to video poker machines.

For slots, "loose" can mean one of two things, "more payouts" or "higher paybacks." Now add this kicker, Stan: a slot machine's payback is not necessarily related to the number of payouts.

You also might want to challenge the advertisement's frame of reference. Does it imply that their casino slots are looser than a neighboring casino's slots, looser than all the other slots in its gaming jurisdiction, that a select few of their own slots are looser than the rest of the machines on the gaming floor, or that their slots are now looser than in the past, meaning, Stan, that possibly their slot machines are now set for a slightly higher payback than they were last month.

As for loose video poker machines, no such animal creeps or crawls in the green felt jungle. Because every hand is dealt randomly, tightness and looseness of a video poker machine are strictly based on the machine's paytable. A 6/5 paytable (6 coins returned for a full house, 5 for a flush with one coin inserted) would be considered very tight on a Jacks-or-Better machine, whereas a 9/6 machine (9 for a full house, 6 for a flush) would be loose.

You pin down the looseness of a video poker machine by standing directly in front of it, introducing yourself, and INSPECTING THE MACHINE'S PAYTABLE. The paytable reveals what the casino pays for a pair of Jacks-or-better, two pairs, three-of-a-kind, flushes, a full house, etc.

Scrutinizing one video poker machine's paytable, versus another's, Stan, is the simplest – nay, the ONLY way to determine loose versus tight.

Dear Mark: There are certain slot machines that I like to play on a regular basis. Yet it seems over the past few years it doesn't make any sense to be loyal to any one particular machine because once you finally find a machine you like, the next time you go in it's gone. Why is that? Ruth B.

Slot machines, Ruth, are a lot like reality-show contestants. They can and do get booted off the island. Their survivability is based on their showing reasonable results.

Slot managers place their machines strategically to maximize customer appeal and potential casino earnings. Unfortunately, Ruth, I can't give you a tried-and-true reply as to how slot managers place their machines, because no two casinos do it exactly alike.

What I can tell you, though, is that a slot machine's performance is measured by two factors: the amount of coins wagered daily ("coin in") and the amount collected daily by the casino ("win"). If a machine's performance (the ratio of "win/coin in") falters ever so slightly, a slot manager could decide a change is warranted in the physical positioning of machines on the casino floor (what they call "slot mix"), possibly involving the deep six for a favorite of yours.

As for your love and devotion to any one particular machine, well …remember, though maybe fun and cute, it was only in it for your money.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: There is no such thing as a "good" roulette player. Being a good roulette player is like being a good smoker." -- Peter Griffin

Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.