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Deal Me In: A better deal? Well, not really

20 August 2010

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: On a multi-line/multi-coin nickel machine, is it still considered a nickel machine in terms of payout percentage, or does it become a quarter machine payout because I'm playing more money per spin? Jason A. You would think, Jason, that when you are betting an abundant crop of nickels per spin, you should be getting at least a quarter-slot payback. Unfortunately, you're probably not. Reason being, even though the machine may be designed to take 50, even 100 nickels per spin, the casino wants to keep that higher edge because lots of players play far fewer coins than that. Yes, Jason, technically, in coin amount played, you are a quarter player, but your machine will only give you a nickel-slot payback, even if you play some hefty change per yank of the handle. Obviously, I can't speak for all slot managers and what they are acquiring, but if a casino has an 88% return on its traditional nickel machines, it probably orders an 88% payback on their multi-line/multi-coin machines. The reason the casinos are putting in multi-line/multi-coin quarter machines is because players love them. That doesn't mean you have to play them. Instead, if you are a low-budget player, try a 3-coin nickel machine instead. You also do not have to play every line if you do favor them. One way to stretch your bankroll is to play fewer than the maximum lines allowed. On most machines you might give up a little bit in hit frequency, but nothing in long-term payback. Far too many players, Jason, are betting big-time bucks on multi-line/multi-coin machines despite the relatively low paybacks. They don't even realize they have bumped themselves up to a quarter, even a dollar player, and not the five-cent player they think they are. Real nickel players bet three to five nickels at a time on a reel-spinner, not 100 coins per spin on a multi-line/multi-coin machine. Dear Mark: What's the deal with Megabucks slots in Nevada, or any state for that matter? A friend swears that a slot mechanic told him there are different chips and thus different odds from casino to casino and the chips are moved around from time to time so the jackpot is hit at different locations. I insist that if it is a statewide-interlinked game, which it appears to be, then the odds must be the same and the chips are the same and there is no such thing as a phantom chip that travels the state. Who is correct? Thanks for the inside scoop or for directing me to a source that might have the official information. Lucky Bob You are correct, Lucky. As Dziadzio (that's grandpa in Polish) used to say, you skeptics get all the luck. There is no phantom chip that travels the state. The deal with Megabucks is that it is a statewide network of progressive slot carousels linked together to produce those dramatic jackpots. A small computer chip in each machine monitors every coin played and communicates that information electronically to a mainframe computer at IGT's headquarters. The central computer keeps track of every Megabucks slot and maintains a constant tally of the jackpot. Then the computer projects the ever-changing jackpot total to all Megabuck units where it is displayed on the digital tote board. You should also feel reasonably comfortable that each machine's payback percentage, albeit very low because it's a monster progressive, is the same as the payback percentage of all the others that it's linked to. Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "You don't gamble to win. You gamble so you can gamble the next day." - Bert Ambrose, Band leader
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.