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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: A sour grape swelling in memory

11 July 2008

Dear Mark: How come every time I get up from a machine, someone sits down and immediately hits a big jackpot? Bill F.

My 20 years spent working on the front line, put me within a casino for at least 8,320 hours (20 yrs x 52 weeks x 8 hours a day), I don't need to get to my toes to count how many times I've seen a person desert a machine, someone new jump into the still warm seat, and on the first spin, snag the big one and sail into a charmed life of champagne wishes and caviar dreams.

Seriously, Bill, how many machines have you left, (and that's probably hundreds if not thousands over your career-pursuit of the big one), and how many times has the next player after you "really" hit it big on the first three coins? Sure, it happens, and yes, I've seen it, but far, far less often than you see in your mind's eye.

Besides, Bill, a slot machine uses a random number generator to determine which symbols will land on the payline, and the RNG in the slot machine is continually running whether anyone is playing or not. Therefore, it is highly unlikely that the player following you would have stopped the RNG at exactly the same nanosecond needed to produce the mega-jackpot combination on the screen, as you would have. There is little, if any chance that both of your results would have been the same.

Dear Mark: Is there any trick to winning at slot tournaments? Sherry W.

In most slot tournaments, you play strictly for points, and the player with the most points at the end of the tournament wins. To increase the frequency of winning combinations, most states allow for a separate tournament chip to be used in the machine. That is why you see so many more paying combinations when playing in tournaments than you see in normal play.

So, Sherry, the trick here is to get your little fingers moving as fast as they can because the more those reels are spinning, the more you give yourself a chance to accumulate points.

You need to set the reels in motion as often as possible to maximize your chances to amass points. The faster you get at tapping the max coins button, as soon as the reels stop spinning, the better your chances are of winning a slot tournament.

Dear Mark: Is there minimum payout percentage on slot machines that must be paid out? Dave N.

The legal minimum, Dave, is set by statute in each state. Your letter comes from New Jersey, where it's 83%. Where I worked, Nevada, it was slightly less. Yet that percentage return doesn't necessarily mean you will see slot machines actually set that low.

Players don't like having their money gobbled up by machines that are as tight as legally allowed. For that reason, along with competition, you'll find in general that casinos tend to have higher paybacks on their slots than the legal minimum, and seldom will you find the real payout percentage falling much below 90%.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week:
"Bookie: A pickpocket who lets you use your own hands." -- Henry Morgan

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.