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Deal Me In: Many players believe the aisle-slot-scuttlebutt

4 April 2011

By Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: Do slot machines that are placed on the end of an aisle pay better than those in the middle? Sandrine S.

By and large, Sandrine, slot managers control the placement of their machines on the casino floor differently, each according to what they think will bring hungry players to the trough. While slot executives might not be in total agreement on their slot mix, what they all agree on is creating an environment where the slot player feels tickled pink playing there, because players on cloud nine play longer.

Player optimism aside, every slot machine is required to produce its weight in gold to hold its placement in the slot lineup. Internal control makes it possible for casinos to keep track of the coin-in history of every machine from the moment it was placed in operation. Under-achievers are either relocated or simply removed. The sine qua non of slots is to create and maintain a mix of slot machines that generates the most profits.

Sure, Sandrine, back in the good old days slot floor managers did tactically place slots in strategic locations, but micromanaging slot placement today, especially when managers are dealing with thousands and not hundreds of machines, is no longer cost effective.

What most slot managers do today is order about the same payback percentage for all of their machines in a particular denomination. Hence, similar slot machines on the end of an aisle will more than likely have the same payback percentage as the machines in the middle.

What you can pretty much count on, Sandrine, is that dollar machines usually have higher long-term paybacks than quarter machines. Paybacks are based on the long haul, not on a short run, and most matching machines in the same denomination have roughly the same long-term payback.

Dear Mark: Years ago I used to go to Las Vegas and saw shills in the casinos that used to join games and get others to play. I haven't noticed any I think in the last 8-10 years. Do they still exist? Robert M.

A “Shill” is a term used for a casino employee who bets money and pretends to be a player to attract customers to an empty table, and remain at the table until the table fills up or the game stabilizes. The only place you may find a shill today is in high-limit gaming pits, if at all. I, too, haven’t seen them, nor in the seven joints where I worked did we use them.

If an individual casino were still using them in a high-end pit, or possibly a poker game to keep the game alive, a shill would be paid in one of two ways. Either drawing a salary from the house and betting the shill’s own money, or a salary and betting the casino’s cash, where in case of a win, the shill would have to turn over the loot won to the house.

Also, Robert, a lot of players erroneously believe that the casino employ shills on specific slot machines whose chips have been altered to create Midas touch jackpots, which would induce play from unsuspecting customers.

For that to happen, the casino would have to change one of the chips on the logic board, essentially manipulating the machine for the shill to hit additional jackpots. No gaming jurisdiction allows for any kind of chip swap arranging for anyone to be more likely to hit a jackpot than you, Aunt Bee, or me.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: I invest, you bet, he gambles. -- Traditional Motto
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.