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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Player strategery

31 July 2015

Dear Mark: I like to play penny slots. My system is that I only lose five dollars from my highest credits. For example, I insert $5, lose it, then move to another machine. I will either win a little, or only lose five dollars from the highest credit score. My question is: Am I better off moving to different machines or staying put on just one machine? Jeremy P.

As the budget-minded gambler that you are, Jeremy, when playing penny slots, you have plenty of betting flexibility in the number of lines and coins per line that you can bet. On the flip side of that same penny, penny slots are huge money makers for the casino. And the reason is they get a tremendous amount of play because penny-wise – and sometimes pound-foolish – players like you love them; but they also tend to have relatively low paybacks.

To be regarded as a prudent player, it is important for one to comprehend base denomination. Penny machines should be just that, penny machines; not $5 a pop per spin betting max per line.

What also remains the same, no matter how much or little you wager, are those low paybacks. The player who bets multiple coins per line creates per-spin bets that are no longer penny play, but a quarter, even dollar action; all against a house edge that could easily be 15%.

Your penny slot system – per your description – has one great feature going for it: You have set realistic win goals and loss limits.

Deciding to swap machines when yours goes cold is called "hit-and-run gambling." This type of short-term play is centered on perceived streaks. Streaks, Jeremy, are nothing more than hindsight of past performance. You, me, even casino management know not when a streak starts, let alone ends.

What is quite real, Jeremy, is the casino's built-in advantage. It is predicated on the operation of the "law of averages." Over the long run, no in-and-out system is going to work against it. Once your hard-earned money is exposed for an extended period, it’s going to get gobbled up.

The only true benefit of walking from a machine is that when you get up and leave that comfy Naugahyde stool, you are physically not playing that penny slot, and the built-in edge of that one-armed penny bandit can NOT eat away at your bankroll.

I suggest that you stick with what you are currently doing, Jeremy, that illusionary stopgap, the $5 trigger of max credits that forces a retirement from the game.

As often stated in this column, each spin on a slot machine is an independent event based on the random number generator (RGN). Swapping machines cannot change that, nor make much of a difference on your overall outcome. To slow the pace of the machine’s built-in house edge you stop yanking the handle. Doing this develops discipline and fiscal awareness of your bankroll when you play. It doesn’t help in your search of Gold Mountain.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “A drunken monkey can be as successful at slots as a sober Einstein.” – Bob Dancer
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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.