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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: These machines are designed to be a billfold buster

26 September 2014

Dear Mark: What are your thoughts on nickel multi-line/multi-coin machines? Do they induce play more than the older machines? Is the return the same as those older machines? By playing them, I seem to be both playing and losing more. Jerome M.

I am not a fan, Jerome, primarily because far too many players are betting some big-time bucks on these multi-line/multi-coin machines. Your typical nickel players do not even realize that they have bumped themselves up to a quarter, or even a dollar player. Certainly, you can play on a nickel machine for a single nickel, but I am noticing the majority of players betting most, if not all of the paylines.

Additionally, when you are betting some serious nickels per spin, you should be getting at least a quarter-slot payback. Sorry to say, Jerome, you are most likely not. Reason being, even though the machine may be designed to take 50, even 100 plus nickels per spin, the casino keeps that higher house edge because some players play fewer coins. Although every slot manager picks the rate of return on machines differently, if a casino has an 85 percent return on its traditional nickel machines, it probably orders an 85 percent payback on their multi-line/multi-coin machines.

As for your question, do multi-line/multi-coin machines induce play, well, Jerome, you are onto them. The casino industry knows that the biggest profits come from players sitting at slot machines and playing for hours on end. These multi-line/multi-coin slot machines are intended to maximize “time on device.”

When playing on those older 3-coin machines that you write of, you pull the handle, and you either win or lose. Nowadays, multi-line/multi-coin machines are far more sophisticated because you now can bet up, down, sideways and diagonally, plus countless lines at a time. What’s deceiving, Jerome, is that although each line has a chance of winning, when you’re betting 100 coins per spin and winning just 50, that partial win spellbinds your attention to stay on the device longer. Betting 100 to win 50 is a far cry from a true win, although your brain thinks it’s so.

If you are a nickel player, I recommend betting three to five nickels per spin, not 100 coins every yank of the handle on a multi-line/multi-coin machine. By doing so, you stretch your bankroll by playing fewer than the maximum lines allowed. Yes, you may give up some in hit frequency, but probably not much when it comes to your long-term payback. Besides, Jerome, your bankroll might not be large enough for these ever-hungry multi-coin/multi-line nickel machines. Let someone else feed them nickels.

Dear Mark: I enjoyed your “I’ve Been Everywhere” column where you describe your favorite places to go where they offer gambling. I was wondering if you have ever been to where I play, Harrah’s Cherokee Casino in NC. If so, what are your thoughts? Sandy G.

You got me, Sandy, although I do have reason to give gambling a shot in the Tar Heel State as my son is in graduate school at Duke University. Unfortunately, Google Maps shows the Cherokee casino 275 miles from Durham, but I suspect I will eventually mosey on over there. I can be road trip prodded, Sandy, if you offer up a culinary suggestion close by of some first-rate Lexington-style pork barbecue.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Big egos and big losses go hand in hand.” – John Gollehon, A Gambler's Little Instruction Book (1994)
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.