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Correcting the Correctors: The wealth of online slot advice remains dubious at best

By Frank Legato

 

This magazine—not to mention its sister publication, Casino Player—was founded on the basis that the slot machine presents a very specialized field of knowledge.

I learned the field first in 1984. I’m still learning today, although people call me a “slot expert.” I’ve followed the evolution of the slot game since those early days, when most slots were simple devices, with three reels, a single payline, and a handle.

This magazine has evolved with the slot machine, and with the internet. Where a subscription and a monthly read was once the only way (it’s still the best way) to keep up with changing slot technology, variety and player preferences, the internet has fostered a wealth of online advice on playing the games. Much of the information on blogs, player websites and elsewhere online is good information, but just as much is put out there by novice writers, and contains information that is outdated, or just plain wrong.

That’s where I come in. I’m here to advise the advisers, correct the correctors, and throw ketchup on the baloney that some of these sites spew. (OK, maybe mustard.) Here’s one I just read on a website I will not identify, out of professional courtesy. (And fear of litigation.) It’s called “7 Tips on Playing the Slots Without Losing It All.”

The first tip? “Bet on more reels than just one.” Umm, right. I’ve got news for you, son—in this day and age, you can’t bet on one reel. They all have minimum bets that cover all the paylines, and all the reels are always active. In the old days—I’m talking old days—some of the mechanical reel-spinners would be set up as so-called “buy-a-pay” games. You could bet a single coin and a certain amount of winning combinations would be active. There were more winning combinations activated with the second and/or third coins wagered.

But the reels? “Always place your bets on the three reels, not a single one,” the article says. There is no game that will return you a win for something on one reel. That’s why it’s called a “winning combination.” It combines symbols on different reels.

Has the writer ever played a slot machine?

Other advice provides a mixed bag of right and wrong. Start out with smaller bets and increase as you win. OK, I’ll buy that one. But then, it says, “Keep it simple when picking a machine.” The expert quote says, “Don’t play machines with many bells and whistles”… because they “can actually take your money away with their fancy graphics.”

Yes, and their fancy double-talk, and their fancy-pants big promises…

I actually don’t know what that means. Why can’t I have bells and whistles? I like bells and whistles.

I believe this was a convoluted way of saying the simpler traditional games typically return at a higher rate than the more elaborate penny games. That’s true. But the fancy graphics have nothing to do with it. You can still win with bells and whistles. And horns and wheels and re-spins, for that matter.

Here’s another piece of useless advice: “Pick one type of machine and learn it well.”

The quoted advice: “If you are in a casino with many slots, you will probably see that the games are always different. The games are designed to keep you off-guard and not focused on the strategy. Because of this, the best plan of action is to always watch the payouts for each game and always know what the jackpot is.”

First of all, there is no such thing as “strategy” on a regular slot machine. It is all dumb luck, which is why monkeys can play slots (and often do). Secondly, knowing what combinations return which jackpots is always nice so you can follow a game, but that has absolutely no effect on whether or not you’re going to hit those combinations.

This doesn’t mean knowing your slot is a bad idea. You should know your slot by how it distributes its pays. A traditional reel-spinner requires perseverance and luck for success. Know that and bankroll accordingly—you want to stay in the game long enough to wait out that house edge. If you’re picking one of the “fancy graphics,” “bells-and-whistles” games, you’ll need less of a bankroll, but know that you’re going to get a steady stream of smaller hits that keep you in the game.

If you know what to expect, you can plan your session out more logically.

Just remember to spin more than one reel. Sheesh. •

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