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A handful of small tips can often make a big difference

By John Grochowski


Sometimes it’s the little things that count. A small strategy adjustment. A tiny tip on what to look for in a slot machine. A wee wrinkle in comp conditions. There are dozens of little things to look for and keep in mind to get the most out of your casino visit. Let’s focus on five of those little things.

#5. It’s Random.

Jackpot Party and its various incarnations is one of those rare slot themes that always has a place on casino floors. I once watched from a couple of seats away while a woman played a bonus round on a Super Jackpot Party slot machine. She chose a “Pooper,” ending the party. But she then had a choice of five party favors for one last bonus – and the hat she touched revealed a Party Saver. The bonus party was back on.

The man next to her told her, “Whatever you do, next time up, don’t pick the hat. That Saver rotates around.” Where was the Saver the next time? Under the hat.

Helpful Tip: Locations of the Party Savers or big bonuses or any other awards in pick-‘em type video slots aren’t on any rotation. They’re determined by a random number generator, and can just as easily as not be in the same space on your next turn.

#4. Hot Machine

A woman once wrote to say, “A slot attendant pointed out a machine to me and said that’s where I should  play. She said it had been paying off like crazy. Was she just angling for a big tip if I won?”

The likelihood is that the attendant was just being friendly and trying to point out a hot machine. But attendants don’t have access to the machine’s programming and don’t know whether a machine has a high payback percentage or has just had a hot streak.

Helpful Tip: When a slot attendant tips you off on a hot machine, smile, thank them, then play what you want to play.

#3. Free Play

A slot machine playing friend surprised me by saying he thought player rewards cards made slots a better percentage play than video poker. “My free play is better than my wife’s, and she plays video poker,” he said. “That has to count for something, doesn’t it?”

Slot play often brings back about twice as much free play as video poker does. But video poker players using expert strategy on the best games get returns of better than 99 percent, while slot players get from about 85 to 96 percent, depending on coin denomination, jurisdiction and casino.

Helpful Tip: You might get 0.2 percent of your play back in free play on slots vs. 0.1 percent on video poker, or 0.4 percent vs. 0.2 percent or some other number, depending on casino marketing goals. On multiple points days, you might even get a full percent on slots vs. half a percent on video poker. That still can’t begin to make up the difference in return on the games. Play slots for fun, but don’t expect the best percentage return.

#2. Avoid Costly Mistakes

Slot machines are easy to play, but even the slots machines require a little attention if you’re going to get the most for your money. You’ll find information painted on the machine glass on reel-spinning games or on the help menu on video games that can help you avoid some costly mistakes.

I once saw a woman land three jackpot symbols on the payline of a reel-stepper slot. She screamed, her friends jumped around her… and nothing happened. No lights, no bells and whistles, no payoffs. On the machine she was playing, the jackpot symbols weren’t activated unless three coins were wagered. She’d bet only one coin. It was just another losing spin.

Helpful Tip: Read the machine glass or the help menu first, and understand the game’s conditions before you play. The last thing you want is to feel big disappointment when the jackpot symbols line up, or when you miss a bonus event because the video slot you’re playing awarded the bonus only on active paylines and you didn’t play them all.

#1. Never Say Due

A woman once phoned, certain a slot machine had been rigged. She usually played roulette, she explained, but on this occasion was taking a chance on a $5 slot machine. She’d lost a couple of thousand dollars, then went to an ATM and withdrew a few thousand more. And then she lost THAT.

“I hadn’t  hit ANYTHING,” she told me. “I was SURE it was due. There was nothing wrong with the machine, but there was plenty wrong with her approach. Slot machines are never “due” – they’re as random as humans can program them to be, and previous results have NO EFFECT on future outcomes.

Helpful Tip: Stay within your budget, and don’t count on a cold machine to suddenly heat up. Long cold streaks are as much a part of the normal odds of the game as big jackpots.

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