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Players share their burning casino questions

By John Grochowski


One thing I’ve learned in long years of listening to slot players is that they really think about their favorite games. They observe, digest, and ask good questions. Here are a few that have crossed my desk in recent months.


Have you seen those sheets in some casinos that list the highest-paying slots?  Some get posted around the casino, sometimes there’s a box where you can pick up your own sheet.

They list the top machines and how much they’ve paid out in the last few days or last week. Do

those really help? Should I play those machines?

John Grochowski: You should consider such sheets as being for entertainment purposes only. Every machine has periods where it pays out more than at other times, just as a result of normal probability.

The sheets you describe have no real value in identifying high-paying machines. And for those who might be tempted to avoid last week’s high payers as due to go cold, that’s not the case either.

Results are random, and there is no tendency for a hot machine to stay hot or a cold machine to stay cold.


I’ve read that before there were three-reel slots, there were gambling machines with wheels where you’d bet on a color. Would you say they were slot machines? Were they called slot machines in their own time?

In the last couple of decades of the 1800s, when color wheel machines were being produced, nearly any coin—operated device was called a slot machine. If you dropped a coin in a slot and got a stick of gum, cup of coffee or a candy bar, you were buying from a slot machine.

Usage evolved so that in the early 1900s, “slot machine” came to mean specifically coin-operated gambling devices.

So yes, in their own time, color wheel games were slot machines.


Are there video slots where the bonus is predetermined? I’ve heard that when you make choices, your choice really makes a difference.

It seems like it would be easy to program it so that the machine gave you what it wanted to give you, regardless of your pick.

Are there machines that work like that?

What I’ve heard from manufacturers and casino operators is that prize amounts are not pre-determined in regulated casinos in the U.S.

One thing to watch for is whether you’re shown all possibilities when the bonus event ends. On the classic jackpot Party, for instance, once you pick a Party Pooper to end the round, the awards and poopers hidden by all other gift box icons are revealed.

That amounts to advertising prizes, and all advertised prizes must be available. If prizes are not revealed at the end of around, then it’s possible that your bonus was predetermined. Lf all prizes are revealed, then your choices make the difference.


This happened a long time ago, but I’ve always wondered if something was up. Maybe you have some insight.

Early 1990s, my wife and I were in a casino for the first time. This other couple came up to us, both carrying buckets of dollar tokens.

The woman said, “You wouldn’t believe it. You HAVE to play that machine,” and she pointed to a dollar machine. The man added, “We’ve been playing all weekend. It’s paid for our trip and then some. Now we have to go home.”

They left, and we tried the machine and didn’t win anything. Do you think they were plants?

Use of shills, or house players, is prohibited in some jurisdictions, and where allowed is more common on table games than slots. However, there have been times when casinos have used shills to try to get slot players excited about playing.

One of the most overt examples was in downtown Las Vegas at about the time you describe. A casino had a roped off area with two slot machines outside the door. A player was raking in the big bucks, pulling the handle on one machine while dollar coins poured out the other. He was surrounded by full coin buckets and a security guard.

When the player left, the machines were shut down. They were never open to the public. The apparent winner was a house player, and the casino kept all winnings, but passers-by were supposed to get the idea that this was the home of hot slots.

I don’t see anything quite so overt anymore. Your incident involved a couple reaching only one player at a time, and I can’t say for sure the man and woman were shills. But I wouldn’t discount the possibility, either.


I was at the players club booth and overheard a loud, heated conversation between a supervisor and a lady who was furious that her points had been deleted. It seems she’d forgotten her card in a machine and got a new one, then forgot that one, too, and got another new one.

The club deleted points not only on those machines, but points the woman already had on account. Can they do that?

Yes, the club can deduct the points, but there may have been more to the story than you observed.

Did the player have a pattern of leaving cards in machines, perhaps in the hope of reaping points from the play of others?

I once had a marketing manager tell me of a player who on multiple occasions left cards in $5 slot machines without playing, then set off to play low-denom slots. The players club concluded he was trying to get an unearned points boost from big bettors, while betting small himself. The player was stripped of points and benefits, and barred from the club.

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