Aces Guide to Gambling

Casino Slot Machine Strategy -

About The Author

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos.

Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, Deal Me In. Check out Mark's archive of columns.

Hot tips slot players need to know

By Mark Pilarski, player advocate

Slot machines are the easiest and most popular game to play in the casino. Insert a coin, pull the handle, then reach into your billfold for more money. Unfortunately, that's what normally happens when the house has such an enormous built-in edge against you.

So popular are today's slot machines that they now constitute 70 percent of all casino action. The quarter machines alone takes in more in profit for the casino ($2.6 billion in Nevada) than blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, keno and the sports books combined.

Are there any sure-fire ways to win with a slot machine? Absolutely. I will give you three.

  1. Get a casino gambling license and operate your own slot business.
  2. Invest in the solid companies that manufacture slot machines.
  3. Buy an antique slot machine and sell it when the demand increases.

Otherwise, if you're one of the 70 percent willing to do battle against these cybernetic one-armed bandits, some of these slot tips below will help you overcome the casino's huge house advantage.

Sorry, I can't guarantee that you'll become an instant winner, because it's tough to beat a house edge that generally runs well over 10 percent, but it also doesn't have to be so tough on your bankroll. So, let's get started.

  1. The only true skill to playing slots is machine identification. Example: progressive machines offer the opportunity to compare and shop around for the best value. One 25 cent "slot machine carousel" can have a progressive jackpot of $2,600, and another bank of machines- exactly the same and standing side by side-$1,900. You should always be looking for the best slot opportunities possible.

  2. Casinos will advertise machines that have a 98.5 percent payback. WOW! A casino game holding just a percent and a half, and on a slot machine no less. But there's a down side. If you look closely at the advertisement, it will probably say "on select machines." Furthermore, it probably won't be posted on the machine itself, and it will generally be limited to a single bank of machines in the casino. Now it becomes your responsibility to find them. Easiest way: Ask a slot employee, and if he or she doesn't know, have one of them ask a direct supervisor.

  3. Casinos give away millions of dollars in comps each year, and as a slot player, you deserve your share. Repeat, you deserve your share. How? Casinos now offer you the ability to "comp yourself" by using one of their player's club slot cards. It's generally based on the number of coins you cycle through a machine, so you might as well get credit for all those quarters you're inserting. Shop casinos for comp value and find out what you're worth to them.

  4. You always want to treat "comps" as a form of profit, but you never want to gamble just to receive them. It's much better to play a 98percent payback machine and increase your winning opportunities than play machines with a poor return that cycle more of your coins. Remember, you're there to stay in action and possibly win, not lose your bankroll for a free buffet.

  5. If you can't afford to play the maximum amount of coins, you shouldn't be playing that denomination of machine. If dollar slots are too rich for your blood, drop down to a quarter machine. It's always better value to play five quarters versus one dollar or five nickels instead of one quarter.

  6. I recommend not playing back the credits you've accumulated. Cash out and take stock. The problem with playing back credits is that the longer you stay, the machines built-in advantage eats away at them. It doesn't take long to zero out.

  7. Can't decide which type of slot machine to play? If you're going to choose between video poker and slots, play video poker. Even poor play on a video poker machine will have a better payback than most slot machines.

  8. Before you walk away from a machine, don't forget to press the cash-out button. Millions are lost each year by gamblers forgetting their winnings (stored credits).

  9. It is your responsibility, if destiny favors you, that you receive full payment when hitting a jackpot. Even with some relatively small jackpots, if the slot is short coins in the hopper, you'll receive only a partial cash payment in the tray, with the balance to be paid by a slot attendant. If you were to insert more coins and pull the handle, say bye-bye to the remainder of your jackpot.

  10. Read all the posted material on a slot machine. It is your responsibility to fully understand all printed information concerning the number of coins to insert, lines needed to be lit, prizes or awards. In most cases, when someone calls a slot attendant over and complains the machine "just ripped me off," that individual generally didn't read the pay schedule correctly.

  11. When you insert coins, don't assume all the tokens register before you pull the handle. Played five but only four recorded? Sorry. You'll get a sympathetic pat on the back from the casino, but no money.

  12. Avoid machines that use video representations of symbols. With these slots, there is absolutely no way to figure out what the payoff percentage of that machine is.

  13. Most casinos will hold a slot for you while you go to the restroom, take a short break or even go on a buffet run. Just ask a slot supervisor to reserve your machine and give a specific time when you'll return.

  14. Don't chain yourself to a cold machine, even if it's your favorite. Why? Because the longer you stay on any slot, the more time the machine's built- in mathematical advantage has to work you over. This is how casinos build megaresorts, time always working on their side and a mathematical edge on each and every slot.

  15. Even though you're only playing slots, you still need to set a loss limit on your bankroll for both your trip and each individual gaming session. Divvy up your wad per playing session, discipline yourself and stick to it.

  16. When searching for high payback machines, ask a few employees where the local players find the best slot value. Simply put, locals don't play dog machines.

  17. Leave both your credit and bank teller cards at home so you will not be tempted with the easy convenience of getting cash. Only bet what you can afford to lose.

Finally, I can tell you with 100 percent certainty that all slot machines consistently pay. They pay the casino's rent, the light bills and all the employees' salaries. They also pay millions of dollars in profits to casino owners and stockholders. You the player just so happen to be on the low end of the food chain.

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