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Ask The Slot Expert24 December 1999
You asked many good questions and brought up many good points.
One characteristic of multiline machines is that they have a high hit frequency when many lines are played. It's true that the majority of the pays will be less than the number of coins bet. But consider this: On a single payline machine, the majority of the spins don't pay anything at all. Some people prefer more frequent, but smaller hits. Others prefer less frequent, larger hits. Both machines will empty your wallet in the long run.
Are you better off playing traditional machines? That's a tough question to answer. I'll try to answer it when I address your next points. Now, though, I want to point out that you can't compare machines based on how much they pay for certain combinations. The numbers that matter are the hit frequency, the volatility index, and the payback. And unfortunately, the casino doesn't tell us those numbers.
People bet more per spin on a multiline machine. That's something both players and slot managers have to remember about these machines. Players have to remember they are risking more per spin than on a three-line or single-line machine and a bad luck streak could wipe them out quickly. Slot managers have to realize that some players on quarter multiline machines are risking more per spin than many dollar players and he needs to order programs with high hit frequencies and dollar-slot-like paybacks. Otherwise, he's going to have a lot of unhappy quarter players with empty wallets complaining about how quickly his machines wiped them out.
It takes about 1000 spins to get within a few percentage points of a machine's theoretical hit frequency. If you played one machine for six hours and kept track of your total spins and the number of spins on which you got a payback, you should have been very close to the advertised hit frequency. Keep in mind that most games have many payback programs available and each program has slightly different statistics. The advertised hit frequency should be given as a range.
Strictly Slots is the only magazine I know that publishes the statistics for machines and they do not usually give a range when describing a machine's hit frequency, so it's possible that the machine you played had a different hit frequency than the number they published.
Achieving the average payback of a machine takes many more spins. It takes about 100,000 spins to be about 90 percent sure that the payback you experience will be within 3 to 5 percentage points of the theoretical payback of the machine. I wouldn't be at all surprised that you were not near the theoretical payback after six hours of play.
And again, the payback should be given as a range because of the different payback programs available for each machine. There's no telling what the payback was of the machine you were playing.
So, are you better off playing a traditional machine? In the long run, you're better off playing machines with high paybacks. But there's no reason why a multiline machine can't have a high payback. Slot managers just have to realize that the little old ladies you mentioned are giving dollar-slot action even though they're playing a quarter machine and order the appropriate payback program. Australian slot managers know this. The slot manufacturers, who learned from the Australians, know this. They're both trying to educate the U.S. slot managers.
I'll let Frank handle your question about the magazines.
Best of luck in the casinos!
From Frank Scoblete:
In my entire casino gaming writing career only once was I taken to task for writing what the editor called "a casino bashing article." I don't write for that newspaper any more as I left right after that. In fact, no writer of any stature writes for that particular newspaper as several others also left when told they couldn't tell the truth about this or that aspect of a game or a casino promotion or the casino industry as a whole.
The current crop of casino gaming magazines are certainly casino-friendly, but they are not just lapdogs in lockstep to the casino beat. Their editors have high standards for honesty and journalistic integrity. Just check out issues of Casino Player, Chance: The Best of Gaming, Jackpot, Double Down, Midwest Gaming and Travel, Gaming South, Fun N Games, and my own magazine, Chance and Circumstance, and you will see that they all have articles detailing the true odds of various games, give the best strategies for the reducing of the house edge, or even getting the edge, and many articles are quite critical of this or that aspect of the casino industry.
Here at the Games Pages, we have a lot of online casino advertising. You'll note that we have article after article on a daily basis on how to play the games and, where possible, how to beat the games! No one is shilling for a casino or a particular game.
With that said, it is obvious that just about everyone writing in the gambling genre is casino-friendly. We all like going to casinos and playing the games. In that sense, you won't find article after article on these pages or in any gaming magazine that is asking for the abolition of gambling, or the destruction of the casino industry. But being friendly to an industry doesn't mean we are the public relations department for that industry.
As to the new machines taking all that money from little old ladies...they do! Casinos have to show increased profits to be viable to owners and shareholders. They can't expand their space indefinitely without huge costs. But they can maximize that space. A traditional machine that takes up X amount of space and pays X amount of money to the casino treasury can be replaced with a machine that takes up the same X amount of space but now returns XYZ!
The best advice for slot players looking at the brave new world of slot play is to slow the pace, play within your bankroll, and not be fooled by "hits" that aren't actual wins!
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
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