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Smart Slot Play
by Frank Scoblete

There are better and worse ways to approach just about everything in life.

You can stop a ground ball with the baseball glove on your hand or you can put your head in its way and stop it with your eyeball. Either way the ball is stopped. Cleaning the bathroom with your bare but soapy hands will eventually result in a clean bowl and tub; but so will cleaning said bowl and tub with a brush that lets you distance yourself from stuff you should want to distance yourself from. You can try to lift the car to change your flat tire by inserting a tree trunk under the frame and pushing like all get out; or you can purchase a jack that allows you to pump a few times and up the car goes.

      In all endeavors, at every turn and corner of life, in fact, in all things, you see people doing the incredibly stupid when they could be doing whatever it is they are doing stupidly in a much smarter way.

And so it is with slot play. While some gaming writers and some players thumb their collective noses at the thought of smart slot playing (and thus continue to play stupidly or advocate playing stupidly), the fact remains that there are decidedly better and determinedly worse ways to play those infernal machines. And if you are the type of person who, like me, enjoys frequent visits to the casinos then, like me, you want to give yourself the best opportunity to win or, at the very least, the best opportunity to last a long time. To do so, you have to play smart.

Playing slots the smart way is a function of three very important variables:

Which machines you choose to risk your money on.

How you manage your money when you play those machines.

How much you get returned in the form of comps and coupons from the slot clubs where you are playing those machines.


Let us take the last first. No slot player should ever put one coin through a machine without first putting in his or her slot-club card. Inscribe that on the tablets of your heart or, if you must, write it on the back of your hand so that if you are about to put in a coin you’ll read: “Hey, remember, put your card in first!” Although you should never play just to pile up slot points (after all it is much more fun piling up money), handled properly slot clubs are a great boon to the slot player. If you were, for argument’s sake, planning to put $1,000 through a given machine anyway, it is much better to put it through and get some credit from the casino for having done so!

The only danger in slot clubs is the fact that some people think they are playing the slot machines not to win actual money but to impress the computers that are determining what their play is worth. “Oh, my, I need to put another $10,000 through and then I’ll get a free ticket to the Herman’s Hermits reunion concert. Harold! Get the ATM card and drain Little Timmy’s college account!”

So, by all means join the slot clubs but never play a penny more than you had intended to play just to get points. And you can’t impress a computer anyway.


Of course, the primary reason that slot players go to the casinos is to play the machines of their choice. But what really are the “choice” machines to play? In video poker that is a relatively straightforward question with an even more straightforward answer -- the machines at the denomination you can afford that have the best percentage return! Naturally, in video poker, you can select such machines because by looking at the face of the machine and the various payouts for the various hands, you can tell what the exact percentage payback is for optimum play. But on the slots, anybody’s guess is as good as anybody else’s guess because you can’t judge what the real payback of a slot machine is based on what it is paying for the various symbols - right? Yes, right. Therefore, any machine is as good as any other machine - right? Wrong!

Although we can’t judge a slot machine by its cover, we do know certain facts about slots in general that can go a long way in helping us decide which machines to play in particular. That’s a good thing and a bad thing. Granted that the casino takes fewer cents out of the dollars you put in the higher denomination machines but since you’re putting in more dollars, you actually lose more money in the long run on these machines unless you do the following.

1. Look for equal-distribution machines, also called “straight-multipliers” (such as Double Diamond) where you are not rewarded on the jackpot line for putting in maximum coin. Each payout on a single coin is merely doubled on two coins, including the wins on the top line. Thus, if the highest payout is 300 coins for one coin, then it will be 600 coins for two coins. There is no reason to play two coins in such a machine since you aren’t getting any benefit from so doing and you are doubling the amount of money that the machine’s edge can eat away at.

2. If you are a dollar player playing three dollars a spin, then consider going to five dollars a spin and playing one coin. You’ll have to slow down your pace a bit so that you aren’t putting in more money but you probably will be increasing your chances of going home a winner on any given night. The only negative in such a plan is the fact that you will experience heavier fluctuations in your bankroll because you are winning and lose more on each spin. But in the long run fluctuations tend to iron out and you’ll be the beneficiary if you play machines that are taking a lower percentage.

3. Unless you have an insatiable desire to win huge amounts of money on incredibly long-shot machines, then avoid all progressives and stick to machines that are not linked to other machines. Many inter-casino-linked progressives are taking as much as 15 percent (or even more) from every dollar played to build those giant jackpots. That’s good for the man or woman who wins the jackpot, bad for the millions of players who don’t.

      4. No matter what machines you are playing; no matter for what denomination; no matter how often you go to casinos -- slow down your play. Take a deep breath or ten before every pull of the handle. The faster you play, the better it is for the casino; the slower you play the better it is for you. Relax. Breath in; breath out. That’s the Lamaze Method of slot play.


Set aside a certain amount of money that you’re going to play with and never play more than that. If you bring a $1,000 to a casino, consider putting it (slowly) through the machines of your choice just once and then walking with whatever comes out. If you were to play six spins a minute risking a single one-dollar coin in an equal-distribution machine, that comes close to three hours of play on those machines. If you play four spins in a minute (one spin every 15 seconds) that gives more than four hours of playing time.

If you can discipline yourself, set up a separate bank account for your gambling funds. The wear and tear on your psyche will be markedly reduced when you are losing “play” money that has been set aside than it would otherwise be had you been losing meal money. If the money you put through the one-armed bandits was not meant for Little Lulu’s braces, you’ll enjoy yourself just that much more win, lose or draw.

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