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Best of Pam Droog

Gaming Guru


Life Among the Slots: Slot Luck

7 March 2004

With trolls and angels, blue dots and crystals, slot players seek that winning edge.

"You know what luck is? Luck is believing you're lucky…to hold front position in this rat-race you've got to believe you're lucky."
Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire

Slot-machine players are generally reasonable people. They know that slots use computer-controlled random number generators to determine the order and frequency of each symbol. And they know that there's absolutely nothing they can do to change that pre-selected combination. BUT they don't necessarily have to buy into it.

Sometimes slot players, like Stanley, just believe they're lucky. And to give that luck a boost, they bring to the casino a wide array of oddities and superstitions.

Suspicious behavior

Stroll around any casino and you're likely to see certain slot players indulging in some rather strange behavior. One fairly common sight is players warming tokens in their hands. They believe the warm coins help make the machine "hot." Other players shine a little flashlight up the coin payout slot for the same effect.

Another common sight is a player wiping his or her palm over the glass or touching the glass over each reel as they spin.

I've seen players actually kick a slot machine to "loosen it up." What works better, the right or left foot? That depends on whom you ask.

Some players swear putting tokens in verrrrrrrry slowly, then pulling the handle verrrrrrrry slowly boosts their chances of catching the "winning" combinations at the end of a spin. Some players believe the opposite, and deposit their tokens and pull the handles as fast as they can. (Actually when you pull the handle it pushes a button internally--but you knew that, right?).

The friendly slot attendants at the Isle of Capri casino in Boonville graciously shared some of the strange things they've seen players do:

  • Purposely don't look at the screen while the reels are spinning, or they cover the credit tally with a piece of paper.
  • Make the sign of the cross before playing.
  • Rub their hands with lucky oils.
  • Talk to the machine.

What do they say?

"Oh, you know, things like, 'Come on! Make me a winner!' Nothing that wild," says a slot attendant who's seen and heard it all.

Lucky line-up

During that same stroll around the casino floor, besides unusual actions you're likely to see several slot machines with an assortment of good luck charms and symbols arranged up in front of the glass. Players also hang their lucky objects from the change light or handle. Heaven forbid they forget their lucky slot machine doodads! They might as well go back home rather than expect to win a cent without good luck charms like: those ugly little wild-haired troll dolls; angel statuettes; framed photos of children, grandchildren or pets; religious symbols like a cross, rosary or statue of St. Jude (who is, after all, the patron saint of lost causes); lucky coins or stones; rabbit's feet in crazy day-glo colors; a new-age pyramid or crystal; nasty animal bones; even a sprig of aromatic eucalyptus.

The Isle of Capri slot attendants report on more than one occasion they've seen players dangle stuffed monkeys with Velcro hands from the change light, or attach stuffed monkeys with suction-cup feet to the sides of machines.

"I've also seen people put stuffed tigers on their slot machines," an attendant says. "Maybe it has something to do with the Tigers sports teams at the University of Missouri, which isn't too far from here." Ya never know.

Superstitions die hard

Then there are the rituals players perform to boost their luck. Like good obsessive-compulsives, they wouldn't dare not do these things before playing the slots:

  • Wear the same item(s) of "lucky" clothing
  • Wear clothing in their "lucky" color
  • Never chew gum
  • Never smoke menthol cigarettes
  • Never carry or accept $50 bills
  • Walk backwards around the chair
  • Walk around the entire casino three times
  • Only play on Monday, or Thursday, or...

For whatever reason, the Isle slot attendants agree Saturday is when the most superstitious players seem to gather in Boonville.

"That's the day we see the really weird things," an attendant says.

The blue dot

In June 1990, the National Enquirer, America's favorite source of "creative" journalism, featured what has now become a yearly attraction: the blue dot. The Enquirer says rubbing this mystical, magical spot "could make your dreams come true." The dot supposedly is "energized" by real live psychics.

The "official" blue dot is 2-5/8" in diameter. According to the experts, it originally was popularized in Europe, then imported by American psychics who believe that positive spiritual energy is channeled into the blue dot, and that people need only to rub it to release the energy (but what about the ink on your fingers?).

Supposedly, since that Enquirer story appeared 13 years ago, the blue dot has become one of the top good luck charms used by casino gamblers, as well as those who play the lottery and bet at the track.

Do these (sometimes) bizarre actions, good luck charms and rituals really work? Do slot players win more when they use them? Maybe--as long as they believe they're lucky.