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Best of Pam Droog

Gaming Guru

 

Video Slots 101: Reel Graduation

8 January 2005

Recently I visited a casino with my dear darling mother. She settled in at a nickel video slot, stuck in a $20 and wished me good luck as I went off to win my millions. About 20 minutes later, my millions still a distant dream, I found her at the same machine with a few credits left from her original 400.

"Are you having fun?" I asked. "Yeah!" she replied. "I think." Then she added, "I don't really know what I'm doing."

That was painfully obvious when I saw she was playing 10 coins on one line on a 10-coin, 9-line machine. "Did you do that on purpose?" I asked. "Do what?" she said, completely bewildered about how you bet on, and how you play, a video reel slot.

I used to be the same way. In fact, it wasn't all that long ago that I was absolutely intimidated by these combination slot-television-video game machines that were suddenly invading every casino floor. And why are so many video reel slot cabinets so darn tall? Sometimes I'd consider playing one and stand discreetly behind someone playing a game that looked interesting. But then a bonus screen would come up and the player would touch the screen and I'd end up fleeing to the safety of a good old three-reel, pull-the-handle slot. Close call!

However, feeling more and more old-fashioned and compelled to do research for this column, I finally did it. I played a video reel slot. Now I can't imagine playing a boring three-reel, except for old-time's sake.

The key is to KNOW WHAT YOU ARE DOING. Sure, playing a video reel slot is a little more complex than putting in your money and pulling a handle or pushing a "Spin Reels" button. But it's not rocket science.

First, look at the machine. I mean, take a few moments and read everything on it. You'll find some valuable information you need to know, like what the bonus rounds are and what it takes to win them. Although you can't control what symbols will appear, at least you'll know what to look for and that always makes the game more interesting. That way, when the needed bonus symbols land, in that split second before the round begins you can say "Yes!" or if just two out of three show up you can say "Darn it!"

Look at the buttons and make sure you know what each one does. Hit the Help button for complete information on how the game is played. Hit the Pay Tables button to see what combinations win what jackpots. And be sure to check out the pay-line configurations: contrary to logic, pay lines are not straight across, up and down or diagonal. They're crazy and crooked but key to winning credits.

One of the most important duties you have as a player is to make your wager in an intelligent and affordable way. Don't do what Mom did and bet max credits on one line! I think most players like to cover the possibilities and bet at least one credit per line. That game Mom was playing, for example, was a 9-line, 10-coin game, meaning you can play up to 9 lines and bet up to 10 coins per line. The maximum wager would be 90 coins, or 90 x $.05=$4.50 per spin. My speed would be more like 9 lines at $.05=$.45, less than a 2-coin quarter machine.

Most bonus rounds are pretty self-explanatory. The game "spokesperson" will tell you step-by-step what to do, or instructions will appear on the screen, or both. But pay attention because it's not always perfectly clear. And don't feel rushed! Nothing will happen until YOU make your move. There's no time limit. (Well, don't take forever. I might be waiting to play that machine!).

Now that I've played zillions of video reel slots I find them to be a lot more entertaining than traditional reels. It's not just the interactive aspect, which is fun. It's also that slot manufacturers have built in some truly remarkable elements into these games, like old TV show and movie clips, cartoons, animatronics, LCD touch-screens, great sound systems and awesome graphics. Plus there are so many themes to choose from: film and TV classics, cartoon characters, aliens, mythology, ancient Egypt, farm life, board games, car racing, surfing, Spam! All that plus the chance to win money!

So go ahead, try video reels if you haven't already. And for maximum fun and profit, make sure you know how to play the game!