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Ask the Slot Expert: New screen almost makes me lose out on free play

24 February 2021

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Last week I wrote about changes to the slot club software on Red Rock's video poker machines (and probably all video poker machines in a Stations casino) . Whenever a casino changes a system, you have to pay attention. Things might work a little bit differently now.

For those not familiar with these video poker machines, they don't have separate, dedicated displays for the slot club. The slot club menu appears on the monitor when you touch a button on the screen to open the menu. The game screen scales down to make room for the menu.

I was at Red Rock a few days ago to redeem my free play offer. I opened the menu, touched the button to activate my free play offer, and entered my PIN. I closed the menu and started playing.

I used to be able to play NSU at about breakeven any day of the week. My casino options became more limited due to some pre-Covid slot club changes. In Covid, my total return options seem to be settling in on either playing at a small loss or playing with a small edge. The breakeven options is frequently off the table now.

This was a play-at-a-small-loss day, so I wasn't going to play for a long time. When I was finished playing, I opened up the slot club menu to check how many points I had earned. (If you remember from last week, one of my complaints about the system is that it stops displaying the number of points you earned and just displays a good luck message instead.)

Good thing I didn't just check my points at a kiosk on the way out. There was a new screen in the free play activation sequence.

Entering my PIN was enough to activate the free play under the old menu system. The new menu system requires me to touch another button, Activate Free Play, before it finally makes the free play available.

I should have noticed that something was amiss when I began playing. At Stations, the free play is awarded to you piecemeal after each hand or spin as a sort of rebate. You have to have credits on the machine to use your free play. Say you bet $5. At the end of the hand, the machine gives you whatever you won on the hand plus $5 from the free play you have available. The system continues matching your bet ex post facto until you have no more free play available. I wasn't getting credits even when I lost a hand.

In other clubs, you can play free play without having to put money in the machine.

I've been tripped up by this rebate system before. On video poker machines, I don't let the credit meter go to 0 because most machines with multiple paytables go back to the paytable selection screen when there are no credits. I'm never fast enough to get more money in the machine before it switches screens and I have to choose my paytable again. The machine never leaves the paytable if I put more money in before running out of credits.

The Palms used to have multi-hand machines with 9/6 Jacks. A long time ago, I was playing next to Jean Scott and her husband Brad. None of us were having luck that night and I was running low on credits. When I was close to 0 credits, I redeemed points for free play and hit the Deal button.

I didn't have enough credits to fund a max-bet play at the number of hands I was playing, so the machine asked for more money. I was trying to avoid having to put more money in by redeeming points for free play, but I didn't redeem the points soon enough. I should have redeemed them when I still had enough credits to fund a max-bet hand. I had to put more money in the machine anyway.

(I know. The world's smallest violin is playing just for me.)

Fox has a new game show that features a slot machine, Cherries Wild. If you think the help screens on a casino-based slot machine operates are confusing, consider this description of the slot machine used in this game.

The program does not use a "real slot machine". Each spin in a particular game is the product of a game play combination that is determined in advance by the program's producer. On each tape day, an independent outside compliance company randomly assigns those predetermined combinations to the contestant teams taping that day. At least one (1) of the contestant teams on each tape day will receive a combination that has the potential to lead to the Grand Prize if the game is successfully played to its conclusion. At no point in the game do the contestants put their own money at risk.

Question: Your latest article shows the typical weak minded person fooled by the inclusion of two simple words: "up to."

[The writer is referring to my column three weeks ago about how disappointed in myself I was for missing the "up to" disclaimer in an offer for trading in my old cell phone, yet I never miss the disclaimer when it appears in a sign advertising slot paybacks "up to" a certain percentage.]

That person is a member of a group that mindlessly presses a button to play a slot machine of which you are the apparent king of. No thought or intelligence involved . Just put in your money and press the button and brainlessly zone out while a tv screen hypnotizes you into a zombie like trance.

Your critical comments of how the pandemic was handled by our last President shows your lack of thought. Operation "Light Speed" brought more than one vaccine in record time that will enable you and the rest of the lemmings to safely pursue your brainless activity in your favorite casinos.

Your publication of the grossly inflated pandemic fatalities shows that you uncritically accept anything the "experts" and the main stream media vomit out of their lying mouths.

Why don't you ask your new "president" how he plans to effectively quarantine the travelers who will be streaming across our southern border any day now that he has given them the all clear signal.

I don't need to read your politically charged "slot expert" articles any longer so I am bidding you adieu.

Answer: Pfizer says that it did not accept any Operation "Light Speed" funding for the development of its vaccine. Dr. ALbert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer: "The reason why I did it was because I wanted to liberate our scientists from any bureaucracy. When you get money from someone that always comes with strings. They want to see how we are going to progress, what type of moves you are going to do. They want reports. I didn't want to have any of that. I wanted them- basically I gave them an open checkbook so that they can worry only about scientific challenges, not anything else. And also, I wanted to keep Pfizer out of politics, by the way." Transcript: Pfizer CEO Dr. Albert Bourla on "Face the Nation," September 13, 2020

Pfizer did participate in the manufacturing and distribution phases of Operation Warp Speed. Moderna participated in both the development and manufacturing and distribution phases of Operation Warp Speed. There are other vaccine candidates still in development that received development funding from Operation Warp Speed.

This page on the Department of Defense's website has good information about the goals, strategies and tactics of Operation Warp Speed. I was struck by the mission statement in this exhibit: "Mission: Deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccine by 1 January 2021."

Your comment about quarantining travelers was the point of my comments in the column. Unlike in other countries, quarantining upon arrival is not being enforced no matter where the travelers are coming from.

Look below for the latest grossly inflated pandemic fatalities.

Here are the latest figures from

Totals Weekly Increases
Date Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05    20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 

The game show I referred to above, Cherries Wild, had another notice in the end credits roll. I didn't copy down the actual text, but the upshot is that the show is not taped before a live audience. Other Fox game shows, like the Masked Dancer and the Masked Singer, say in their end credits that the audience shots are from other shows.

I don't know why I keep watching The Masked Singer. Not being very familiar with contemporary pop music, I don't know three-quarters of the celebrities who are guessed as possibly being under the mask. At least I have a better recognition percentage of the people who are actually under the masks.

Fox brought back Name That Tune also. There are plenty of audience shots in this show. But this show is taped before a real studio audience.

How can Name That Tune have a real studio audience when other shows, like the ones I mentioned and Jeopardy and Wheel of Fortune and.... can't?

Name That Tune is taped in Sydney, where they have Covid under control enough to have small studio audiences when they follow strict safety precautions.

Stephen Colbert did a bit on his February 22 show about different officials giving different estimates for when things can return to normal, however you want to define "normal."

Instead of basing the estimate on the calendar, I wish someone would base it on the virus. I wish someone would say that things can start going back to the way they were when the positivity rate falls below x% and hospitalizations below a certain number and vaccinations above a certain number or some combination of those metrics and maybe others.

If they time the return to normality in virus metrics, I think it might give some people incentive to keep up the safety measures. The scientists are now saying that we should not let up on the safety measures just because metrics are improving. I think they should say that we can get back to normal sooner if we keep up with the safety measures and keep improving the metrics.

If we relax after every surge, we'll just keep going through surge and improvement cycles over and over again.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.


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John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots