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Ask the Slot Expert: Are slot machine results affected by time of day?

26 February 2014

I try to use basic strategies as much as possible when playing video poker and stick mainly with Jacks or Better. I can pretty much remember the strategy table most of the time and don't really want to carry it with me to double check.

I have trouble deciding what to do on certain combinations, such as three non-suited face cards with two lower cards. Save just two of the face cards to have three chances of matching one of them or save all three?

Also, say you have four hearts: 2, 7, 8, 9. Save all four to go for a flush or 7, 8, 9 to go for a straight flush?

When you have three unsuited face cards (i.e., an unsuited Jack, Queen and King), hold all three. If two share the same suit, hold them instead of the trio and go for the royal. If you have three unsuited high cards (e.g., Ace, King and Jack), discard the Ace and hold the other two. The Ace limits the number of straights you can draw to and you're better off (have a higher expected value) by holding just the other two cards.

Moving on to your other question, four to a flush is a fairly valuable hand in Jacks or Better. It's worth more than any three-card straight flush except three to the royal. Hold all four cards and hope for another heart.

I was recently on a cruise ship and have this question for you regarding random hits versus controlled hits by the casinos.

I entered a slot tournament along with 10 others on the ship. Prior to starting the tournament, one of the casino employees used a "key" to turn a "switch" on the side of each slot machine. "Voila," a lot of winning combinations appeared.

After the tournament, the same employee used his key to turn the switch again so that regular play resumed and, of course, no winning combos appeared.

My question is, can these machines be adjusted to create a jackpot winner?

Some machines have two game programs in them. One is used for regular play. The other is used for tournament play. The casino can switch between them using a key, as you witnessed. Land-based casinos usually have separate machines for tournament play, but I can see that a cruise ship would want to have machines that can do double duty because space is at a premium on the ship.

One difference with the tournament play program is changing the machine from cash play to free play limited by time, number of spins or both. Your tournament session is over when you run out of time or you run through your allotment of spins.

Tournament mode also switches the virtual reel layouts from one that pays less than 100 percent to one that pays a few hundred percent or more. It's not unusual to hit something on nearly every spin during your tournament session and you can even expect to hit the jackpot a few times. We could all retire if we could get the same payback in regular play mode as in tournament mode.

Hits are random no matter which mode the machine is in. The casino doesn't and can't control when hits occur. The reason you hit more frequently during the tournament is solely due to the difference in the virtual reel layouts. The tournament mode layout contains many more ways to hit the winning combinations than the regular play layout.

Does the time of day have any effect on payouts? It seems that when I play the slots in the morning, when the casino is not crowded, I don't do as well as in the higher volume hours of the evening.

Time of day has no effect on payouts. Regulations require that the RNG not have any outside influences, such as time of day, day of week, month of year, holiday, how crowded the casino is, how well you're doing or how well the machine is doing. You'll have similar long-term results regardless of when you play.

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