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Ask the Slot Expert: Do casinos determine who will win a slot tournament?

3 March 2021

Question: I have participated in a few slot tournaments in Las Vegas recently and have noticed some extreme irregularities when it comes to how the points are won. Several times I have hit three double multipliers in a row, which should have given me humongous points but instead I got no score at all. At other times it looks as if I had got nothing but had a huge score show up.

In this particular tournament, there were three rounds with several different groups in each round. In the first round, I had gotten third place out of my group of six people. Somehow going into the second round, I ended dead last but I wasn't even last in my group, so that didn't make sense to me.

How do they determine the points at a slot tournament? Do they predetermine the winner and the slot play doesn't really matter? Who would I question about this if I really was wanting to know?

I hope you are able to help me with this question. I have been participating in many tournaments at this particular casino and the points just don't make sense to me.

Answer: Recently? There aren't many casinos in Las Vegas still running slot tournaments today. Only one of the casinos I used to frequent has run a tournament the past few months.

Let me answer your questions from the bottom up.

The casino personnel running the tournament are the best source for details about how the tournament operates. They may have a handout with the tournament rules. The people at the slot club booth may be able to answer general questions or give you a handout too.

I played in dozens of slot tournaments over the years. They run the gamut from five-minute-session-for-fifty-bucks to multi-day affairs including a room, a gift, meals, and an awards banquet dinner. In all of these tournaments, my score was determined by the number of points I racked up during my playing sessions.

In the vast majority of the tournaments, the machines were identical -- hardware and software. If I remember correctly, a Triple Spin Tournament at the Riviera had slightly different games on the machines used (Double Jackpot versus Double Joker, say), but I assume that the virtual reel tables used to determine results were the same. It doesn't matter whether the doubling wild symbol is a jackpot, a joker, a cherry, or a dollar sign. As long as the probabilities of hitting each payout are the same on the machines, it doesn't matter what symbols are used.

The casino doesn't determine which machine will have the best score in a session, nor does it decide who will win the tournament. Your scores determine your standing in the tournament and every player should have the same chances of getting the big payouts on the machines.

I have a possible explanation for how you were third in your group, yet last overall at the end of the first round. Some tournaments give top-tier players or early registrants a bonus round of play and they throw out the lowest score a player gets. The people who finished below you in your group might have had bonus round scores that were greater than their first round scores, so their first round scores were thrown out.

Notice that I didn't say that all players have the same chance of doing well in the tournament. The players who played the bonus rounds have a better chance of doing well in a tournament.

If there were no bonus rounds for some players, you should ask the folks running the tournament how you came in last at the end of the first round without also coming last in your group.

As for not getting the points you expected, every winning combination mis-pay I've seen has been a result of player error. Double-check the winning combinations on the paytable. If you're playing a multi-line machine, you might have a double multiplier symbol on each reel, but they didn't land on a payline.

It's very unlikely that you're not getting paid what you should be paid. Regulators check that every winning combination pays the appropriate amount every way it can hit. If you review the paytable and the game rules, I think you'll see why those combinations paid or didn't pay.


Question: In response to the writer who accuses you of publishing inflated numbers for the pandemic, I can't help but wonder why anyone questions any numbers. It seems everyone's "knowledge" regarding just about everything these days depends on which TV, radio or other media one chooses to absorb their "knowledge" from.

The only thing that is clear is that truth matters little anymore, and the importance of assigning blame is paramount, whether it is based on truth or lies, speculation or fact.

Until someone is able to stand at both the gates of Heaven and Hell to count the number of souls entering due to COVID or some other fatality, how about we all just agree that the COVID numbers are just too damn big. If the numbers are accurate, it is tragedy. If the numbers are inflated, then let's pretend that they are accurate and simply work harder to eradicate the disease.

Answer: It's ironic that the inflated numbers I get from the CDC's website are always a little lower than those from Johns Hopkins. Last Tuesday when I was finishing my column, Johns Hopkins reported that the US had more than 500,000 Covid deaths, yet the CDC's numbers for that day were still a little below that figure.

By how much are these numbers inflated? Five percent? Ten? No matter the percentage, they are too damn high considering there are easy measures we all can take to get the spread of the disease under control.

I've heard a number of people on TV say that newscasters aren't giving the good news about our fight against the virus enough airtime. One talking head quoted a scientist as saying something like we could be returning to normal sooner than expected if the numbers continue on their current trajectory.

The key phrase is "continue on the current trajectory". How do we keep the numbers on their current trajectory? By continuing the mitigation efforts. If newscasts emphasize the good and downplay the bad, people may think that the worst is over and we don't need to continue mitigation efforts.

That's why I'm continuing to provide the chart at the end of my columns. A few months ago, the lead story on the news was that another hundred or so people died from Covid that day. We have about 2000 people dying each day now and it seems the only time the newscasts point out the death toll is when we reach "another grim milestone."

As I write this, Texas and Mississippi have announced that they will lift some of their restrictions despite warnings from the CDC that this is not the time to let up.

As I wrote last week, if we relax after every surge, we'll just keep going through surge and improvement cycles over and over again.

One week is not a trend, but this week's increase in US cases and deaths are above last week's.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 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 
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