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Ask the Slot Expert: Does a slot machine automatically raise the payout amounts when one bets more?

12 May 2021

Question: Is there a way to find out the total payout percentage for a particular casino I visit? I live in Idaho, and I am pretty sure there are only three casinos in the state. A small town just across the border between Idaho and Nevada gets quite a lot of business. It actually is so small, it's not really a town, I've been told by one of the residents.

I have some questions about the slot game Dragon Lines. You can play different denominations when you start to play, and change anytime you want.

There are two different bonus rounds. One is obtained by having the flaming coins, six of them, land on the screen as a result of the spin. The other is to land three special symbols on the screen as a result of the spin. Then you will get six free spins, and it is possible to get the flaming coins, as well. With that feature, you will get six free spins and you hope that those coins will show up again. Each time one gets those six coins, it will add up the amounts on the coins and that will be your win.

There are also many wilds that will match other numbers and symbols. The amounts on the flaming coins may also vary depending on how much you are betting, 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, one dollar.

The thing I've noticed is the amounts on the coins can be quite large when betting the higher denominations, but not always. And I have seen some larger amounts land when the bet is smaller.

There is also a multiplier when you are playing more than 1 cent a line. An example would be like this: If you are playing 5 cents a line, then you get the result of the flaming coins multiplied 5 times, 2 cents it is multiplied twice, and so on for the other corresponding amounts.

So my question is this, does the machine automatically raise the pay amount when one bets more? I have noticed it does. Occasionally. But many times it just offers the small amounts. As an example, it often only pays back what the original bet was.

I had read an article from you referring to a game which is similar, and you said that the amounts won on these types of games are not affected by the amount when the bet is increased.

Which way is it?

Answer: Can you find out a casino's payout percentage? The answer is a definite maybe. It all depends on where the casino is.

According to 500nations.com, "there are seven Indian casinos owned and operated by four Native American tribes in Idaho." The other four casinos are in the panhandle. The compacts that the tribes have with the state do not require the casinos to release payback statistics -- nor do they specify a minimum payback percentage.

You mentioned the Idaho-Nevada border, so the town you're referring to must be Jackpot, Nevada. According to its Wikipedia page, "Jackpot is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Elko County, Nevada." I've never been, but I've heard that is has that small census-designated-place charm that you don't find in the big city. "The population was 1,195 as of the 2010 census."

Payback reporting in Nevada is significantly better than in Idaho, but still not good enough. Statistics are reported for general areas only, and not by individual casino. It doesn't do us any good, but New Jersey reports slot paybacks by casino.

Moving on to your questions about Dragon Lines.

When you speak of multipliers, you might be comparing two different things. Let's say you choose the 2-cent denomination and hit six flaming coins. The numbers on the coins add up to 35, but your credit meter increases by 70 cents. Wins are reported in credits, but dollars and cents get added to your credit meter -- which frequently displays cash instead of credits today.

That's one possible explanation, but maybe not the right one. You mentioned betting more than one cent per line. Another possibility is that the sum on the coins is multiplied by the line bet. I couldn't find any documentation for Dragon Lines online and I also couldn't find any videos of people hitting the flaming coins on YouTube. You can check the help screens on the machine to learn how denomination and bet affect how much the coins pay.

You mentioned that the values on the flaming coins varies with the denomination. If the coin values are displayed in dollars and cents, then a coin that pays $1 when betting pennies would pay twice as much at two cents, five times at nickels, and 100 times at dollars -- all the while having the same ratio between coin amount and denomination.

It's also not unusual for the values of the coins to be a randomly chosen multiple of your line bet. It's also not unusual for the highest multiplier to be greater at larger bets.

So, does a machine automatically raise the pay amount when you bet more?

If you raise the denomination, a combination will pay more but that's because a credit is worth more. A 10-credit win at pennies is a dime, while a 10-credit win at dollars is a sawbuck.

Changing denomination sometimes causes a machine to use different reel layouts and sometimes even a different paytable. You can see when changing denominations changes the paytable. If changing denominations changes the reel layouts, then the game screen will display a message indicating which reel layouts are in use. In both cases, the help screens will explain what, if anything, happens when you switch denomination. Sometimes changing denomination has no effect on a machine. You just lose your money five times more quickly playing 5-cent versus playing 1-cent.

A combination can also pay more when you bet more per line. In this case the help screen will say that the combination pays a certain number of credits times your line bet.

As with changing denomination, changing your line bet can also cause a machine to use different reel layouts. The help screens will explain that and the game screen will tell you which reel layouts are in use.

If denomination or line bet do affect a machine, the change is designed to give the players betting more a higher long-term payback.

I wish I knew the article to which you are referring. I think what I meant was that all things (reel layout and paytable) being equal, the amount you bet has no effect on which symbols land on the payline.


Now that we're starting to open up and relax some of the Covid mitigation efforts, I've seen many talking heads on TV criticizing the speed at which the CDC and other government officials are lifting restrictions.

None of these talking heads have anything at stake. They might have a different opinion if they had to make the decisions and they were the ones who would be criticized if they said to open up and then there was another outbreak.

Every year -- well, not last year, but every other year -- the news has a food safety expert on to talk about food safety and holiday parties. I remember a spot with a guy a few years ago. There were things he said he would never do that I bet you wouldn't hesitate to do.

For instance, it's 3PM and there are a few slices of pepperoni pizza left in the box. Would you take a slice for a mid-afternoon snack? I would -- and I have. Cold, or rather, room-temperature pizza. Next best thing to hot.

He said he wouldn't touch those leftover slices. They've been sitting in the temperature danger zone for too long.

He has to give conservative advice. People might get sick if he didn't.

One of the talking heads acknowledged that, despite his opinion that restrictions could be looser, the CDC has no choice but to be conservative. As the Fowch said at the beginning of the pandemic, "we should be overly aggressive and get criticized for overreacting".

I'm reminded of what someone said about Y2K. It was a big nothing, she said. Everyone was worried for no reason.

I tried to explain to her that the reason there weren't massive problems after the year changed to 2000 was because programmers updated software to be Y2K-compliant and companies replaced old hardware with new Y2K-compliant hardware. IT warned about the problem and companies heeded the warning.

From her perspective, nothing happened so IT overreacted. But the reason nothing happened is because IT acted.

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 
 05/11   32,571,814   579,366   318,780   5,506   303,856   4,687   2,541   33 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
 04/13   31,076,891   559,741   308,343   5,332   480,061   5,321   2,986   57 
 04/06   30,596,830   554,420   305,357   5,275   448,935   7,124   3,084   38 
 03/30   30,147,895   547,296   302,273   5,237   439,510   6,793   939   63 
 03/23   29,708,385   540,503   301,334   5,174   388,928   7,446   1,863   53 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 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