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Ask the Slot Expert: How do you hold on to your slot winnings?

31 March 2021

Question: I love your articles and Q/A.

I have no complaints, most of the time, about the casino where I play twice a month with just $400 each time. I find the pay back is fair.

Here is where I need your suggestions: I win and I always put ALL the winnings back. I'm alone and play. Like last week I won $850 and gave it ALL back. When my sister was alive I would give her my winnings to hold and under no circumstance would she give them back to me until I got home. Now I don't have her or actually any friends in the same situation.

So how can I win and just walk out, walk right out of the casino with my winnings?

Please don't say, "Well, just walk out."

Secondly, I played a certain slot, I only play slots and never slot poker, and it kept paying and paying and paying ... a new machine I might add .... I won over $2,000 on it playing $2.50 each time.

The next week I went to the same machine and put in $400 and got one bonus which paid $4. I kid you not, $4. Can I assume the casino "discovered" it was paying out too much and tightened the machine? I mean $400 and a single bonus for $4. Come on, John.

Answer: Thanks for the kind words. Congratulations on catching lightning in a bottle on that slot. And commiserations that your good luck did not repeat.

We'll come back to that in a moment. Let's start with your first question.

You said that I should not say, "Just walk out." Sorry, but you're going to have to put on your big boy pants and take responsibility for and control of your actions.

I know it's not easy. The casino environment is designed to entice you to play. The random reward aspect of the games also leads you to make just one more bet. The next spin has just a good a chance of hitting the jackpot as the one right before it.

Last week I wrote about how I started writing about gambling for John Patrick's newsletter. John Patrick was a gambling personality in New Jersey. He published many books and tapes and had a call-in show on a local access channel on cable where I lived.

Prior to getting my elementary education in gambling from John, my only experiences with casinos were the day trips we would make each summer when my college friends would stay for a few days at one friend's beach house in Ocean City. No one had a bankroll to speak of -- or knowledge of table games -- so we would get a couple of rolls of quarters and try our luck at the slots.

One of my friends thought he had discovered a way to win at table games. His plan was to keep doubling his bet until he won. This came up somehow in one of our math classes. The professor said it was called The Martingale System and explained why it doesn't work.

Around this time my cousin had a boyfriend who enjoyed going to Atlantic City. Too much, but that's another story. We were talking about playing slots. I had just finished one of John's books about playing slots and I said that it seemed complicated to play slots the right way using two buckets.

He looked at me like I had just grown another head. Two buckets? I bet he was wondering what could be so complicated. Put in money. Pull handle. Pray. Repeat.

John Patrick's slot play method used two coin buckets. (This was a long time ago.) One bucket was used for your playing money. The other was your guarantee. No matter what happened with the coins in your playing bucket, you were supposed to leave with the coins in your guarantee bucket.

To start, you buy a couple of rolls of coins from the person pushing the change trolley around on the slot floor (I said this was a long time ago!) and put them in your playing bucket. You take coins out of your playing bucket to fund a spin. If you win on the spin, you split the coins dropped into the coin tray between the two buckets. You could split your winnings 50/50, put one coin in guarantee and the rest in play, vice versa -- it's up to you how you split the coins, but you had to put something in the guarantee every time you won. And you could never play the money in the guarantee. You had to leave the casino with it.

Credit play made this method obsolete. (Believe it or not, kids, there once was a time when we had to put coins into a slot machine. A big innovation was having a machine keep a running tab of our winnings on a credit meter instead of dropping coins into the coin tray each time we won. And we had to remember to press a button to switch a machine to credit play. And we had to make phone calls from tiny booths on street corners.)

I assume you can afford to lose the money you bring to the casino. You won't enjoy losing it all, but you're still going to able to pay the rent and put food on the table. Furthermore, you won't be a psychological wreck and cut up your players cards when you lose, as my cousin's boyfriend did whenever he had a big loss -- but that's another story.

If you want to ensure you don't lose your entire bankroll, you can bring a little extra money with you and keep it in your shoe. I don't recommend this because the amount you lose on a run of bad luck is usually very close to the amount of money you brought to the casino, even when you say you're not going to play some of it. Those reserve funds always seem to find a way into a machine.

In the old coin days, some writers recommended playing a method called Once Through. You take the coins in your bankroll and play them through a machine once. You leave with whatever you win and repeat the process on another machine. Today you have to track the points earned on a machine to know when you've played your session stake through once.

Credit play and tickets make it more challenging to hold on to winnings today. We're not betting money, we're betting credits. We're not putting money into a machine, we're putting a ticket in. We always have to remember that credits and tickets are real money.

Here are some suggestions to help you leave with more of your winnings:

  • Cash out and leave if you, say, double your bankroll. Even if it occurs on your first spin. You can set whatever cash-out goal you want. This method really only works if you live close to the casino. No one wants to drive for an hour and play for five minutes.
  • You could break your bankroll into tranches of, say, $20, $40 or $50 each. Play each tranche separately. Insert the money for a tranche into the machine. Cash out if you are ever ahead. Otherwise play until it is exhausted. Continue until you have played all of the tranches. If you want to continue playing then, use the tickets from smallest to largest until you've had your fill of slot play.
  • I have a two-compartment wallet. The bills in one compartment are my spending money. The bills in the other compartment are my playing money. Never (okay, rarely) the twain shall meet. When you hit something big, cash out and put the ticket in the spending money compartment. If it helps, redeem the ticket before putting the winnings in your wallet.
  • Cash out and redeem tickets frequently. The idea here is to keep reminding ourselves that we're playing with real money, no matter how far the conveniences of the casinos remove us from the strips of linen. Granted, this method doesn't work well without a partner who can hold your machine while you go redeem the ticket.
  • Another reason to cash out and redeem frequently. Say you have either an $80 ticket or four $20 bills. You might end up playing back the $80 ticket before you realize it. On the other hand, if you put the bills in separately and only put in another bill when you run out of credits, you have three additional decision points at which you can decide to leave with what you have left.
  • Set a time limit or point goal. Play until you reach that time or play that number of points. Cash out and leave with whatever you have. I give myself more flexibility. I set a point goal. When I reach my point goal, it's a decision point. If I'm ahead, I may continue playing until I've played some additional number of points or fall down to breaking even.
  • In the future, you may be able to set up a digital wallet at the casino. When you win on a machine, you can transfer some or all of your winnings from the machine to your digital wallet. It may be easier to leave the casino with a win when it isn't a ticket or paper money burning a hole in your pocket. The only pitfall is that you can also transfer money from your wallet to a machine.

These are some ideas I have and techniques I've used to leave with some of my winnings. All of these techniques have one thing in common: They require discipline, which is one of John Patrick's pillars of being a successful gambler. You have to take responsibility now for holding on to your winnings.

Readers, please share the methods you use to leave with your winnings.

Moving on to your change in fortune on that machine, let me ask you some questions. Did the person who played the machine before you win? How about the player after you? How about all of the players the day before and the day after?

Your first experience with the machine is an incredibly small piece of the entire picture of the machine's performance. Some people win. Some people lose. You were lucky the first time and not so lucky the second. The machine is just performing as any slot machine does. There was nothing wrong with the machine. It wasn't paying out too much.

It is frustrating to get a chintzy bonus. I like to play Bally games that give you a spin on various Blazing 7s-related games when you land three or more of their corresponding symbols. The bonus round on the version I like best doesn't end until you win something on at least one of the games. On other versions, the bonus ends even if you won nothing.

Savor the big bonuses and accept the small ones as a consequence of the randomness of outcomes on a slot machine.


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 
 03/30   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