CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
author's picture
 

Ask the Slot Expert: I don't win on the slots anymore

8 June 2022

Question: My wife and I have been playing slots since about 1996.

Overall, we have done reasonably well. We usually play mainly the same types of machines. We quite often win sufficient to continue to keep going back to the casinos to play.

I used to track our play simply as dollars spent and dollars won. Over the years we were slightly ahead.

Just prior to the Covid we had not won hardly anything. After Covid we have started to go back to our local casino. We have not won any jackpots and rarely win any money at all on the machines we used to play.

As we age, going to the casino is a favourite outing, however, over the last number of months, we simply cannot win anything.

We note the newer slot machines that we sometimes play are getting to be out of our reach as they are mainly penny machines, but you may bet many dollars per spin and we are not desiring to spend much more than $2 per spin or less.

Lately, we need to cut back on going and it is looking like there will not be much going to any casinos in the future.

We find it somewhat strange that we have gone from winning quite regularly for many years to completely not winning anything.

Many of the other acquaintances who also go to the same local casino mention they also hardly have any wins.

Other people advise, they do see some fairly large winners, but, most of these people are playing over $50 per spin.

Any thoughts?

Answer: I don't have enough data to prove it, but I have a theory that explains what you -- any many others -- have said that they have experienced.

During the first century of slot machines, the main reason to play a machine was to win something. Money, usually, but sometimes mints, gum or cigars that could be traded for -- money. There was some excitement in seeing the reels stop one by one, but the main attraction was the possibility of walking away with more money in your pocket than when you started.

Adding electricity to the slot machine made it possible to add entertaining features to machines, but nothing like what was possible when the computer took over running the machine. In addition to better sound, machines had reels that would spin in different directions and games could have features like Haywire (repeat) Pays and Spin-Til-U-Win.

The math on all of these games followed the same philosophy: Players are playing to hit the jackpot. We're going to give the player a decent chance to hit it. As for the other payouts, some machines will favor the higher-paying combinations and hit less frequently and others will favor the lower-paying combinations and hit more frequently. Regardless of hit frequency, players are playing for profit first, and entertainment second.

Around the turn of the century, there was a sea change in game design. I remember being at the gaming show around 2000 and everyone was talking about the Australian Invasion. This wasn't Men at Work, INXS, Silverchair, AC/DC, Sia, Keith Urban, Rick Springfield, Iggy Azalea, Natalie Imbruglia, and Air Supply taking over popular music on the radio, but Australian pokies taking over the slot floor.

Australia had some slot machines that took multi-line machines to the next level. In addition to being able to chose the number of lines to bet on, you were also able to choose how much you wanted to bet on each line. A traditional multi-line machine only let you bet one credit per line.

If I remember correctly, one of the first machines from a U.S.-based company to use the new multi-line/multi-coin model was a Pink Panther-themed video slot from IGT. I think there was a big Pink Panther banner hanging at the main entrance to the Convention Center.

Almost every multi-line/multi-coin machine was a video slot, but they didn't have to be video. There were some reel-spinners that let you bet more than one coin per line. Because nearly every video slot today derives from the multi-line/multi-coin model, I'll just call them video slots from now on.

The math of the video slot embodied a paradigm shift in the reason why people played slot machines. Instead of the primary motivation being to win money, people played to be entertained. No one was going to turn down a jackpot, but as slot machines became more entertaining, being entertained became more important than winning money.

As a result, time on device also became more important to players. "Take my money if you must, but at least let me play a while on it."

Video slots are able to pay less than a push, so they tend to have high hit frequencies. Machines pay for high hit frequencies by reducing the number of times the higher-paying combinations hit. Taking away one $200 hit pays for many $5 and $10 hits.

Video slots may hit the top and mid-level jackpots that put you in the black for a session or a trip less frequently than the old traditional reel-spinning slots of the late 20th century. You're not getting as many profit-making hits because you're getting more tray money hits -- that is, hits that keep you in the game for a few more spins.

To sum up, I think the video slot math model compared with the reel-spinning math model has these effects:

  • More losing sessions and fewer winning sessions
  • Losses and winnings are smaller than before
  • More playing time per bankroll dollar

Of course, your mileage may vary. What you experience depends on the machines you played then and the machines you play today.

I don't consider today's video slots to be penny machines. Many of them were in the beginning, but you know what casino operators found out? Some people would bet only a few pennies per spin. "We can't fill the slot floor with players betting seven cents per spin."

The old video slots could also be a bit confusing with their arrays of buttons to choose the number of lines on which to bet and the number of coins to bet on each line.

The solution was to remove some of the options. Most players bet all the lines, so let's remove the lines-to-play option and just have all the paylines active on each spin.

Now the players only had to choose how much they wanted to bet per spin. Most machines have a minimum bet of 25 or 35 cents.

A few weeks ago, I gave a Chinese-themed slot with firecrackers a shot. It's across the aisle from my favorite Quick Hit Blitz machine. I play that Quick Hit machine a lot, so I saw a lot of play on the firecracker machine. The firecrackers explode each time a bonus event is triggered. I heard a lot of explosions. The machine seemed to hit its bonus events quite frequently.

This machine, like many other video slots, let you choose your "denomination." If this were a live presentation, I would say denomination and make air quotes.

No matter which denomination you chose, your minimum bet was 88 credits.

It's not a penny machine when the minimum bet is 88 cents. That's more like a dollar machine.

It's not a 2-cent machine when the minimum bet is $1.76. That's more like a two-dollar machine.

It's not a nickel machine when the minimum bet is $4.40. That's more like a five-dollar machine.

It's not a dime machine when the minimum bet is $8.80 cents. That's more like a ten-dollar machine.

As for seeing big bettors get big wins, please indulge me in a little snarkiness when I say, "Well, duh." The same combo that pays $50 on a $5 bet pays $500 on a $50 bet.

If you're just walking by and see a $50 player hit $500, you translate that hit into how much play you would get from it. In reality, though, $5 bettor or $50 bettor, it's still a 10-for-1 payout and the hit funds 10 spins.

I think 88 cents is the highest minimum bet I've seen on the main slot floor. I play many machines that have minimums of 25 to 50 cents. You have many options around $2 per spin.

The biggest problem I see with a $2 bet on a video slot today, though, is that it may not be enough to enable all of the features on a machine. A bet of 75 cents or $1 or $1.25 was a max bet that enabled all the features on a traditional reel-spinning quarter machine. Today you may have to bet more than $3 per spin to enable all the features on a video slot.

That said, the max bet on Quick Hit Blitz is $2 or $2.50 and that bet activates all of the progressives. There are older Quick Hit machines that have a $1.50 max bet.

My advice is to look around at the different machines. Choose machines that either enable most of their features at your desired bet or that don't have features that are enabled with larger bets -- there are some machines that say that their progressives are available at all bet levels.

Another option is to play traditional reel-spinners. They may not be the kings of the slot floor anymore, but just about every casino still has them.

But the video slots are so much more entertaining....


Here are the latest Covid data. There is a difference in the hospitalization data for US versus NV. The CDC reports total number of Covid hospital admissions. Nevada reports current hospitalizations, not admissions.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#new-hospital-admissions), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 06/07/22   84,762,952   4,766,468   1,004,260   744,192   273   10,909   813,916   30,146   2,190   6,818   55   26 
 05/31/22   83,949,036   4,736,322   1,002,070   737,374   218   10,883   670,041   24,555   2,285   5,738   16   41 
 05/24/22   83,278,995   4,711,767   999,785   731,636   202   10,842   756,047   25,027   2,317   5,324   37   28 
 05/17/22   82,522,948   4,686,740   997,488   726,312   165   10,814   680,888   21,183   2,097   3,693   35   26 
 05/10/22   81,842,060   4,665,557   995,371   722,619   130   10,788   534,465   17,934   3,932   2,802   32   11 
 05/03/22   81,307,595   4,647,623   991,439   719,817   98   10,777   432,666   14,755   2,448   2,213   (6)   49 
 04/26/22   80,874,929   4,632,868   988,991   717,604   104   10,728   348,507   12,597   2,446   1,447   (22)   46 
 04/19/22   80,526,422   4,620,271   986,545   716,157   126   10,682   266,330   10,525   3,308   1,232   (37)   497 
 04/12/22   80,260,092   4,609,746   983,237   714,925   163   10,185   228,465   10,343   3,627   1,228   23   53 
 04/05/22   80,031,627   4,599,403   979,610   713,697   140   10,132   203,709   10,312   4,105   1,059   (52)   76 
 03/29/22   79,827,918   4,589,091   975,505   712,638   192   10,056   206,914   9,572   4,083   1,187   5   40 
 03/22/22   79,621,004   4,579,519   971,422   711,451   187   10,016   200,627   8,502   8,178   742   (71)   83 
 03/15/22   79,418,377   4,571,017   963,244   710,709   258   9,933   253,069   17,393   5,492   24,844   (20)   113 
 03/08/22   79,165,308   4,553,624   957,752   685,865   278   9,820   310,308   24,471   9,870   2,099   (101)   116 
 03/01/22   78,855,000   4,529,153   947,882   683,766   379   9,704   465,845   33,261   14,988   6,421   (189)   196 
 02/22/22   78,389,155   4,495,892   932,894   677,345   568   9,508   551,462   46,726   12,797   4,023   (297)   173 
 02/15/22   77,837,693   4,449,166   920,097   673,322   865   9,335   1,005,691   67,963   17,059   5,280   (375)   149 
 02/08/22   76,782,002   4,381,203   903,038   668,042   1,240   9,186   1,769,556   92,750   18,185   11,144   (387)   235 
 02/01/22   75,012,446   4,288,453   884,853   656,898   1,627   8,951   3,193,570   121,420   17,885   26,555   (344)   191 
 01/25/22   71,818,876   4,167,033   866,968   630,343   1,971   8,760   5,102,999   143,329   16,393   57,574   99   133 
 01/18/22   66,715,937   4,023,704   850,575   572,769   1,872   8,627   4,983,654   147,105   13,301   25,927   (1,787)   99 
 01/11/22   61,732,283   3,876,599   837,274   546,842   3,659   8,528   5,421,565   139,572   12,168   32,486   2,594   100 
 01/05/22   56,310,718   3,737,027   825,106   514,344   1,065   8,428   3,501,427   104,272   8,867   20,966   276   61 
 12/28/21   52,809,291   3,362,755   816,239   493,378   789   8,367   1,693,987   63,185   11,127   7,977   89   56 
 12/21   51,115,304   3,569,570   805,112   485,401   700   8,311   1,063,296   55,734   9,102   5,639   9   110 
 12/14   50,052,008   3,513,836   796,010   479,762   691   8,201   853,262   57,885   8,946   5,008   17   91 
 12/07   49,198,746   3,455,951   787,064   474,754   674   8,110   821,215   66,191   8,575   5,011   23   125 
 11/30   48,377,531   3,389,760   778,489   469,743   651   7,985   563,746   28,426   6,309   3,343   (50)   55 
 11/23   47,813,785   3,361,334   772,180   466,400   701   7,930   667,924   41,145   10,754   4,784   (24)   86 
 11/16   47,145,861   3,320,189   761,426   461,616   725   7,844   604,748   63,164   7,862   4,577   22   85 
 11/09   46,541,113   3,257,025   753,564   457,039   703   7,759   516,764   33,219   8,290   5,539   34   103 
 11/02   46,024,349   3,223,806   745,274   451,500   669   7,656   555,915   38,028   9,226   4,327   45   109 
 10/26   45,468,434   3,185,778   736,048   447,173   624   7,547   488,829   42,265   9,842   4,753   (87)   96 
 10/19   44,979,605   3,143,513   726,206   442,420   711   7,451   578,396   11,963   4,381   136 
 10/12   44,401,209   714,243   438,039   7,315   795,586   14,067   15,710   149 
 10/05   43,605,623   700,176   422,329   7,166   554,194   10,642   3,852   121 
 09/28   43,051,429   689,534   418,477   7,045   817,218   14,463   6,160   165 
 09/21   42,234,211   675,071   412,317   6,880   971,637   14,691   7,466   152 
 09/14   41,262,574   660,380   404,851   6,728   1,176,763   12,919   10,256   145 
 09/07   40,085,811   647,461   394,595   6,583   975,725   10,076   5,237   104 
 08/31   39,110,086   637,385   389,358   6,479   1,113,414   9,385   7,592   173 
 08/24   37,996,672   628,000   381,649   6,306   1,045,491   7,507   8,117   116 
 08/17   36,951,181   620,493   373,649   6,190   959,978   4,715   7,065   150 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 
 07/27   34,548,847   609,012   351,443   5,837   652,251   2,394   8,347   79 
 07/20   33,896,296   606,618   341,096   5,758   169,933   1,478   3,351   28 
 07/13   33,726,363   605,140   339,745   5,730   181,047   1,959   4,982   33 
 07/06   33,545,316   603,181   334,763   5,697   75,104   1,373   2,234   27 
 06/29   33,470,212   601,808   332,529   5,670   87,507   2,057   3,020   24 
 06/22   33,382,705   599,751   329,509   5,646   75,420   2,157   1,930   22 
 06/15   33,303,285   597,594   327,579   5,624   95,797   2,293   1,560   17 
 06/08   33,207,488   595,301   326,019   5,607   114,250   3,762   2,271   21 
 06/01   33,039,238   591,539   323,748   5,586   123,333   3,709   991   27 
 05/25   32,969,905   587,830   322,757   5,559   174,125   4,234   1,676   26 
 05/18   32,795,780   583,596   321,081   5,533   223,966   4,230   2,301   27 
 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 
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