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Ask the Slot Expert: Making up with my favorite video poker machine

27 January 2021

It was probably one of the shortest break-ups in history. I've played the video poker machine that I broke up with three times since I told it "it's not me, it's you."

After years of reliable service, the slot club subsystem on the machine had become increasingly flaky. I've always had rare -- emphasis on "rare" -- problems with the subsystem on video poker machines. Sometimes it seemed to forget that it had successfully read my card and told me to reinsert it. Sometimes the card reader bezel would flash through the colors of the rainbow before finally settling back on solid green, which means everything is hunky-dory. The worst problem I ever experienced was when the whole subsystem crashed and rebooted.

I could tell when it had crashed because the messages it displayed on the machine's screen disappeared. And I could tell it was rebooting from the various "loading" messages displayed.

At least once when it came back up after a crash, it displayed the point balance screen and the screen still showed my name and the number of points I had earned that session. I thought the subsystem might finally be acting like the machine itself, which must be able to go back to the state it was in when something bad happened.

But no. A few seconds after giving me hope, the screen said my card was invalid and I should reinsert it.

I like being able to see the total number of points I've earned in a day on the machine because my goal is usually to play a certain number of points. If I wanted to know session points, I could do the math. When I have to reinsert my card, my session points no longer equal my daily points -- but I can do the math.

Problems were rare, but a few weeks ago the subsystem on my steady machine rebooted each time I played it. Time to avoid this machine.

Easier said than done. The machine was the only one available on recent visits. Well, on my last visit I could have played the machine at the other end of the bank with my ex, but its screen is sometimes a little wavy and it doesn't deal as quickly as my ex.

Fortunately the subsystem has behaved since I broke up with the machine. I haven't experienced any reboots. I'm not sure if I'm going to go back to first checking if that machine is available before sitting down at another machine, but the playing conditions at another machine will have to be nearly perfect for me to not check my ex-ex.


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

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 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 

At the end of last summer, I wrote about how Australia was dealing with the pandemic through travel restrictions. My best friend from college had retired from IT to follow his dream of working in aviation. His new career was just starting to take off and then the virus hit.

Australia practically shut down its travel industry. It limited the number of people coming into the country each week and they were all required to quarantine in a hotel for two weeks. At their expense; the government gives you a bill at the end of your stay. And like on Priceline (Is that still a thing?), you don't get to choose where you quarantine. Not following the quarantine rules is a criminal offense and you may be subject to a fine or imprisonment. (Note that these are the rules for New South Wales. Other states may have different rules. https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/hotel-quarantine.aspx)

A few months ago, Howard Stern talked about his friend who went to Australia for a family emergency. He had to quarantine at a hotel for two weeks. When the fire alarm went off, he left his room to evacuate. The guard in the hallway told him to go back into his room and await further instructions. The situation did not require leaving the building, but I suppose some arrangement was in place to keep the people in quarantine separated if it did.

Phil Keoghan is the host of The Amazing Race and Tough As Nails and a New Zealand native. He returned home about a month ago. New Zealand also has a 14-day quarantine rule. He posted a photo of the sunset on his last night of quarantine in Christchurch.

I don't know how effective the travel quarantine is in decreasing the spread of the virus, but both New Zealand (0.5 cases per 1000) and Australia (1.1 cases per 1000) have a much lower number of cases per capita than the U.S. (76.7 cases per 1000). I was glad to see that international travelers were going to be required to quarantine upon arrival under the new travel restrictions announced January 25.

I was disappointed though that I couldn't find any information about how the quarantine was going to be achieved and enforced. Are the passengers going to be taken straight from the international arrivals hall to a quarantine hotel? Are passengers just going to be requested to self-quarantine? The After You Travel Internationally page on the CDC site hasn't been updated since January 4. I suppose they're still working out the details. They could have just announced a voluntary self-quarantine, but they didn't, so I think that there will be a formal quarantine.

The Biden Administration has done more to combat the virus in its first seven days than the Trump Administration did in its last seven weeks, maybe even seven months.

Let me know if there's anything done in the past week that couldn't have been done in the past month.

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