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Ask the Slot Expert: My casino Christmas wish list

29 December 2021

This week I'm sharing my Casino Christmas Wish List. I waited until after Christmas to share it for a few reasons. First, I wasn't entirely sure whether I was on the Naughty List or the Nice List. Second, I wanted to make sure that Santa got my list before I posted it. And third, I didn't get the idea that I could tie these unrelated items together into one column this way until today.

Of course, I have all of the perennial items on my list:

  • Plenty of high-paying video poker machines in my favorite casinos
  • Bill acceptors that accept all of my bills
  • Vibrant, in-focus displays on all video machines
  • Buttons that always work properly
  • Slot club point structures that let me play NSU at breakeven by default

I have a good chance at getting the middle three items on the list, but it's going to continue to get harder to get the first and last items because the elves can't make them in their workshop.

Another item on my list is Reliable Cash-Less Gaming. I have to add the "reliable" qualifier because I've had some experience with flaky cash-less gaming. In all fairness to Red Rock, though, I have to say that I was one of the first players to use the system and early adopters can't be upset when they experience some of the bugs that have to be worked out.

Previously on Cash-Less Gaming: I saw the STN Cash stickers on the machines at Red Rock. I googled "STN Cash" and found the website describing the system. I created a STN Cash account on the website. I went to the cage to sign the account agreement and activate my account. I used the system to transfer money to and from machines successfully until one day, my transfer back to the account wasn't reflected in my available balance in my account. That problem was fixed after a few days and hasn't recurred since. Then a new problem arose. I could transfer money from the account to a machine, but I could not transfer money from a machine back to the account.

And now, the latest episode. The transfer back problem was fixed a few days after I first experienced it. On my recent visits to Red Rock, the STN Cash system has treated me well, but the video poker machines have not.

A new procedure has to be better than the old one to catch on. Station Casino's first attempt to appeal to the TikTok generation -- No, that's too young a demographic. MySpace generation? -- was something it called Cardless Connect. Instead of inserting your players card into the card reader, you could have the same effect by connecting to the machine using an app on your phone and Bluetooth.

I used the system regularly when it was first introduced, but eventually went back to using my card. A machine sometimes just wouldn't connect with my phone. More importantly, though, using the card was faster. Put the card in the reader and in a few seconds you're ready to play.

With Cardless Connect, you had to start the app on your phone if it wasn't already running, hold your phone near the card reader, press the Connect To Machine button, and wait a few seconds to see if two devices could connect. And then have to use my card anyway if they couldn't.

You still needed your card at the kiosks and to use points to pay for meals, so Cardless Connect didn't provide any advantage over a physical card.

With STN Cash, you still have to use Cardless Connect to connect to a machine, but now doing that also connects your STN Cash account, so using Cardless Connect is worth the extra hassle. Besides, you don't have a choice.

Cardless Connect isn't better than a physical card, but STN Cash is better than physical cash.

Some casinos will cap a machine (take it out of service so a player can take a break and get back on it later). Which players they'll cap machines for and how long they'll cap a machine varies by casino. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to cap a machine for a few minutes on your own?

Santa, or rather Konami, has already put this gift under the tree. Its SYNKROS player-tracking system has a module called LuckLock that lets slot club members lock a machine for a short period of time (say, five minutes to 30 minutes) on their own. If the player doesn't return before the end of the lock period, the machine will automatically unlock so others can play it. Of course, you cash out before locking a machine.

In Las Vegas, LuckLock is available only at the new Resorts World. If it proves popular there, I would expect other player tracking systems to add the feature and other casinos to enable it at their properties.

Unless Konami has a patent on it. I looked for a patent on LuckLock, but that term would be a trademarked name for the feature and would not necessarily appear in a patent. The patent would have a catchy title like "System for enabling electronic gaming device player to temporarily disable play on device".

I have a ritual at my favorite Quick Hit Blitz machine. Card in, ticket in, volume up. Not all the way up to 11, but just a little bit louder than what the default is.

Another item on my wish list is that all machines had volume controls and all casinos enabled the controls.

Many (many) years ago at Caesars in Atlantic City, I tried my luck on the first Michael Jackson slot machine. The bonus round on this machine played clips from a number of Michael Jackson's hits. The manufacturer probably paid a fortune to license the songs for the machine. The brain trust at Caesars turned off the sound on the machine, eliminating a main feature of the bonus round.

I was playing my favorite Quick Hit Blitz machine a few weeks ago. A lady sat down at the machine across the narrow aisle from me. She asked me where the volume control on the machine was.

She was at an old reel-spinning Quick Hit machine, one that I hadn't played for years. I said that I didn't think the machine had a volume control on it.

A week or so later, the casino moved the old Quick Hit machine and replaced it with a new Asian-themed game with fireworks sound effects. The machine has a volume control. Even though the default volume level is set to louder than needed, I never saw anyone decrease the volume level when they played it.

An add-on to my wish list item for a volume control on my machine is the ability to control the volume on machines near me.

From the Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Star Trek file, remember when Kirk showed Saavik how they could control the starship that Khan had stolen from the Enterprise's console in The Wrath of Khan? It would be great if I could use my volume control to lower the volume on the machines in my immediate vicinity. (I don't foresee ever wanting to raise a machine's volume.)

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, jackpot-filled new year!


Click here for the latest Covid data.

Despite President Biden's initial claims otherwise, the situation with Covid tests is a nationwide failure. Haven't we been reading for nearly two years now that cheap, plentiful tests were an important tool to control the spread of the virus?

In this column on November 24, David Leonhardt reports that British pharmacies "offer free packs of seven tests that people can take at home" and that tests in Germany are "widely available and mostly free".

Health officials recommended testing before gathering for Thanksgiving. Why are we seeing lines for tests and hearing about shortages now and we didn't a month ago? What's different?

Omicron. Now people are following -- or, at least, trying to follow the recommendation.

It seems to me that the test shortage is primarily a consequence of supply and demand. Why should pharmaceutical companies manufacture and drug stores stock tests beyond what the market wants? Why should communities open testing facilities that no one goes to?

The demand for tests skyrocketed practically overnight. It will take some time for the supply to catch up with the new demand. The UK is also experiencing a shortage of tests now.

Leonhardt and others frequently complain about the length of time our government agencies take to approve drugs and treatments. None of these people have to make the decision nor do they have anything at stake in the decision. How much trust do the agencies lose when they don't follow the standard procedure and an approval has to be rescinded? (Remember that an EUA for treating Covid with hydroxychloroquine was granted in April 2020, possibly under political pressure, only to be rescinded on June 15 when studies showed that it caused an increase in deaths.)

Hindsight is always 20/20 and it's easy to criticize decisions made yesterday with knowledge not gained until today.

I've also read articles criticizing anyone who says that Omicron was unexpected. One guy in the New York Post cited an old article in the New York Times about how we should expect many variants.

These people are missing the point. A new variant was not unexpected. Dr. Jen Ashton on GMA has been saying since the first variant that "viruses mutate for a living."

Omicron itself was not unexpected. What was unexpected was having it go from about 3% of cases to being the dominant variant in one week. Whether it's 73% of cases or 22% or 59% or 85% (in some areas), no one expected Omicron to go from being a blip to the dominant variant in just two to three weeks. Delta was first identified in the U.S. on May 20 and didn't become the dominant variant until July.

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