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Ask the Slot Expert: My casino "good luck" charms

30 August 2023

I don't believe in talismans or trying to influence a machine to bring me good luck. I don't do the things I've seen some people do, like putting a family photo on the screen, putting a good luck charm on the machine, or tapping the screen to try to get a reel to stop on a particular symbol.

That said, I'm not above trying to get the gods of good fortune to lean a little on my side sometimes. I had a favorite video poker machine that I played at the Desert Inn. It was the machine on which I hit my first dollar royal flush.

At least I said it was the machine. I did hit my first dollar royal at a machine at the DI, but I wasn't really sure which one I hit it on. That didn't stop me from adopting one particular machine as my machine. I wrote about it in so many columns that when I was at the DI on one of its last days, my friends there said they had looked into whether they could give it to me. I lived in New Jersey at the time and the machine was too new to be owned legally there. I'm told that my machine went to a farm upstate.

One company I worked for had a holiday party with games and drawings in which you could win cash. A couple of times I took the lucky cash I won (nothing life-changing, just $50 or $75) and used it to fund a few spins on a high-limit ($5 or $10) slot machine. I remember scoping out a few high hit frequency machines in Treasure Island's high limit room one year and playing a few spins on each to try to turn my party winnings into a nice payday. Didn't happen.

Thirteen is my lucky number. Well, not lucky, but a number that was relevant to my childhood. I was born on the thirteenth -- but not Friday the Thirteenth -- and there was a 13 in the address of the house I grew up in. If I have the opportunity to choose from a set of numbered objects, I'll take number 13 every time.

Unless someone chooses it first.

A drawing at Gold Coast. A number of players won the opportunity to pick an envelope from a set of 30 or so. My name was drawn about fifth or sixth, so I had to wait for a few other people to choose before I could claim number 13, the envelope that rightly belonged to me.

The first players stayed away from [un]lucky number 13. I dodged those bullets. The lady who chose before -- right before -- me said, "Oh, what the heck. Gimme 13."

"NO!" I shouted. Not out loud. In my head.

They opened envelope number 13 and it contained the grand prize for that drawing. I don't remember what the grand prize was, what number I chose, or how much I won. I just remember that that lady took my envelope.

Despite not having been born on Friday the Thirteenth, I always play on Friday the Thirteenth to see if 13 can work for me on that day.

I always play on my birthday, too. The casinos used to give me an incentive to play on my birthday or close to it. I usually had a kiosk game to play to win free play, a point multiplier, or dining credits. That went away for me after the pandemic closure. Now I only get birthday wishes on the kiosk or slot club display and maybe a Happy Birthday email. One casino sent an additional email thanking me for spending part of my special day with them. I liked that.

I had a birthday recently, so I hit the NSU machines to see if birthday karma would help turn around my run of bad luck with the machines and I could reach my point goal before I ran out of money.

I put $100 in and played. And played. And played and played and played. I was up to $2000 in action and I still had $200 on my meter. I thought that I had a really good chance to reach my goal and walk out with some cash.

I was playing at a bank of four machines. What used to be my favorite machine in the casino (It's complicated.) was the rightmost machine in the bank. I was playing the leftmost machine, mainly because a lady was already playing the rightmost machine when I got there.

My machine had a sticky Deal/Draw button. It didn't always register when I hit it. I sometimes had to hit it multiple times to get the machine to deal or draw. (I'm amazed that the programmers have the software just right so I've never had an unintended draw after hitting the Deal button multiple times to get a deal.)

The lady at the other end left. I usually settle in and nest on a machine. I don't usually switch machines. Not even if the machine is ice cold. Not even if the person next to me keeps hitting the Bet Max button or, heaven forbid, the Bet One button five times. About the only thing that makes me switch is when someone starts smoking near me. But the finicky Deal/Draw button was really bothering me.

As I was overthinking whether I should switch to my old flame, someone sat down at it. Decision made. I'll deal with the sticky Deal/Draw button deal.

I continued playing. I was dealt three deuces. I didn't get my hopes up, but I crossed my fingers. (No, I didn't. I don't believe in that.) I got the fourth deuce. Yippee!

Three hands later, I was dealt three deuces again. What are the odds of getting the fourth deuce again? Same as the first time it happened.

Hopes kept in check, I hit Draw and got the fourth deuce. Double Yippee!

Deuces practically back to back.

You can imagine my surprise when I was dealt three deuces again about 20 hands later. Surely I couldn't possibly get the fourth deuce again.

Well, I did. (And stop calling me Shirley.)

I've hit the deuces hat trick three or four times before, but never in 20-30 hands. That's a nice birthday present.

I hoped to keep my credit meter above $3000, so I would have to redeem the ticket at the cage. My meter hovered a bit over $3000 for a while, then it went down. Then it went back up and back down. It went up and down a few times, but I couldn't keep it over or even near $3000.

I played well over the number of hands I had as my goal and I left with over $2000 in profit.

A happy birthday indeed.


If you would like to see more non-smoking areas on slot floors in Las Vegas, please sign my petition on change.org.


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