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Ask the Slot Expert: New slot club software on video poker machines

17 February 2021

Question: In response to your column today here is what I do with my points:

I prefer to cash my points in once a year. So, I do it at the start of each calendar year. The Indian casino here does not care when the player does this. However, only $500 worth can be cashed in at one time. There is no negative impact on your player rating.

Answer: Wow, only once a year. That really gives you something to look forward to after the ball drops in Times Square. I think if I collected free play just once a year, I would get it in mid-December for a nice Christmas gift.

I'm wondering how you concluded that your method of redeeming points does not affect your player rating. I'm not doubting that the casino doesn't really care whether you redeem points for free play at a machine, or redeem points for cash frequently, or redeem points for cash a couple of times a year. It's just that to really test whether there is an effect, we have to have two people play exactly the same, with the only difference between the two being how they redeem their points. That's monumentally impractical, so the best we can do is infer if there is a difference by comparing results among similar players.

Atlantic City's casinos used to complain about players who picked up gifts without playing. I did that a few times. Gaming writers frequently warn against zero-play days and playing for a few minutes between breakfast and checking out because both decrease your daily average.

I have a theory that early slot clubs were modeled after table-games comp policies, so daily average was important. But then somebody realized that we know exactly how much a machine player plays, so we don't need to estimate action based on the number of days players play and their average daily action.

Now I have proof that some slot clubs did use daily average in determining benefits. In this Las Vegas Advisor Question of the Day, Jean Scott addressed the question of why bounce-back cash decreased significantly for one reader.

Jean said that she, her husband, Brad, and a friend of theirs had experienced the same thing. Jean, being well connected, was able to ask a manager what was up. He said that the casino had changed from basing mailers on three months of play, to basing them on just one month. Worse, offers were based on daily average now. Even though their friend plays about the same amount each month, her offers dropped because she plays a lot on some days and not so much on others, bringing down her daily average.

Jean posted this article 12 years ago. I thought by then slot clubs would have realized that they don't have to follow the tables games model because slot clubs have complete information on their members' play.

I hope that slot clubs today use total play and not a daily average in determining benefits. Does it really matter if someone plays $2000 a day for five days or $1000 a day for 10? Maybe the player with the lower average eats more meals at the casino and orders more drinks from -- and gives more tips to -- the cocktail waitresses.

Just to be safe, I avoid zero-play days. I always play at least a little when I pick up a gift or free play. The only zero-play day I've had recently was on a multiple points day. After a couple of laps around the casino, I still couldn't get a spot on a good video poker machine, so I left.


Speaking of offers in mailers. I've had a lot of consulting work the past few weeks and my February offers from Red Rock were not compelling enough for me to make time to go there, so my first visit this month was a few days ago. I immediately noticed something different about the video poker machines. A bright red bar displayed across the bottom of the screen.

The video poker machines at Red Rock (and all Station casinos I've been to) do not have dedicated displays for the slot club. Instead, they steal some screen real estate on the monitor. The bottom half-inch or so is used to display slot club messages. The software does a really good job of scaling the game screen to fit in the screen space remaining without looking distorted. When you need to interact with the system, you touch the "OPEN" button in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen to steal the left third of the screen to display the menu screen.

I was excited to see the software update because I was hoping that they fixed some of the problems with the slot club software. When you first start playing, the bottom of the screen alternates between displaying "You have earned xxx points" and "Good Luck". After playing for a while, the messages would frequently change to "Good Luck" and "**JOHN". No more reporting of the number of points earned.

I wasn't sure whether this was a bug, an indication of some other situation (e.g., communications problems), or by design. I was in Red Rock's high-limit room when a lady playing near me had a problem with her machine. I never found out what the problem was, but it required a slot tech to make a house call. After the slot attendant put out the SOS, the lady left. When the slot tech arrived, he had to wait for the lady to return.

As long as he was there twiddling his thumbs, I asked him why the machines would stop reporting your points earned. I played a few hands to show him that I wasn't getting the "You have earned xxx points" message.

He said, "That's not supposed to happen."

I was optimistic that the slot IT crew would investigate and fix the problem, but nothing ever changed.

Another problem I have with the software is that it would sometimes look like the CBS All Access app buffering when you tried to redeem points. The menu screen would go blank with just a circle going around and around. (Maybe someone knows why I sometimes can't get through 30 seconds of a program on CBS All Access without having start-and-stop buffering but then I can switch to Netflix or Amazon Prime Video and have no problems at all.)

Sometimes the slot club system would eventually display the Redeem Points menu. I got to the point where I would touch the Redeem Points button on the main menu before I needed to redeem points just to increase the chances that the Redeem Points menu would be displayed when I needed it.

Sometimes the system never displayed menu. I would pull my card with the circle still circling.

I don't have a rave review from my first experience with the new software. Not only did the software still stop reporting points during my play, when it did display the number of points I earned, the message scrolled off the screen so fast that it was tough to see. In the old software you had to be fast to catch the points message while it was displayed. The new software made it almost impossible to catch the message.

Strike 1.

I was running low on funds, so I touched the Open button on the screen to bring up the slot club menu. No menu, just the Please Wait circle. I played some more, but I never got the menu. I've never not gotten the main menu before.

Strike 2.

There is no strike 3 because the game was called after I decided that I had given enough play for the Valentine's Day box of chocolates they had just given me.

A few days later, different machine. The points message didn't scroll, but it still alternated with other messages. And the machine stopped reporting points after a while. I was able to make it to the Redeem Points menu. The new menus are more attractive and modern looking.

I don't know why the system doesn't emulate the dedicated displays and show a static message saying how many points you have earned, updating after each hand. I don't need the machine to wish me good luck.

Do you have any comments, good or bad, about how you interact with the slot club on the machines or kiosks in your casino?


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
 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 

Montana recently eased mask mandates. It reported 120 new cases on February 15, 2021. Montana reports 120 COVID-19 cases, 3 deaths

Nevada reported 391 new cases and eased restrictions on February 15, 2021. Nevada Virus Positivity Rate Drops, State Eases Restrictions

Melbourne went into a five-day lockdown after it had 19 new cases (up from 0). Covid: Melbourne lockdown to end after quarantine outbreak controlled.

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