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When should Mom leave a cold slot machine?

26 January 2008

John,

Love the column. Lots of great information being addressed that no one else seems to be answering. Here's hoping you can solve a long-term debate between my Mom and Dad (who I regularly treat to casino vacations).

Mom insists that sitting at a machine "until it pays" is a good strategy. Dad says "move if you lose." They've been close to divorce over this one. Sometimes Mom spends upwards of 12-14 hours at one machine with no win and won't give up — making Dad livid, of course. Any help you can give is appreciated.

Thanks,
Lonna

Dear Lonna,

Thanks for the kind words about my columns. Like the guys on Car Talk, I'm called in quite often to save marriages by ending debates between husbands and wives.

The sides in this debate are sticking with a machine until it pays or moving on. Let's look at what's happening on a machine while we play it.

When you sit down at a machine, each winning combination has a probability of landing on the payline, which is dictated by the number of times each symbol appears on the virtual reels. After your first spin, the probabilities are still the same — regardless of whether you won or lost on the spin — because the virtual reels don't change. One hundred — and one thousand — spins later, whether you're winning or losing, the probabilities are still the same. So, if you were happy with your chances when you sat down at the machine, you should still be happy with them now because they haven't changed. There's no mathematical reason to leave a machine just because you're winning or losing on it.

I suppose that the theory behind your Dad's strategy is that you might be able to find a machine that's on a hot streak. But we can't tell if a machine will be hot. And we also can't tell when a cold streak will end on a machine we're playing.

The bottom line is that it really doesn't matter if you stick with the machine or you switch to another. If you stay with the machine, it might get hot and it might stay cold. If you switch, you might find a hot machine and you might not.

My advice to players on cold machines is to switch if it's no longer fun playing the machine or you start to think that the machine owes you and that it's due. Cold machines don't owe you anything and they're never due.

If Mom is still having fun playing her machine, then she can stick with it and Dad should chill out because they're no guarantee that Mom will do better on another machine.

By the way, that's very nice of you to treat Mom and Dad to their vacations. Let's hope Mom's machines treat her better in the future.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

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