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Best of John G. Brokopp

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A Closer Look at Slot Tournaments

8 August 2000

Last week I began a discussion about slot tournaments. Next week we'll hear the advice from experts and tournament directors about how you can make your experience the best it can be. But first, let's examine the different kinds of slot tournaments that are available and the particulars involved with each one:

CASH TOURNAMENTS are held in gaming jurisdictions which prohibit cashless tournaments. In a cash tournament, players are required to pay an entry fee that is applied to the prize structure. Each player makes a buy-in for a specified amount for each round of play, then proceeds to play the round with their own money. The credits on the machine at the end of the round are used to determine the score. Players keep all their winnings, if any.

Here's an example: The tournament has an entry fee of $150 and two rounds requiring a $150 buy-in per round. That's a theoretical out-of-pocket expense of $450, but the cost can be lowered dramatically or even turned into a profit if you win at your machine. Plus, your scores will be used to determine your ranking in the tournament.

CASHLESS TOURNAMENTS require an entry fee to be paid up front, but that's the extent of your cash outlay. The rounds are played on machines with meters that count down the particular amount of time allocated to each session. If, for example, the session is 20 minutes in length, the machine will automatically shut down at the end of the 20 minutes. Each player's win meter is recorded by the tournament director at the completion of each round. The winner is the player with the most cumulative points.

FUN (PROMOTIONAL) TOURNAMENTS usually require a nominal entry fee of $20 or so and are usually part of a weekly promotion for a casino. The participants are usually fewer and the prize structure much lower, but all the fun and excitement is still there, plus there are usually a few small perks, such as a free buffet, that go along with entering. Fun tournaments are a great and affordable way for you to cut your teeth on tournament play.

Slot tournaments can be as sophisticated as Harrah's annual "Millionaire Maker", the national championship of slots. Thousands of contestants enter the competition at Harrah's properties nationwide in a quest for the $1 million grand prize.

They can be a special event for a casino-hotel and take place over several days. Such tournaments include a welcome reception and awards banquet. The up-front fee usually includes accommodations and a meal allowance.

Now, let's get down to some important information associated with slot tournament play:

FIRST AND MOST IMPORTANT: Each slot machine used in any given tournament has as good a chance of winning as any other machine because prior to the tournament, each machine's individual computer chips are replaced with a uniform tournament-mode computer chip.

The slot machines on the floor of any casino vary greatly in the amount of money that's returned to the customer over an extended period of play time. This characteristic is governed by a pair of computer chips called EPROMS which supply the Random Number Generator (RNG). Each state's gaming board seals the chips in the machines and forbids anybody from tampering with them.

If tournament chips assuring equal payouts over the long run were not used in tournament play, participants wouldn't be playing on equal footing. Some machines would have a better chance of hitting winning combinations more frequently than others. Since tournament machines are allocated by the luck of the draw, getting an 87 percent payback machine while someone else drew a 98 percent payback machine just wouldn't create a fair tournament atmosphere.

Therefore, remember that every machine used in a slot tournament has as good a chance to ring up winning point totals as any other. It's just a matter of luck what combinations of symbols the players lock in when they activate the play button. Remember, the RNG is constantly generating reel combinations even when the machine isn't being played!

NEXT WEEK: We complete our 3-part series on slot tournament play by sharing with you some tips and advice from the experts.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp