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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Information about Progressive Slots Is Sparse

15 August 2001

Casino executives are tight-lipped when it comes to offering real information about progressive slot machines. This really should come as no surprise. What do they tell us about regular slot machines?

Answer: Other than overall payback percentage (not individual slot machine payback percentage) and promotional photos of jackpot winners, nothing.

There's no reason to expect more. Legally they are not obligated to tell more. Even so, electronic gaming devices are by far the most profitable, reliable, and consistent sources of income for every casino in the United States. People may not understand them, but they certainly love them.

The same holds true for progressives. The real chances of hitting the jackpot, the actual payback percentage, and the amount of money extracted from every dollar wagered that's put into the progressive jackpot is information that is considered proprietary.

What's a gambler to do? The solution is to assume personal responsibility and put some common sense into your thought process. For example, make it a point to learn as much as you can about progressives and what are known in the industry as "stand alone" jackpots, such as the immensely popular Wheel of Fortune machines.

As a rule, the overall payback percentage of a progressive machine is less than the payback percentage of a solitary machine that's not part of a progressive. Players pay for the opportunity to win a huge jackpot by sacrificing opportunity to win lesser awards.

As I alluded to last week, the only way to suspect that a bank of progressives is programmed to hit more frequently than others is to track it. How often does it hit and what is the size of the average jackpot? If in fact it is a "frequent hit" brand of progressive, the odds against lining up the jackpot symbols may be in the hundreds of thousands to one rather than the millions to one.

The odds against hitting the jackpot on some progressives may be similar to the odds of hitting the top award on some machines that are not part of a progressive.

What you have to avoid at all costs is playing your gaming bankroll into a progressive that hits "once in a blue moon." They are usually easy to spot: Quarter progressives are the prime target, the 2-coin and 3-coin versions that advertise progressive jackpots in the tens of thousands of dollars. Not only are your chances of striking it rich millions to one, you are going to suffer a reduced level of minor award payouts.

Don't miss next week's column. I'll have an interview with the vice president of slot operations at a Chicago-area riverboat casino who'll offer some revealing insight into progressive slot play!

Here's a happy "Royal Flush Tale" e-mailed by longtime reader Alex Arvia:

"You knew that I had to have a lucky royal flush story. I don't care what the pay schedule is or the kind of game you are playing. Being in the right place at the right time is the luck of the draw. In the last two weeks I have had two royals on Trump (Gary, Indiana). One – I held three pictures, discarded a two and five, and drew the royal. Tuesday might I was dealt four to the royal on four different occasions: The first was a flush, discard a three but caught the seven of the same suit for a flush; No. 2 was a two discard, drew an ace for a straight; No. 3 ended up with four to the flush, and No. 5 was drawing one for a progressive royal payout of $1,258. Over the last three years I have been dealt a flush, drawn three to a flush, and even held an ace and drew four to a royal. I know all of the percentage plays are based on millions of computer hands and perfect play wins more, but luck is still a very important factor."

Thanks Alex! I'll be sending you a copy of an entertaining new book from Huntington Press of Las Vegas, "Cult Las Vegas: The Weirdest! The Wildest! The Swingin'est Town On Earth" by Mike Weatherford.

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