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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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More to Video Slots Than Meets the Eye

28 June 2006

This columnist should be last in line to send up caution flags about playing multi-line video slots. On a recent trip to Las Vegas while playing a WMS Gaming "Pyramid of Kings" cascading reels penny machine at Sam's Town, I lined up the jackpot symbols and collected $2,500 on a line pay for a $1.00 bet (20 lines, five coins per line).

I must admit to be thoroughly entertained playing the machines, but I've been gambling long enough to know just how fortunate I was to score that hit. It'll probably never happen again. With that in mind, it's time to hoist the flag:

The revenue generating might of low-denomination video slots makes them the darlings of casino operators. Their entertainment value and sensory appeal have won over traditional spinning reel players and at the same time have attracted an entire new crowd of "Generation X" gamblers.

But video slots can be "one armed bandits in Play Station clothing" unless you have a thorough knowledge of what they're all about. Gamblers pay a hefty price for the fun and games, quite often without realizing it.

A big part of the reason video slots can have such a sinister impact on the bankrolls of people who play them is the harsh fact their appetite for money is concealed behind a cloak of thrift. They're marketed as penny, two-cent and nickel games when in fact it's dollars they crave.

The high win percentage that casinos extract from money wagered on the games is quite often more than double the hold on dedicated dollar machines. Which begs the question, "Why wager dollars on a two-cent game that has an 88 percent payback, when I can play that same money in a dollar slot that has 95 percent payback?"

Sure, it's possible to wager a coin or two on every spin, but the chances of winning that way are thoroughly compromised because each unit's hit frequency and pay back percentage is calculated on the entire screen grid. The failure by a player to activate the maximum number of lines on any given play excludes that player from collecting on a possible winning combination.

With that said, it's always best to activate the maximum number of lines on the machine. How many coins you wish to play per line is your own economic decision.

Here's another weapon that video slots use to engage players in psychological warfare: The goal is to get into bonus rounds, which, because this occurs with greater frequency than jackpots on traditional reel spinners, people are enticed to play longer and gamble more.

It's also important to keep in mind that the spinning reel play action and the sequential left to right stops of video slot games are an illusion in the decision reaching process and merely a component to stimulate the senses and to add an element of intrigue.

Just the same as their electronic spinning reel cousins, the entire outcome of each event on a video slot is predetermined. The virtual reels do not spin independently of one another. If you hit the button on the panel to instantly stop the video reels, you'll get the same configuration as you would have had you allowed the process to play out.

On that note, you're doing yourself a disservice if you play video slots using the stop feature. All you're doing is playing at faster rate which translates into more decisions per playing session. The result is you're betting more and exposing a larger percentage of your bankroll to the obscene hold percentage.

The best advice is to wager your money in low-denomination video slots only to the extent you value it as entertainment. As a serious and practical gambling medium, they have no value whatsoever.

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