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New Year's Resolutions for Slot Players

28 January 2004

By John G. Brokopp

There's something about the start of a new year that makes us want to wipe the slate clean and begin a fresh outlook on life. We set goals, resolve to break bad habits and replace them with good ones. For now, put those thoughts about buying a treadmill or bringing a salad to work for lunch aside and concentrate on how to become a better slot player.

1. Resolve to stop being a passive player. It's easy to walk into a casino, sit down in front of the first open machine you see and start feeding it currency. But even though slot play is based 99.99 percent on luck, there's still a tiny fraction of cerebral input that you can employ to try to gain an advantage.

One such way is to make it a point to walk around and observe people playing the machines. If you frequent a particular casino, you'll in all likelihood be able to pick up on trends. You may notice a particular machine that "seems to hit all the time". It may just be coincidence or it may be the machine's internal computer circuit is programmed at a higher "hit" frequency or a higher percentage payback.

Allow me to give you an example from personal experience. In the nickel slot section on the lower level of Harrah's East Chicago, there's a row of three Wild Bear Salmon Run multi-line video slots. On several occasions, I have observed one particular machine award an unusually high number of bonus rounds.

Now it may be that the small windows of time during which I'm able to "scout" the machine make my observation pure coincidence. Then again, its internal circuit board just may be programmed to pay more liberally. Only the manufacturer and the casino brain trust know for sure and they're not telling!

2. Resolve to take advantage of "cashless slot" technology. This convenience is already approved for casinos in Indiana. Slot players in Illinois will have to wait until later this year to start seeing a changeover. The cashless system is designed as a convenience for the casino operators, but there are features from which players will also benefit.

Ticket-In/Ticket-Out equipped machines eliminate the chore of having to collect coins in plastic buckets and take them over the cashier to be counted. As it stands now, a player who has $40 in credits on a nickel machine is more inclined to continue playing (and perhaps losing) than having to go through all the trouble to collect.

The cashless system makes it possible for slot players to collect tickets with modest wins and hopefully have them add up to a nice little score when it's time to go home. For example, if you buy into a nickel machine for twenty dollars and in a short period of time you've seen your money double or even triple, the voucher system makes it easy to capitalize on your good fortune and move on to another machine.

3. Resolve to not be greedy. It's an easy thing to say but so hard to do. If you want to be a successful player, however, you must get used to it. Chasing jackpots or not being satisfied with modest gains have been the ruin of many a slot player. As this columnist has cautioned so many times before, it's hard to win. When you do, you owe it to yourself to be content. It's o.k. to play with a portion of your winnings, but by all means make it a point to preserve some of your good fortune and walk out the door with it.

4. Resolve to play at a leisurely pace. Quite frankly, this is the strongest weapon you possess. The speed with which you play has no effect on your chances of winning. All you are doing when you play fast is giving the casino an opportunity to extract a bigger share of your bankroll.

5. Resolve to refuse to allow the games to manipulate you. Many of the new multi-line video slots are extremely entertaining. You must always keep in mind that the nickel games are the stingiest as far as theoretical payback is concerned. Collectively, they make a ton of money for the casinos. What's more, the multi-line, multi-coin features entice you to increase your risk from a few coins to several dollars per play. That can really eat up your bankroll in a hurry.

Play to be entertained, sure, but play responsibly and always be aware of the edge that is against you. The casino's advantage far outweighs the luck factor.

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.

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