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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Shedding Some Light on the Truth About Slots

3 January 2007

Seeking practical information about playing slots can be a very frustrating pursuit. It seems as far as the gaming industry is concerned, the less people know about the machines and how they really work, the better.

In light of the total lack of useful information about slots coming from the casinos, it's easy for curious players to become jaded. Allowing slot play to remain shrouded in mystery and superstition has served the gambling industry well, so why should anything change?

There are some good books available, but you have to be inclined to make the investment and then take the time to sit down and discover what you're really up against when you sit down and bet your money.

Even the best books, however, cannot reveal everything simply because much about every individual machine's play characteristics are the proprietary knowledge of the casino owners.

One valuable source of information are the columns written by slot expert John Robison. You can access an archive of his material by logging on to www.casinocity.com and clicking on "playing strategy". You'll find his name among the gaming gurus who contribute to the site.

While doing some additional research, I surfed International Game Technology's Website, www.igt.com, and happened upon arguably the most valuable, precise and thought provoking information about slots that's available to the general public. Best of all, it's free!

Click "news room" on the home page and then go to "Introduction to Gaming". This will give you access to an 86-page PDF download titled "Introduction to Slots and Video Gaming" which was compiled by the folks at IGT, one of the world's leaders in the research and development of slot machines and other services and products for the gaming industry.

The booklet doesn't contain the publicity "puff" info you'd expect to find from a publication of this nature, but rather a substantial compilation of facts and insight. What's more, it's written from a casino insider perspective that gives outsiders a rare glimpse into slot dynamics as seen through the eyes of casino owners.

The ultimate wish for players is access to a machine's so-call par sheets which reveal details about the hold (casino win) percentage, payback percentage, hit frequency, odds against winning the top award and other vital statistics.

All of it is proprietary information to which the gambling public has no access, and while the section in the booklet titled "Slot Math" which begins on page 35 certainly isn't the mother lode, it just may be closest the average player will ever get to it.

It begins with a definition of terms such as stops, reel cycle, hits per cycle, jackpot odds, hit frequency and pulls/hit (which, incidentally, refers to the "theoretical number of plays between pays"), followed by examples of elementary slot math for three different game formats using equations that "represent the most basic operations only".

For example, if, on a 3-reel slot game the reel cycle (number of possible combinations) is 32,768 and the top award symbol appears twice each on reels one and two and once on reel three, the jackpot should hit once every 8,192 reel spins.

On a 5-reel/15-line video slot with a reel cycle of 62,015,625 where the top award symbol appears once each on lines one, two and four and twice each on reels three and five, the jackpot should theoretically hit every 15,503,906 reel spins.

Some of the marketing strategies found later in the booklet give average players an idea of the psychology behind slot design, casino floor signage, slot placement and the mix of games.

Overall, it's a great source of information and a must-read for everyone who plays slots.

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