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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Slots Can Bring Out the Worst in Gamblers

14 May 2002

I think it's rather strange that slot machines, more than any other game in casinos, including video poker, often brings out the worst in gamblers.

You'd think that more arguments would erupt at the table games where players have an opportunity to interact. Playing the slots is a solitary betting proposition that people can play on their own terms, at their own price, at their own pace.

But just as good neighbors sometimes get into arguments over the most trivial of matters, it seems slot players draw imaginary lines on the casino floor over every little invasion of their slot playing privacy.

The casino doesn't even have to be crowded. As a matter of fact, battles erupt more frequently under less than capacity conditions when there are plenty of machines available. It doesn't figure.

Slot players are very territorial. They're also very superstitious. These two characteristics combine for some very volatile conditions when another player infringes on them.

The primary catalyst for the fights is easy: A simple lack of common courtesy and the lack of protocol for proper slot machine play that comes with experience:

  • People reaching over to play machines from a neighboring slot position.
  • People walking away from machines, thinking an inserted player's club card or coins in the tray are unwritten "No Trespassing" slot signs.
  • People "saving" machines for inordinate amounts of time by placing a coin bucket over the handle or leaning the chair against the machine.
  • People sitting in front of machines, not playing them, but for some reason greedily guarding them from others.
  • A good deal of the fuel for argumentative behavior comes as a result of misinformation about how the games operate. The general public's ill-conceived notion that slots machines are "due", "ready to pop", or just plain "hot" brings out the need for players to be unwilling to share them with anybody else.

Not only do the arguments become verbally abusive, they can also become physical. Most casinos have internal policy that regulates "capping" (saving) a machine for a player who wants to take a break but doesn't want anybody else to play the machine while they're gone.

DeAnna Kelly, communications manager for Harrah's Joliet Casino & Hotel, got this bit of information form the property's Director of Slots:

"We have a capping policy. Our standard policy is that we will 'cap' a game for 20 minutes. This is when we actually shut the game down. For Diamond level players we will shut the game down longer, up to 2 hours. We do not cap a game by putting a chair up with a bucket on the handle."

Casino supervisors will cap a slot by opening it up and turning it off until the player returns. Buckets on the handle and leaning chairs are the ways players hold games themselves, much the same as city dwellers put old furniture on the street to save a shoveled-out parking place after a snow storm. It's really not legal but cautious neighbors still observe it.

Self-saving a machine for a five-minute bathroom break is a courtesy that all slot players should have the patience to honor. But when greedy players get out of hand by saving machines for longer periods of time, that's when the arguments start and supervisory personnel should be summoned.

Positions at table games can be saved, too. At blackjack tables the dealer will place a clear plastic disc in the betting circle. At craps tables, the boxman will instruct the dealer to place a cloth over the player's chips. But they are never, ever saved for up to two hours! There's no way a casino would permit a table gaming position to go unused for that long (and incapable of generating revenue) during a busy time.

Casinos can afford to be more accommodating for high-level slot players. After all, there are hundreds of machines. Why not chalk up a few "brownie points" with the big spenders by making them feel important--especially when it really doesn't cost them anything?

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