I recently had the opportunity to speak about casino gambling to a group in Connecticut. During my talk, I discussed the best and the worst casino bets. When I finished speaking, I held a question and answer session, and a gentleman asked an interesting question: “I constantly see billboards from two nearby casinos,” he said, “and they both claim to have the loosest slots. How do I know which one really does?”
I think just about everyone has seen a few of those billboards from time to time. I travel to casino destinations all across the country and have seen hundreds of them in different towns that have casinos. Some casinos also claim that some of their slots payback a specific percentage such as 98, 99 or even 100%.
Payback is the overall percentage that a slot machine will return to the player in the long run. The return is based on billions of spins. Just because a slot machine has a payback of 98% does not mean that you will win back $98 for every $100 you play.
Regarding loosest slots, you have to consider one important factor. Casinos do not set every slot machine to the same payback percentage. The payback for each slot machine can be different from one machine to another, and most casinos have a mix of machines with higher and lower payouts scattered across their casino floors. Because of this, casino A may have a few machines with higher returns than casino B, but casino B will also have a few machines with higher returns than casino A. I am skeptical of “loosest slot” advertisements, and prefer to do a little test whenever I visit a new (to me) casino.
The Video Poker Test
The advantage of playing video poker is that a player can determine the payback percentage of a machine by looking at the pay table on the front of the machine. There are 2,598,960 hands that can be produced with a 52-card deck. The RNG (Random Number Generator) in a video poker machine is set to simulate the probabilities of drawing any one of the combinations of hands. Because this is a set probability, casinos get their edge by adjusting the pay table of the machines.
Let’s take a look at standard quarter denomination Jacks or Better draw poker game. The pay table is as follows: The Royal Flush pays 250 per coin with a bonus 4,000 coin payout when you play the maximum five coins. This is shown as 250/4000. The bonus for the Royal Flush is figured into the overall return. The key to the Jacks or Better game is the payout for the Full House (9) and the Flush (6). Note also that it pays two coins for two pairs. A video poker machine with this pay table in the first column is referred to as a 9/6 machine and has a payback of 99.5%. A Jacks or Better machine with this pay table is referred to as a “Full Pay” machine because this is the highest return you will usually find for this game.
Casinos lower the payout percentage by reducing the coins paid for the Full House and the Flush. A quick rule of thumb is that the payout will be reduced by about 1.1% for each coin taken away from either of these hands. For example, when the payout for these hands is lowered to six (6) for the Full House and five (5) for the Flush the payout drops down to 94%.
Even if you never play or intend to play video poker, write down or memorize the pay table for the Jacks or Better game. When you go to a casino you haven’t visited before, do a quick check of a few video poker machines to determine their payback. If a casino offers a lot of “Full Pay” video poker games, there is a better chance that the payout percentages of the regular slot machines may have a higher return. If you find a majority of short pay 6/5 Jacks or Better video poker games, then you will probably find the slot machines will be tighter as well. Of course, there is no way of knowing for certain that this is true, but it is a logical assumption that I make based on this check.
I asked my audience at my talk how many of them would like to play a machine with 100% payback. Everyone in the room raised a hand. I told them they could find several of these machines in every casino around the country. All they had to do was look around for the machine with the sign that said, “Change.” You put a hundred dollars in, you get a hundred back, every time, guaranteed. However, it’s not very exciting to play.
Remember, even with a specific percentage payback, one player may win $1,000 while another may lose it all. That’s what makes gambling so exciting. In reality, most players never play long enough to ever see the average overall return of a slot machine so there will probably be other factors you will consider in deciding where to play.
If every casino were the same, you would naturally want to play at the casino whose slots offer the highest return so you have the best chance of winning. But every casino is different, and each player has different tastes, so you have to find the casino (or casinos) that fit your needs and give you the most enjoyable experience.
I told the gentleman at my talk that an advertisement for loosest slots may be a good reason to pay a casino a visit. But even if they have the loosest slot machines and best video poker in the world, if they have poor customer service and nothing else to offer, I know that I won’t be playing there for long.
Until next time, remember: “Luck comes and goes..Knowledge Stays Forever.”
Bill Burton is the author of 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets and Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold’em available online at billburton.com. Burton is also an instructor for Golden Touch Craps: thecrapsclub.com.
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