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HOME > HI-ROLLER > Gaming Tips > Ask the Slot Expert: Do casinos remove slot machines when they pay too much?

Ask the Slot Expert: Do casinos remove slot machines when they pay too much?

8 November 2017

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: My friends and I won a lot of money from a slot machine. When we went back to the casino a few weeks later, the machine was gone. Do you think the casino removed this machine because it was paying too much?

Answer: No, I don't. The casino knows exactly how much the machine should pay back in the long run. Individual players may experience hot — and cold — streaks, but overall the machine will pay back a percentage very close to its long-term payback percentage.

You and your friends experienced a very small slice of the machine's total performance on the slot floor. You don't know what happened while you weren't watching the machine.

A somewhat stale analogy I use the movie Titanic. If you saw only the first part, you saw an adventure movie. If you saw just the middle, you saw a love story. And if you saw only the end, you saw a disaster movie. You'd only have the complete picture if you saw, uh, the complete picture.

Likewise, you and your friends may have experienced hot streaks, but the few hundred or thousand spins you played are a very small part of the hundreds of thousands or millions of spins played on the machine. Your hot streaks have very little effect on the machine's total performance. It's like trying to change the color of the ocean with a few drops of food coloring.

It's more likely that the casino removed the machine because it wasn't getting as much play as it used to get and the casino thought it could earn more money from a new machine.

If the machine really did pay out more than expected according a statistical calculation for the number of plays on the machine, the casino has procedures to ensure the machine and its programming has not been tampered with.

Some other reasons that a machine is taken off the casino floor are:

  • The machine is being field tested and the test is over.
  • The machine is leased and the casino decided not to renew the lease (because it thinks a new machine will get more play and, thus, earn more money).
  • The casino is changing its philosophy for paybacks and it is replacing the machine with one whose long-term payback follows the new philosophy.
  • The machine is too old to support upgrades to offer new features that the casino wants to introduce.
  • The machine is at the end of its useful life.

Slot directors should think in terms of the long run, but sometimes they can be spooked by short-term results. I once attended a seminar given by a casino exec who was instrumental in the development of Bally's Blazing 7s slot machine. He wanted a machine that would frequently pay mid-sized jackpots instead of many low amounts and an occasional big jackpot. Blazing 7s hits combinations of 7s quite often but, except for mixed bars, the combinations of bars are few and far between.

The machines were quite profitable — to the casino — in their initial installation, which I think was in Reno. Players loved them because they saw players hitting 7s even if they didn't hit a combination of 7s themselves. The fact that 7s hit so frequently was a strong incentive to play and keep playing.

The game was ready for the big-time, Las Vegas. The first casino to install them (Tropicana, if I remember correctly) was not as enamored with the machines as the casino in Reno. The machines hit a hot streak, 7s were landing right and left, and the players were cleaning up. The slot director thought these were terrible machines.

The math guys explained to him that the machines were more volatile than his other machines. Instead of paying small amounts very frequently, these machines paid large amounts somewhat frequently. The machines may be hot now, but if he was patient, the future results would be more typical, the brief hot streak would have a diminishing effect on the machines' overall performance, and their actual paybacks would zero in on their long-term paybacks.

Of course, the hot streak ended and the rest, as they say, is history.

On their first trip to Las Vegas, a friend and his wife found a bank of Blazing 7s that was hitting hand-pay after hand-pay in addition to 7s combinations. They got their fair share of the loot. When they went back the next day to make another withdrawal, the machines were so quiet you could hold a funeral there.

Question: One thing I hate about NSU Deuces is having to break a paying hand to go for a chance at hitting a higher-paying hand. If a machine is not treating me right, I'll sometimes chicken out and hold the pat hand.

Answer: I sympathize with your feelings. NSU can be a brutal game. It's not unusual for a machine to go quiet for a number of hands in a row. And then when it starts paying again, the best you can do is three-of-a-kind, four-of-a-kind, a straight or a flush. My biggest disappointment is hitting four deuces and then having the machine take back a good portion of that hit.

With one dealt deuce, it's not so bad giving up three-of-kind for a four-card straight flush. If you end up with a losing hand, at least you've lost only five credits. With two deuces, giving up a straight hurts a little and I really don't like to give up a flush. Still, I hold just the deuces because being dealt two deuces guarantees I'll win at least five credits on the hand.

The one hand that I truly hate to get dealt is a straight flush with three deuces. I can always use the 50 credits for the straight flush. But I hold the three deuces and hope. Most of the time I end up with four-of-a-kind and 20 credits, but I can remember getting back my straight flush and sometimes getting five-of-a-kind, a wild royal or even the fourth deuce.

As tempting as it is to play it safe, you should always hold the combination of cards with the highest expected value. That's the only way to get the highest payback possible from NSU or any video poker paytable.

Trading some paying hands for a chance at a better hand may make for some losing sessions, but in the long run you'll win more money.

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

John Robison
John  Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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