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HOME > Gaming > Ask the Slot Expert: Should I play from a ticket or cash?

Ask the Slot Expert: Should I play from a ticket or cash?

29 January 2014

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

In a recent article about slot free play coupons vis-a-vis money, you mentioned that the slot machine does not differentiate between the coupon (free play) and real money.

Does that statement also hold true in this scenario: You insert a $20 bill in a 25-cent machine and then, after about $12 worth of play, you are lucky enough to hit and now have, say, $100. You cash out and receive a ticket for $100. You then move to another machine.

Here's my question: Is it not more favorable to insert money into that new machine instead of inserting the ticket that paid you $100?

Personally, I never insert a winning ticket into a machine but go to the cashier or to the kiosk machine and get real greenbacks AND USE MONEY AGAIN TO PLAY. Does it make a difference using the money or the ticket regarding comps, etc.?

Let me ask you this: Suppose I put $200 in a machine and played until I had $100 left. I then cashed out and put the ticket in another machine. Does that machine know that this ticket actually represents a $100 loss to me and not an $80 profit, as in your example?

When you insert a ticket, the bill acceptor reads the barcode on the ticket, which is validated by the ticketing system to ensure the ticket has not already been redeemed and the ticket is not counterfeit. If the ticket passes validation, the slot machine adds the value of the ticket to its credit meter.

Once the value is on the credit meter, the machine can't distinguish between credits that came from tickets and credits that came from bills you put in. The source of the credits has no effect on the results of your spins -- the machine doesn't know where the credits came from.

The source of the credits also has no effect on your comps and other rewards. The only thing that matters is the amount that you bet.

Now, there is a case in which the machine does have to know the source of some credits. On most free-play promotions, you are not able to cash out your free-play credits once you've downloaded them to a machine. You can win on your free-play spins, so the machine has to keep track of how many of the credits on your credit meter are left from your free play to ensure you don't cash them out.

I noticed you had said that a slot percent of winning for the casino is not 60 to 70 percent. Every time my wife and I go to Pechanga in California we lose everything and go home broke. We take $200, which is $100 each, and we go home with nothing. I did notice my wife was back up to $110 close to the end of the night and then lost it all, probably in the hopes of hitting the big jackpot, as I did also.

Slot machines pay back anywhere from a low of about 78 percent to just under 100 percent in the long run. Those number translate to house edges of about 22 percent to a fraction on 1 percent. The minimum and, sometimes, maximum long-term paybacks are set by statute in each jurisdiction.

It's tempting to say that the payback is 0 percent when you leave empty handed, but that's not how the math works. You can't divide the amount you have left by the amount you started with to get the payback. That calculation does not take into account all the money you won while playing.

To find your payback, you have to divide the total amount of money that the machine paid you while you were playing -- every credit, even those you gave back -- by the total amount of action you gave, that is, the total of every bet on every spin.

Let's say you started with $100 on a machine and left when you ran out of credits. If you got no hits whatsoever, then your payback was 0 percent. It's more typical, though, to (making up the numbers) have won $150 and given $250 in action for a payback of 60 percent. If you left with a $100 profit instead, maybe you won $500 on $400 in action for a payback of 125 percent.

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 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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