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Making sense from the slots

Dec 2, 2002 10:27 PM

   What are the odds of winning on a slot machine? Are they the same as other table games?

   The answer isn’t always easy. It depends on what game you play, how well you play it (if applicable), and where you play it.

   A general rule is to play the maximum number of coins available, since these jackpots usually pay more than with fewer coins on a pro-rated basis. This is especially true on reel slot machines.

   However, games with an element of skill, such as video poker, can advertise more than 100% payouts (based on the “par sheet”) because the casinos know that all players don’t play perfect strategy all the time. Thus, some jackpots are bypassed or winners are paid in smaller amounts due to player error or a decision to, say, go for the straight rather than a flush.

   In addition, the general pay percentage of a machine can vary. In Atlantic City, the state requires casinos to make the payouts rates public, a law which does not apply in Nevada or Indian gaming facilities (although some do).

   According to Joe DeRosa, general manager of Fantasy Springs Casino near Indio, Calif., its slot-machine payout is about 96 percent, while savvy video poker players can gain a return of 98 percent.

   Other tribes verify the fairness of their slot machines through independent companies, but don’t advertise the payouts.

   The same cannot be said for the casinos in Nevada, which validate the machines for state regulators, but are not required by law to make payout information public.

   Syndicated gambling columnist Mark Pilarski said, “The customer never knows if it is a good slot machine or a bad slot machine. They can almost set up any game they want.”

   In other words, if you’re walking down Fremont Street, buyer ”” or in this case, player ”” beware.

   So how do you know where to play slots in Nevada?

   The best place to play is where others either win consistently or have won. When machines are paying off, you will know about it.

   So keep an eye open and an ear to the grapevine. The sounds you hear could be a slot jackpot!