Friday, March 11, 2005

Gambling: Slot Machines

Yeah, I know you've been waiting for this one. You're dying to know all about those whirling icons with the pull handle.

A while ago, I asked which game the house kept the highest percent on.

In Jeapordy fashion, here's the question to go with "Slot Machines":

On which game to casinos make the most money?

Which adds the corralative question:

Which game does the public lose the most money on?

Yup. Those coins you pump into that "one-armed bandit" go a long way towards paying for the fancy carpets, the gold plated furniture, and the complimentary meals for the high rollers upstairs.

So what' the house percentage? In Atlantic City, it is limited by law to 17%. This is worse than roulette, worse than blackjack, worse than any game except keno. It means the casino keeps nearly a buck for every five that get put in the machine.

Of course, Vegas is the hot spot, and in Nevada, there's no legal limit on how much the house can keep. They can set the machines to pay at whatever rate they want.

This means you should never, ever play a slot at a grocery store, or the airport, or at the gas station, or any of the other places that aren't mainly concerned with gambling. They don't care if you come back, so they can set that machine to pay out as little as they want.

Usually, the casinos go something like this:

Since the nickel slots are seen as "introductory," the house sometimes keeps a slightly lower percentage on it--around 10-15%, so you'll see yourself winning some coins sometimes. Not all of them--maybe as high as nine for every 10 that you play.

Of course, if you pop all nine of those back in, you'll only get eight back, and so on and so on until it's all gone. Obviously, it won't happen as perfectly cleanly as this example, but overall, that's the general result.

Some of the dollar slots have better odds--around 2-3% for the house PC--but when you're losing, you're losing money five times as fast. Where with keno, it can take you an hour and a half to lose ten bucks at a dollar a game, here you can do it in less than three minutes.

Are there tricks to finding a slot machine with a lower house PC? You bet. Obviously, the ones in view of the doors and restaruants pay more, because they want other people to see the winners.

But as with card-counters, Vegas makes a lot more money of people who think they're "in the know" than they lose to people.

The biggest suckers of all are the ones who look for "patterns." They look for a machine that's been cold for a long time, thinking it's "due" for a payoff. Or they look for a machine they think one because they think it's "hot." Then they put coin after coin into this machine, because they are bound and determined to prove themselves right.

And the casino owners are completely willing to let them keep right on trying. After all--they need another few bucks to comp that expensive bottle of wine to the high roller upstairs.

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