The Casino Floor was my home for the best part of 10 years. I lived in Las Vegas and worked for a Slot Machine manufacture as a Casino Systems Engineer. This work required me to work in a variety of casinos in Las Vegas and around the United States. Eventually I moved to Europe where I also worked in Casinos around Europe and the World. But the questions from every player (punter) remained the same.
- Which machine is lucky?
- What's the secret to winning?
- Did you program a secret code into a machine?
- How do I win?
My answer was and still is Luck has nothing to do with it!. Slot machines are programmed computers that are designed to seperate you from your money as quickly as possible without it appearing like you lost. Slot machines are programmed with a PAR or Hold percentage checkout Wikipedia's defintion on exactly how it works. This means a mathmatical algorithm determines the outcome of the slot machine. Over the lifetime of the machine the casino know's approximately how much money this machine should make for the casino. So the casino already knows what the machine is supposed to do. That's not luck!
History of the Slot Machine
This is not a history lesson on the evolution of the slot machine itself from mechanical to today's network connected computer. This is the history of how Slot Machines evolved to separate you from your money faster and more effeciently.
Tokens/Coins - The first step in gambling is inserting money into the slot machine. The first method that was used on Slot Machines were the coin/token acceptors. The introduction of these acceptors revolutionized the Slot Machine and helped create what they are today. However as time went on it was quickly realized that players cannot insert money very quickly which slows down game play as well as profits for the casinos.
Bill Acceptors - Bill acceptors also doubled, tripled, and even blew the tops off casinos with profit gains. Now players can insert a currency note into a slot machine and play off the credits. This not only increased the amount of games played per minute but also the Casino's bottom line. This led to yet another shortfall. If a customer wished to change machines or cashout they had to wait for the slot machine to spit out your winnings in coins which depending on the amount, lasted sometime or worse yet the machine was empty or didn't have enough coins and was locked waiting for someone to come pay the winnings. This reduced games played per minute and effected casino profits while the players were waiting instead of playing.
Tickets - Tickets were introduced circa 2002. Ticket-in/Ticket-out allowed players to easily cashout their winnings move to another machine and continue playing quickly & easily. This not only reduced casino staff but increased casino revenues once again and increase the amount of games played per minute that players could play. Ticketing is still used around the world today and is considered a necessity for today's slot machines.
Smart Cards - Although Smart Cards were introduced before Tickets it was not as widely accepted as tickets. The early Smart Card systems were slow, unreliable, and customers didn't trust their money on cards. Smart Cards are still being used but not nearly widely accepted as ticketing.
Loyalty Cards/Bonusing - Now the boom of loyalty cards have somewhat replaced Smart Cards. Players accumulate points with a players card which can then be converted to credits on a machine. Better yet the loyalty card also allow you to win seperate winnings that are stored on your account and can easily transfer to other machines.
The Psychology of a slot machine
Slot machines have been designed to make the player as comfortable as possible. The seating positon, graphics, and even the sound of the machine is tuned to appeal to the player. I've even experienced some machines that emitted an aroma to attract players(this didn't work).
As I've traveled the world it came to my attention that certain cultures gravatate to certain slot machine themed games. Like Cleopatra/Egyptian themed games are a huge hit in southern Europe, Gold Mining & TV Shows themes in the United States, and dragon and Asian themed games obviously are big in Asia. Not only the design of the machine is taken into consideration but also the location of the casino. All of these stastics are recorded and used to develop new games and features to better attrack more players.
Present Day Casinos
Today casinos can change every aspect of a casino floor in a moments notice. Server Based Gaming was introduced a few years ago and has been spreading like wild fire across the world. This enables a casino to change par/hold percentages, game themes, and even machine configurations on the fly.
A casino can change their games and configuration of the casino floor for an upcoming weekend tighter (less winning) then loosen them back up during the week (more winning) to adapt to the clientele and attrack customers during off peak hours all from the click of a mouse button. As more data is collected by casino's they create better marketing campaigns, analyze slot machine performance, and player tendacies all to tune the casino floor better for the best revenue optimization. This is all done every time you spin the wheels of a machine.
How to win playing slot machines
So back to one of the original question of how do I win? Well that's easy. Keep your money in your pocket and head home. But if you ignore this advice here are some tips on winning at the slots. Remember one thing, Las Vegas was built by a bunch of losers not by a bunch of winners.
Play Video Poker - Video Poker has the best odds on the casino floor. However Poker also requires the players input. So you may throw away a Royal Flush (Seen it happen) because you never knew you had one.
Always play Max Bet / Cover all Lines - I cannot say this one loud enough. If you don't play Max Bet and cover all the lines you will never hit the big payouts. It is also very common that Bets other than Max Bet have worse odds.
The End Game - Many times casinos will configure a bank of machines with the ends as the highest paying and the middle less so. It is also possible that machines in the back of the casino have better payouts than those at the front. However this tip is set on a per casino basis.
Become friends with slot attendants - Although they cannot tell you which machine to play. They can tell you which machines they visit more often than others. If they don't tell you then pull a seat up at the bar and watch which machines they visit. If you see a pattern develop you may want to head over to those machines.