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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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Ask the Slot Expert: A video poker machine with a 100-coin max bet

5 Sep 2018

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: I also have often wondered how comps work. I pretty much only play at GVR [Green Valley Ranch], so that's where I have a host.

I could be and am probably wrong, but I've come to the conclusion that the casino hosts must be on some sort of commission basis where they get paid based on how much one of their guests loses. The losses create a comp pool available for the guest that the host can use at their discretion, but as that pool is utilized, the commission of the host is lowered.

I had a prior host who really enjoyed my company. I'm not a whale or big hitter, and he liked to talk, and I'm a pretty good listener. He'd always come up to me in the casino to ask if I needed anything. I pretty much always said thank you, we're good, but whenever I did ask him for something, he never turned me down. And if my wife and I wanted Hanks [steakhouse], no problem, full comp. We never abused those comps, but it was nice to not have to use our casino card for half of the meal.

My new host is nice enough, but I rarely see him, perhaps he just arrives a bit later than I play. Nothing has changed in my play style. He's never offered me anything without a request, and on the rare occasion I ask for something, the response is usually you don't have enough play on your card. Occasionally he'll say I can go up to $100 for you.

Huge difference between the two hosts, no difference in my casino play.

And just out of curiosity, do you think the denomination you play makes any difference in your comps, either the card comps or host comps? For example, playing 4 credits on a quarter machine or 1 credit on a dollar machine? Or do you think they'd be treated equally?

Answer: I think you're about half right. The casino calculates theoretical wins for players based on game played and action given. A host is usually empowered to issue comps up to a certain percentage of that theoretical win — win for the casino, that is.

In years past, a host was allowed to exceed the comp guideline when players' losses were much greater than their theoretical losses. I once overheard a conversation between a player and her host. She wanted a comp of some amount, but the host said she didn't have that much left in her comp account. But, he continued, I see that you've been having a rough time on the machines this trip and I can write the comp for you this time.

These discretionary comps seem to be a thing of the past. Many players say their hosts have told them that they are constrained by the comping guidelines and they have no ability to exceed them now.

Each player has a comp allowance, but it has nothing to do with host compensation. Hosts don't make less when they write comps. Your new host at GVR may be dealing with tightened comp guidelines.

At one time, we (players, writers) speculated that denomination may have made a diffierence in comps, with dollar players getting bigger comps than quarter players. Denomination may have made a difference years (and years) ago before there was slot club software that tracked every penny bet and won or lost by the players. Today the casino knows how long you played, how much you bet, the type of games you played, and maybe even the individual games you played. Slot club benefits are all based on points earned and host comps are based on theoretical wins.

In addition to slot club software, penny slots and multi-hand video poker are two more reasons why denomination is irrelevant today. A penny slot player making max bets is playing more per spin than a dollar slot player betting one coin per spin. Quarter video poker players playing multi-hand machines or SpinPoker, moreover, are betting more per hand than dollar, two-dollar, and sometimes even five-dollar single-hand video poker players.

I don't think denomination makes a difference today, just how much you play.

If it's any consolation, you're far from the only player commenting that comps are much harder to get today.

Question: Your recent column regarding a question about max bet confusion reminded me of an occurrence I had last year at the Greenbrier Resort in WV, which has a private casino for guests and members. I attended a conference there and thought I would try my luck at a bank of VP machines one evening. A quick paytable "sniff test" on Jacks or Better and Bonus Poker on a one-coin bet told me that there would be no full pay machines here. I set the 1/2/5 denomination to $1, put in a $100 bill, and settled back for a little entertainment giving Joker Poker a try.

So, I hit Max Bet and the machine whirred off recording the credits I had just bet finally stopping at 100 credits! Max Bet was not the five credits I had expected, but 100 credits. I have seen 10 coin "max bet", especially on nickel machines, but who sets up a 1/2/5 denomination machine like that?

As half my play money was sucked up on the first hand, I panicked big time. Two jacks popped in the first two cards, and as luck would have it, a joker for the last card. Shaking, I very carefully held the three of a kind. On the draw, I picked up another jack and my 4 of a kind paid $2,000, I think. I was very lucky, but lesson learned for me, especially when trying a new casino.

When I got the cash payoff, I questioned the attendant, who pointed out, much as you did in your answer, there is player responsibility when you place a bet to be aware of what is going on with the machine you are playing on. If I had looked at the play table as I recorded my single coin bet increase, I would have noted the pay table extended far to the right after my five coins were bet.

Years ago, at the now-closed Hilton in A/C, I was playing some VP in the high limit area. Two "little old ladies" were walking around lamenting that all the machines in this section were marked $5 or $10. Coming to a roll of machines behind me, one of the ladies said, "Here are some dollar machines, let’s try them." I think that they put a 20 in each machine and in confusion, both remarked that the machines were "stuck" and not recording their 1-coin bets. An attendant was right there and after a minute sorted out the problem for them. The machines were marked $100, not $1.00!

Answer: Who would have a dollar machine with a max bet of 100 coins? I know of another casino. About 10-20 years ago, when Treasure Island still had decent video poker, it had a bank of dollar machines with 9/6 Jacks with a max bet of 100 coins.

Fortunately, you didn't have to bet the max to get the bonus for a royal. The royal jumped to 800/coin with five coins played. Every coin after that was just a straight multiple of the five-coin per-coin payoff.

The $100-machine should have given the little old ladies a clue that something wasn't right. The Bet One button should not have been lit. Of course, they would have had no way to know whether the bulb was out or the button was not lit because the option was not yet available.

A quick story about $100 video poker. Years ago I was friends with the slot director at the Desert Inn. I mentioned that I noticed they had a $100 video poker machine in the high limit area now. He said someone has already hit a royal on it.

"I was on the golf course when I got a call from the supervisor on duty. He was in a panic. 'A man hit a royal on the $100 machine,' he said. 'That's $400,000.' He wanted to know what he should do.

"I said, 'Pay the man.'"

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

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