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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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Do Choices Matter on the Slots in the State of Washington?

25 Apr 2004

By John Robison

In a recent reply you stated "According to the slot manufacturers, your choices do matter in these types of bonus rounds. The program running the machine uses the RNG to determine how much the different regions (or whatever) are worth. Your bonus reward is determined by which ones you pick."

However, the Indian casino I play at uses players cards like a debit card. You are debited for credits played then credited for wins. In a Jackpot Party or Texas Tea-style machine if you hit the "bonus combo" and remove your players card, before selecting any present or region, you can place you players card into a reader that tells you what the new balance will be after you complete the bonus round. This tells me that the amount won in the bonus is pre-determined and my selections have nothing to do with the outcome.


Dear Ana,

Based on your e-mail signature, I can tell you're in the state of Washington. I did a little research and I found out that your slots do not accept or dispense cash. You must purchase and use a smart card, which keeps track of the amount of money you have.

I suspect that because you have to use these stored-value cards, your machines must determine the entire outcome of a spin once it's initiated. Otherwise, you could remove your card in the middle of a bonus round and the bonus credits would have nowhere to go.

Most slot machines work the way I described, however.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

I never knew there was a "trick" to winning at slot machines. I thought it was pure luck. I have NEVER won anything over $100 on the slot machines and I've been playing since the casinos came to Tunica, Mississippi.

If there's a trick to winning at slot machines, I don't know it. The only "trick" I know of is getting the most enjoyment for your money by choosing machines that suit your playing personality, playing a denomination that's suitable for your bankroll, and using the slot club.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Going to the casinos here in Canada, I noticed some counters in some of the slot machines. I think one said coin in, coin out and coin drop. Can you give me any info on what all theses numbers mean? Are these numbers telling you how close it is to hitting a jackpot?

Thank you,
Mary Lou

Dear Mary Lou,

The counters you see maintain some accounting information for the casino. Coin in could mean the total number of coins played through a machine or it could just mean the number of coins dropped in the coin slot. Coin out could mean every coin won on the machine or just the number of coins dispensed from the hopper. I don't know for sure and, to tell the truth, I've never paid any attention to the meters.

In any case, the meters do not tell you how close a machine is to hitting the jackpot. The computer running the machine uses the RNG to determine the result of a spin and the odds for hitting the jackpot are the same on every spin.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Someone was asking about the animal abduction bonus in Cash Encounters. I also have the Masque software containing the game, and the first time I played it in a casino I noticed the same thing: Why didn't the alien abduct the animal that was on the same row?

I checked the payout screens and found out why. In the real slot machine, besides an animal appearing below the alien, you must have a wild symbol somewhere on the screen.

Another difference I noticed is the presence of more animal symbols on the reels, so animals will appear below the alien more than in the computer sim. An accompanying wild symbol seems to appear enough that the abduction bonus does occur about as regularly as should be expected.

So the machine the previous writer played wasn't dishonest, it's just that the computer game is not completely accurate to the real slot. It's possible that there are some machines around that do not require the wild symbol, but if he returns to the machine and checks the instructions for the alien abduction bonus, I'm sure he'll find the wild symbol is needed.

Thanks for verifying that the game plays a little differently in the Masque software and in the casino.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

I play a slot machine at the Grand Casino in Gulfport, Mississippi, that has a bonus screen in which one card is exposed (by a frog character that says "Beat this") and you chose one of three unexposed cards to beat the exposed card.

Once you chose, then the value of the other two cards are exposed so you see what would have happened with a different card choice.

Usually there is at least one of the three cards that would make you a winner, sometimes more than one. Each time you beat the exposed card, you double the coin value of your winnings.

Do you really have the choice of beating the initial card or is the card value of your choice already determined before you chose? It appears that your choice is determining your win.

The Grand at Gulfport is the only place I have ever seen this machine. Even the Grand in Biloxi does not have a similar machine.


Dear Pat,

The manufacturers always say that your choices do matter and the result of the bonus round is not pre-determined. This is one of the reasons why most machines reveal the values of the items you did not choose.

Nevertheless, a few years ago someone on a BBS I visit occasionally claimed that he was a slot programmer and the machines he worked on pre-determined the result of the bonus and your choices were irrelevant.

If you read the letter that started this column, it looks like we can both be right. In some jurisdictions, the result of the bonus round must be pre-determined. In Nevada, New Jersey, Mississippi, and most other jurisdictions, the machines do not have to pre-determine the result of the bonus and your choices do matter.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

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 send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take two or more months for your question to appear in my column.

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at

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