Professional slot machine players don't understand the value of tourists, and casinos don't understand the value of professional slot machine players, from whom they make money even though these players know how to beat their slots.
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How to Beat Slots

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Progressive Jackpot Slot Pros

By Arnold Snyder
(From Casino Player, August 1995)
© 1995 Arnold Snyder


Professional gamblers beat slots either by limiting their slot play to progressive jackpot slots at which the jackpot has gotten big enough to give a player advantage, or by using slot play to milk various kinds of loss rebates and free money offers, in both online and brick-and-mortar casinos. Usually professional slot players combine both methods—that is, they wait until the jackpot is close to giving a player advantage, and take advantage of casino points and comps as well.

In order to use the first method in slot games other than video poker, you have to record the results of enough spins on a slot game to determine the frequency of each type of payout and the percentage of your bet that goes into the jackpot. From this you can determine the house edge on the game. This all takes some work and a good understanding of the math involved..

Professional gamblers tend to either be good at math, or rich enough to hire someone who is. And they tend to be very dedicated about playing at casinos that give the most back for their play, through good points programs and comps.

How to Beat Slots: Tips for Recreational Players

A recreational gambler who enjoys playing slots, and expects to play slots regularly over a period of many years, would probably do better over the long term playing only progressive jackpot slots on which the jackpot was significantly larger than the average level at which it goes off.

Just be aware that you can't know for sure where a player advantage starts unless you go through the process of mathematically analyzing the game. And no matter how big the jackpot gets, it doesn't guarantee that you will win the jackpot, or even that the jackpot will go off while you're in town. There are no short-term win guarantees in gambling, not even for professional gamblers.

All a player advantage means is that, if you limit your play to such situations, and you put in enough hours, you will likely make more money in the long run than you put in. But the long run can mean a very long time, and if you play only a few hours a year, you may not get in enough hours in an entire lifetime to get ahead.

So no matter how big the jackpot gets, you should play only an amount that you can afford to lose without it affecting your lifestyle.

Also, slot pros don't like to play for too small an advantage, so they'll usually wait until the jackpot is significantly bigger than the minimum level necessary to turn the advantage to the player. On the other hand, if they know they'll be getting valuable points and comps for their play, they can play for a slightly smaller jackpot and still have a player advantage overall.

Pros generally prefer to play jackpots with a smaller average jackpot size than a gigantic average jackpot size. For example, a slot with an average jackpot payoff of $3,000 or $10,000 is considered a better bet than a slot with an average jackpot payoff of $1 million, because the variance on the games with the smaller average jackpots will be a lot lower. (That means a pro will require less of a bankroll to make sure he won't go broke chasing the jackpot.)

But professional slot players typically have very large bankrolls to play on—much larger than the average Las Vegas recreational player, who may bring a few hundred dollars in mad money to Vegas to try her luck. Slot pros who find a game where the progressive jackpot gives a player advantage are generally prepared to put in whatever money and hours it takes to keep playing until the jackpot goes off. And if that player is not the person to win that jackpot, he'll stiill have plenty of bankroll left to go after the next jackpot, whenever a player advantage occurs. He won't be broke.

Again, the reason the pros need such a big bankroll is because even when you're playing a progressive jackpot slot with a decent player advantage, you can't guarantee you'll win that jackpot. All a player advantage means is that you can know you'll win over the long run if you put in enough play.

For more information on how professional gamblers beat slots, read Million Dollar Slots by Peter Liston, an accountant turned high school teacher turned professional slot player.

The Casino Perspective on Players Who Know How to Beat Slots

Question from a Player:  As a semipro card counter for about two years, mostly in Las Vegas, I have finally given it up for . . . the slots! The heat and the harassment associated with card counting finally wore me down. I’ve hooked up with a pretty well-financed video poker team. The money is steady and the heat is nil. It’s boring, but you can’t have everything.

What I don’t understand is this: Why is there no heat? Some of my teammates, to be honest, are downright rude when we go in to take over a bank of slot machines. Getting rid of the “tourists” is one of my least favorite parts of this job. I’m just a “worker ant” on this team, but I’d like to start running my own slot teams in the future. My technical question is this: Is there a mathematical formula for figuring out how much each “tourist” on a bank costs you in win expectation?

Answer:  In the May issue of Casino Journal, Anthony Cabot, in his “Gaming Law” column, addresses the problem of professional slot teams from the casino perspective. He compares the problems casinos have with slot pros to the problems they have with blackjack pros, and reveals why the casinos seem to have such a high tolerance level for slot teams, who are virtually never barred.

Apparently, there is a gaming regulation in Nevada that implies that casinos are holding “in trust” for “the public” any progressive slot jackpot on any game that has a progressive slot jackpot, until a member of “the public” wins that jackpot. The specific wording of this regulation makes the casinos hesitant to exclude any member of “the public” from playing their progressive slots. The casinos fear the possibility of a lawsuit from some member of that all-inclusive public for whom their slot jackpot is being held in trust.

Cabot’s article is very enlightening. Don’t think that the casinos are unaware that many slot pros are “rude” to their regular customers. The casinos are very vexed with this problem. In my opinion, if slot pros continue to chase tourists away from the machines, it’s just a matter of time until the powers that be rewrite the regulations. The casinos have an enormous amount of political clout in Nevada, especially when it comes to keeping the tourists happy.

A big part of this problem arises from two misconceptions that pervade the slot world — one slot players’ misconception, and one casino operators’ misconception.

One: Many slot pros believe that it is more advantageous to take over all slot machines on a given bank in order to “lock up” the inevitable jackpot. This is false.

Two: Many casino operators believe that they do not profit from slot pros, since the pros only play on slot machines where the players have the advantage. This is also false.

To deal with the second misconception first: The casinos profit from slot pros the same way they do from their other slot customers. The slot pros’ advantage comes solely from the jackpot that is being held “in trust.” Technically, that is not even money that belongs to the casino. It is money the casino has already “lost.” It simply has not yet been determined which player has won that money.

While a slot pro is playing, the casino continues to “rake” the pot, and takes a profit from every pro’s dollar that is played. For a standard 8-5 jacks or better progressive, any time a professional slot team takes over a bank of these machines, regardless of how many machines are on the bank, and regardless of what the jackpot is at the time of takeover, the casino will profit, on average, $2,200 on quarter slots, or $8,800 on dollar slots, directly from the slot team’s play.

When a slot team moves in on a progressive dollar bank, they are virtually “paying” the casino $8,800.00 to “buy” the jackpot (which the casino doesn’t really even “own” anymore). Since the amount of money the slot pros are willing to pay the casino to buy the jackpot is money that those savvy players would not otherwise play in the casino at all, this money is all gravy to the casinos.

This profit to the casino will definitely be diminished by the number of non-pros who are pushed out of the casino by the slot team's “rudeness.” However, if these non-pros do not leave the casino, but simply move to other slot machines or games within the casino, there is no loss to the house of any of this profit from the slot team’s play.

As for the “cost” of “tourists” to a slot team — there is none. Whether or not the slot team takes over all machines on a bank or any portion of them, they will “pay” the same amount for that jackpot — $2,200 on quarter machines, or $8,800 on the dollars.

In fact, on video poker machines it is actually more advantageous to a slot team for tourists to continue pumping the jackpot up while team members shoot for it, because the tourists will continue to increase the slot jackpot total at no cost to the team, and at the same time the pros are still favorites by a long shot to win the jackpot, because most tourists play so poorly that they are far less likely to hit the jackpot.

The real problem in many slot departments these days is a supply-and-demand problem; specifically, there is a greater demand for progressive slot machines than the casinos are supplying. The overabundant slot pros are fighting for the profitable slot jackpot opportunities that arise, aggressively squeezing the “tourists” off the banks of machines they want to play. If there were enough progressive slot banks available to keep the pros busy, the casinos would maximize their profits by courting these pros with comps!

If I owned a casino in Las Vegas, I’d advertise “All Progressives All the Time!” And I’d put in unusual video poker machines to confuse the amateurs as much as possible, so that the video poker jackpots would get pumped up as high as possible as often as possible. I’d want the pros stalking my aisles ready to jump on any bank as soon as the profit opportunity hit an acceptable level.

I’d maintain a very cordial relationship with the professional slot players, with the understanding that these pros would not offend or pressure my regular customers. If the pros understood that they paid the same amount per jackpot whether or not they monopolized a bank, and if there were enough profitable jackpots to go around, “tourists” would be welcomed by the pros to continue pumping up those already profitable jackpots to even more profitable levels.

The sad situation described by Anthony Cabot is more a result of ignorance on both sides of this battle than any other factor. The casinos are sitting on a virtual gold mine with their progressive slots. They should be “milking” the pros for the real value these players represent, not resenting a gaming regulation that the casinos perceive to be tying their hands. ♠


The easiest way for normal slot players to win at slots is to play at online casinos with free money from the casino. See Arnold Snyder's How to Beat Internet Casinos and Poker Rooms .

For more information on how professional gamblers beat slots, video poker, roulette, keno and a wide variety of casino games, see the Blackjack Forum Library.

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