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Best of John Grochowski

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Flush attack

13 April 2010

If there's a way to get an edge on a casino game, players will find it. Whether it's a quirk in the rules, a glitch in the programming, or simply an oversight, knowledgeable players will take advantage.

That's why on modern community-style slot machines where players go to the bonus event together, only active players are eligible. You can't just sit at Reel 'Em In: Compete to Win and make no bets or ultra-slow minimum bets and wait to go fishing in the big bonus event. You have to keep those reels spinning.

Same deal on the Wheel of Fortune Experience, with its community-bonus event where three active players are randomly selected to choose letters in a puzzle to collect bonuses. The key word is "active." Occupying a seat is not enough. You have to actually be playing the game for a chance to turn those letters.

It's no mere supposition on the part of game designers that customers would play that angle if permitted. The lesson was made clear in the mid-1990s by a video poker game called Flush Attack.

A glance at the pay table would have told any expert that Flush Attack was a low-paying game, if not for one special feature.

Most of the time, full houses paid 5-for-1, or 125 coins for a five-coin maximum bet. But when a certain number of flushes had been drawn or dealt at a bank of machines, all the machines would signal "FLUSH ATTACK!" on the screens.

The next flush dealt or drawn would pay 25-for-1, or 125 coins for a five-coin wager — as much as for four of a kind. The game had a good run of popularity in the 1990s, and I sometimes encountered the game under a slightly revised format in different pay tables up through the middle of this decade. It never became part of the video poker mainstream like Double Double Bonus Poker or Deuces Wild, but it carved out a niche following. I played it, and enjoyed it. The chance at a good-sized payoff for a fairly common hand was an attractive feature, indeed.

As first programmed, there was a way to play at a big advantage for players who were both knowledgeable and patient enough to sit and wait for other players to trigger the attack mode.

One of the first video poker analysts and a friend and mentor of mine was the late Lenny Frome. He and I were talking one day, and he told me he'd warned the designers of Flush Attack what they were unleashing.

"I told them locals were going to take advantage of the tourists who didn't know any better," Frome said at the time. "Locals were going to play until they were dealt a flush or four parts to a flush, then sit there and not complete a hand until the Flush Attack. They told me they recognized that COULD happen, but they were hoping it wouldn't."

Of course, it not only could happen, it did happen. Sharpies were bringing books and newspapers to the casino, keeping occupied during the waits between Flush Attacks. The poor suckers who were actually enabling the attack modes didn't often get the enhanced flush pay. Someone else usually had a flush in waiting.

Programming was changed, the problem eliminated, and a precedent was set. Now you can't just sit and wait for someone else to trigger a community bonus. It's for players only.

** * ** * **

Some modern slot games, especially those with community-style bonuses, include incentives not only to stay active and be eligible for the bonus events, but also to bet more and/or play faster.

It's done through a multiplier that increases with wager and with speed of play. If two customers are playing at the same speed, with one betting one coin per line and the other two coins per line, the player with the bigger bet will have any community bonus winnings multiplied by more than the player with the smaller bet. However, those wagering less money per spin can increase their multipliers through faster play.

As always, I advise players to wager at a level and speed of play at which they're comfortable and to stay within their bankroll. If that means your community bonus is multiplied by only one or two while you're neighbor's is multiplied by three or four, so be it. Your neighbor has that multiplier only because he or she is putting more money at risk.

Play to have fun, enjoy the wins when they come, but make sure any losses are for amounts your bankroll can handle. Keep the wagers in your comfort zone.

Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski