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Best of John Grochowski

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Hot and cold and shills

10 November 2013

QUESTION: My wife and I went casino hopping, and we were on our fourth casino of the day. I play mostly blackjack and video poker, but this time the cheap blackjack tables were all full and the video poker pay tables were lousy. My wife wanted to play the slots, so I decided to play cheap, and sat down at a penny machine.

I have to admit, I did OK on it and had some fun. I went to the bonus round five or six times pretty quick, and this woman at the machine next to me kept giving my game the eye. All in all, I won four or five bucks. No big deal.

After a while, my wife came over and said she’d lost $20 and was ready to try the next place. So I cashed out, and no sooner had I stood up than the other woman slid into my former chair.

I hope she won, but I have to ask. She didn’t really improve her chances by moving, did she?

ANSWER: Unlikely at best. There’s no tendency for hot machines to stay hot, and no tendency to a cold machine to stay cold. You just happened to hit a short period when the random number generator was spitting out numbers that worked in your favor.

Past results are no indicator of future outcomes. Over hundreds of thousands of plays, the machine will pay something very close to the normal percentage determined by the odds of the game. But in the short term, anything can happen.

When the woman changed games, she could have gone to a few quick bonuses and reinforced her belief that it was a hot machine. The machine also could have gone cold and taken her money fast, or yielded results somewhere in between. There’s just no way to determine from your short session what the game will do in the next short session.

QUESTION: Do casinos use shills to try to get you to play the slots? I mean, do they have “players” at special hot games for show, telling you how much they won?

ANSWER: I have no doubt this was once done in Las Vegas, but I don’t think it’s common today. In many jurisdictions, using house players is illegal.

Way back in the 1980s, my mom told me about walking through downtown Las Vegas, on Fremont Street, and seeing a player in a roped off area outside a casino. The player was surrounded by racks and buckets of dollar slot tokens -- and by security guards -- as he played two machines. He’d pull the handle on one machine, and dollars came pouring out, then he’d pull the handle on the other, and more riches would follow.

Those games weren’t available to the general public, and neither those dollar tokens nor their cash equivalents were leaving the casino. The player was employed by the casino to give passers-by that this was THE place to come and win.

There was no doubt about that being a shill. I’ve often wondered if a couple my wife and I encountered on our first casino trip played for the house, too. Marcy and I were wandering around, probably looking a little lost and overwhelmed. We spotted a man and a woman at a machine that showed three 7s.

“I don’t believe it!” she shouted.

“Another one!” he shouted back.

They turned to us, and he said, “This is incredible. We’ve been playing this for two days, and it’s kept paying and paying.”

She added, “We’ve paid for our whole trip, airfare and everything. It’s all been on the same machine.”

Another woman turned down the aisle, and one of the winners shouted, “You won’t believe this!” And they gave her the same spiel.

Maybe they were just on an improbable, two-day-long hot streak. Maybe not.
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