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Best of John Grochowski

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What does 'up to' 91% slot return really mean?

1 October 2012

QUESTION: I saw a casino advertise that its slots paid better than 91%. Well, when I play there, I don’t get any 91% back. My friend said I probably just had a tight machine. If they advertise it, don’t all the machines have to pay 91%?

ANSWER: In any casino, there will be machines that pay more than its average payback percentage, and machines that pay less. They do not all have to pay the same percentage.

When you see an overall payback percentage for slots at a casino, that takes into consideration all the money taken in and all the money paid out by all the machines on the slot floor. It’s a casino-wide average. Some machines pay more, some less.

As a general rule, nickel machines have higher payback percentages than pennies, quarters more than nickels, dollars more than quarters and so on up the scale. But even within each category, casinos can and do have machines on the floor with different payback percentages.

Beyond that, there’s no way of knowing whether the machine you were playing that pays less than the casino average. It could have been one of the casino’s loosest slots, and you just hit it in a cold streak. Cold streaks happen on the hottest slots. One consequence of winning spins that pay out many times the size of our bet -- thousands of times our bet at the top of the pay table -- is that there must be more losing spins than winners. On three-reel slots, that usually means a high percentage of spins with no payback. In video slots, it often means a high percentage of “winners” in which our payoff is less than our bet. Either way, non-payers or payers smaller than our bets make cold streaks inevitable.

If there were not cold streaks, there would be no big wins. If the machine just kept 9% of our money, giving us back 91% every time we played, we’d never play. Who wants a guaranteed loser? We want a chance to win, and getting a chance to win also means there has to be a chance to lose.

[Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44); Twitter (@GrochowskiJ) and at casinoanswerman.com.]
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:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> 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:

> More Books By John Grochowski