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Deal Me In


‘Loose slots’ doesn’t necessarily mean they are a good bet

Dear Mark: In your recent article you told a reader that “there is no magic switch that's flipped from some secret location” to get more dough out of people. My question is this. Here in Reno, casinos talk and advertise about “we've loosened our slots”, or, we have “the loosest slots in town". Is this a myth? Steve


As I stated in that column, Steve, it is not cost effective for casinos to vary their payouts on slot machines when the circus comes to town. Instead, let’s concentrate on your other inquiry, that of “loose slots.”

When it comes to slot machines, there is no verifiable return for slot paybacks of any one machine, or any particular casino in Reno, just its geographic location. Fortunately, for you, Reno casinos have always been competitive and liberal with their returns. Nevada is home to the top three sections of America with the loosest slots, and Reno has remained #1 for eight years running. So, as for the general use of the term, “loose slots,” there is no myth here.

Essentially, Steve, the looser the slot machine the more money it returns to the player. That said, a loose slot doesn't mean the player has any additional advantage over the house. The casino still has an edge on your play, but looser slots offer better returns. Every slot machine in a casino is programmed to return a certain percentage, over a specific period, of the dollars wagered.

“Loose" slot machines are only "loose" relative to other machines in that gaming jurisdiction, or even within that casino itself. The rub, Steve, is that even if some machines in Casino A are "looser" than Casino B next door, there's no way to verify which machines on the floor pay back what. And keep in mind that slot machines hold some of the largest house edge ratios for casinos no matter where you play. 

I am skeptical of those “Loosest Slot” ads mainly because that term is never machine-specific. Even explicit numbers such as "up to 98% return” should be labeled, without qualifiers, for that claim to be meaningful. “Up to” could denote but one machine out of a bank of machines that is set to pay back at 98%, which technically, complies with that advertisement.

What is a certainty, Steve, is that casinos do not set every slot machine to the same payback percentage. Typically, they will have a mix of machines with both higher (looser) and lower (tighter) payouts scattered across their casino floor.  

Aside from the fact that, comparatively speaking, Reno does happen to have looser slots compared to other gaming jurisdictions, don’t be mislead by the notion of the term "loose" slots. Remember, in most instances, those loose slots are unidentifiable.

Besides, since slot machines make up approximately 85% of a casino's revenue, just because a casino says their machines are loose doesn't mean they are a smart bet. The payback percentage of a loose slot is the overall percentage that a slot machine will return over the long run, based on millions of spins, and not when your hind end is sitting front and center. 


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: There’s a place in the world for a gambler

There’s a burden that only he can bare

There’s a place in the world for a gambler

And he sees

Oh yes he sees. – There’s A Place in the World for A Gambler, Dan Fogelberg


Most loss leaders are long gone

Dear Mark: I have been practicing my Deuces Wild video poker skills, looking to accomplish that perfect play. The online casino I was practicing at today has the suggested card(s) hold feature by default. You can't shut it off. Here is my problem. As you tell us, if dealt two deuces, hold them and no other cards. I agree that is the right thing to do, but this game holds the deuces and whatever card is in the next left-most position. Of course, I click to turn the hold off on that 3rd card before drawing, but I am wondering why the casino software does this… honest mistake? Different school of thought, or, is it a way to dupe the unwary player? Katt B.


Because you are playing at an unregulated online casino, Katt, it could be all three. Or, possibly a programmer who does not fully understand the correct playing strategy when the machine initially deals two deuces.

The essential thing to remember when playing Deuces Wild video poker is that the four two’s (deuces) in the deck are not just wild; they are unrestrained in power, and can be substituted for any other card, for any rank, in any suit.

You want to discard the remaining cards to make room for supplementary cards that could include an additional deuce or two. By drawing more deuces, you increase your odds of winning more video poker jackpots by making more combinations possible.

With your initial two deuces, the rule of thumb is to always draw three unless you find yourself dealt any of these keeper hands.


Wild royal flush


Straight flush


Four-to-a-royal flush

Consecutive suited cards, 6-7 or higher


Dear Mark: Please permit me one last comment re; Vegas "resort fees", etc. The fact is, as you pointed out, Vegas has become a significantly expensive destination complete with $ 3.50 for a bottle of Pepsi, a $12 bowl of oatmeal, or a cold beer for $8. With this 'new' Vegas, Corporate America has brought about $20 cab rides, $24.99 breakfast buffets, the aforementioned "Resort Fees", and 6/5 blackjack. Of course, this is not just limited to Las Vegas. Casinos all over the US benefit from spiking prices, while requiring gamblers to put their IRA into action just to be 'comped' a dinner. I'm glad there is someone out there like you 'keeping it real' for the novice gambler, and Vegas neophytes. With the demise of the Stardust, Sands, DI, Frontier, and many others, a new regime is firmly entrenched, and the Gen Xer's, and most people under forty have zero clue to what an expensive place Vegas has become. S.S.


As my gaming career winds down, I am grateful that I was fortunate enough to have worked during that overused, but appropriately stated phrase, "the good old days," – the Stardust, Sands, DI (Desert Inn), and Frontier notwithstanding.

Your final assertion, though, interests me the most; “…the Gen Xer’s, and most people under forty have zero clue to what an expensive place Vegas has become.” A eureka thought if ever there was one.

My Millennial son gets it, only because unlike most of his age group who grew up on McDonalds Happy Meals, he was weaned on the Crystal Bay Club’s coffee shop counter eating 99¢ breakfasts. It was near mayhem when they raised the price to $1.49.

So yes, I do buy into your belief that your typical Gen Xer is unaware of what WE had before corporate monetized every square inch of a casino property. I hope that your above commentary finds its way onto their 4-inch iPhones, because as you state, correctly, it seems to be happening everywhere.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Whenever you switch from Deuces Wild to Jacks-or-Better, the first four of a kind will be Deuces.” —Skip Hughes