A Slot Upgrade?

             This past weekend, we had some friends over for lunch.  Invariably, the conversation winds up on my relatively unique profession.  Somewhat ironic in this case as one of the other guys is a hedge fund manager who counts as one of his clients one of the top poker players in the world.  Then again, some would argue that we’re both in the same general profession – casino gambling!

            I got asked the usual question of what the best games to play are and how I got started in the profession.  At one point, the subject turned to slot machines.  There was both good news and bad news to report here.  On one hand everyone seemed to agree that these were amongst the worst payers in the casino.  On the other hand, not everyone admitted that they would never play one.  For those whom are intimidated by the table games, the slots still are the mainstay – no matter how bad they pay.

            I remarked how I had just read an article talking about a comeback that is being made by ‘old fashioned’ mechanical slots.  Everyone in the room agreed that the older slots were better than the newer ones.  A few reasons were cited.  One was that they actually had a handle to ‘pull’.  Another was the clinking of the coins coming out when you won.  I actually commented that I wasn’t sure if the machines making the comeback are ticket-in/ticket-out or truly old-fashioned in that they accept and pay out real coins. 

            One of the reasons I cited for the popularity of the mechanical machines was that you could actually tell when you won or lost.   As I’ve written many times in my column in Gaming Today, I have occasionally put a $5 machine into a penny or nickel video slot machine in order to kill some time.  I then press a button that says “Play max lines” and press another that says “Spin”.  When the reels are done ‘spinning’, the machine then tells me that I either won some number of coins or that I lost.  No matter how many times I try to figure it out, I can’t tell on my own WHY I’ve won when I do!

            I’ll see several identical symbols on the same line only to find that’s not really a line to this 5 ‘reel’, 27-line machine!  Someone should tell some of the slot manufacturers that a ‘line’ usually denotes a STRAIGHT line between two points, not an up and down line that looks more like a heart monitor!  Is it any wonder that people are not having fun playing slots anymore?  It wasn’t good enough when the casinos were essentially taking the Player’s money with 92-93% slot machines, now they have to do it in a way that most Players have absolutely no idea what is going on?  For anyone reading this, please tell me – are you really having fun playing the newer video slots?  I’m sure it’s a lot of fun when you get to a Bonus Round on something like Wheel of Fortune, but do you even know why you got there? 

            I remember playing one slot machine that put me into some sort of Bonus Round.  I won about $25 (on a nickel machine) in under 5 minutes.  I couldn’t tell you why I wound up in the Bonus Round or what I was trying to do while in it!  It just kept telling me to pick boxes and I did.  Each time it opened one, I won more coins.  Hey, I was very happy to win $25 in a few minutes, but I have to be honest.  I can’t really say I had any fun doing it.  I could’ve just as easily lost my bankroll (okay, it was only $5 for the slot machine) and been just as clueless.

            As I raised this point to my guests, there was universal agreement.  While some of them admitted to still playing them, none said they had fun while doing it.  My hedge fund manager friend does all he can to dissuade his wife from playing the slots at all – just based on their horrible paybacks.

            Of course, I have mixed emotions about a comeback for the mechanical slots.  They still have the worst paybacks in the casinos and I would much prefer that slot machines go the way of the dodo bird.  There are SO many better games to play in the casino with better paybacks and that are more fun.  I know that one of the reasons people avoid them is sometimes they are intimidated to play new games that they don’t know how to play.  So, we try to make it a bit easier with our books and booklets.

            Today, May 12th, 2011 would have been my father’s (Lenny Frome’s) 85th birthday.  So, for the rest of May, we’re offering some special prices on our titles:
  •         Winning Strategies for Video Poker and Video Poker: America’s National Game of Chance (both books) for $19.26 (his birth year)
  •          Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas or Expert Video Poker for Las Vegas for just $5.12 each.
  •          Any of the Expert Strategy series books (Three Card Poker, Four Card Poker, Let It Ride, Spanish 21, Caribbean Stud Poker, Mississippi Stud or Blackjack Switch)  - 1 for $4.85, 2 for $8.85, 3 for $11.85 or all 7 for $19.26

            To learn more about any of these titles, go to my website at www.gambatria.com and click on the “Products” tab.  If you would like to order any products, just send a check or money order to Compu-Flyers, P.O. Box 132, Bogota, NJ 07603.