When I first got interested in and started writing about gambling in 2003, I turned my nose up at slots and slot machines. Strategy wasn't a factor in those games, and I knew it, and I wanted to play something that offered more intellectual stimulation.
But something happened. I watched some of my new friends in the gambling webmaster community playing the slots, and they sure seemed to be having a lot of fun. And I like to think of myself as being pretty open-minded, so I decided I'd give it a try.
What did I find out? Slot machines are fun. Mindless fun, but fun nonetheless.
I remember reading that slots are the cotton candy of casino gambling. They're devoid of any real nutritional value, but they're tasty.
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I do have an opinion on how to win at slot machines. It can be summed up pretty quick, too.
Slot machines are completely random. Modern slot machines use a computer chip called a random number generator to constantly generate numbers, over and over again. When you "spin the reels," the number that has just been generated determines the outcome of that bet, even before the reels stop spinning. Regardless of what superstitious people will tell you, it's impossible to spot a pattern.
Slot machines don't get hot or cold, either. That's actually not true. You can look at a series of past events on a slot machine, and you can say that the machine WAS hot or WAS cold, but you can't predict when that's going to happen in the future. No one can. Random events and individual trials mean that every spin of the reels has a random result, regardless of what happened before. (This is true of most gambling games, by the way, with the exception of certain card games, where the removal of certain cards from the deck on previous hands changes the composition, and therefore the odds, of the deck.)
One way to win at slot machines is to change your definition of winning. Since slots are a negative expectation game, you can't expect to walk away with big winnings in your pocket. That's a bonus.
If you change your definition of winning at slot machines to having a lot of fun while you play, you can walk away a winner every time.
And don't forget to take advantage of the free drinks the casino offers while you play. If you have a taste for good beer, go ahead and order a Heinekens. Don't be a chump, though--tip the cocktail waitress a buck or two for bringing you the beer. It's still dirt cheap, and you'll get more attention from the staff that way anyhow.
But don't think that you can bribe the cocktail waitresses to tell you where the loose slot machines are located. They don't know. If they say they do, they're either lying to get a bigger tip, or they're deluded. One is probably as likely as the other, too.
But one slot machine strategy will work for everyone. Join the slots club.
When you gamble at a casino, you have the opportunity to join the slots club, which is also sometimes called the players club. You get a plastic card that looks and feels like a credit card or drivers license. You insert this card into the slot machine while you play, and it tracks how much money you put through the machine.
Paranoid people might call that an invasion of privacy, and I have little solace to offer the paranoids among my readers. But tracking how much money you gamble during a trip to their casino allows the casino to offer you rebates, rewards, gifts, and incentives to play with them in the future.
Most slots club assign a certain percentage to their rewards program that they plan to give back to the player. It's often a very small amount, like 0.2%, but over the course of a hot gambling year with several trips, that can add up.
These rebates and incentives can take the form of cash, coupons, tickets to events, certificates for meals, even vacation packages. High rollers who spend thousands of dollars gambling each trip get all kinds of perks from their casino hosts, and that card is one way that the casino determines each player's eligibility.
Belonging to the slots club has no drawbacks or disadvantages that I'm aware of, at least not for a slots player. Blackjack players who count cards might want to keep a low profile, but otherwise, why not let the casino give you the VIP treatment.
You won't get an advantage over the casino's house edge by being a member of the slots club, but you will get more entertainment for your gambling dollar, and that's worth doing.