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Common Sense Slot Tips

Below are 13 common-sense tips that will keep you from becoming a casino victim every time you try your luck at the slot machines.

Tip 1:
Don't be confused or intimidated by today's new breed of slots. Each year a new crop of slots hits the casino floor -- with their gimmicky names (Cool Millions, Top Cat), theme reels (cows, frogs, spaceships), and digital sound effects.

But beneath their fancy facades, all slots are basically alike. They're simply boxes housing the slots' hardware and software produced by the manufacturer. And they all work on the same principle: put in one or more coins and wait and see whether you won or lost.

Tip 2:
Do leave home without them! Your checkbook, ATM card, debit card, and all credit cards but one. Use this one for out-of-pocket expenses only: meals, shows, shopping, etc. Take only the money you can afford to lose. And set a loss limit for each day. When this is gone, your gambling for the day is over. No borrowing from the next day's allotted bankroll. And keep away from those ubiquitous cash-advance machines. Playing with plastic will come back to haunt you when the bank statements start coming in.

Tip 3:
Set realistic goals. Don't go into a casino with the idea of making money. Steve Wynn, CEO of Mirage Resorts, said, "The only way to make money in a casino is to own one." They don't build those ritzy mega-resorts and cruise-to-nowhere riverboats on winners.

Tip 4:
Know how slots work. Today's slots are controlled by a miniature computer (microprocessor) that generates hundreds of win-loss symbols every second, 24 hours a day, weather the slot is being played or not. And since the computer's generation of win-loss symbols is 100% random, no one can predict what symbol will appear on the screen and when. So beware of ads or mail-order offers promising some "secret" or "sure-fire" way of beating the slots. They're mostly worthless, out-of-date, or out-and-out scams. Ask yourself: If you found a way to make millions off the slot machines, would you sell it?

Tip 5:
Understand percentage payback. Like cloned sheep, slots may look alike, but they don't pay alike. The higher a slot's percentage payback, the better chance you have to win. But you can't tell by looking at a slot what its payback percentage is, unless it's posted on the slot. Asking slot floor personnel won't help. They probably won't know. Theoretically, a slot with an advertised 95% payback will return $95 out of every $l00 put into it and keep $5 as profit. But 95% is just an average figure, meaning that the slot will pay back 95% of all the coins put into it, not to just one player, but to all its players (hundreds, maybe thousands), and in no set pattern or period of time - just eventually. So if you were to drop $100 in a slot with a known payback of 95%, you probably wouldn't get back exactly $95 in the time you were at that slot. You might poet mOTe, less, or nothing at all.

Tip 6:
Play the right slots. Whatever denomination slot you choose to play, stick to the 2-coin, 3-reel non-progressive, single-payline slot with the lowest top jackpot (1000 to 5000 coins). The lower the top jackpot, the more frequent the smaller paybacks and the better the odds of winning. The bigger the top jackpot (10,000 to 50,000 coins), the fewer smaller paybacks and the greater the odds against you. And run, don't walk, past any slot with four or more reels! Each added reel increases the odds against you by the millions.

Tip 7:
Don't play with the top jackpot in mind. To win the top prize, you must always bet maximum coins -- which causes you to lose more money and lose it faster. Your goal should be to find a slot that gives you the longest playing time and smaller but more frequent paybacks. The longer you can make your bankroll and playing time last, the better chance you have of finding the right slot at the right time. Learn to be happy with any win you can get.

Tip 8:
Don't play with credits. Some players claim that playing with credits is a practical way of keeping track of a slot's ups and downs. But when you play with credits, money loses all meaning. You don't think of those numbers in the credit meter as real money. They're more like psychological painkillers. Somehow losing 400 credits on a quarter slot isn't as bad as losing $100. It may be tiresome to hand-feed coins into a slot, but when you hold a bucketful of coins, you can see and feel the increase and decrease of coins. And playing with coins forces you to slow down, which extends your playing time. Remember. Fast is good for the casino. Slow is good for you. You minimize the house edge.

Tip 9:
Limit progressive slot play. The odds are too great. But if you like to play progressives, stick to the 2-coin, 3-reel, in-house progressive slot with a top jackpot of $1200 or so. You must remember that progressive slots don't pay as often or as many small wins as regular slots. So when you play a progressive, you're really playing for the top jackpot.

Tip 10:
Know which slot locations to try. Casinos want players to see other players winning. It's good advertising. So they often put their better-paying slots in heavy-traffic, highly visible locations, with room for crowds to gather and cheer winners on. Such locations include crosswalks, elevated carousels, and banks of slots near the casino bar, lounges, change booth, and coffee shop.

Tip 11:
Know which slot locations to avoid. Near show lines, check-in lines, buffet lines, in the middle of a long row of slots, and out-of-the-way corners of the casino. Winners here have little advertising value for the casino. Also avoid all non-gaming areas, such as airports, bus terminals, gas stations, drug stores, and cruise lines.

Tip 12:
There is no "right," "wrong," or "best" way to bet at a slot machine. If, like most people, you go to a casino to get away, have a few hours of fun, and maybe win a few bucks now and then, it doesn't really matter how you bet: maximum, minimum, or a combination of both. Ignore any "expert" or casino know-it-all who says to always bet max coins. They always stress the possibility of winning -- conveniently overlooking the greater reality of losing. Just remember. It's not their money you're playing with.

Tip 13:
Know the role of luck. Regardless of what the "experts" say, winning at slots is like winning at keno, bingo, and your state lottery - pure luck! And luck is either with you at any one time or it isn't. If it's not, it won't matter what strategy you use or what you do. Even experts admit to winning no more than 20 to 30% of the time. And on some days they don't win at all.