On any casino trip, the little things count. Just a few little ins and outs about how the games work can make a difference in your bottom line and your enjoyment of the gaming day.
Let's explore a few of the little things, with some short tips for slot players.
A woman once phoned me, a certain slot machine had been rigged. She usually played roulette, she explained, but on this occasion was taking a chance on a $5 slot machine. She'd lost a couple of thousand dollars, then went to an ATM and withdrew a few thousand more. And she lost that.
"I hadn't hit anything," she told me. "I was sure it was due.
Here's the tip: Slot machines are never "due" - they're as random as humans can program them to be, and previous results have no effect on future outcomes. Stay within your budget, and don't count on a cold machine to suddenly heat up.
It took me aback when one day's email brought notes taking opposite sides of the same slot myth.
One player complained that casinos loosened slot machines in the daytime, so the "idle rich," as he put it, got the good stuff, while working people got lower payouts at night. The other complained that the slots were tight in the daytime, when retirees play.
Here's the tip: Slot machines pay out the same percentages, day or night. To change the paybacks, casinos have to replace a computer chip inside the machine. A gaming board agent must be present as evidence tape is broken, the chip is replaced, and the new chip is sealed with new evidence tape.
Even with new server-based games, where changes are made on a computer, states require double-lock systems, with a casino employee and a regulatory agent logging on at the same time. There's no changing on any day/night whim.
A woman once wrote to me to say, "A slot attendant pointed out a machine to me and said that's where I should play. She said it had been paying off like crazy. Was she just angling for a big tip if I won?"
The likelihood is that the attendant was just being friendly and trying to point out a hot machine. But attendants don't have access to the machine's programming and don't know whether a machine has a high payback percentage or has just had a hot streak.
Here's the tip: When a slot attendant tips you off on a hot machine, smile, thank them, then play what you want to play.
A few years ago, I watched from a couple of seats away while a woman played a bonus round on a Super Jackpot Party slot machine. She chose a "Pooper," ending the party. But she then had a choice of five party favors for one last bonus - and the hat she touched revealed a Party Saver. The bonus party was back on.
The man next to her told her, "Whatever you do, next time up, don't pick the hat. That Saver rotates around."
Where was the Saver the next time? Under the hat.
Here's the tip: Locations of the Party Savers or big bonuses or any other awards in pick-'em type video slots - not just Jackpot Party, but any games where you make picks for bonuses - aren't on any rotation. They're determined by a random number generator, and can just as easily as not be in the same space on your next turn.
Gambling author and columnist John Grochowskis weekly newspaper column began at the Chicago Sun-Times and is now syndicated nationally. He also regularly makes TV and radio appearances about gambling. His column appears weekly.