Keeping Your Eyes Open
In our last article, we discussed the rudimentary elements of analyzing slot machines to determine when Progressives are at a positive level. In future articles, we may get into this in a more thorough way with real life examples, but for this present article, we're going to discuss exactly what a player should or should not do to find new plays in the first place.
One of the worst things that a would-be advantage player, especially a would be advantage player who focuses on machines, could do is to make assumptions. The worst assumption that such a player could make is that a machine is yielding a positive expectation when it, in fact, isn't. For instance, there could be a machine with a Minor Jackpot of $23.82 while the exact same machine right next to it has a Minor Jackpot of $189.52. In many cases, the machine with the Minor Jackpot is advantageous, but there are some cases where the Minor Jackpot still has such a low probability of hitting that even this discrepancy between the two is not enough to overcome the House Edge.
In my (albeit, limited) time looking for different machine games on which to learn/attempt advantage plays, I have made many assumptions of the second worst variety, which is: Do NOT assume that a machine is not or could never be at an advantage. It's true that, compared to playing a negative machine that the player thinks is positive, the player is not going to lose any money by not playing a machine at all, but the fact remains that the player cannot win any money, either.
An obvious example of this is Ultimate X Video Poker. Prior to Vulturing Ultimate X becoming a widely known play I had, albeit on very few occasions (and also because I hadn't looked) seen an Ultimate X machine, and even when I did, I ignored it. My theory was that it was Video Poker, the base paytable did not look very good, it would require a different strategy (that I obviously didn't know) and there were no Progressives. However, after learning about the fact that players can leave hand multipliers behind that a different player can later play, (vulture) Ultimate X has become one of my higher value plays, one of my better moneymaking plays, and also my most common play in terms of frequency.
There are other examples of vulturing type plays such as two machines called Money Works and Venice Nights. On these slot machines (at least, the ones I have seen) there is no Progressive, so I spent a long time ignoring these machines completely. However, as I happened to be walking by one day, I noticed that a player had Wild symbols on the thrid reel in the top and middle spots and that they slid down and Wild symbols then covered all three spots on that reel. After that, they slid down and Wilds were on the middle and bottom spots followed by the bottom spot only. I had assumed that this feature must be taking place in some kind of Bonus Game, but quickly learned that such was not the case after another minute of observation.
While these machines are not necessarily a huge moneymaking play, finding free Wilds on Reels 1-4 is a pretty reliable moneymaker in terms of percentage, rather than cash value, and it takes less than a minute to look for Wilds on all five of the bet levels and play them off, if there is a play, do the hourly value of the play is actually pretty good. I'd say it has been around $25-$30 per hour spend looking/playing, but that will certainly vary from casino to casino.
There are also possible glitches with machines that could be found, such as this one:
That is perhaps the greatest machine glitch ever, in terms of value, but I actually found one of my own, at one point. There was an advantage player at one of the casinos I frequent who I recognized as such and I noticed him playing a certain Keno game that will go unnamed. In any event, this Keno game has multiple Progressives depending on the number of balls selected/hit, and if this desired number of balls is hit during the Bonus Games, then the Progressive is awarded. I had done the math on this one in the past, and what I found was that the Progressive would have an extremely long cycle (the Bonus Games themselves aren't terribly likely to hit) and that there would be more Variance involved than I would normally like. However, I saw that this other Advantage Player was playing the machine, and knowing he only enjoys Craps for negative expectation betting, I became curious when it occured to me that his return should have been far under 100%.
In any case, I put that on the backburner for a while because, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what advantage he could have possibly had on that Keno game. By complete happenstance, however, I happened to be around when someone hit 6/6 numbers during the regular game and was awarded the Progressive. Under these new rules, the Progressive cycle was 7,752.84, the machines paid around 98% at base (Base + Progressive Seed + 1% Progressive Contribution) and could be found at a positive point with some frequency, especially on Player's Club point multiplier days. I was pretty spoiled with those machines, playing at an advantage of no less than at least 5-7% overall (depending on mood), occasionally much higher than that, at least, until the error was ultimately discovered and corrected.
There are also other advantages that can be found, at times, and sometimes they can be really cheap to test. For example, many Video Poker machines with a decent paytable will state that they do not qualify for points multipliers or, in some cases, even accrue points at all. However, for the cost of just a handful of plays, a player can test that out. I have personally been aware of cases in which an entire bank of Video Poker machines that were not supposed to apply to a points multiplier day, did in fact apply to it.
For someone who wishes to advantage play, even recreationally (like me) losing money at a disadvantage and not winning money because you are not aware of an existing advantage (within the means of your bankroll) are effectively the same thing. With the vast majorirty of machines, I have found that things are typically as they appear to be, however, there are some cases where that is simply not the case. I'm certainly not suggesting that a player should go out and play every single slot machine in a casino to determine if there is anything unusual, or even, "Glitchy," about it; I'm simply saying that in the normal course and scope of a player playing or looking around the casino for plays, the player should keep his eyes open.