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How to find the loosest slot machines

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The two top questions over the past five or six years are: “Where are the loosest slots?” and “How come I see more women winners of cars and big money prizes than men?”

First, the loosest slots really blanket the casino floor. Now, know this, there are two kinds of slots: progressive and nonprogressive. The payback percentage on progressive slots is a tad lower than the payback numbers on nonprogressive. You distinguish between the two by noting a nonprogressive machine does not have a marquee above its monitor; a progressive does.

Look at a Wheel of Fortune slot: it always has a marquee above the screen showing the player how much can be won. The jackpot figures are always moving up. Those climbing jackpot numbers come from the coins the machine is digesting. A small percentage of each penny or dollar played goes into the jackpot, the rest falling into the payback pool. On a nonprogressive slot all the coin-in is shoveled into the immediate payback pile.

OK, we know the lowest payback percentage in New Mexico casinos, racetracks and veterans and fraternal clubs is 80 percent. A good way to go out of the gambling business around here is to try and get away with an 80 percent payback level. Your grand opening and going-out-of-business sale would be on the same day.

In reality, the going rate on average is within a point or two of 92 percent, which means the casino holds 8 percent of each dollar played, its margin of profit. That’s for nonprogressive slots. For the progressive machines, the hold could go to 10 percent. That doesn’t mean the house is keeping $10 of every $100 played; part of the hold is going up top to the evolving jackpot. The casino is probably getting less in actual hold than on a nonprogressive.

But, remember on those big, life-changing slot jackpots, those machines are rarely the property of the casino. They sit there sort of on consignment. The manufacturer pays all winnings, including big ones of $1 million or more. The casino gets a piece of the action, without strings. The manufacturer takes care of servicing these money-magnets. It’s a win-win handshake, as long as the slot is busy.

The loosest machines are found, by payback percentage, in the area dedicated to video poker and its four offerings: jacks or better, double bonus, double-double bonus and deuces wild. Video poker machines have the highest payback percentages of all slots on the floor, many paybacks running between 98.5 percent and 101 percent.

One hundred and one percent payback? How can this be? The answer is in the manufacturer’s performance sheet that is given to the casino the day the machines arrive to the casino from the testing lab: “These payback percentages are achieved when the game is played with maximum skill.” Who among us plays these various poker games with maximum skill? Yeah, they’re out there, not many, but believe me they exist and walk casino floors.

And why is it, to answer the second question, women seem to win more of the big promotional prizes than men? The answer is: The Player’s Club Card.

It’s like men and women go out hunting together, looking to bag the big prize (could be a car, a truck, an SUV, a house, a bundle of cash). The difference in the hunt is that the men don’t have any bullets in their gun. The ladies do. You can hunt all day, but if you’re not using the full potential of your weapon, you go home empty. Women simply utilize their Player’s Club Card much more than men. When asked why, many men say they feel it’s unmanly to use it. “It’s like a crutch,” one fellow told me.

Gentlemen, here is a message from every member of every marketing department in every casino: “Use your player’s club card; it’s a smart play.”

SANDIA RESORT & CASINO: To prove a point, Sandia is giving away nine cars — Camaros and Mustangs — over the last three weekends in June. They’re awarded via hot-seat drawings, which means all the player has to do is be playing his or her favorite slot — with a player’s card in the machine.

On the first weekend, two of the three winners were ladies: June 14, Ms. M. Gallegos won a Mustang; on June 15, Mr. F. Lesperance, also won a Mustang and on June 16, Ms. N. Dugger drove off in a new Chevrolet Camaro. All three winners are from the Duke City.

Two more Albuquerque women won big time at Sandia: Ms. J. Nebel-Poolay took $13,444 from a $1 Playboy slot on June 11. And on June 16, Ms. E. Lopez bagged $20,250 after working over a $5 Triple Zesty Hot Peppers machine.

A SPECIAL NOTE: I reported last week on the Black Mesa steakhouse at the Santa Claran Hotel & Casino. The restaurant has closed so the casino’s cafe can extend into that space.

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