Can the Slots be beaten?

Can the one-armed bandit be beaten? Almost never. True, at different time it has been bested by cheaters (using magnets, drilling holes in the side plates and slipping wires into the ring mechanism, dropping slugs, jamming rods up the payoff tube), and by manipulators (the somewhat successful "rhythm" players of several years ago devised an intricately timed system of pulling and releasing the lever in synchronization with the turning of the inner machine), but in the past few years casino mechanics have modified the instrument to the point where it is not only jimmy-proof, but impervious to any outside shock short of a cobalt bomb.

From a serious gambler's standpoint, the odds in a slot machine are ridiculous. On a three-reel mechanism the number of possible combinations is 8,000. On the four-reel there are 64 million combinations. Yet how few of these combinations pay off. Some machines are set at better percentages than others, but none of them is anything to boast about. Why then do people play? First, because the slot is easy. It requires no skill or reason. Second, because the uninformed player has no notion of just how prohibitively the odds are stacked against him. Third, because the slots are the perfect solitary amusement, the ideal entertainment for those frightened by the big action at the tables. Fourth, because the clink and hum and flash and bluff of the one-armed bandit exert a far stronger hypnotic action on the human mind than anyone has yet imagined. And fifth, because it's fun.

So if you are going to play the slots, and how many of us can resist a pull or two, do it in the best of possible ways. First, make sure you play the nickel and quarter machines. Generally they offer the best payoff rates. Also, set a limit on losses and resist the mesmerizing inner call of "just one more coin." Don't make the mistake of thinking that all machines are alike. Some are programmed to pay off high, some low. In downtown Las Vegas many casinos pride themselves on their liberal slots, and on the fact that their machines work at a low, for the slots, return of 90 cents to the dollar. (Compare that to the 0.55 percent house advantage at certain bets in craps and you will see why slot players die broke.) Make sure you locate a machine set at reasonable odds. If a slot does not pay a jackpot after eight, or at most ten, tries, you can be pretty sure it is a lemon. Once you've found your pet machine, stick with it. Do not play the machines position near it. Why? Because many players like to work several slots at a time. Knowing this, the management places poor payers next to the richer ones in hopes that the high percentages will reimburse them for the low.

Systems? There have been a few, though none that have brought their creators much gain. A favorite is to start on the nickel machines with a prescribed amount of capital. If you get a payoff before you pass the established limit (staying within the limit is what is most crucial), you take you winnings and sink them into the quarter machine. Another payoff, and on to the 50-cent slot, still another and you try the dollar. This way, if you set a limit to your losses and gamble only when you are hitting jackpots, you will always be playing with the house's money. As any gambler will tell you, this is the way to gamble.