One of the many duties of my job as a gaming analyst is to compare the paytables of the gaming devices in our locations against those of our competitors. I spend many hours visiting various gaming establishments, from casinos to bars to convenience stores, and when I’m done I know exactly what payback settings the competition is using. This allows me to make better decisions on how loose or tight to set our machines.
I stopped by a convenience store just yesterday where I had made payback changes about three months ago. I like to stop in and ask the staff in the properties I set up whether or not they’ve gotten any feedback from their regular gaming patrons, but sometimes I don’t get the response I’m looking for. Yesterday was a prime example, because the clerk was all too anxious to let me know she’s had a player in for the past two days complaining about how tight the machines are. He just couldn’t hit a thing no matter what he played or on which machine.
The funny thing is I had loosened these machines up by a wide margin when I came through the store three months prior. After visiting a few other stores in the area with machines operated by different companies, I determined exactly how they were set up and made sure this convenience store was at least one setting looser across the board. These machines were far from tight; yet here was a player complaining about how tight they were! It happens all the time, and it’s because most gamblers fail to realize there is a distinct difference between a tight machine and a cold machine. Tight machines are set that way, cold machines are not.
If you really want to know if a machine is tight or not, it’s easy to tell. Look at the paytable. I can’t go through every game and every payback scenario by every manufacturer in this short article, but I’ll give you the key to the two most popular games, Double Double Bonus video poker and traditional Keno.
For Double Double, we simply look at the full house payback. All Double Double games pay either 6, 7, 8, 9 or 10 credits per credit bet on a full house. You’ll hardly ever see 10 because it’s so loose it wasn’t even an available setting until just a few years ago, so you’re really only looking for six through nine credits per credit bet.
Machines set at six are set at the tightest setting possible for Double Double; machines set at nine are as loose as you’ll likely ever find. Incidentally, the nine setting has two options for a flush – either five or six – so a 9/6 game is really loose at almost 100% payback, but good luck finding one of those.
Probably about 80% of all Double Double games in Las Vegas are set at either seven or eight for a full house, so they are your average not-too-tight, not-too-loose settings. The flush and straight paybacks stay constant (with one exception as mentioned) at five and four, respectively.
Keno is just as easy because there are only five popular settings being used by what I’d figure is about 90% or more of the games in use today. The key figure to look at for keno is the five-out-of-five payback. While other paybacks will change between settings, too, five-out-of-five always goes up as the payback increases. Some others will stay the same or even go down on looser settings, but for five-out-of-five, more is always better.
Your choices will either be 740, 750, 804, 810 or 838 credits per credit bet for hitting five-out-of-five. 740 is tight; 838 is loose. Anything in between is relative, with 750 and 810 being the two most popular settings I’ve seen in my travels. A good rule of thumb is to look for machines paying 800 or more, especially since there are a few oddball games by different manufacturers that can pay amounts slightly different than the five most popular ones mentioned here. 800 is the key.
Remember, this will only tell you if a machine is tight or loose – hot or cold is a different story. Just because you find a loose machine doesn’t mean it won’t run cold as ice and obliterate your bankroll in no time flat. Likewise a tight machine could pay out huge and be the hottest machine you’ve ever played. No matter how tight or lose the machine is, it’s always a gamble… but that’s just part of the fun of gambling!
This is the reason pros love mixed games so much. They are always looking for weaker opponents who haven’t mastered some of the games to create an edge for themselves. Without the ability to do this, there is no reason to sit at the table. This is the cardinal rule of poker. You must master at least four different games to play at a world-class level.
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