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Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

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What Does Multiple-Coin Slot Play Really Buy You?

23 February 1998

Ask 100 slot regulars what playing the maximum number of coins on each try buys them. At least 95 will say it earns them bonus bucks when they hit the jackpot. Although you didn't ask, over 75 will add something like one or more of the following:
a) You'd feel like a jerk hitting a slot jackpot for $1,000 with one coin in, when three would have paid $10,000.
b) Playing maximum coins cuts the house edge on the machines.
c) Everyone knows the gurus proved it's the best way to gamble.

Abraham Lincoln reputedly said, "You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you can't fool all the people all the time." Myths about maximum-coin play come close. Any of the above opinions may or may not be true. Here's what's both true and useful to know about multiple coins.

Slots respond to multiple coins in one of three basic ways. These may be found singly or combined, depending on the game operating in a machine. Two similar devices - say, both "ruthless rubies" or "perilous pearls" - may not be running exactly the same game and may handle multiple coins differently. You can, and should, verify how each unit does this by checking the window where results appear after each spin and the header board which gives paybacks for winning combinations of symbols. Ignore this information and you may play for hours, hit a result you think will make you rich, and have a host explain why you only won $6.75.

Multipliers are the simplest means of handling multiple coins. The window will have a single payline; all decisions will be based on symbols stopping under this line. The header board will show each winning set of symbols, with columns giving payouts for the various numbers of coins at work. The payouts are usually the amount for one coin, multiplied by the number of coins. If a bonus is offered for maximum-coin play, it will normally appear as a higher multiplier on the main or sometimes the main and a secondary jackpot. For instance one coin: $1,000, two coins: 2 times $1,000, three coins: 5 times $1,000. Not all multiplier games have bonuses. If this is what you want, be sure it's there.

Multiple paylines also manage extra coins relatively simply. The window will have two, three, or more paylines, activated in sequence as coins are accepted. With one coin, you're paid according to the symbols under the first line. With two, you're paid according to what's under the first line and, independently, what's under the second. The header board commonly shows only a single set of payoffs. There may not be a bonus for maximum-coin play. Sometimes you won't be able to tell either way. Other times the bonus will be identified on the board, for instance as an elevated return when the jackpot hits on the highest line.

Option buys are the most complex ways of handling multiple coins. The window usually has only one payline, but may have more. The header board is where option buys really go gaga. The list might show payouts for stars with two active coins, but not what these symbols pay for one coin. This isn't carelessness at the slot factory. You buy the stars with the second coin; they're zilch with only one coin in play. If the game has a bonus for maximum action, it's usually buried in the payoff for the option you buy with the last coin. So, say you play two coins, buying the stars. The result comes up three clowns - the mother of hits. But you're the one who feels like a clown, this being the third coin option. You didn't buy it. Instead of $25,000, you get snap.

Players who stuff as much money down the slot as it can accommodate have all bases covered, but should still ascertain whether there's a maximum-coin bonus. Those who play below the maximum drop, consistently or with a system of some sort, may be disappointed if they think they missed a big win on a high line or unbought option. Bettors who don't go whole hog often derive more from the slot experience playing multipliers which offer no maximum-coin bonus.

Sumner A Ingmark, the philosopher-poet of the gambling elite, said subtleties like these were what inspired him to immortality:


Those seeking knowledge what to look for,
The folks the experts are mistook for,
Are who I wrote my latest book for.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.