Loose and Tight Slots

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It is certainly not unusual to hear players refer to certain slot machines as “loose” or “tight.” The ones that they call “loose” are generally paying out with greater frequency or in larger amounts than would be considered normal. The “tight” slots, on the other hand, are the ones that seem to be yielding less than average winnings.

Obviously, it is to the player’s advantage to stick to the looser slots and avoid the tighter ones. Casinos know this, and many of them have their slot games programmed at the factory to pay out at rates that exceed local norms. In this way, they become noted for their loose slots and can therefore attract more clientele.

To understand exactly how this works, just consider a slot machine with a factory pre-set payout ratio of 98%. Such a machine should pay out 98¢ for every dollar wagered. The casino uses this ratio to forecast slot income over any period of time, expecting 2¢ out of every dollar bet to be retained as revenue.

A competing casino could have its slots adjusted to payout at a rate of 98.5%. Although that may not seem like a large margin, just half a cent on the dollar, the “looseness” shows up to the player as a 25% improvement. The casino is gambling that a greater volume of play will compensate for this reduction in income per dollar.

On the casino slot floor, slots are programmed for different payout ratios. Some will be set to pay out at higher than average, while others yield lower than average returns. Some casinos actually promote their loose slots by displaying banners, placards or signs that read “99% Pay Back,” etc. On most occasions, however, identifying which slots are loose requires some sleuthing, and players have many theories on how loose lots can be located.

One school of thought suggests that the physical location of a machine on the casino floor can be equated to its payout ratio. For instance, slots positioned near such high-traffic areas as entrances and exits may be looser than the ones hidden out of sight in areas where their payouts cannot be seen by the passing public.

Similarly, slots installed in plain view, like those mounted on elevated carousels, may be loose. The same is true of those positioned by the intersections of walkways passing through the casino.

By contrast, slots located near to the “pit area” are supposedly tight. That’s allegedly because pit managers want to protect their table games players from being distracted by the bells and lights that signal big jackpots.

Other possible “zones” for tight slots are grouping near bars, lounges, sportsbooks, restaurants or cafés. According to the logic behind this, patrons who have loose change in their pockets may be tempted to play a bit in the vicinity. Tight slots ensure that they lose quickly.

Apart from physical location, another telltale sign of a loose shot is the unveiling of a new game that the casino wishes to promote. To gain attention, the payout ration may be set higher than average, drawing lots of attention to a prominent location where frequent wins can easily be seen.

Veteran slot players insist that the loosest slots of all are found not only at machine introductions but also on the opening day of any new casino or following renovation of an older casino’s slot floor. Again, the theory is that promotional efforts require the casino to loosen up the machines.

Timing can make a difference, too. Many players believe slots tend to be tighter toward the end of the month, as casinos try to meet monthly revenue goals, or on weekends, when visitor traffic is highest. The truth, however, is that it requires more than the turn of a screw or turn of a dial to reset a slot machine’s payout ratio.

The recalibrating of the program at the heart of a slot’s computer is complicated and must be conducted by a technology specialist. It is highly unlikely that any casino changes its payouts frequently, if at all. Much more likely, looser slots are taken out of service and tighter ones replace them.

One less technical way of finding out where loose slots are located is to observe the behavior of local or regular players. They will often be seen in certain sections of the slot floor and not in others—a sure indication of where machines are doing something right or wrong. Players who look for trends and openings will surely find them. That’s because loose slots really do exist and finding them is easier than many might expect.

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