Introduction to Advantage Play Slots
As a slot machine enthusiast, have you heard intriguing rumors of the secret world of advantage players? Perhaps you saw the “Susan B. Anthony” used to reward a poorly treated casino reviewer at the end of the third Ocean’s movie? Here, I separate fact from fantasy. Let’s start understanding advantage play slots.
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What’s an Advantage Play Anyway?
In the gaming industry, an advantage play occurs whenever a gambler improves their odds of winning using gameplay knowledge not ordinarily available.
To help understand the general principle, consider a common non-gaming example: Credit card programs. Credit card companies exist offering cash-back for purchases. Chase Sapphire and Capital One Silver come to mind. Perhaps you’ve seen the television commercials with Samuel L. Jackson?
A credit card advantage play of such programs is to figure out how to make many, and I mean a lot of purchases to maximize cash-back. For example, perhaps you pay your rent or mortgage with that credit card.
Instead of paying directly with a credit card, which typically isn’t possible, you could find a reputable company that pays your rent or mortgage by check while you pay for the service via credit card. If the cash-back exceeds the small fee for the exchange, it’s an advantage play.
Or maybe you’re an entrepreneur with an Amazon fulfillment business. Perhaps you buy several items, put them together as a nice kit, then sell the package on Amazon. Why wouldn’t you purchase those single items with a cash-back credit card? If you sell at high-volume, you could push $10,000, or a whole lot more, through that credit card each month.
An advantage play example from the gaming industry, for table games, is card counting. This form of advantage play has a long and rich history. There’s even a major motion movie about blackjack card counting from 2008, 21.
But we’re interested in advantage plays involving slot machine casino gambling. In the next sections, we’ll work toward understanding advantage play slots, including my own relatively unique perspective for the modern casino environment.
Advantage Play Slots #1: Game Themes
The most popular slots advantage plays discussed online are about specific slot machine game themes. Every game theme has gameplay rules, which might have loopholes of which players can take advantage.
The essential approach to game theme advantage plays usually occurs during gameplay, although not always, which I’ll discuss in a moment. Class II competition-style slot machine game themes typically include a decision point for the player where there is a right or wrong answer.
Advantage players figure out in advance which answer is correct, sometimes only after extensive effort and research.
The difficulty with this approach is the assumption that it’s also an advantage play which applies to Class III Vegas-style games of chance at non-tribal casinos as well as Class II skill-based games typically only available at tribal casinos.
Do gameplay advantage plays exist for Class III slot machines? Once, they did. It was even somewhat prevalent, even as recently as 30 years ago. But today? Not really.
What is my justification for this position? It’s based on thorough gaming regulations, including state-by-state testing of all game themes by independent laboratories. Very, very few game theme loopholes make it through such rigorous testing. See Advantage Play Against Slots (AP Heat Advantage Play) by Eliot Jacobson, Ph.D., published on March 6, 2017.
But I didn’t state that Class III slot machine advantage plays don’t exist. I said, they don’t really exist. What did I mean by this?
What I meant by this are the several circumstances where advantage plays can exist, if you want to expend the effort to find them. Just keep in mind that any serious advantage player carefully balances energy and cost with potential profit.
Put another way, figuring it out must be worth it. Some enterprising online individuals claim to have figured out a few game theme loopholes and share them freely. See Analyzing 4 Different Slots Advantage Play Methods by Randy Ray, published on May 11, 2019.
A few, usually new, audience members will ask my opinion for the best slot machines to play. My serious reply is those machines on which you win. Most of my audience agrees. In my opinion, looking for mistakes in game themes that made it past gaming regulators is a waste of time given how rare this occurrence has become.
However, lots of slots players think what casinos want them to think: Play your favorite slot machine game theme because, since it’s your favorite, you’ll win. Such an attitude from your casino isn’t gambling advice. It’s only marketing.
We’ve discussed game theme decision points and game theme loopholes, but there’s more. Another advantage play is to find slot machines with specific game themes played somewhat. A previous player could have paid for getting a slot machine closer to paying out.
A typical example is progressive slot machines with a must-win-by maximum jackpot. This amount is typically unknown. But extensive observation by an advantage player (AP) could allow them to figure it out, so they then only play progressives close to this limit.
The advantage play approach to progressive slot machines requires a great deal of patience to accomplish. If you’re interested in learning more about this approach, see my articles on progressive slots winning strategies:
- Winning Strategy 2: Progressive Slot Machines
- Reviewing Peter Liston the Slotz King’s Video Interview by ACG
Advantage Play Slots #2: Team Approach
Serious advantage players are typically part of closed communities. When an AP figures out how to take advantage of a slot machine, whether progressive, Class II, or otherwise, they are quite naturally secretive about it.
As I’ll discuss in a later section, many advantage plays are somewhat fragile. They are undoubtedly expensive in either time or money, sometimes both, to figure out. Therefore, APs will protect them like an investment.
But APs sometimes can’t figure out an advantage play without a team. Or they figure out an advantage play, as with a bank of networked progressive machines close to its jackpot limit, where every seat should have a team member sitting in it for the best chance of a return on investment.
Advantage players have figured out the cheapest way to learn a new advantage play is to watch known advantage players, then do what they do. These APs swoop in at the last moment to try to profit, such as taking one of those seats at an about-to-win bank of progressive slot machines.
Finally, it’s human nature to brag about our accomplishments. APs can and do make this mistake, but perhaps less often as they gain more experience at advantage plays. However, a regular slots player might put two-and-two together after observing an experienced AP winning. After all, most casinos are typically open to the public.
Another aspect of the team approach is the distraction it can provide. As mentioned previously, card-counting has a rich history. In the early days, one of the difficulties with card-counting was casino recognition from past winning sessions.
What was the card-counting APs response? Disguises. With modern casinos and a requirement for government-issued IDs, disguising an individual is very limited unless you happen to have an identical twin.
But you could explain the advantage play you’ve figured out to a team of trusted individuals, perhaps family members. They could then perform the advantage play for a pre-determined profit share.
Advantage Play Slots #3: Modern Casinos
With modern-day casinos and gaming regulations, slot machine advantage plays have undergone a sea change. It’s no longer possible to drop coins with a complicated pattern, which might cause a win, if that advantage play ever worked in the first place.
Using terminology from the Ocean’s 13 movie, a “Susan B. Anthony” con doesn’t matter any longer because U.S. casinos no longer use coin-operated slot machines. But that doesn’t mean advantage plays no longer exist. It means they’ve changed with the times.
Around 2012, slot machine manufacturers started offering operating systems to help casinos handle larger crowd sizes with ease, efficiency, and a smaller workforce. One of these innovations was a central computer server hardwired to every slot machine.
With it, casino operators could reduce their army of slots mechanics to a much smaller, and therefore cheaper, group. Instead of the mechanics changing the odds of winning every one to two weeks as needed to meet state gaming requirements, the computer server could do it electronically several times a day.
In this way, the casino saved money in two important ways: a smaller workforce devoted mostly to machine maintenance and a vast improvement in their ability to meet financial performance metrics from multiple weeks to several times daily.
Yes, slot machines still operate randomly under these new casino operating systems. But because the odds of winning can be remotely adjusted several times daily. Therefore, the odds of winning, while still random, are different before and after. And one is better than the other.
The task of the modern-day slot machine advantage player is to figure out which is which. Are the best odds in the morning, afternoon, or evening? Is it on busy days at the casino or non-busy days? On a holiday evening or the morning day after a holiday?
Modern casino operating systems have much more excellent control over slot machines than ever. While this slot machine control is by a computer, the computer is itself controlled by humans. And humans love to tinker. And humans also make mistakes.
Rather than explain my winning slots strategies based on casino business practices here, I’ll refer you to my many website articles and podcast episodes on that topic.
Sooner or Later, Advantage Plays Stop Working
The types of advantage plays are effectively endless, but they all have one common disadvantage: Sooner or later, they stop working. Why? Because sometimes an advantage play is a disadvantage for someone or something else.
If a business practice is an advantage play, or even if it’s going too well, it’s not uncommon for that business to shut it down. Sometimes, there’s also a time limit on how long it lasts, making it more of a promotion than a business practice.
Because individual advantage plays stop working eventually, successful APs keep working on the next advantage play. For APs, figuring out advantage plays is a never-ending process.
But, as with most situations, there’s an advantage play for this, too. Some advantage plays go unnoticed because they are not dramatic. Any disadvantage to the casino is so small that it goes unnoticed.
Put another way the weakest advantage plays last the longest. One massive jackpot would be wonderful, but does it matter if it takes a year or two to make the same gaming profit at a much less noticeable level? Being less noticeable now is better for future advantage plays.
Some advantage plays are a change in perspective. Casino operators see a reduced workforce and daily performance metrics as their advantage play. That some modern APs, such as myself, have turned those business practices on their head doesn’t matter.
As I’ve previously mentioned, advantage players consider the time and cost of an advantage play versus its potential profit. As advantage players, casino operators make these same calculations with their millions or billions of dollars in gaming revenue.
As with card-counting, casinos adapted to players using that advantage play. In return, card counters wore disguises. Then casinos added more decks. Players figured out the math for using packs of decks.
And so it went, back and forth, until we now have casino surveillance of card games pattern recognition, automatic shufflers of many decks, or even infinite decks,
Slot machine advantage plays, although more secretive, have already had to deal with counter-responses from casinos. While casinos had good business reasons to switch over from coins to ticket-in, ticket-out readers, doing so had a major impact on coin drop sequence advantage plays, whether they were effective advantage plays or not.
Modern slot machine advantage plays which currently work will stop working because casinos will develop countermeasures or change their business practices for some other reason. They do that, you know.
I’ve seen this happen. For me, some significant advantage plays went away after nine months. But I responded by figuring out the next advantage play. That’s what all APs, modern or not, do.
And maybe the new slot machine advantage plays I’ve figured out and used successfully, my winning slots strategies, will work at other casinos for you. I’m sharing them for two reasons. First, I have a (well-paid aerospace engineering) day job, which prevents me from using my winning strategies elsewhere, outside of an occasional weekend getaway.
Second, I’m doing that thing which APs do. I’ve determined that it is an advantage play to share this information with you. With enough time and effort, there is a potential profit in serving a community of slots players. I hope so, anyway. I’ve got massive student loans to pay.
Summary of Advantage Play Slots
Advantage plays have always been a bit mysterious because sharing them is counter-productive to winning at slots when using them.
But sharing is caring, so I’ve written this article on understanding advantage play slots from a modern-day perspective.
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