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Whose Machine is it Anyway?

Author: Mark Pilarski

Dear Mark: I was in a Detroit casino recently, as I sat down at a slot machine and inserted my $5, a man about four seats away said, "that's my wife's machine." I responded by saying, "you can't hold this machine when she is not here." But, the man just kept on going. A moment later, his wife arrives and she says, "that is my machine." To which I repeated, "You cannot hold a machine." and added, “Call a manager over then.” A slot employee walked over and told me that, yes the lady had been playing at that machine. I told the employee, “People can't hold machines. Please get a manager.” At this point I decided to take my $5 out and said, "you can have the machine, instead of carrying on a scene." For future reference I'd like to know, was I correct in my view of the situation? C. R.

There are some slot players that will protect their machines like a mother bear with her cubs. They are pretty territorial, as well as quite superstitious. These two characteristics blended together can make for some pretty explosive situations when an unwary player accidentally encroaches on “their” slot machine. Luckily, most casinos have some kind of policy that serves to regulate the saving, or "capping" of a machine.

I can understand a player who wants to take a short break to answer nature's call, and does not want anyone else to take the machine while they are gone. This situation happens all the time. But, the operative word here is “short.”

Confrontational conduct can occur between players due to misinformation about how a slot machine works. The ill-informed player often believes his or her machine is ‘due to hit,’ and that puts you in the crossfire because such players are not only superstitious, they are also unwilling to share ‘their’ machine with anyone else.

The truth is; all of today's slot machines are equipped with a random number generator, the RNG puts out symbol combinations that are changing every millisecond from the drop of your coin until you push the spin button. A slot machine is never “due,” “hot,” or anything else along those lines.

Some things people do to say "No Trespassing" are perhaps leaving their Club card in the machine (not a good plan), or abandoning credits on the machine while they go to the restroom (most definitely not recommended). And they also might place a coin bucket over the handle – if there is a handle anymore, leave an ashtray on their stool, or lean a seat against the machine. These unwritten rules are intended to communicate that someone is saving a certain machine, but, these indicators do not always pass muster in some casinos, nor do they always stop a ruckus from occurring.

As I mentioned, most casinos do have some type of capping policy. Some will have a floor person stand by the machine until the player returns. Other places will allow you to request that a slot supervisor reserve the machine for you. Using this method, they will 'cap' a machine for 20 to 30 minutes by actually shutting the slot down.

For high-end Player’s Club Platinum members, they will keep the game "capped" for an even longer period. Casinos do tend to be more accommodating for their high-level slot players. When they restrict access to certain slots for a long period, they are counting on the big-spender putting more money in the machine than all the possible slot players would within that period of time. In this case you are caught up in another form of slot mathematics. Your potential bankroll doesn’t match that of the high-roller.

Saving a machine for yourself, while you take a five-minute bathroom break is reasonable, and courteous slot players should honor this. But it is those longer periods, like the player spending a couple hours at the seafood buffet, that you have a legitimate gripe about. You might want to summon the slot supervisor if you just really want that particular machine. Remember, in your Detroit casino market, there are 225,000 square feet of casino floor and countless slot machines on standby ready to let you insert as many $5 bills as you like.

So, in future, if a slot employee decides to take Mama Bear's side, at least you will have no doubt what that casino's policy is.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “It is not uncommon to see a lady in her bridal gown, married moments ago by a minister in full Elvis regalia, furiously working the slots with a Marlboro clenched between her teeth.” – Rod Wiser, Casino Player