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Evaluating the Casino Layout

Slot machines are not positioned willy-nilly in a casino. There’s a definite structure and a thought process that governs their arrangement. In the old days loose machines were near entrances,Basil NestorBasil Nestor is the author of the new Playboy Complete Guide to Casino Gambling. This wonderful book teaches players how to avoid sucker bets and win more when playing gambling games.  He is also the author of The Smarter Bet Guide series for video poker, slots, craps, and many other books about gambling.  Basil's website is  and the sound of falling coins would lure players in. Since those machines were occupied, new players would move further into the casino and play tighter machines. It was an effective strategy for its time, but more sophisticated and improved placement strategies have been developed in the last decade.
Here’s an overview of what a casino executive is thinking when the layout plan is developed:
Slots and Tables
Table players don’t like ringing bells and other distracting noise because it tends to slow the game and it creates confusion. Also, table players who pass by or through a row of slots sometimes play a few credits just for kicks. But they rarely spend more. Table players prefer tables. On the other hand, a slot-playing spouse or friend of a table player will often play a nearby machine if the person at the table is at the end of a session (they’re waiting to go to a show or dinner).
So slots near tables are generally tight to cut down on noise and because most people who play those games will be doing it spontaneously without any big expectation of winning. The machines are there to suck up loose bills, not necessarily to draw someone in for a long session.

Slot Player Psychology

In contrast to table players, slot players love to see and hear people winning on the machines. Ringing bells and bonus rounds are absolute “proof” that the games can be beaten, so a typical slot player is more likely to play faster and stay longer when people are hitting nearby.

Slot layouts take advantage of this by putting the loosest machines in highly visible areas that are deep inside the layout (rather than on the edges). Crosswalks, elevated sections, and places at or near the end of rows are where the most liberal machines are placed. But beware; loose machines are invariably surrounded by tighter games (though not necessarily the tightest). It’s typical to have one or two 96 percent machines that are easily visible, and they’ll be surrounded by different games that pay back somewhere in the range of 88 percent to 94 percent.

On the other hand, if you see a bank of identical progressive games, all of them will have the same payback, usually less than 90 percent, regardless of the game’s denomination. So a one-dollar Wheel of Fortune will be tighter than a one-dollar Double Diamond.

And position does not trump denomination. Nickel and penny machines tend to be tight wherever they are placed, even in areas with high visibility.

Two games can be identical on the outside but set to pay back differently on the inside. This is especially true when the two games are in different casinos. Don’t assume that Double Diamond in casino A will necessarily pay the same as Double Diamond in Casino B. But if you see identical games together in a bank, then it’s likely that they’re all the set with the same payback.
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