Win or lose, it’s the extras that ‘make’ casino exploits

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The look of concentration aside, slots gamers enjoy the thrill of the spin, the twirl, the sights and sounds, and all the other extras that casinos offer their guests. | FILE PHOTO

When readers share stories about their casino exploits, it’s usually about big wins.

Let’s face it, the wins are more memorable and more memorable to talk about than the more common losing sessions. Still, every now and then a reader looking for a sympathetic ear will email me with a tale of a day when nothing went right.

Take Marcia. She loves the low-denomination video slots, especially ones with pick’em-style bonus rounds.

“I don’t need to win big,” she wrote. “But when I go to the bonus, I like to win SOMETHING. If I get five free spins and they’re all losers, that’s not really a bonus, is it?”

She started with a Jackpot Party machine, but lost $20 on a penny machine without getting to the bonus event. On to Goldfish. Another $20, no bonus.

“I thought I’d change my luck and play The Hangover. Every time I looked, one of my neighbors was playing a bonus. Not me.”

With losses at $60, she was reaching her tolerance point.

“Then I saw a slot called Kilauea. I figured it was fate. My husband and I got married in Kauai, cruised around the islands and saw Kilauea’s lava flow twice. Once on land, once at night from onboard ship. This had to be it.”

“This time I did get to go to the bonus. But it was free spins, and I didn’t win anything. After that, I just walked around until my husband was ready to go. He broke even on video poker and had a good time. I didn’t break even, but that doesn’t bother me so much. It was just a little downer that I didn’t get to play the bonuses on the games I like.

“When the bonuses come, I have a good time.”

So it goes on video slots. The entertainment comes from the extras, the animation, the sights and sounds, and the bonus events. Even a losing session is fun if you get to good run at a bonus or two.

Marcia limited her losses on penny machines.

Nick emailed to say he learned an expensive lesson on a three-reel, $5 game.

“I’d always heard that the $5 slots paid more than the dollars or quarters,” he wrote. “So I decided to take one big shot at the $5 games. Instead of going every week and taking a couple hundred to play the dollar slots, I decided to make one trip at the end of the month, and bring a thousand.

“I have to admit I was a little nervous, but I put five $100 bills in. It took that much to get the 100 credits that I like to start with. I bet two coins at a time. Betting $10 on a slot machine sure seemed like a lot, but I figured that if I hit the 7s, or even the triple bars, even once, I could win a few hundred dollars. I mean, the jackpot would have been nice. But a middle-sized win or two was really all I was looking for.

“Well, the win never came. It can’t have taken more than 15 minutes. I never got anything bigger than three mixed bars, and by the time I got that, I only had half my money left. When that first $500 ran out, I put in another $300, figuring again that one middle-sized hit would get my money back, and if I lost it, at least I had $200 left to go play dollars or quarters. If anything, my money went down the drain even faster.

“I decided to get out of there with what I had left, and take it as a lesson that I’m not cut out to be a $5 slot player.”

Those $5 slot machines do tend to have higher payback percentages than lower-denomination machines. But those percentages are compiled over hundreds of thousands of pulls, and short-term cold streaks are a normal part of play. If losing $800 in a session makes you queasy — and it would do just that to most of us — you’re better off sticking to lower denominations.

I wrote back to Nick and asked if that was the end of his $5 slot career.

“Probably. Maybe if I was way ahead sometime. But I’m sticking to the three-reel slots. Those are the games I have fun at, as long as they’re giving a little back.”

And Marcia?

“Oh, of course I’ll be back. I lost more this time than I like, but it was only $80. It’s the price of the day’s entertainment. I just want to have some fun. That means actually getting to play the bonuses. Most of the time, it’s fun.”