John Patrick's Slots

I wrote in my review of John Patrick's Roulette that I wouldn't be spending any more of my time reading through any of his other titles. Well, I'm afraid that curiosity got the better of me. At the time of writing I've been unable to attend my normal place of work as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic and me doing my bit with the isolation thing. So, after I'd been at home for four weeks I thought I'd throw financial prudence to the wind and spend three quid on having this title dropped through my letterbox - not because I anticipated it would contain anything of substance but because I thought I needed to be cheered up with what I expected would be a good laugh. I wasn't disappointed. An early one (laugh that is) was the title's tag line - "A Pro's guide to beating the one-armed bandits". Seriously? Do professional gamblers really make a point of playing the slots for a living? Before I get into commenting on Mr P's advice on how to win out when playing the slots let's take a step back and examine how your common-or-garden slot machine works . . .

In the UK, category "B3" and "C" gaming machines (which comprise the vast majority of electronic fruit machines and slot games offered) are what are known as "compensated". What this means is that as money is pumped in by punters, and paid out as winnings, a tally is kept and the outcomes adjusted so that the payouts over 10,000 trials hit, or come very close to, the advertised RTP (return to players) percentage. If the running "hold" is negative and below EV, and a big payout will take it even lower and to below a pre-determined control limit the big payout just will not happen. To all intents and purposes UK slot games are NOT random and that, combined with some pretty dismal RTPs in this country (I have seen one as low as 70%), leave slot games in the UK a consumer con at best and legalised theft at worst. We don't have to play them of course (and why anybody does is a complete mystery to me).

In the United States the outcomes of all slot games of chance are completely random. That's it. The RNG generates a continuous series of random numbers as long as the machine is switched on, and the moment the button is pressed whatever is in the frame at that exact moment is selected. After that, when all of the graphics have finished doing their thing, the machine pays out whatever it should do if the RNG output selected was a winning combination. In theory it is possible for the RNG to deliver two consecutive jackpots, thereby leaving a situation where the machine in question wouldn't ever recover what it's paid out within it's normal operating lifetime of five to seven years. The probabilities of this happening however are zillions to one; as an example, where you have a machine with five notional reels of 256 symbols each, and with 8 of those on each reel being jackpot symbols, the probability of hitting a jackpot is 33,554,431-1. Twice on the trot?

In summary then UK slot games are "compensated" (ie not random) and US slots return completely random results.




So having highlighted the facts above what about John Patrick's Slots?

As a result of seeing the tagline, and before I opened the covers, I did expect this title to be complete, unadultered, voodoo nonsense, although as it turned out I was pleasantly surprised to find this was not the case. Indeed, reading through it I found it contains at least a smigeon of facts and reasonable advice:

  • On pages 45-54 there's a basic explanation of how RTPs are calculated, which includes examples for both the older mechanical (three reel, twenty symbol) machines as well as the "newer" RNG computer based games - together wth a comparison of the number of possible win-line combinations that can result for each,

  • On pages 55-56 he dismisses some common myths as complete nonsense, ie that the "hot" slots tend to be located at the end of rows or close to the casino entrance, or that warm (to the touch) machines are due to pay out (page 62),

  • On pages 65-66 he debunks the common complaint "He got my jackpot!", and explains how this belief is groundless due to the way that the RNGs work in modern slots; "Just accept this one - Slots decisions are one billion percent random. Period!" (OK, so that number's a bit iffy . . . ),

  • He advises readers that when playing the slots to do so within their means, to calculate in advance an amount to take to play with (and that they're comfortable to see go South) and to play at a level commensurate with that amount; he suggests that players use a game stake that is, at most, one thirtieth of a "session" amount, with the total amount split into ten or more session amounts (page 36 refers). This suggestion won't affect the RTPs or outcomes of course but certainly it's not an unreasonable basis for funding an hour of entertainment (300+ spins) at the slots? He's also clear around not playing with money earmarked for regular bills etc,

  • Advice around maintaining self-discipline when gambling, being sensible and of not losing the plot on the gaming floor. In short don't be a dork.

In contrast to all of this, a third of the book is taken up with more than twenty different betting/money management systems - which of course have no long term mathematical benefit - there's advice around walking away when players experience a 60% session win or loss (so even on a bad day they'll always go home with some of their initial bankroll) and additional insight with a recommendation for players to move to a different machine if they experience "x" number of naked pulls (ie no win); players having pre-determined that "x" should be a personal preference between 7 and 14. There's also stuff around "slot charting", ie identifying "hot" machines (just how can you tell?) and of taking advantage of hot streaks when they occur and walking away when they go cold. All voodoo considerations of course and things that had me chuckling over my mug of tea. Mr P states several times throughout the book that a player's chances of winning when gambling are never more than 50% at best, and this looks to be purely anecdotal and based on his own observations over many years working at, or playing at, casino games. Interesting that he rates his own chances higher, at 65%+, but then he is an expert - "I lose a lot in the casinos, maybe 30% to 35% of the time. Yet I'm a great player, because at the end of the year I have a profit. (taken from page 201). Hmmm . . . quite frankly I have my doubts. Let's leave it there.

What I think would have been helpful within John Patrick's Slots would have been the inclusion of some details around the average incidences of winning paylines for popular slot games at the time of writing, and some worse case scenarios based on normal statistical variance. Obviously games change over time, but I suspect the underlying paytables for games with five reels, containing 128 symbols per reel and having, say, a 96.5% RTP would be very similar? Trouble is though this would have meant having to carry out some research and do some number crunching, things that don't seem to have been Mr P's strongpoint as a writer.

In summary then, discounting Mr P's personal writing style John Patrick's Slots isn't the complete car crash I thought it would be and I did find a few nuggets of reason between the covers. These were in the minority though, and if you were to remove the voodoo, tosh and superficial verbage that adds no real value the 228 pages would be reduced to, perhaps, two dozen - in which case Mr P wouldn't have had a book to publish (which allowing for inflation would carry a cover price today in excess of $20.00).

John Patrick worked as a gambling author, coach and consultant for around forty years. It's not clear what he did before taking up writing in his fifties, but there is a clue on page 207 of the book's chapter entitled "The Professional Gambler" - "I've been gambling since bread was 11¢ a loaf and I know how to lose. In fact, I was so dumb that it was the only thing I was good at . . .", followed by, "My initial trips to Vegas allowed me to come in contact with guys who made a living gambling. These pros played at the tables where I dealt when I was broke, which was most of the time.". So it does look as though he'd spent time on both sides of the gaming tables and eventually realised he could make more money out of writing about it (gambling) than actually doing it? During his time as a gambling author he wrote more than a dozen books on gambling related subjects (mainly casino games) in addition to producing a raft of instructional videos. He also had his own weekly TV show, "So you Wanna be a gambler?", which was broadcast on the Financial News Network in the States. He relocated to Florida in 2005, having lived Las Vegas and New Jersey beforehand. His last entry on his own online message board was made at the end of March 2018 and his last Facebook posting a year ago when he would have been 86. At the time of writing his website at johnpatrickcasino.com was disabled (and replaced with a holding page) and the domain given on his LinkedIn profile page has been re-registered by another party.

May 2020.