Dear Mark: Over the years I have been playing slots less and less. Now I just play in an occasional slot tournament that our local casino offers. I do find these enjoyable. Do you have any suggestions on how I can improve my chances of winning in these tournaments? Mary L. 


A good number of casinos offer slot tournaments for their patrons. The most popular format is one that offers timed sessions where the slot machines are in free-play mode. What free-play means is that you show up with an entry fee, say $25, and you don’t have to buck up with any more money. That up-front $25 entry fee, Mary, is your total cash outlay, which as you know, you can burn through in mere minutes on your favorite slot. Yes, Mary, slot tournaments are rather cheap fun, and one might even include a buffet lunch. With a trip to the chow line as part of the deal, you’d be losing money if you didn’t play.


When playing these free-play tournaments, every player each round is given 1,000 credits and 20 minutes to play them. Every time you tap the spin button, three credits are deducted from your starting credits, and credits that you win are shown on a separate meter.


After time has expired, the machine automatically locks up, halting play. Any credits unplayed are automatically lost. Winners move on to the next round and the player with the most cumulated points at the end of the tournament wins.


The main objective of this type of slot tournament, Mary, is to make use of all your credits within the specified period.


By not using up all your credits, you will lower your chances of winning because players who are super fast at hitting the spin button will automatically accumulate more spins than you will, making them more likely to have more points than you.


Unfortunately, Mary, there is no slot strategy that will make you a long-term winner at slot machines. With a slot tournament, though, it just so happens there is one straightforward stratagem: Get in as many spins as you can.


You do this, Mary, by keeping your fingers directly on the spin button along with skillfully timing the exact moment when you press the spin button. The reasoning here is that the machine will not spin until the winning credits have been tallied and displayed on the screen, making precision timing, everything.


WARNING: Fast-paced spinning is only appropriate in slot tournaments.  Never, ever employ this fast-paced method while playing your favorite slot machine. With the huge built-in house edge on your typical slot machine, speedy play will empty your purse at full tilt.


One other tip, Mary, is to focus on your play and your play only. Avoid viewing the scores of your opponents. A few precious seconds here or there can sometimes be the decider on whether you advance to the next round or not.


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “Circumstances may cause interruptions and delays, but never lose sight of your goal. Prepare yourself in every way you can by increasing your knowledge and adding to your experience, so that you can make the most of opportunity when it occurs.” – Mario Andretti