Slots: Tournament Strategy

Having played in dozens of slot tournaments, as an invited comp guest or via a paid entry, I am regularly asked questions about tournament strategy. Is there a strategy at all? Not really, but there are ways to play that involve emotion and physicality.

Slot tournaments are flat out fun to compete in even if they are somewhat of a brain-dead competition. You sit in front of a machine, typically a Double Diamond one, and hit the spin button as fast as you can so you don’t miss a spin. Points are awarded, and the one with the most points wins. Pretty simple, right? Well, this takes a bit of emotion and focus as you get into the swing of the competition and listen to screams of delight from other players who have just hit three Double Diamond symbols for a jackpot and often a better chance at winning.

However, physically this can be demanding on older players, which make up most of the players in slot tournaments. Sometimes you have to pound the machine for 10 minutes, but there are events of 15 minutes or more, and continuously rapping on the hard spin button takes a toll on your hands and fingers, and cramps can and do occur. Blisters are not uncommon. Switching hands helps somewhat, and I have seen players use their elbows while giving their tired and sore hands a break.

Tournaments are easy on your wallet, as you might just have to pay a small, fixed entry fee — buy-ins of only $25 are common. The hitch is, you usually have to play in two sessions, and they are usually several hours apart, thus locking you into the casino and its many temptations. Try to get a comp lunch and spend your time in the buffet room rather than on the floor, unless you are prepared to invest more in non-tournament machines. After all, it is the strategy of the casino to use the tournament as a lure to hook you into more paid play.

Most of us have only a limited amount of money to spend in a casino, and by playing in a low-cost slot tournament, it is a win-win situation.

There is no skill involved at all in playing in tournaments. Just play as fast as you can for the time allocated. Like any regular machine on the floor, luck is needed, and it plays the biggest part in winning. You play fast so as not to lose any credits as each winning spin increases your total score. You lose unused credits.

You can relax your hand somewhat when the machine is adding winning credits to your score, and it won’t go into a spin mode until it has done so. Thus you can steal a few seconds to rest, but get ready to start whacking the spin button immediately. But you don’t have to really pound on the button as many players do who mistakenly think the harder they hit, the quicker the machine will turn over. Not so — just a light tapping on the button will suffice.

You also must stay focused. Forget what the lady next to you is scoring. Keep your eyes and mind trained to the symbols in front of you. If you hit a jackpot, don’t jump up and yell for joy, you might miss a spin and it will cost you in the end. And forget refreshments. This is a sprint, not a marathon, and stopping for a sip of water might cost you.

And here is some more sound advice: Think ahead. Did you drink a lot of coffee during the morning? You know what can happen here. Try to plan ahead and go to the restroom before you play. I was in a tournament once where the prize money was $50,000 for first place. The guy next to me suddenly bolted from his seat to use the bathroom. It cost him a lot of points and really knocked him out of the tournament, one that he paid a big entry fee to play in.

Bottom line is: Play fast, stay focused, have a lot of fun, hit the john before you play and take your winnings home.

Top Tips For Tournaments

• Use the restroom before you start
• Don’t have a drink during the tournament
• Keep your fingers on the spin button
• Don’t “bang” the button, it will wear on your fingers
• Switch hands if one gets tired
• Don’t jump up and down when you hit a jackpot


Rudi Schiffer is a former Associated Press editor and feature writer who currently hosts the 14-year-old “Goodtimes” radio show for Mississippi Casinos. Known as “The Voice of Tunica,” he is also a columnist for Jackpot! Magazine and contributes articles for CasinoCityTimes.com.



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One Response to “Slots: Tournament Strategy”

  1. nemartin Says:

    I enjoyed the article and the “tips” are good, common-sense ones. I really only chose to write because I wanted to point out a grammatical error.

    The first sentence in the third paragraph should read – “…who make up most of the players in slot tournaments.” versus “…which make up most…” since you are referring to older players – who are people, not things.

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