Under normal conditions, playing slots is not a particularly social activity, but live slot tournaments turn that paradigm on its head. Instead of going strictly against the machine, players take part in a race against the clock and vie with other competitors. The objective is to see who can build up the most credits possible and grab the biggest prizes. In a tournament format, slot games truly take on a new dimension.
Slots tournaments have become so popular that casinos all over the world conduct them, and some do so as frequently as several times a day. A number of different formats are used, many following scheduled programs and others held as sit-and-go competitions, but in every case the only risk to the player is the cost of entering the tournament, which can run anywhere from a few dollars to several hundred.
For scheduled tournaments, participants sign up and buy in by paying a fixed entry fee. This reserves a seat for the player at a specific time. The slot machines that are used in competition are identical to the ones found on the slot floor, but specially adjusted for tournament play. They are usually set up in a separate room or cordoned off from the rest of the slot floor by barriers or velvet ropes.
Large tournaments are held in several rounds, beginning with qualifiers. Participants are seated in front of numbered machines, which will have been assigned randomly by drawing lots. The slot reels will have been set so that every machine shows exactly the same starting position, such as a line of jackpot symbols appearing immediately below the center payline.
Each slot has also been given number a fixed number credits and modified to display a countdown timer. There might be 500 credits that have to be played in five minutes or 2,000 to be bet in twenty. Every spin reduces the credits allotment until it reaches zero. Any time a winning combination is spun, the corresponding payout accumulates in a separate counter. Play continues until all of the original credits are used or time runs out, whichever occurs first. Any unplayed credits are not counted, so each player must set a pace that uses them all. The winner of the qualifier is the player who accumulates the most winnings.
In order to use up credits at a rate faster than one per second, almost all players use Max Bet exclusively. Playing Max Bet also ensures that any big jackpot yields the highest payout possible. Many players also use a strategy of continuously pressing the Max Bet button in order to activate the reels as quickly as possible after a win, not pausing to see how many credits have accumulated.
Depending on how many entrants there are, cash prizes are awarded to the top one, two or three highest scorers, who move on to the next round of play. In some tournaments, losers are given the opportunity to reenter another qualifying round by paying a second entry fee, if enough seats are still available. Scores from earlier rounds to not carry over; every participant starts over from zero at the beginning of a new round.
At the conclusion of the final round, whoever posts the highest score wins the grand prize. It may be a few hundred dollars, tens of thousands of dollars, an automobile, or even more. It is all based upon the total number of entrants and the entry fees collected. Among the world’s biggest slot tournaments was one involving eleven Harrah’s properties in several countries. The coordinated a slot tourney featured regional qualifiers and a grand prize of $1 million.
Sit-and-go tournaments follow a similar approach, but there are no scheduled starting times, just participants buying in at any time, sitting at vacant preset machines, and posting the highest scores they can. When the deadline is reached, the highest scores are announced and winners are paid.