07/08/2005 12:00AM

Where do slots pay off best?


Many horseplayers look down on slot machine players as mindless souls pouring money into a futile chase of a big jackpot. Well I have news for you. Some slot machine players feel the same way about horseplayers.

The high takeout in horse racing makes it a daunting task to win money. The idea is that with skill a handicapper can find situations that over the long run can be profitable.

In slot play, the takeout or hold is much lower than in horse racing. But the volume of play grinds down the bankroll until it disappears. Still, the chance to win big money with little skill involved is a mighty attraction.

In slots, there are three machine types - slots, video poker, and video keno. Slots is a no-brainer. You play your credits and watch the wheels go round. It's possible to win a life-changing jackpot if you hit a progressive payout such as Megabucks. But it's all luck.

In video poker, you do have decision-making capability on a random 52-card electronic deck. The ultimate hand is a natural royal flush and there are many smaller payouts.

Last is video keno, where you select a quantity of numbers to play and hope that they match with the keno balls that pop up.

Now I can't help you with strategy, but I can help you with the takeout on slot machines. Yes, there are better types and better locations to play slot machines. The hold is called a payback percentage, which gives a negative number a positive spin.

In Nevada, a casino must report the payback percentage on its slots to the Nevada Gaming Control Board for public record. The payback is recorded according to location and denomination. Here is the information for the most popular plays, 25-cent and $1 denominations, and the areas within Las Vegas.

Twenty-five-cent slots: the Strip, 92.20 percent; Downtown, 94.62 percent; Boulder Strip, 96.47 percent; North Las Vegas, 96.64 percent.

Dollar slots: the Strip, 94.39 percent; Downtown, 95.26 percent; Boulder Strip, 96.43 percent; North Las Vegas, 96.86 percent.

All slot machines, combined: the Strip, 93.55 percent; Downtown, 94.25 percent; Boulder Strip, 95.24 percent, North Las Vegas, 95.17 percent.

Some quick observations:

The payback percentage won't mean a whole lot unless you're playing a longer session. If you're only playing $10 or $20, it really won't matter.

It's better to play a higher denomination if you can afford to, but make sure to give yourself a lot of repetitions. A typical jackpot occurs on average once every 40,000 plays. Also, play the max credits on the machine. That's the only way you can win a jackpot.

It's easy to see that the Strip is the worst area in Las Vegas to play slot machines. Downtown is much better; Boulder and North Las Vegas are best. That's one reason why locals rarely go to the Strip to gamble.

Teixeira's dining tip

Texas Rangers' All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira was asked on the cbssportsline.com website on Friday to name his five favorite restaurants when traveling. His first choice: N9ne Steakhouse at the Palms Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

"We only go there for spring training," said Teixeira, "but it's my favorite restaurant in the whole country. The food is incredible. The service is great. It has a nice atmosphere."

Richard Eng is the turf editor for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and host of the Race Day Las Vegas Wrap Up radio show.