Do Cruise Ships Tighten Slots During the Cruise?

By Jerry "Stickman"


I have gone on several cruises over the past several years. While at sea, I enjoy playing the slot machines as well as blackjack and craps.

I believe there is a sinister plan being executed by the ship’s management. Let me explain. During the first few days of each cruise – roughly the first half – I win on the slots. I may not win every time, but I am always money ahead. Then sometime after the cruise midpoint the slots become very tight. Sure I get a small win now and then, but I always lose. It seems the closer to the end of the trip, the more I lose.

I sometimes play longer near the end to try to win something, but it is no use. I simply lose, lose and lose some more. I believe the slots are programmed looser at the start of the cruise to make you think you will win and then they are tightened at the end to get the most money they can.

I have complained to management but was told they don’t change the payback of the machines. I don’t believe them. My wallet knows better.

Joe M

Dear Joe,

This would be a diabolical plot, indeed. Bait the "sucker" and draw him in, then change the game – sort of like a "bait-and-switch" ploy.

The oversight of games aboard ship is not the same as Las Vegas, Atlantic City Tunica and other major US land based casinos. I guess it may be theoretically possible to alter the pay schedules during the cruise, but it would take a considerable amount of work swapping out the control chips. Being found guilty of such actions would prove devastating for the cruise lines. Besides, they don’t have to resort to surreptitious actions such as changing payouts to make money; they have an automatic edge built in.

Do you keep accurate records of each session? Do you note the time, game, denomination and amount won or lost? I suspect your memory may be playing tricks with you. You may remember a few wins early on, but when you begin to lose as the trip progresses, you notice the depleted bankroll. You stated that you play longer sessions. Longer sessions mean more loses.

I recommend that you break your total trip bankroll into session bankrolls, play for a fixed amount of time each session (or until your session bankroll runs out), and keep accurate records of your play. If you do this I think you will see that the ship’s casino makes money at a consistent rate throughout the trip.

Follow these tips and you should have better of luck on future cruises.

Jerry "Stickman" is an expert in craps, blackjack and video poker and advantage slot machine play. He is a regular contributor to top gaming magazines. The "Stickman" is also a certified instructor for Golden Touch Craps and Golden Touch Blackjack. For more information visit or or call 1-886-738-3423. You can contact Jerry "Stickman" at