Perhaps the title is a misnomer, as advantage play has been around for a long, long while. This is when players use legal methods to improve their odds and gain advantages. From the wiki, advantage play uses the game characteristics to provide advantages, rather than cheating. This article will talk about the life-changing magic of slots and bonus hunting – to effectively improve your odds for a (albeit small) bonus. This will provide more and quicker wins, which hopefully work out for you as they did for me. This article will go a bit into the backstory and touch upon the first game in question, Plants vs Zombies 3D: Ancient Egypt.

It was revolutionary for me, shifting my focus from tables and gambling for fun, to gambling for profit (and fun). I used to play tables, poker, craps, etc, and never dabbled in slots. By mistake, I stumbled upon this last year, and have refined the strategy to moderate success.


History of Advantage Play

From what I’ve gathered, advantage play is the legal method to improve gambling odds. This does not negate the house advantage – the house always wins, but perhaps you can exploit the losses of others to carve out a gain for yourself.

The history of advantage play and more well known characteristics are card-counting in blackjack, or dice manipulation in craps, perhaps done by throwing the dice a certain way or not hitting the back wall. While these methods are not illegal, they may not be valid in casinos, who are trained to look for these signs and bar gamblers from these methods.


PVZ Game - from Casino Journal

PVZ Game – from Casino Journal

My Approach

I found this quite by accident, in Las Vegas, when I was waiting for my Gordon Ramsay Burgr. We saw a Plants vs. Zombies machine, and being a fan of the franchise we stopped to play a bit. Upon getting up, a man swooped into our seat, gambling furiously and quickly, hitting a decent sized bonus and cashing out. It was like a hit and run, leaving us dazed and confused.

That was where my gambling life has forever changed. By identifying games with visible bonus meters, we can make strategic and surgical strikes of slot machines that are closer to a bonus payout. The house will keep its rake, as always, but the goal is to play off the naivety or inexperience of other gamblers – finding machines with bonuses close to completion and finishing them off.

Below, I will talk about the first game we discovered over our Las Vegas and Reno trips. Together, we have netted about $1500 from all three advantage play slot games, being positive each trip since. This represents about five times my standard trip bankroll. Obviously, your results will vary, and this article is by no means of guarantee for your success. I will speak about the other two in future articles.


Game 1 – Plants vs Zombies 3D: Ancient Egypt

This is the first slot game we played in the advantage play sphere and as such will have a special place in my heart. Created by International Game Technology (IGT) and released just last year (middle of 2016), this has taken Las Vegas by storm, leading to some fun issues I will discuss further.


Visible Bonus Meter

The pink bar at the top of the gaming screen represents the bonus meter. By collecting brain symbols, you grow this meter, which triggers a bonus once it is full.

In the photo below, taken at McCarran Airport, you can see the bonus bar to be low – under a third of the way full. You may have to zoom in.

Airport Games - won $3!

Plants vs Zombies at the airport – won $3!



The dominant strategy for rational players is to target Plants vs Zombies when the bonus meter is close to full (500 points). This does not guarantee the bonus being hit, but it is much more likely to hit sooner than a meter that is empty or close to empty.

However, it leads to the problem of not finding enough games with decent bonus meters. In a high traffic area like Las Vegas, smart locals have staked out “turfs” within casinos, where they mutually agree to prey upon the machines within certain casinos. They do not react or take kindly to tourists (like me) taking what they consider “their” bonuses. You will rarely find bonus meters of 400 points, 450, etc. My strategy is to try for anything higher than 200 points, to see if I get lucky and catch a few brains.

All casinos have five bet sizes. I have seen between 40 cents to 200 cents, and 80 cents to 400 cents. If you bet larger, you have a higher chance of getting a brain or multiple brains on any spin (according to the game).

Lastly, something to note: while each brain grants 56 points towards the bonus meter, every spin you do not catch a brain loses you 12 points on the bonus meter. If you are close and hit a brain to go over 500, after the bonus the game will reset to the amount above 500. For example, if you are at 490, and hit a brain for 56, you will be at 546. Subtract 500 and after the bonus you will be at 46 points.

Optimal Strategy – Play when bonus meter is closer to full: 200+ of 500. Cease play if bonus meter dips below 200.



The bonuses are small, but consistent. I have seen bonus payouts range between 50 and 150 times the bet size. Winning $60-$70 on a 40 cents bet feels amazing. There are four types of bonus games, and some require decision making, while the others are fun to watch. By sticking to this, we have been able to consistently play with positive expectation and small wins that add up. Granted, we have also “chased” bonuses and sunk hundreds in, but overall by maintaining strict discipline and focus we were successful.


Plants vs Zombies Location & Outside the Game

Plants vs Zombies is typically located in a larger “bank” of games. However, I have seen individual games, usually at smaller casinos. They will be close to other IGT products of similar size and shape, such as Dreams of Asia, Aladdin’s Fortune, Sphinx 3D, etc. They are pretty tall and are easy to pick out of a casino floor.

Specifically for Las Vegas, we encountered various locals. Many old white and Asian men, and old Asian women, scoped out this game. They were ready to hit close bonuses if a poor tourist (like myself) let them.

Don’t let them. For me, I take great pleasure in draining the bonus, getting up, and not giving the nearby local the freebie.



It is both up and down in Las Vegas.  While multiple casinos will have two banks of Plants vs Zombies, they are frequented by smart locals who exploit the games. Thus you can walk up and down the strip between casinos to check out this game and not find a single one worth playing. The next article will talk about another game with a very different premise and setup compared to PvZ. The last article will talk the last game, my overall experience, and the future of these games.

Best of luck!


Featured image from pixabay of old style reel machines – nothing compared to the engaging video ones of today. For a more detailed report by casinojournal, click here


What do you think of my slot machine strategy? Let me know in the comments, or reach me directly at! Like my posts? See more here, on TravelUpdate! Follow me on Facebook (The Hotelion) or on Twitter and Instagram: @TheHotelion