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18 January 2017
By John Robison, Slot Expert™
Answer: Regulation 14.040 Minimum standards for gaming devices subsection 5 states:
For gaming devices that are representative of live gambling games, the mathematical probability of a symbol or other element appearing in a game outcome must be equal to the mathematical probability of that symbol or element occurring in the live gambling game.
This regulation is the reason why you can trust video poker machines in Nevada. The probability of being dealt a particular card at a particular time on a video poker machine must be the same as the probability of being dealt that card under the same circumstances at a poker table. The chances of the ace of spades being the first card dealt from the deck are 1 out of 52 and the chances of getting the ace of spades as your first card on a video poker deal is also 1 out of 52.
I think live gambling game is the key phrase in the regulation. The odds on video poker must be the same as the odds on live poker. The odds on video keno and video or electronic blackjack, roulette, and craps likewise must be the same as those at the keno lounge and gaming tables.
What about the wheel on Wheel of Fortune? Doesn't it represent the Big Wheel game, so shouldn't the probabilities of stopping on a wedge be the same for all wedges?
Wheel's wheel differs from the Big Wheel in one crucial aspect. The player has no money at risk when Wheel's wheel spins. There's no way to lose on Wheel's wheel; every place where the wheel can stop is a win for the player.
Not so with the Big Wheel. The player has to make a bet to spin the Big Wheel and the player can lose depending upon where the wheel stops.
On Wheel of Fortune, the player isn't betting on the wheel. The wager is against the spinning reels. The wheel is used just to figure out what one winning combination is worth.
In short, the wheel is not the game; it's a bonus. The regulation does not apply to the wheel for this reason.
The regulation doesn't apply to the picking bonus on 88 Fortunes for the same reason. The bonus is misleading on this machine and others because the progressive you will win has already been determined by the software running the machine. Your picks are irrelevant. They do not determine the progressive you win. There's no way to win some of the progressives because they don't have three coins assigned to them.
Again, the picking bonus is not what the player is betting on. There's no way to lose when the player goes to the picking bonus. The player can only win.
Another reason the regulation doesn't apply to the picking bonus is because there is no live gambling game that is similar. Maybe one of the wacky table games at the cheapo casino in Vegas Vacation, but not at any of the casinos that I've visited.
The kiosk games at some of the locals casinos in Las Vegas are similarly misleading as the picking bonus on 88 Fortunes. At one chain, you pick one of six cards to reveal your multipliers for the day. Asking my friends and eavesdropping at the video poker machines, it seems that everyone gets 6x. There's the occasional 5x and 7x, and I think I even got 10x once, but 6x seems to be the most common.
Let's look at the chances if the values are truly random. If I get 6x, the chances are 1 out of 6. My friend also gets 6x, 1 out of 36. Another friend 6x, 1 out of 216. I overhear two people talking about both getting 6x and the chances of all of us getting 6x are 1 out of 7776. It sure doesn't look like the card we pick has any effect on the multiplier we get.
There are many entertaining ways to reveal a predetermined outcome, so I don't think sham picking games should be allowed. But again, the player has nothing at risk, the player can only win, so is there any harm done?
Finally, the wedge that stops under the pointer on Wheel of Fortune is determined at random. Each wedge is not equally likely to be selected, but the result is random.
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at email@example.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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