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26 November 2014
By John Robison, Slot Expert™
First off, I do not make my living from writing about slot machines. I wish I did, but I don't. Far, far from it. I make more in two months as a database developer than I've made in almost 20 years writing about slots. My slot-writing income could stop today and I'd never miss it. The fact is that gamblers don't buy many books -- at least not many books about gambling.
The writer I wrote about did not write about slots or video poker. All of his books are about table games. As I wrote in my last column, he questioned probability theory even though we have 400+ years of validation. One of his ideas was that probabilities have to change for random events to occur with the frequency we expect. For example, if heads comes up three times in a row flipping a fair coin, the probabilities have to shift to favor tails to keep the long-term probabilities 50/50.
This idea is hogwash, of course. The probabilities are always 50/50, regardless of the results of past flips. The reason that the probabilities are very close to 0.50 in the long run is because the effect of streaks on the probabilities is minimal in a large number of observations. A drop of blue food coloring may be enough to turn a glass of water blue, but throw that glass of blue water into the Atlantic ocean and you can't see any effect.
This writer was never stonewalled and no one clammed up. The correspondence he shared with me was with mathematicians and other gaming writers. We would show him the math or explain how his claim did not hold up, then he'd move on to another idea. Once that one was also discredited, he would circle back to the first idea. You have to give up when someone won't accept the fact that two plus two is four. At some point, you stop entertaining the moon-landing conspiracy theorist.
I'm familiar with the murder you mentioned. The programmer worked for a slot route operator and the owners had him alter the programming in their video poker machines to make them more profitable than their paytables indicated. I believe he made it impossible to get a royal flush in spades. In any case, he was not murdered by the slot manufacturing industry to hide their secrets. He was murdered by people connected with his employer, American Coin. And by the way, he was murdered in his driveway while working on his car, not on his way to court to testify.
Finally, as a casino marketing director, maybe you can talk to your slot director about some of your concerns. You slot director has access to PAR sheets and machine statistics. He (or she) depends on the randomness of spin results to have machines hold close to the percentage indicated on the PAR sheets. He sometimes sees the hold far from the long-term hold on machines with little play and sees the hold get closer and closer to the long-term percentage as the machines get more play. If the results aren't random, why isn't a machine's hold always close to the long-term hold indicated on its PAR sheet?
There are no scams. There are no truths being hidden. There is no fire. There is no smoke. The only reason that detailed information about the Random Number Generator functions used in slot machines is not readily available is for security -- some people will (and have) used information about the function to cheat machines.
Some secrecy provides some security. Just try to get detailed information about Air Force One or the Presidential Limousine.
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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