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Best of John Robison

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Are bonus amounts predetermined?

24 August 2009

As a lot of people are, I am curious as to how "rigged" slot machines are. Rigged might not be the best term, maybe "programmed." But here is what I want to know:

Many slot machines have "bonus" games you can win, where you win a number of free games, often with the possibility of winning some special jackpot during them. It's my belief that, when you do win a "bonus", how much you win during that bonus is not random, but is predetermined the moment you won the jackpot.

There is one slot machine in which the bonus includes having 12 cards facing down on the screen, and you pick 5 cards. If the total of the cards goes over a certain amount, you win one of the 4 jackpots. If it doesn't go over a certain amount, you win $5. My belief is that once you get the bonus, it doesn't matter which cards you choose. The amount you are going to win is already predetermined.

So agonizing over which card to touch is useless, because you were going to end up winning a predetermined amount no matter which cards you touched or turned over.

Do you know if my suspicions are correct, or am I being paranoid?

Thanks,
Chris

Dear Chris,

As the saying goes, just because you're paranoid, it doesn't mean that they're not after you.

You're right and you're wrong. It all depends on where you're playing. Where you're playing determines how the machine you're playing operates.

Machines that have their own random number generators (RNGs) and determine their results independently do not have predetermined bonus amounts. In your example, the cards you pick determine your bonus. Pick different cards, get a different amount.

Machines that do not have their own RNGs do not determine their own results. They depend on an RNG in a central computer to tell them the results of their spins. In this case, the central computer has already determined the amount you will win and it doesn't matter which cards you choose.

In fact, whichever process is used, there's no sense agonizing over which cards to choose. You have no information to use to inform your choice, so in this sense it doesn't matter which cards you choose.

There might be some exceptions to the rules I described above (e.g., a machine with an RNG that predetermines the bonus amount), but most machines should follow the rules.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots