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Best of John Robison

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Ask The Slot Expert

19 June 2003

John,

I am writing my doctoral dissertation on gaming in New Jersey. What book or other type of empirical literature can you suggest that would academically describe the concept of RNG for slots and the concept of casino comps?

I subscribe to your newsletter and enjoy its academic touch. I am earning my Ph.D. from the City Univ. of New York, not too far from Stevens in Hoboken. A portion of the dissertation is concerned with slot players.

Thanks for your help, Jerry

Dear Jerry,

Casino Operations Management is an excellent book that has some non-technical information about RNGs. I would imagine that there's a discussion of comps in it too, but I haven't read it.

More technical info about RNGs is in Volume 1 of Knuth's Fundamental Algorithms.

I also recommend that you write to James Maida at Gaming Labs International (www.gaminglabs.com) and ask for reprints of his Slot Manager articles.

Another book I just discovered is Slot Operations: The Myth and the Math (www.unr.edu/gaming). I haven't read it, but I recognize the author's name.

I hope these help.

Best of luck with your Ph.D.

John

* * * * *

Hi John,

Do you have any information on Ontario Canada Casino payouts? Are they required to make them public?

Another Question... I have been under the impression that the first coin sets the combination and the next coin(s) determine the multiplier. Is this a steadfast rule or are machines "set" to hit on one or two coins only at times. I often hear gamblers say it only hit on 2 and nothing on 3. Just random?

Enjoy your column daily,
Stu

Dear Stu,

The Ontario Casino Corporation (OCC) claims that they do not have records with which they could calculate paybacks for various categories of machines. I think that statement is nonsense because every slot accounting system contains the data needed to make the calculation.

The OCC also says that they would refuse to release the information if it existed because the "information constitutes financial or commercial information which, if disclosed, could harm or prejudice the OCC's economic or financial interests." Also nonsense because payback figures are routinely published in Strictly Slots and Casino Player for U.S. casinos and for casinos in Quebec.

You can read more about the OCC's position by searching for "ORDER PO-1745" and appeal "PA-990047-1" on the Internet.

Slot machines manufactured within the past few years determine the results of a spin by polling the RNG after the player initiates a game by pressing the Spin button or pulling the handle.

The machine doesn't care how many coins were played in determining the result. It gets a number from the RNG, figures out which symbols correspond to that number, and then it checks if it's a winning combination and how much it pays based on the number of coins played.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John

* * * * *

Hello there,

I have watched to on the Travel Channel where some expert slot player was only playing 99% payback slot machines because (his words, not mine): "99% payback means that for every $100, I get back $99!"

Is the guy on crack or what? Are most slot players that dumb? Don't they know that that payback is for the lifetime of the machine, which could be like over 2 years (think of your fridge)?

Just wondering, and maybe you can shed some light on this subject for the fellow slot/casino players.

Thank you,
Wayne

Dear Wayne,

I look at slot paybacks this way: The more play a machine gets, the closer its actual payback gets to its theoretical payback.

The payback the casino sees on the machine pretty quickly homes in on the theoretical payback because the casino participates in every bet made on the machine. After a machine has gotten a few hundred thousand to maybe a million plays, its actual payback is usually within a few percentage points of its theoretical payback.

The same holds true for the payback experienced by an individual player, but most players never play hundreds of thousands of spins on a machine. As a result, their actual paybacks on the machine can be many more percentage points away from the theoretical payback. Keep in mind, though, that if you found the average of their numbers, you get the payback the casino saw.

So, the statement you heard is essentially correct, but I would add one qualifying phrase: 99% payback means that ON THE AVERAGE, for every $100 I play I get $99 back.

To make the statement really correct, I would say: 99% payback means that a machine pays back $99 of every $100 played through it, on the average. Individual $100 sessions, however, will have widely varying results based on the volatility of the machine.

That statement, however, isn't quite as pithy as the one you heard.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John

* * * * *

I cannot find anywhere that you can go and look at the new slot machines. I would like to look at them and not have to waltz around the whole casino to find new machines.

Any hints?

Texaspam

P.S. We go to the Grand Coushetta in Kinder, La.

Dear Texaspam,

All the major slot manufacturers have web sites and you can check out their latest offerings on their sites. IGT is at www.igt.com, Bally at www.ballygaming.com, WMS at www.wms.com, and Mikohn at www.mikohn.com.

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.

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