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Best of John Robison
Ask the Slot Expert: Another misleading pick-em bonus14 December 2016
Answer: I believe that your picks should determine your winnings on any game that has a pick-em bonus. I think the game is misleading if the software running the machine uses the RNG to determine the result and what you pick doesn't matter. If the software determines the result, it should use one of the many ways to display the winning amount of a group of possible amounts without misleading the player into thinking that her picks are determining her fate.
If your picks mattered, given enough trips to the bonus, the ratios of the number of times you picked each amount to the total number of trips would each get closer and closer to 0.2 (1/5).
I don't know how many times you've gone to the treasure chest round, but your experiences seem to indicate that the software has chosen the amount you will win and your pick doesn't matter one bit.
Answer: Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Nevada gaming regulations require the collection of performance data for each machine. The meters you could see inside older games captured that data. Today I think the casino's slot accounting software captures the data and the casino can remotely query the meters maintained by each machine.
It's not unusual for a machine to pay back much more or much less than its long-term payback in the short run. Consider a session in which you hit a royal flush on a dollar 9/6 Jacks or Better video poker machine. Unless you were down $3980 when you hit, that machine paid back considerably more than 99.5% for you. The casino is in the long run, however, and your session is just a very small part of the machine's overall performance.
Another casino (Riviera, I think) had a few banks of machines that they claimed had the highest paybacks available for each game. It posted a letter from its accountants stating that the casino had ordered the highest payback possible from the manufacturer for each of the games in the banks. The claim was for long-term payback, not daily or weekly or monthly payback.
The same holds true for a bank advertised as having 98.5% payback. As long as the payback chips installed on the machines pay back 98.5% or more in the long run, that should satisfy the gaming commission, regardless of short-term deviations.
You used the words regularly and consistent, though, indicating that these situations lasted for some time. Nevertheless, did you check the performance against the confidence intervals to see if the paybacks experienced fell within the expected range for the amount of play that the machines received, either short or long term? And did their total performance fall close to their long-term payabcks?
The 1980s were the early days of computer-controlled slots. I wonder if it's possible that the chips had gotten corrupted -- maybe even intentionally.
Today the commission uses a device made by Kobetron to verify the data in chips from a machine with the data in the reference chips on deposit with the commission. The machine reports any differences between the two chips.
Back in the 1980s, the commission used an EPROM programmer to compare the chips. Ron Harris, a former Nevada Gaming Commission employee, altered the verification process so it changed the data stored on the chips. He was able to reprogram some machines so a certain series of actions on the machine would cause it to payoff.
You didn't mention anything about verifying the chips, but you did say that replacing them seemed to solve the problem. We'll never know whether these were just short-term deviations expected by randomness or gaffed chips.
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
Best of John Robison