CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Ask the Slot Expert: Can the RNG be programmed to pay out frequently or infrequently?

9 March 2016

Question: I live in the United States and I play slots online for real money (Shhhhh...don't tell anyone!)

I've noticed that the online site I play at has an "auto play" feature that lets me spin 20 times or more automatically.

I've never seen this feature on a land-based casino slot machine. I probably would try it once in a while if it was available.

Why don't casinos offer this feature?

Answer: Your secret about playing online is safe with me. I won't tell anyone.

I can't recall ever reading a slot regulation that would specifically prohibit an auto-play feature like you described, and I also can't recall ever reading a regulation that allowed it. Moreover I think the usual definition of an electronic gaming device would preclude the feature. An electronic gaming device is usually described as a computer-controlled device that accepts a bet from a player, uses the Random Number Generator function in the device's control program to determine the outcome of the bet, and then pays the player any amount won on the bet. The definition implies that bets are taken one at a time.

In any case, I think there are a number of problems with the feature. First, it requires a new user interaction with the machine. The method of specifying the number of spins to auto-play has to be designed, tested and approved. Second, I don't think many players would use the feature. Some players like to alter their bets based on the result of the prior spin. Some players, in addition, like to play slowly to stretch their bankrolls. In short, I don't think the desirability of the feature warrants the expense of developing it.

Finally, casinos have to walk a fine line between encouraging people to play and being too aggressive and taking advantage of their weaknesses. Casinos can't have rosy slogans like lotteries ("All it takes is a dollar and a dream!"), for example. You can get a cash advance on a credit card to get money to play with, in addition, but you can't get the advance at a slot machine or gaming table. You have to go to special machines in the casino to take out the advance and then to the cashier to get the money. All of the steps involved are designed to be "pressure relief valves" that give the players a chance to take a breath and decide if they really want to take out the cash advance.

Letting players commit to multiple bets removes the opportunity for players to take a breath between spins and regulators may decide that it makes it too easy for players to bet more than they can really afford.


Question: My questions are about the randomness of the RNG.

  1. My first question is based on a comment made to me by a video poker repairperson in a casino. He told me they can't change the odds on the machine as posted or set by the RNG, but they can program the RNG to pay out in different ways, such as constant payouts every few hands, or big winning streaks with non-winning intervals, all within the randomness. True or False? To me it seems like a contradiction.

  2. This question arises from a recent trip to Vegas. I stayed at a hotel known for its high video poker machine payouts (98%+). I was there five days and never got more than four-of-a-kind occasionally. I play DDB (Double Double Bonus) and never hit any 4K with a kicker.

    I went to different machines throughout the casino, at different days and times, yet nothing ever really hit and I never had one hot streak of winning in five days. After the third day of this, I went to another one of this casino's properties, which is also known for decent/high payouts, but nothing after three hours of gambling.

    I am an experienced VP player, having studied, and I practice before I go out and play with real money. But in 20 years of gambling, I've never had a week this bad, especially playing machines with high payouts. Just my bad luck?

Answer: You're right. The statement by the video poker repairperson in your first question is a contradiction. The only thing you can program the RNG to do is to generate a stream of numbers. You can't program the RNG to have frequent or infrequent payouts.

With a small change in terminology, the repairperson's statement can be made true. You can't program the RNG, but you can lay out the reels to have frequent, small wins or less frequent, larger wins. Change "program the RNG" to "lay out the reels" and we have a true statment.

On video poker, you can't change the randomness of a deck of cards -- each card must have the same likelihood of being dealt or drawn -- but you can construct the paytable to be more volatile by lowering the payouts on lower-paying hands and raising the payouts on the higher-paying hands (usually quads) or creating additional paying hands (quads with kickers). This is an excellent segue into your next question.

No one ever likes this answer, but what you experienced is just a consequence of randomness and you had a run of bad luck. No one ever complains about a run of good luck. But if you can have a winning streaks, why can't you also have losing streaks?

I don't know your definition of "occasionally", but that's pretty much how often quads hit. And quads with kickers even less frequently.

I've been keeping track of my video poker results in detail this year. I'm tracking not only wins and losses for each session, but also how many premium hands I hit in the session. I have many sessions that contain about the same number of hands because I'm almost always playing to get a certain number of points.

There are big differences between some of the sessions in each group. The grouping with the smallest number of hands (about 800) has the largest variations. I played Bonus Poker in all of these session. According to Winning Strategies for Video Poker by Lenny Frome, one hits a quad 1 in 425 hands on the average. I've had short sessions with no quads, some with one or two, and some with three or more. When you combine all the sessions, quads hit about 1 in 425 hands, just not regularly.

I've had hot sessions, cold sessions, cold sessions that turned hot, hot sessions that turned cold, winning sessions, losing sessions, breakeven sessions. Nothing terrible on the losing side because I play low-volatility paytables almost exclusively. Keep in mind that Double Double Bonus is a very volatile game and your losing streaks will tend to be longer and more often than if you played a lower volatile paytable.

Given the amount of play it seems like you played, I'm a little surprised that something didn't click sometime. But only a little surprised. With so much of the payback tied up in quads and quads with kickers, it's tough to have a profitable session if you don't hit the premium hands.

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