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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Convincing a player that stopping a spin has no effect on a slot machine's spin

27 March 2019

Question: Hmm, why not start here? http://media.igt.com/support/IGTStandardVoucherLayout_v2-2.pdf

Much of what you wrote about [slot tickets] is, well, not really right at all.

Except for the basic idea that you can't cheat by altering the ticket (creating a fake ticket). You are correct, that's never going to work.

http://media.igt.com/support/IGTStandardVoucherLayout_v2-2.pdf

Answer: Thanks for the link. With all of the Google searches I did looking for the algorithm for creating the validation number, I needed to do something like "voucher layout" to get this document.

I would be happy to correct anything I had wrong in last week's column. But what you wrote is, well, not really specific at all.

Please tell me exactly what I need to correct. While I await your reply, let's compare the IGT document with what I wrote.

First, I described what I referred to as the ticket ID. The document calls it the validation number. The document says it is an 18-digit number [check] grouped as xx-xxxx-xxxx-xxxx. Anyone who made it past the first grade can see that the document listed only 14 x's in its example and not 18. I was right and the document gave an incorrect example. Proofreading is, in many cases, a lost art.

One thing I speculated about — and was wrong about — is that the first two digits might serve as a casino/company identifier. After I published the column, I saw tickets with the same first two digits from casinos owned by different companies. I hoped to find a patent that described the algorithm for creating this identifier, but I didn't find one. Now that I know IGT's official name for the identifier, I'll try again.

Next I said that the ticket has the amount in both numbers [check] and words [check], the date and time the voucher was printed [check], a voucher or ticket number [check], a machine or asset number [check], and an expiration date [check].

I wrote that a ticket has two events in its life: printing and redemption. There might be more events stored in the database, but those were the only two relevant to the article. I verified with my friends who work the slot floor that they can query the database to find out when and where a ticket was printed, when and where it was redeemed, and to see if a players card was associated with the ticket.

I wrote that casinos may review machine records and surveillance footage to reunite players with tickets that were turned in or even to help a player who lost a ticket. This information came from the Las Vegas Sun article I linked to in my column.

Finally, I learned about all of the ticket cheating methods I described from seminars and newspaper articles.

To sum up, there's nothing in the document that contradicts what I wrote. If I missed something, please let me know. I learned about all of the ticket cheating methods I described from trade show seminars and newspaper reports. And I verified other information in the column with people who work the slot floor.

I owe it to my readers to publish accurate information. I have no problem publishing corrections.

Please reply with your corrections at your earliest convenience.


Question: Hello! My name is Cynthia and I have a friend who believes he can control a slot machine’s payout by stopping the reels when he hits the button.

I’ve told him that he’s just stopping the "show" but he continues to say, "No! I did that!" He just learned about the RNG, but his play does not reflect that he truly understands the slot machine workings. He also believes that there are hot machines that will continue to pay out, and that cold machines are ready to hit.

Would you please explain to "FlyDaddy" the truth about these beliefs?

I hate watching him lose money (thousands) by rapidly hitting the button to stop the spin believing he has superpowers.

I sincerely hope he will believe your expert explanation of what I’ve been telling him, since he clearly doesn’t believe the word of a Lil’ Ole Kindergarten teacher — who has both a Bachelor and Masters degree, and is halfway through the process of earning a PhD.

Please and thank you, John!

A long time fan, reader, and believer!

Answer: Dear Cynthia (and FlyDaddy),

Thanks for the kind words. I hope your PhD is in Childhood Psychology. I have a tough time figuring out five-year-olds.

As you discovered, one of the hardest tasks I have is convincing people that whatever they're doing to influence a slot machine is, in reality, having no effect at all. It's just human nature to have confirmation bias. Every time players have a winning spin after rubbing their lucky rabbit's foot (Nobody has these anymore, do they?) or waving their hand over the pay table, their ritual gains more validation in their minds. Losing spins are quickly forgotten. I sometimes ask people whether their ritual works all of the time. After they say that it doesn't, I ask them to explain why it doesn't work all of the time.

Here's one lady I could probably convince that her ritual is a waste of effort. She plays a 2-coin progressive Double Diamond machine. She frequently rubs the top glass where the progressive amount is displayed. She has to lean forward to be able to reach the display.

Not only can I say that her ritual has no effect on her results, I can safely say that her ritual is never — never — going to help her win the progressive. She bets only one coin per spin and you need to bet two for the progressive! I mind my own business and keep my mouth shut.

I hated doing experiments in chemistry lab, but I love doing experiments that require me to play in a casino. Here's an experiment FlyDaddy and you can do in Casino Lab.

We want to see if stopping the reels has any effect on the results of a spin. We're going to play a number of spins letting FlyDaddy use all of his skill to stop the spin on a winning combination, and we're going to play a number of spins where we sit back and enjoy the show.

We have to track some statistic to compare the two methods. We can't use net win because that's too volatile and I doubt you're prepared to play millions of spins. We can use hit frequency, however. Either you win something on a spin or you don't.

For each method, track the number of spins and the number of hits. Play at least 100 spins, but the more the better. The ratio of hits over the number of spins should be very close for both methods. That shows that stopping the reels has no effect on the results.

There's another thing you can do. Check the help screens on the machine. Some help screens have text that says you can press a button to immediately display the result of a spin and that pressing a button has no effect on the result.

Let's move on to the RNG. I assume FlyDaddy learned that the slot machine uses output from the RNG to determine where to stop the reels. I would ask him what happens to the result determined by the RNG when he stops the spin? Is it thrown away?

If he says the RNGs results are discarded, then I would tell him that Nevada's regulations (the Adam of slot regulations, on which all the other state's regulations are modeled), requires that the result determined by the RNG must be displayed without any alteration. How can stopping the reels affect the result and not violate that regulation?

While stopping the spin may not affect the results of a spin, it can affect your monetary results because you play more spins per hour. As you pointed out, you can lose more quickly compared with letting the spin run its course.

Here's a question you can ask FlyDaddy: If you're so successful at stopping the spin on a winning combination, how come you're losing so much money?

[Remember the old joke about the husband and wife arguing about how much money they lost gambling. The husband is mad because the wife lost $100 playing the slots. She returns the serve by reminding him that he lost $1,000 playing craps. He replies, "But I know how to gamble!"]

Next, hot and cold machines. Machines do have hot, cold and choppy streaks, but they're not the result of any decision made by the programming in the machine. Nothing in the program tells the machine that it's time to make this player's day or time to empty this player's wallet. Streaks are just a natural consequence of randomness. There's no way to know when a hot machine will stop paying or when a cold machine will start paying. The result of each spin is determined at random, with no regard for what has happened in the past.

Finally, let me give this caveat that my arguments apply to machines with internal RNGs and Class II machines in tribal casinos only. A number of years ago, players wrote to me about some barely legal machines in taverns in the South that may have had some skill-based element to them. I think they were all declared illegal and removed, but you're on your own if you're playing those machines.

I've learned that it's tough to argue with success. When players write to me to say that they've had a success with some system, I reply that mathematically it should have no effect, but if it's working for you, keep using it.

It doesn't sound like stopping the spin is really working for FlyDaddy, does it?


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