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Ask the Slot Expert: Do I have better odds on a Reel Power slot?

29 April 2020

Question: Do I have better odds on a Reel Power slot?

Answer: I really like Reel Power, Reel Ways, and whatever trademarked moniker a manufacturer uses to name this concept. Instead of having a limited number of paylines, each symbol on a reel participates in a payline with every other symbol on every other reel. It doesn't matter where on a reel the symbols in a winning combination appear. The only important thing is that they appear.

Let's say you just filled the screen with lots of buffaloes. You have two on the first reel, one on the second, three on the third, two on the fourth and four on the fifth. To figure out the number of ways you hit the beasts, you multiply the numbers together. So you hit five buffaloes 2x1x3x2x4 or 48 ways.

A Reel Power machines pays 243 ways. There are three symbols each on five reels, so there are effectively 3x3x3x3x3 (243) paylines. The general formula is to multiply together the number of active symbol positions on each reel. The Hexbreaker slot machine features reels that expand and contract as you play. It would have been very difficult to determine paylines for all of the different combinations of active symbols on each reel that the machine could have on a spin and nearly impossible for the player to know them. The machine always calculates and displays the number of ways you have active on each spin.

On a machine with a limited number of paylines, I frequently find myself looking at three consecutive symbols on the screen and asking, "They're not on a payline?" That never happens on a Reel Power machine. That's why a like the concept.

You don't necessarily have better odds on a Reel Power machine versus a machine with defined paylines. The slot mathematicians have taken everything into account.


It's week seven of Stay Home for Nevada. Here are some more items that you might find interesting.

A week ago, the Nevada Gaming Control Board released a list of procedures for casinos to follow to reopen. I was excited to see the document because I thought it might give me an idea of what the casino experience would be like in the near future. The document doesn't address health concerns, such as how many slot machines can be active, how many players can be at a table game, or how many diners can eat a restaurant.

The document addresses how to handle behind-the-scenes things like replenishing the funds in kiosks and cages, handling employees whose gaming licenses expired during the closure, etc. Only two items are of interest to players. First, the casinos must ensure that "all liabilities to patrons are correctly accounted for and reconciled from the time of the temporary closure to the time of reopening, including but not limited to incremental progressive amounts, safekeeping/front money/wagering account balances, player tracking point balances, race and sports futures/unpaids, payout receipts and wagering vouchers, etc." [Emphasis mine.] Second, "as payout receipts and wagering vouchers may have expired during the temporary closure, licensees must take measures to pay these liabilities or extend the expiration dates for such liabilities to accommodate the period the property was closed." You'll have at least 30 days after the casino reopens to redeem a slot ticket. Based on past experiences, though, the folks at Las Vegas Advisor think that most casinos will still pay tickets after they have expired.

The author of What Everyone’s Getting Wrong About the Toilet Paper Shortage presents an interesting idea about why there is a shortage of toilet paper in grocery stores. He said that the main cause is not panic buying, but a shift in demand and the supply chain. Briefly, he said that a portion of the toilet paper we use in a day is used away from home, at work or at a commercial establishment. Because of the stay-at-home orders, all of that usage has shifted to the home now. Residential demand has increased, commercial demand has decreased.

There are two separate supply chains: commercial and residential. The manufacturers haven't caught up to the shift in demand yet. It's not easy to shift the commercial production line to produce residential products. You don't want to use commercial product, furthermore, in a residential setting. First, who wants to use at home commercial toilet paper that in a pinch could be used to sand a woodworking project? And second, some commercial product comes in huge rolls, much larger than can fit on a home dispenser.

The same effect occurs with meat and staples. We used to eat out sometimes, but now we're eating at home and the demand for those products at the grocery store has increased. Again, there are commercial and residential supply chains and it's taking some time for the residential chain to beef up.

The supply-chain theory does account for shortages after a stay-at-home order and stores put limits on how much one could buy. But the theory does not explain the shortages that occurred before the stay-at-home orders were issued and the demand shifted.

The toilet paper shortage at my local Costco started before the stay-home order. It was not caused by the supply chain, but by the people I saw with multiple carts filled with enough toilet paper to supply a barracks at Nellis Air Force Base.

Ignaz Semmelweis is a name you should know, but have probably never heard of. Dr. Semmelweis, who lived in the first half of the 1800s, worked at a hospital in Vienna. There were two maternity clinics in the hospital, each staffed by different professionals. The mortality rate for mothers who gave birth in the clinic staffed by medical students was much higher than the rate for mothers who gave birth in the clinic staffed by midwives. Semmelweis wanted to find out why.

He eventually concluded that the medical students carried "cadaverous particles" on their hands from the corpses they autopsied in their studies to the mothers they helped deliver. The midwives, of course, did not perform any autopsies.

Semmelweis didn't know about bacteria and viruses, so he couldn't explain what exactly was being transferred and his recommendation based on his conclusion was controversial. We associate Louis Pasteur and Joseph Lister with sanitization, but Semmelweis was the first person to tell us to wash our hands.

There's a short film about Semmelweis that is shown occasionally on Turner Classic Movies. He is also the subject of the April 1, 2020 Radiolab podcast.

The April 10, 2020 Radiolab podcast was about the background behind six feet of separation. Contrary to an article by Julie Kelly of American Greatness, which I read in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there is some science behind six feet.

Granted, it's not an absolute value like water boils at 212 degrees Fahrenheit at 1 atmosphere. You're not in danger at five feet, but perfectly safe at six. Ms. Kelly seems to imply that because we don't have a formula that leads to six feet, we should ignore the distancing guideline.

Social distancing was used during the 1918 Spanish flu to flatten the curve, as shown in an article called How some cities 'flattened the curve' during the 1918 flu pandemic on the National Geographic website. In addition, the podcast I mentioned above talks about an investigation into the spread of a disease on an aircraft. The investigators found that the incidence of infection was much higher for the passengers who sat near the infected person, a radius of about six feet.

I am saddened by the irresponsible opinion pieces about the pandemic that the Review-Journal has published. In addition to the piece questioning the six-foot rule, it published two pieces criticizing the governor's order to restrict the use of hydroxychloroquine, here and here. The authors questioned where the governor was getting his science.

I question where the authors were getting their science. They both assumed that hydroxychloroquine was an effective or safe treatment. The most recent article, published on April 19, 2020 and written by a doctor, questioned why the governor required the drug to be used in the hospital only. Surely the doctor must have known about the drug's potential for fatal side effects and the study in Brazil that was stopped due to the high number of patient deaths a week before his article was published. A few days after his article, the FDA cautioned against the use of hydroxychloroquine outside of the hospital.

At least one piece criticized the governor for not giving a specific date when businesses can start to open up again. The Opening up America again guidelines on the White House website clearly state the criteria and there's no way the governor can know when we'll meet the criteria. Duh.

The Review-Journal published a letter saying that we should open the schools again because children seem to weather this virus well. I don't know why the paper published the letter. Fortunately, the paper published a rebuttal letter stating that the kids might spread the disease to parents and grandparents who might not fare as well and that's the reason the schools should remain closed.

The local TV news had an interview with a man who complained about the police issuing tickets to speeders. Now that the roads are less crowded, some drivers are putting the pedal to the medal. He never gave a justification for why drivers should be allowed to speed. He did say, "People are sick, people have fear, people don’t have money, and now they have this to worry about."

There's a simple, foolproof way to not have to worry about being pulled over for speeding and getting a speeding fine. Don't speed. Duh! He just made himself look foolish. I don't know why the news ran the interview.

There was another lockdown protest in Nevada this past weekend. A lady carried a sign that said we should ban the governor and allow vitamins (ok, no ones banning vitamins), sunshine (good luck trying to ban it), and hydroxychloroquine. Note that she diplayed her sign well after the Brazil study was stopped, a VA study showed no benefit and more deaths, and the FDA revised its recommendations. You can see her sign 17 seconds into the video on this page.

I learned that a former Review-Journal columnist organized another lockdown protest. I like to think that I played a small part in his dismissal from the Review-Journal due to the many letters I wrote pointing out the factual and contextual errors in his columns. His promoting fake Covid-19 preventive measures and treatments -- and subsequent cease-and-desist order from New York's Attorney General -- might have had more to do with his dismissal though.

In one of his last columns in the Review-Journal, he questioned the accuracy of the CDC's models. He wrote that the CDC estimated that more than one million Africans could be infected with Ebola, but the actual number was fewer than 30,000. "The CDC reports that this virus [Covid-19] could kill up to 1.7 million Americans...Could CDC officials be badly wrong?"

He's missing the context used in the Ebola model. The initial estimate assumed no interventions. There were interventions and the actual number of infections with the interventions was much lower than the estimate without. Similarly, the Covid-19 estimate assumes no interventions. He's missing the context again.

Actually, he forgot the context. Two paragraphs earlier he wrote, "I believe you're hearing only worst-case scenarios."

When I worked for an airline, my first job was to modernize the set of programs used to predict the P-and-L of a proposed schedule. Another group estimated the revenue for the flights. My programs calculated the expenses, the last step in the process. Fixed costs were allocated to the flights. Variable costs, like fuel, landing fees, and enroute charges were calculated.

Our V.P. said that the higher-ups frequently accused us of being too pessimistic and the airline would make more money than we calculated. When the actual numbers came in, however, he said our calculations were too optimistic!

Different assumptions yield different results. Different results with different conditions don't mean the model is wrong.

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