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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Do you always have a chance at the biggest prize in a picking bonus?

6 October 2020

Question: When the feature [bonus picks] is activated in some games, choices appear for the player. The three of the same kind, say free spins, regularly is what he or she gets.

Question, on those screens where the possibilities include mini, major, etc., jackpots, it seems that often what results is the smaller or smallest.

Does the grand or biggest prize worth thousands of dollars ALWAYS appear under the cover or is always available for the lucky customer to find?

Keep up the great work and advice!

Answer: Thanks.

A timely question. The September 2020 issue of Las Vegas Advisor had this item under Gambling Notes: A jackpot of $3,934,609 was hit at Bellagio on a Dancing Drums Explosion video slot machine, which required the player to pick the exact three gold coins necessary for the win from a choice of 12 in a bonus round.

Well, the player did pick three jackpot coins. But if every bonus round had three coins each for the four jackpot levels, players would hit the big one 1 in 4 times. And we know that the big one does not hit anywhere near that frequently.

As you pointed out, most of the time you get one of the two smaller jackpots.

It is NOT possible to win each jackpot on each trip to this bonus. The program running the slot machine has already determined which jackpot you will win. It placed two coins for each impossible jackpot on the screen and filled the rest of the positions with coins for the jackpot you will win. You can use whatever strategy you want when picking coins, but it's useless. Only one jackpot has enough coins on the screen.

The help screen for the bonus round probably has some slot legalese similar to: Player interaction is for entertainment purposes only and has no effect on the outcome.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the program might choose the big jackpot for you whenever you hit the bonus. I've heard from players who gotten the top jackpot on similar machines even when betting the minimum.


Question: One comment on your excellent analysis of the reported Covid-caused deaths in India:

As I understand it, the US reports all deaths of anyone who tests positive for Covid as a covid-caused death. In other words, someone who was in the process of dying of sepsis or a heart attack but who tests positive for Covid will be reported as a Covid-CAUSED death.

Also I understand it, most other countries record the PRIMARY cause of death, which in the above examples would be sepsis or heart attack, EVEN IF the person also tested positive for Covid.

Just my two cents.

Well done on your columns during the pandemic, by the way.

Answer: Thanks for the kind words.

Cause of death isn't necessarily the one-liner that the medical examiner gives on CSI. The death certificate may say that the immediate cause of death was A which was a consequence of B which was a consequence of C, and so on.

Many aircraft accidents occur because more than one thing failed. The crew or aircraft could deal with one failure, but multiple failures overwhelmed the crew or backup systems. Eastern Airlines flight 401, for instance, didn't crash in the Florida Everglades because a landing gear light burned out. It crashed because the light burned out AND the pilots accidentally disconnected the auto-pilot AND they were so consumed with troubleshooting the light that no one was flying the plane.

What would you list as the cause of the accident? Loss of situational awareness, the technical term for when a pilot does not know the true state of an aircraft not due to a systems failure? Certainly that's a cause here. Pilots are now trained that one pilot has the primary responsibility to fly the airplane regardless of what else is happening.

What about the light? The plane wouldn't have crashed had the light not burned out, but the light's burning out did not start an inevitable chain of events.

The official cause is "the failure of the flight crew to monitor the flight instruments during the final four minutes of flight, and to detect an unexpected descent soon enough to prevent impact with the ground. Preoccupation with a malfunction of the nose landing gear position indicating system distracted the crew's attention from the instruments and allowed the descent to go unnoticed."

Most people don't die from HIV/AIDS itself, but from another infection that was able to take advantage of a weak immune system. (Alexis Arquette's Death: How Do People Die from AIDS?). Were it not for the HIV/AIDS infection, they probably would have survived.

I don't know about other countries, but I think your statement that anyone who tests positive for Covid is counted as a Covid-caused death is not correct today. From the CDC website: "COVID-19 should not be reported on the death certificate if it did not cause or contribute to the death." (Understanding Death Data Quality: Cause of Death from Death Certificates)

At one time, some states may have counted anyone who died with Covid-19 as a Covid-19 death. In June 2020, the Washington State Department of Health issued a statement describing the change in its reporting criteria. In the first phase, deaths in which Covid-19 clearly did not play a role were removed from its count. On June 17, seven deaths were removed from the count: two suicides, three homicides and two overdoses. In the next phase, the cases in which Covid-19's role could not be ruled would be classified as contributing, probably contributing, and suspected to be contributing. (Changing the criteria used to identfy deaths caused by COVID-19)

On a death certificate (from New Jersey, but I believe they're similar in other states), the Cause of Death section has four lines: Line a labeled "Immediate Cause", followed by three more labeled "Due to (or as a consequence of)". The instructions read: "Immediate Cause - final disease or condition resulting in death. Subsequently list conditions, if any, leading to the cause listed on Line a. Enter the Underlying Cause (disease or injury that initiated the events resulting in death) last."

The document Instructions for Completing the Cause-of-Death Section on the CDC's website has some examples of completed sections. The two examples given are: Rupture of myocardium due to Acute myocardial infarction due to Coronary artery thrombosis due to Atherosclerotic coronary artery disease; Acute renal failure due to Hyperosmolar nonketotic coma due to Diabetes mellitus.

From Viral claim that only 6% of COVID-19 deaths were caused by the virus is flat-out wrong: The cause of death for the 6% who have died without comorbidities is actually a severe pneumonia, caused by the virus, which is then exacerbated by a person's own immune and inflammatory response.

From How COVID-19 Deaths Are Counted: For COVID-19, the immediate cause of death might be listed as respiratory distress, with the second line reading "due to COVID-19." Without COVID-19 being the last straw or the thing that led to the chain of events that led to death, they probably wouldn't have died.

Cause of death is a story, sometimes epic, not a soundbite. I don't think it matters much what line Covid-19 appears on.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths Cases Deaths
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 

Don't be afraid of Covid. Your onsite medical team can treat you at a moment's notice. If your treatment can't be handled in the medical suite in your spare bedroom, you will be medevaced to a world-class hospital. There the team dedicated to your care can give you an experimental treatment that only a couple thousand people have received so far, along with other drugs in a combination that no one else has received. And no need to worry about in-network, out-of-network, co-pays, co-insurance, and deductibles.


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