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Ask the Slot Expert: Don't casino regulations give all players an equal chance to win?13 July 2016
Last week we looked at whether a traditional, reel-spinning slot machine player would have gotten the same result if he had started the spin by pressing the Bet Max button instead of pressing the Bet 1 button and the Spin button. To recap the answer, the RNG generates hundreds of numbers each second. The player got the result he got because he initiated the spin at the exact point in time at which the numbers from the RNG corresponded to those stops on the reel. If he had started the spin a fraction of a second earlier or later, he would have gotten a different result.
On a traditional slot machine with all the different ways possible to start a spin, it's nearly impossible to have started a spin at the exact same moment using a different method. But what about on a video slot?
If you're pressing the various buttons for the number of coins to play, you could get your hand over the button for the next number of coins you'll bet while the current spin is playing out. In this case, I think you have the potential to start the next spin at the same time regardless of the number of coins you bet. You might get the same result with the different bet.
Still, it's only might. A few milliseconds faster or slower and you'd get a different result.
Answer: No, I intentionally did not say that each player had an equal chance at winning — though whether each player has an equal chance depends on the game being played.
For table games like roulette and baccarat, in which the only two choices a player makes are how much to bet and which outcome to bet on, each player making the same type of bet has an equal chance of winning. All baccarat players betting bank, player or tie have the exact same odds. All roulette players not betting the five-number basket bet face the same house edge. All players betting odd or even, high or low, black or red have the same probability of winning their bets.
On slot machines, we have to define what we mean by winning. Max-coin players frequently play at a higher long-term payback, but they also frequently have a higher expected loss per spin because the increase in payback doesn't offset the increase in risk from the higher bet. Still, the symbols land on the payline with the same frequency regardless of the amount bet.
Now let's turn to games that require some skill — craps, blackjack and video poker. A craps shooter who practices dice control has a greater chance of winning than a shooter who blows on the dice and hopes for the best. A blackjack player who counts cards has a better chance of winning than a player who only knows basic strategy. And the basic strategy player has a better chance of winning than a player who doesn't. A video poker player who knows the strategy for a pay table will win more in the long run than a player who plays on hunches.
In these last three cases, the regulation ensure that the rules and conditions of the games are the same for all players. But the players are able to use their skills to improve their chances of winning over unskilled players.
Answer: Based on reports from 88 Fortunes players, it's possible to hit the Grand jackpot on less than a max-coin bet. Also, your choices during the pick-em bonus round are irrelevant because the program running the machine has already chosen which progressive you will win.
A pick-em bonus round gives players the impression that their choices determine their fate. In this case, the RNG has already determined their fate. There are less deceptive ways to reveal a preselected bonus amount. On one Lord of the Rings variation, for example, multiple bonus amounts are displayed on a screen. They disappear one by one until only one amount remains. Certainly not as interactive or exciting as picking coins on 88 Fortunes, but at least you know that the RNG has determined what you will win.
I've seen a number of new Asian-themed games recently. All of them have a statement saying something like "player interaction during the bonus round does not affect the outcome" in the help screens. I think 88 Fortunes is the granddaddy of all of these machines, so maybe the statement was added in its descendants to clarify what is really happening in the bonus round.
Still, I really can't see a difference between a pick-em bonus round in which it is impossible to complete a set of one or more of the possibilities and the Secondary Decision used on the old Universal slot machines. In both cases, the game can give you the impression that you were close to winning a big prize — trying to find the third Grand coin on 88 Fortunes or hoping for the third jackpot symbol to land on the payline on a Universal slot — when in fact the last item you needed to win the big prize was impossible to get.
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.
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