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: Fault tolerance in slot clubs and slot machines

17 August 2016

I had two potentially distressing events happen to me this past week while playing video poker. Both events show the high degree of fault tolerance built into slot machines and slot club systems.

The first event occurred at Red Rock Casino on Wednesday. I was just a few thousand points short of achieving President level in the Station Casinos Boarding Pass slot club. It was 6x points on video poker for My Generation (50+) members and Red Rock has NSUD, so I could climb up to the President level with a small (0.3%) advantage.

I kept an eye on my session points as I played so I would know when I had enough points to get my new cards. At some point after I was a few hundred points short, the session point display changed from the number of points to "No System Link."

"Great," I thought. Something is wrong with reporting my play to the slot club system on my machine. I looked at the machine next to me and it also said, "No System Link."

The problem was more widespread than just my machine. Maybe something happened with the communications from the bank of machines where I was playing to the slot club software.

At Station Casinos, instead of having a dedicated panel to interact with the slot club system on video machines, the slot club menus take over part of the screen, squishing the normal display so the slot club menu panel can be displayed on the left of the screen. I opened the slot club panel on my machine and, instead of the usual menu, it displayed a message saying that even though the system link was down, I could still continue to play and earn points.

I played for a little while longer, but then I got concerned about not having my play recorded in the slot club, so I cashed out to go find another NSUD that still had communications. As I walked back to another video poker bank, I noticed that every machine had the "No System Link" message. Either the slot club server was down or the network connecting the slot machines to the server was down.

Station Casinos runs a free slot tournament on Wednesdays for My Generation members. You get one free entry and can earn four more through play. I decided to go play in the tournament and hoped that the slot club would be back up when I was finished.

Checking in at the registration desk, the rep swiped my card and said that I had only the one free entry because I hadn't played yet today. I said that I had played about 4000 points so far today, but your system is down.

While waiting for my turn to play, I noticed the message on the machines bouncing between "No System Link" and "Welcome" (the normal message) before finally settling on "Welcome". The system was back up.

I played my session (did poorly, by the way) and checked my status using the STN app on my phone. The app said that I had made it to President level. I went to the club booth to get my new cards. The rep there said I still had a few more points to go. I showed her the status display on the app. She said that there were system problems and her system hadn't updated yet. I should come back in about 30 minutes.

There was no line at the slot tournament registration desk, so I checked to see if they had my play there. Their system did have my play, so I was able to play the extra four sessions. I did poorly in those, too.

Over the years, I've attended a number of seminars and presentations about slot club systems. The hardware and software in the slot machines is designed to be fault tolerant and gracefully handle communications problems with the slot club server. If the system in the machine can't communicate with the server, it will store your play information for a period of time (days or weeks) until it can successfully send the information to the server.

I knew all of my play would eventually be added to my account. Still, it's reassuring to see the point display increasing -- even though the play data isn't finalized on the server until you take out your card and the server receives the Card Out message.

Not having play recorded on my account is bad, but the second event had the potential to be disastrous. I usually don't play video poker machines with gimmicks, but I decided to try one of the Triple Wheel poker machines the Suncoast has in its high limit area. On this machine, you get to spin one of three bonus credit wheels when you're dealt a hand from three-of-a-kind through four-of-a-kind, with the higher-paying hands giving you a crack at the wheels with larger amounts.

A lady sat down at the Triple Wheel machine next to me while I was playing. She said that she had lost a lot of money on my machine and then something about giving her some money if won a lot on it.

She was kidding, of course, but still it would have been awkward if I hit it big on that machine. Fortunately, she left after a few minutes, well before I won $200 from the bronze wheel.

But maybe it would have been good if she had been around when I was dealt three eights, held the eights, and hit the Deal button and --

Nothing happened. I hit the Deal button again and still nothing. I tried pressing one of the Hold buttons and it didn't do anything.

I was just about to hit the Service button when the screens on the machine went blank. The machine crashed and I had over $400 in credits on it.

Slot machines, like slot club systems, are designed to be fault tolerant. After all, you never know when they might lose power. They have to be able to recover from a power failure or other mishap (like a system crash) and pick up exactly where they were before the mishap.

After a few seconds, the top screen said, "No Video Input" but the bottom screen was still blank. Another 30 seconds or so, and both screens displayed IGT's Advanced Video Platform logo. After what seemed like a long reboot time, but was probably only a minute, the machine picked up right where it had left off. The bottom screen displayed my hand with the three eights held, the top screen displayed the bronze wheel, and -- best of all -- the credit meter still had my credits.

Even though I knew there were multiple safeguards in the machine to prevent losing any information, even in the middle of a play, I was still relieved when the machine came back up and my hand and credits were still there.


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