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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Game over for 'game logics'

24 December 2014

Previously on Ask the Slot Expert:

In my November 19 column, I published an e-mail from a reader named Michael who said that I cannot call myself a slot expert. He said that "the RNG has almost nothing to do with what you win" because "the RNG is a slave to a Timetable used in slots... meaning the numbers generated by the RNG cannot create a winning combination if that combination doesn't exist for that spin." He continued, "ALL BUSINESS [sic] regarding the RNG is just a smoke curtain [sic] to hide the true, real functions of a slot (the Game Logics)."

At the end of my reply, I asked Michael to explain what the "Game Logics" are. He sent a reply, but before I could publish it he sent another message, which referred to my November 26 column, which contained a reader's e-mail somewhat supporting the claims in Michael's first letter.

I published Michael's third letter in my December 17 column, introducing it with a letter of support I received from a slot director in Louisiana. At the bottom of that column, I promised some not-so-surprising information I found by Googling "Game Logics." And now for this week's exciting conclusion.

In my first column in this series, I said that I've been here before. Frank Scoblete and I both had an e-mail exchange with another gaming writer. He sent long e-mails making claims that contradicted concepts in probability that have stood the test of time. We tried to point out his erroneous beliefs, he replied saying our statements were in error and made more claims, and we replied — and we rode this merry-go-round for a few revolutions until we realized that we were never going to make any progress with him.

Deja vu. All over again.

When I Googled "Game Logics" to see if I could find any independent descriptions of this function, I found that our friend Michael sent a message making the same claims to Steve Bourie of American Casino Guide. You can read it here. The only new piece of information is that Michael included a country in his signature, Sweden. Even though he refused to answer my question about whether he lived in the United States, I correctly concluded that he did not.

In order to get a handle on what "Game Logics" does, I asked Michael to describe what it does in pseudocode. He replied (this week I will only publish unedited excerpts):

I am a programmer and I never have, and never will use “Pseudocode” because that will not show what actually happens within the code/software. It will only show the key principles.

Actually, that's the whole point. I want to see the key principles of your "Game Logics" without getting caught in the details or using a specific language.

[Pseudocode] is for children and dummies! You are no programmer, so I see why you need to use “Pseudocode”.

You might want to take a look at this press release for a network monitoring program I wrote a number of years ago when I was a principal in Datech Network Software.

Michael did deign to provide a few steps of his "Game Logics" that occur while a machine is idle between the end of one spin and the beginning of another:

  • IDLE: Timetable timespots moving, and if programmed; changing the game elements that are allowed to be changed on the virtual reels following TIME and other variables like economical functions etc.
  • Timetable functions (and other functions) will do the above until a spin is initiated, because at that point of a spin initiation it is no longer allowed to change anything regarding the “virtual reels”.

Basically he is saying that the reel layouts change in between spins based on time or how much a machine has paid out or some other criteria. He provided the following regulations from Nevada and his comments to support his claim:

Regulation 14.040(2)

This regulation sets forth the requirement that all gaming devices must use a random selection process to determine the game outcome. The random selection process includes all processes between the time a game is initiated and the outcome is displayed to the patron. Typically this process includes a request for random numbers, the modification of the random numbers into usable values, the mapping of the usable values to game elements, the evaluation of the selected game elements and finally the display of the outcome to the patron.

This regulation does not say anything regarding the time in between the spins (from the stop of the reels to the next initiation of a spin), ie the IDLE time. This is where they allow for changes on the ”virtual reels” among other things.

The regulation above ONLY mention a process that will generate random numbers for another process to use, and also the mapping of USEABLE VALUES to game elements. That’s all.

Regulation 14.040(2)(a)

This provision requires that each possible combination must be available at the beginning of each play. This provision is intended to ensure that each player has the same opportunity to obtain all winning or losing combinations. If a symbol or element is displayed it must be available for random selection and inclusion into a game outcome. A reel symbol must not have a weight of zero.

First of all; if you read this correctly it says that EACH PLAYER must have the same opportunity etc. It does not say ”must have the same chance” or that the odds are always the same for each spin!

Well, I would argue that the "same opportunity" means the same odds.

I had said that it was illegal to alter reel layouts in the United States. Every combination on the paytable must be possible on every spin and with the same probability.

NO! IT IS NOT ILLEGAL! Why? Because of the regulations above, and the explanation I wrote earlier in this letter. Please read the regulations if you don't understand them.

Yes, let's look at the regulations. I checked regulation 14 on Nevada's Gaming Control Board website. The text was different from what Michael provided. I asked a contact at the board and he said that the text Michael cited was from a policy letter issued on 5/24/12, which was issued to clarify the requirements of Regulation 14. The text is not the actual regulation, just a management summary. Let's look at some excerpts from the actual regulations:

14.040(2)(c)

The selection process must not produce detectable patterns of game elements or detectable dependency upon any previous game outcome, the amount wagered, or upon the style or method of play.

I would think that this section precludes altering the reel layouts based, but I can already hear the argument that the key word in the regulation is "detectable" and that the programming exists and is so sophisticated that the pattern is undetectable. But then that raises the question: How was Michael able to detect it?

14.040(2)(b)

For gaming devices that are representative of live gambling games, the mathematical probability of a symbol or other element appearing in a game outcome must be equal to the mathematical probability of that symbol or element occurring in the live gambling game. For other gaming devices, the mathematical probability of a symbol appearing in a position in any game outcome must be constant.

The first sentence in this section makes video poker machines deal from fair decks. The second sentence is the one we're interested in. It deals with slots that don't mimic other gambling games. It says that the reel layouts CANNOT change.

My contact made these comments:

Each spin of a gaming device must be independent and exclusive of any secondary decisions based on criteria such as previous game outcomes or hold percentages.

You are correct in your understanding that the probabilities of a symbol appearing cannot change between spins. The odds of any outcome must remain constant.

At this time, the Regs of the NGCB prohibit the Board from approving any game that alters the probability of an outcome occurring.

The final nails in the "Game Logics" coffin.

These statements should apply for all Class III slots in the United States because states based their regulations on those in Nevada and New Jersey. All bets are off for foreign slots; some countries allow procedures that are illegal in the United States.

I'll finish with some more excerpts from Michael's letters:

You are using old information ALL THE TIME that is not reliable today (much has changed since those times you mention)

You are presenting another persons letter in the same reply to me that has nothing to do with our conversation, and he is connected to the gambling industry so he will of course agree to what you write. This is just sad and pathetic. The correct thing to do is to post an answer to what he wrote NOT together with your answer to ME (but I see why you did it).

You are not providing me with your recorded spins in an e-mail to me. I asked for this because I don’t believe you have these recorded spins on paper, but if you do. Scan the documents and send them to me.

I did that almost 20 years ago. I didn't throw out the sheets, but I don't know where they are now. But Michael won't believe me because:

You are a FALSE person, but that I already knew.

You are selectively posting what I have sent to you by e-mail. Anything that is a threat to you and anyone connected to the gambling industry will of course not be posted...I think it is interesting that you select which letters you decide to show on your web page

Yes, I do select the letters that I feel are the most informative, are of the greatest interest to my readers and that are the most entertaining. There are no other criteria.

Please let me know why you didn’t posted all the information I e-mailed to you, un-edited! And I am going to need a real, good answer! And please don’t lie either.

Well, folks, we've reached the end of this ride and the safety bar has been raised. Please watch your step leaving the ride.

In his first message, Michael said that he corresponded with other gaming experts and they stopped corresponding with him. He will undoubtedly take the cessation of correspondence as a victory, that we can't refute his claims.

In reality, we've just grown tired of the nonsense.

Everyone (including Michael) have a happy holiday season,
John


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