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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Intro to the random number generator

30 November 2016

Question: what is the difference between the VLT machines at the racinos and the slot machines at the Vegas-style casinos?

Answer: The only thing I can say for sure about a VLT versus a slot machine is that the VLT is operated by a state lottery, hence "video lottery terminal." Some VLTs operate the same way as slot machines — that is, they have internal random number generators and determine the results of their spins independently. Other VLTs are more like scratch-off tickets; they require a central server to send them their results.

You can tell what kind of machines a racino has by looking at their video poker machines. If there's some sort of fairy godmother or other deus ex machina that pops up to award you credits after a hand, then you don't have a Vegas-style machine and playing with a strategy is useless.


Question: Please tell me in simple terms how the RNG works. Does it run all the time or is it activated when you spin the machine? Do I stop the RNG when I push the spin button? I know nothing about the RNG.

Answer: Okay, here goes RNG 101.

The RNG is just a mathematical function programmed into the software running the slot machine. It is constantly generating numbers, in Nevada at a minimum average rate of 100 per second.

You don't stop the RNG when you start a spin, but you do cause the program to poll the RNG. Polling the RNG means that the software retrieves the number most recently generated by the RNG. The software usually polls the RNG once for each reel on the machine.

The RNGs are designed so that there is no pattern in the outcomes. The result of each spin is completely independent of the results of any past spin. You have the same chances of hitting the jackpot on every spin — even the spin right after a jackpot spin.


Question: I go to Winstar Casino in Thackerville, Oklahoma. One machine I play I think is called Money Grab. Or maybe it might be called something wheel spin?

When playing the symbols are different denominations of dollar bills. Then in reels 1, 3 and 5, when you get the three spin symbols you get to spin the big wheel at the top of the machine, where it pays different dollar amounts or else it will land on a bonus round where you get to pick either 20, 30, 40, 50 or 100 green dollar bills for various dollar amounts. The dollar bills go flying by so you can pick them. If I remember right the bet amounts are 60, 120, 180, 240 or 300 pennies. I have always bet 300 pennies. It has jackpots you can win on the wheel with varying amounts according to how much you bet.

I was wondering if you could tell me the best strategies are for playing and for grabbing the dollars when they fly by in the bonus round. Some people playing have told me to grab as fast as you can while others say to try only a few at a time going for the bigger-looking bills.

Answer: This sounds like one of the Crazy Money games from Incredible Technologies.

There aren't any slot machines with skill-based bonus rounds on slot floors yet, so I would say that there's no value in trying to play with a strategy. The program most likely randomly assigns values to the bills and your picks do determine how much you will win — but the values are assigned randomly, so small bills might have big values.

Try an experiment. The program determines how many picks you have, so there's no need to rush. Take your time and try to pick the big-looking bills. If you see big bills with small values, you know that it's not worth trying to pick out the big bills. Just pick bills at random.


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