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Ask the Slot Expert: Is 88 Fortunes deceptive?8 June 2016
Last week I posted a letter describing how the gold coin pick-em bonus operates on the 88 Fortunes machines in one reader's casino. She said that once the bonus round was triggered, the progressive was reset on the linked machines and she always won the progressive that had been reset.
I had played 88 Fortunes but had never noticed when the progressive was reset. I wrote that I was going to play the machine again and pay attention to when the progressive was reset.
When I got to the gold coin bonus, no progressives were reset until I had actually picked three coins for one progressive.
As in real estate, location is everything with how slots operate. The machines I played are in Las Vegas. The player who wrote the original email followed up to say that she plays at Dover Downs in Delaware.
Aha! The machines at Dover Downs are Video Lottery Terminals. Rather than having their own internal Random Number Generators, they depend on an external server to determine their outcomes. The external server determines which progressive you will win in the bonus round.
The progressive is reset before the player has picked three matching symbols. There is a principle in most slot regulations that if you hit a progressive, you should win whatever its current value is. If the progressive were not reset right away, the following scenario would be possible.
Player A triggers the bonus round and the central server awards him the Mini, which is currently $15. Player A begins picking coins and then Player B triggers the bonus round and is also awarded the Mini, which should be valued at the reset amount of $10 because Player A won it first. If the progressive were not reset immediately after Player A won it, Player B could match three symbols before Player A and win the $15. That would not be fair because Player A won the Mini before Player B, regardless of how long it takes each player to pick three matching symbols.
The scenario I described is perfectly okay in Las Vegas because a player has not won a progressive until he picks three matching symbols. Player B matches three coins and wins the progressive first, so he should get the $15 and Player A should get the reset amount.
An interesting consequence of the current progressive amount principle is that it is technically possible for a second person to hit the Megabucks or any other wide area progressive before the message to reset the progressive has propagated to their machine. The second person has to be paid the amount displayed for the progressive, not the reset amount. It's not her fault that she hit the jackpot before her machine received the reset message. Paying her the reset amount instead of the displayed amount would be bait-and-switch.
Keeping with 88 Fortunes....
Answer: Here's the text on the help screens at the machines here in Las Vegas.
On the screen titled Gold Coin Feature: "12 coins will appear. Touching a coin will reveal the symbol of an available jackpot. When 3 matching symbols have been revealed the corresponding jackpot will be awarded and the feature ends.&qout; The screen has a chart showing which symbol corresponds to each progressive.
On the Fu Bat Jackpot Feature screen: "The number of gold symbols played determines eligibility for progressive jackpot wins." The screen then has a chart showing that no jackpots are available when you play 1 gold coin. The Mini is available when you play 2. Playing 3 adds the Minor, 4 the Major and 5 the Grand. "Symbols displaying the available jackpots are displayed at the top right corner. When a [wild] symbol appears the player may be awarded an available jackpot. If more than one jackpot is available then the jackpot awarded is determined by the Gold Coin Feature."
Let's examine the text on the help screens. The first phrase I want to look at is the one that says that a player may be awarded an available jackpot when a wild symbol appears. When a wild symbol appears, gold coins fly from the symbol to the rice bowl at the top of the screen. The bowl gradually gets fuller and fuller with gold coins until the bonus is triggered.
In my experience and those of other players I spoke with, the fullness of the rice bowl is irrelevant. I've had the bonus triggered with a nearly empty bowl and I've also had many instances in which many wild symbols have appeared with a full bowl and the bonus was not triggered.
The help screens do say that an available jackpot may be awarded when the wild symbol appears. The screens don't mention the rice bowl at all. If the fullness of the rice bowl is truly irrelevant to the chances of triggering the bonus round when a wild symbol appears, I consider the rice bowl graphics on the screen to be misleading. I and other players believed that the bonus would be triggered once the bowl was full.
The next phrase I want to examine is available jackpot. Although I feel like President Clinton saying that it depends on what the meaning of the word is is, I have to ask what the word available means.
Does available mean that each progressive can be won by matching three symbols on each invocation of the Gold Coin Feature? For example, the Grand is available when you play 5 gold coins, but does that mean that there are three symbols for it in the Gold Coin Feature each time it is triggered?
Again, based on my experiences and those of players I spoken with and those of the writer of the current letter, it does not appear ti be possible to win each progressive each time you go to the bonus round. We usually hit the Mini or the Minor, rarely get the Major and never get the Grand.
A few days ago I saw a lady reveal 8 coins and then win the Mini. Because the symbols under the other coins are not revealed, we have no way of knowing whether she could have won any of the other progressives.
One theory I read online is that you must bet the max ($8.88) to have a 1-in-4 chance at the Grand. The lady I mentioned in the prior paragraph said that she has won the Major, but she didn't remember how much she had bet on the triggering spin because she frequently varies her bet.
Another possible meaning of available is that three coins for the progressive are on at least one of the many layouts available for the symbols under the coins, but it doesn't mean that three coins for each progressive are present each time the bonus round is triggered (with 5 gold coins played). This meaning assumes that there is a pool of previously defined layouts and that one of them is chosen at random when the bonus begins. It's possible that each layout may contain only two symbols for the progressives you won't win, with the rest of the positions filled with symbols for the progressive you will win. If this is the case, your choices effect only how long the bonus round lasts, not which progressive you win.
If this is the way the Gold Coin Feature operates, then I consider it to be deceptive. Players are given multiple indications that they could win any progressive in the bonus round. There is a graphic on the screen showing each baby (progressive) that is available. There are 12 coins displayed in the bonus round and one needs to match three to win a progressive -- 3 times 4 equals 12. Players will naturally assume that there are three coins for each progressive and that each progressive can be won on each trip to the bonus round. Your choices should matter, moreover, in a pick-em bonus round. The bonus round is still deceptive even if there are three coins for more than one progressive in a layout because it's not possible to win all progressives.
Consider another way this bonus could operate. The four symbols could be put on a wheel and the symbol that appears under the pointer when the wheel stops spinning is the progressive that the player wins. Here it's clear that the RNG has chosen the progressive and players aren't fooled into thinking that their choices matter.
There are easy ways to fix the deception. First, add a statement saying that there are not necessarily three symbols for each progressive each time you go to the bonus round to the help screens. If the amount of your bet increases the chances that one of the larger progressives will have three coins on the layout, that can be disclosed too. Second, change the number of coins to fewer than 12. That would make it clear that not every progressive can be won.
88 Fortunes can be fun to play because of the frequent large payouts. I've seen players win hundreds of dollars even without betting the max. I've hit many payouts of $20 to $40 and more on an 88-cent bet. I just wish the help screens were clearer about the Gold Coin Feature.
I've sent queries to the manufacturer of 88 Fortunes and the Nevada Gaming Commission to get a clarification on whether there are three coins for each available progressive each time you go to the Gold Coin Feature. I'll let you know what they say.
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at email@example.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
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