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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: Is the bonus amount predetermined when you have a choice of bonus games?

19 December 2018

Question: I was on a ship playing Dancing Drums and sitting next to a friend playing the same machine.

She hit the progressive feature and was very deliberate in making her choices (as if she had an influence on the outcome). After she hit the Mini, I tried my best to explain to her that the result was already pre-determined and had nothing to do with her choices. I'm not sure she believed me.

A few minutes later, I hit the progressive feature and said to her, "Watch. It doesn't matter what you pick. It's pre-determined".

I went on to make picks with my left hand while looking directly at her and NOT at the machine. After a few picks, the machine made some sounds. I looked to see that I had won the GRAND jackpot — $12,500! The casino counted out my winnings . . . and did NOT give me a W-2G.

Random is sometimes a wonderful concept; and skill is not needed.

Answer: Congratulations on your big win.

I figured that since cruise ships are registered outside the U.S. and the casino is open only when the ship is outside U.S. waters, the cruise ship casinos might not be required to issue W-2Gs. I researched the topic online and discovered that the casino is supposed to issue W-2Gs and that some do and some don't.

I'm sure that I don't have to remind you that, W-2G or not, you're still required to report the income on your tax return. And, as an added bonus in your situation, you were supposed to report the fact that you had over $10,000 in cash in your possession at Customs.

As a side note, there are some unexpected advantages to living in Las Vegas. Bank tellers don't even blink on some things that might have raised some eyebrows — and some questions — back in my home state of New Jersey.

I had a dealt royal on a quarter 10-play machine, $10,000. The casino paid me with a banded bundle of one hundred hundreds. Ben never looked so beautiful.

When I went to the bank to deposit the money, I brought along the W-2G to show the source of the money in case the bank needed it for the Currency Transaction Report (CTR), which they had to file because my transaction was $10,000.

The teller just took the money, counted it and then put it through the counting machine to verify the count. No questions, no reaction. He said that it was all there. I said, "It should be, I got it from the Suncoast. They shouldn't make a mistake." End of transaction.

I found out afterwards that the CTR is filed automatically and that the feds might ask me some questions in the future if they suspected that I was laundering money — As if. It's difficult enough to get me to launder my clothes!

Incidentally, you should always have the slot person count out your hand pays. You can maybe feel comfortable if you're paid in a banded bundle. That presumably has been checked and double-checked. But when the slot person shows up with a fistful of cash, have it counted.

A friend of mine had a hand pay. The slot person asked if she wanted it counted. She thought it looked a little light, so she said that she did want it counted. It turns out that the casino was a couple thousand short.

She doesn't know what happened. Maybe there were two handpays at the same time and the slot person took the wrong pile. In any case, the slot person and the verifier apologized profusely and got the correct amount.

Random, no skill. Pretty much sums up a slot machine, doesn't it?

Speaking of predetermined bonuses . . .


Question: I have a question about about machines where the player can decide between multiple bonus games. Sphinx 3D, for example, allows a player to choose from upwards of six bonus games. Others sometimes offer a choice between free games or picking games.

My question is this.

Is the amount of money the player is going to win in the bonus predetermined regardless of which bonus they choose? Or is the outcome of each bonus controlled by its own RNG or other method?

Answer: The amount you win in this situation is not predetermined. The RNG is used to determine the outcome of the bonus round.

I'm not familiar with all of the bonus options on Sphinx 3D. I just haven't played it enough. (I was however very familiar with all of the bonus options on a Lord of the Rings slot on slot floors about eight years ago. I wish the latest incarnation would let you choose the bonus event you want, but I suppose having the program pick it randomly adds some excitement and keeps players coming back in an attempt to experience all of the options.)

One option on Sphinx 3D is the Wild Scarab bonus. In this event, five bonus reels spin and some of the symbols on the reels are wild scarab symbols. Each spin requires five polls of the RNG, one for each reel, to determine where the reels will stop.

It's very simple to let the RNG determine the outcomes of the bonus. I suppose though that the slot designers could choose a number of bonus amounts and then design a scenario that wins that amount for each bonus option. Then when the bonus is triggered, the programs uses the RNG to choose a bonus amount you will win. Then when you choose a bonus option, it plays the predefined scenario that leads to that amount. If there's a pick'em bonus, like on Dancing Drums above, only the pre-determined amount can be possible.

Complicated. It's much simpler to let your winnings be decided by how the bonus option you choose plays out.


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