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Ask the Slot Expert: Reaction to 'You cannot call yourself a slot expert'

26 November 2014

I too believe that there is a lot more to the story about random number generators, near misses, etc. for regular slots — and also how cards were and are being dealt in video poker. (And I have been a casino marketing director for almost 15 years.)

And if there was one gaming writer who questioned this the validity of how slot machines/RNGs work — then obviously where there is smoke, there is fire.

The fact that a gaming writer was stonewalled or his sources clammed up when he asked real questions adds even more credibility to his claims — and I suppose with lack of industry cooperation is why he is no longer publishing in print or online.

...where's there is smoke, there is fire....and when you send smoke down a rabbit hole, they run out!!! It's time the "scams" or whatever truths they are hiding about slot machines get exposed to the light of day.

I assume the reason you and Scoblete didn't follow him "down the rabbit hole" is that you want to keep making a living doing what you do — which may not be the outcome your colleague achieved.

Maybe we need to get some investigative reporters on this... remember when some slot machine guru/programmer (whatever) was set to testify in court about gaming's near-misses on royal flushes in Video Poker back in the '70s in Las Vegas...??? As he left his building to drive to court, his car blew up with him in it. Tell me that there still aren't some big secrets the gaming industry wants to hide!

Please publish the name of the writer you talked about — or the names of his books so we can get more info on this subject. If not, could you please e-mail it to me directly.

First off, I do not make my living from writing about slot machines. I wish I did, but I don't. Far, far from it. I make more in two months as a database developer than I've made in almost 20 years writing about slots. My slot-writing income could stop today and I'd never miss it. The fact is that gamblers don't buy many books — at least not many books about gambling.

The writer I wrote about did not write about slots or video poker. All of his books are about table games. As I wrote in my last column, he questioned probability theory even though we have 400+ years of validation. One of his ideas was that probabilities have to change for random events to occur with the frequency we expect. For example, if heads comes up three times in a row flipping a fair coin, the probabilities have to shift to favor tails to keep the long-term probabilities 50/50.

This idea is hogwash, of course. The probabilities are always 50/50, regardless of the results of past flips. The reason that the probabilities are very close to 0.50 in the long run is because the effect of streaks on the probabilities is minimal in a large number of observations. A drop of blue food coloring may be enough to turn a glass of water blue, but throw that glass of blue water into the Atlantic ocean and you can't see any effect.

This writer was never stonewalled and no one clammed up. The correspondence he shared with me was with mathematicians and other gaming writers. We would show him the math or explain how his claim did not hold up, then he'd move on to another idea. Once that one was also discredited, he would circle back to the first idea. You have to give up when someone won't accept the fact that two plus two is four. At some point, you stop entertaining the moon-landing conspiracy theorist.

I'm familiar with the murder you mentioned. The programmer worked for a slot route operator and the owners had him alter the programming in their video poker machines to make them more profitable than their paytables indicated. I believe he made it impossible to get a royal flush in spades. In any case, he was not murdered by the slot manufacturing industry to hide their secrets. He was murdered by people connected with his employer, American Coin. And by the way, he was murdered in his driveway while working on his car, not on his way to court to testify.

Finally, as a casino marketing director, maybe you can talk to your slot director about some of your concerns. Your slot director has access to PAR sheets and machine statistics. He or she depends on the randomness of spin results to have machines hold close to the percentage indicated on the PAR sheets. He sometimes sees the hold far from the long-term hold on machines with little play and sees the hold get closer and closer to the long-term percentage as the machines get more play. If the results aren't random, why isn't a machine's hold always close to the long-term hold indicated on its PAR sheet?

There are no scams. There are no truths being hidden. There is no fire. There is no smoke. The only reason that detailed information about the Random Number Generator functions used in slot machines is not readily available is for security — some people will (and have) used information about the function to cheat machines.

Some secrecy provides some security. Just try to get detailed information about Air Force One or the Presidential Limousine.


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