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Ask the Slot Expert: Should I always play full coin on a slot machine?31 December 2014
Thanks for the kind words. Here are the answers to your questions:
1. No, you should not always bet the highest bet. To stretch your bankroll, you should bet only enough to activate all the ways to win. That means betting at least one coin per line. Most video slots act as multipliers — that is, what you win on a line is just a straight multiple of what you bet on a line. Increasing your bet, therefore, does not increase your long-term payback. Still, you can bet whatever you are comfortable betting. Even though there's no increase in payback, for example, I will sometimes bet more than the minimum because my bankroll can sustain me through cold spells and I want the chance at winning larger amounts.
Some video slots are not multipliers; they pay a bonus on one or more combinations when you bet max coin on a line or on the machine. Check the paytable for Royal Reels. You might have to bet full coin on all lines to be eligible to win the jackpot. In that case, you have to decide if you have the bankroll to make that large a bet.
2. We'd have to check the PAR sheets to know for sure, but it's very likely that your chances of hitting the jackpot are the same on both machines. Most slot directors order the same math model on all machines of a particular game. You might as well play the machine with the largest jackpot.
3. Yes and no. Yes, you can ask the casino to print a win/loss statement for you. But no, you can't declare that amount as a loss on your taxes. First, you can only deduct losses up to your winnings. Second, the IRS will not accept the statement as proof because there's no guarantee you always played with your card inserted. There's just no escaping keeping your own contemporaneous log to justify the amounts you claim on your taxes. Read Tax Help for Gamblers by Jean Scott and Marissa Chien now so you know what records to keep next year.
This is not the first time cheats have been able to predict outcomes on electronic gaming devices. In a recent column I described how a group of cheats in the Midwest used knowledge of the RNG function in a specific video poker machine to simulate the RNG on their own computer and predict when they could hit a royal flush.
It's true that the output of the RNG function — and therefore the outcomes on a slot machine — are not truly random.
The RNG function is a collection of mathematical operations, the results of which never vary. For example, 2 + 2 is always 4 and never sometimes 3 or 5. In mathematics, this is known as a deterministic function. Deterministic functions always return the same result for a given set of inputs. The RNG function contains deterministic functions, so it is also a deterministic function. If we knew the inputs to the RNG, we would also know with certainty the output.
The RNG in a slot machine is more correctly called a PRNG — psuedo-random number generator. The output of the PRNG looks like a stream of random numbers, satisfies many of the tests for a stream of random numbers, but is not truly random because it is the product of a deterministic function. The bottom line for players, though, is that they cannot predict the outcome of a spin just by tracking the outcomes of prior spins.
I wasn't able to find out any more information about this particular incident, but I would bet that the cheats were somehow able to get inside knowledge of the RNG function and used their overseas server to simulate the RNG and predict outcomes.
James Maida, President of Gaming Labs International, once said at a seminar on slot cheating that "if man made it, man can cheat it."
Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.
Best of John Robison