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Ask the Slot Expert: Slot machines tease when you're almost out of credits11 December 2013
I think I know what's happening, but I don't think you're going to like my explanations.
When we're running out of money on the credit meter, we become hypersensitive to whatever happens on the machine, more so than if we had hundreds of credits left. If the machine is cold, we'll run out of credits and have to decide whether to feed the machine to stay in the game or switch machines. If the machine starts hitting, we've won a reprieve and can delay our "fight or flight" decision until later. The events you described happen when our credit meters are flush too, but we don't attach any significance to them then.
Now, let's look at some of your statements. You said that some machines "never paid a single coin." Really? Not one single coin? That's not very likely -- actually, nearly impossible -- given that the hit frequency for Mr. Cashman is about 50 percent. Although you could have some short streaks of losing spins, on the whole you'll win at least one coin on about half your spins.
Given that hit frequency, it's not surprising that you hit some small amounts. That's how the video slots can have such high hit frequencies -- they can pay back less than a push.
It's also not surprising that you hit some small amounts a few times when your meter was low. You have about a 50/50 chance of hitting something on a spin.
Finally, it's not surprising that you eventually lost your bankroll. After all, the machines are designed to pay back a few percentage points less than the money they take in. If you played long enough, the house edge will eventually eat your bankroll.
In short, there's nothing special about being nearly out of credits. You would be able to make the same observations if you paid close attention to what happens when you neared 100 credits or 1,000 credits. The machine doesn't care, moreover, that you are nearly out of credits. The RNG isn't affected by the number of credits left. Only you care that you are almost out of credits.
No, the casino has no control whatsoever over when a slot machine hits.
The slot regulations in most states say that the slot machine has to display the result determined by the Random Number Generator (RNG) in the machine. So, if the casino wanted to force a particular outcome, it would have to force the RNG to generate that result. But the regulations also say that the RNG must be free of any outside influence. So the casino can't affect the RNG in any way.
The casino can't control the RNG and it can't control a slot machine's payouts.
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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