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Best of John Robison

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Ask the Slot Expert: When does a slot machine determine the result of a spin?

30 December 2015

I get it, by reading your thousands of responses -- "It is all random."

I have a thought as to why one can get hot on a machine even though those random spins are stacked against the player. How could I get hot for quite a while? I don't mean hitting a big pay every once in a while to make the session very profitable. I mean constantly hitting something for a decent period of time. My thoughts:

What if the machine payoffs were in sections. As an example:

  • Hot 5%
  • Cooler 15%
  • Cooler yet 30%
  • Cold 50%

And these four sections rotate with time at a section factored in.

So, when players are in the cold section, well, they will not get many hits. When in the hot section, they have a better chance of being hot. Naturally, the big hits are hidden among all these sections.

Yeah, I know, it's all random -- lol -- but I find it an interesting thought as so many complain about cold machines. (Nobody complains about hot machines.)

An interesting thought, but if machines worked that way, they'd be violating the primary rule (Should we call it the Prime Directive?) of slot machine programming:

Every outcome will be possible on every spin with the same probability.

You might say there are some exceptions to this rule, such as a machine that lets you choose the volatility you desire. Each volatility option is a separate reel layout. Once you've chosen your volatility level, the reel layout -- and the probabilities -- don't change from spin to spin.

Your sections, by their very nature, violate the unchanging probability part if not also the all outcomes always possible part of the rule.

From our vantage point in the present, we can look back at our history of results on a machine and say it was hot from time A to time B, cold from time C to time D, and choppy from time E to time F. But when we try to look into the future, the only thing we can say is that our chances for any outcome are the same on every spin and we have no idea when and for how long a machine will be hot or cold.

As you -- and I -- said: "It's all random."


I understand that the RNG is running all the time that exists and not just when the machine is being played. And the RNG stops when a button or coin is played, and the numbers are compared to a payout from $0.00 to the Jackpot. However, if you are not playing the MAX Bet button, which button is it that is pushed to stop the RNG to let the wheels display the combination for the amount the RNG selected? Is it the BET 1 button, or is it the SPIN WHEELS button? Since both buttons must be pushed, the bet before the spin naturally. If you BET MAX button, then there is only one button to push so that is pretty much cut and dried when the RNG determines what the payout will be for that spin.

Also, I have found on some types of machines, the BET MAX will take your money and only pay out small payouts. Where the smaller bets will pay out major wins but less money naturally each time, but more of them in a set time frame of play. Is there any explanation for this?

The programming in today's machines waits until the very last moment to lock in the result of a spin. It will determine the result of a spin after the player has committed to playing it either by hitting the Bet Max button or the Spin Reels or Repeat Bet button.

The reason that the program waits until the very last moment to lock in the result is because any time a machine is sitting with a locked-in result it is vulnerable to being cheated. For example, early computer-controlled slots determined the result of the next spin at the conclusion of the current spin. And some video poker machines drew all 10 cards that might be needed for a video poker hand on the deal. Cheats found ways to beat both of those machines.

When the program gets the result from the RNG (called "polling the RNG"), it doesn't get a payout amount. It typically gets one number for each reel. The number tells the program where to stop each reel. The program then looks at the symbols on the payline(s) and checks to see if they're a winning combination. If they are, it awards the appropriate number of credits.

Moving on to your last statement, I've had the same experience. It has seemed like I couldn't hit anything on a machine when I was betting the maximum, but I got some good payouts when I was betting the minimum.

I think in my case what happens is that I'm more willing to stick with a machine when I'm betting 30 cents per spin than when I'm betting $3 per spin. I play more spins at the lower bet, so I have more chances of hitting something.

And I think there's some relativity at play, too. A $30 hit is ho-hum on a $3 bet, but a nice return on a 30-cent bet.

How much you bet has no effect on your chances for hitting winning combinations. The chances are the same. As in the answer above, it's all random.


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