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Ask the Slot Expert: Where are 95 percent payback slot machines?18 February 2015
Thanks for the kind words about my column.
I used a value of 95 percent in my statement that "a 95 percent payback machine is a 95 percent payback machine regardless of how its results are determined" just as an example.
That said, the slot paybacks in a recent Strictly Slots show about 95 percent for dollars and up in Nevada and even for quarters in some areas. In Illinois, only the Argosy Alton reported 95 percent long-term payback on nickels, but many properties reported 95 percent for quarters and dollars. It is getting tougher and tougher to find 95 percent payback slots, but they are still out there.
Arizona gaming pacts do require that slots pay back at least 80 percent, but that doesn't mean that you will walk into a casino with $100 and walk out with $80 or put $100 into a machine and cash out $80. Considering that many players play until they run out of money, I can see how they don't believe payback requirements. I've had many players say that they started with $20 (or $50 or $100 or ...) and walked away with nothing, how can that be 90 percent (or 95 percent or 98 percent or ...) payback?
There are two hurdles in the way of players verifying that machines pay back at least the statutorily mandated percentage. First, players don't keep track of their bets and results to be able to calculate the payback they experienced. They have to keep track of total amount bet and the total amount won on each spin to calculate their payback.
Even if players did keep track, the randomness and volatility of slot results means that their actual paybacks may be far away from their machines' long-term paybacks over a small number of spins — casting doubt on the actual long-term paybacks even though the paybacks experienced fall within the statistically predicted range for the number of spins played.
You can rest assured that the State of Arizona has ensured that every Class III slot machine in the state pays back at least 80 percent, even though you may have difficultly verifying that fact.
Let's say that the chances of hitting a particular winning combination is 1 out of 100 on a machine. If you sat down at the machine, your chances of hitting that winning combination twice in a row is 1/100 times 1/100 or 1/10000 (1 out of 10,000).
Now let's say that winning combination is displayed on the reels when you sit down. What are your chances for hitting that winning combination again? They're still 1 out of 100.
It's true that hitting two rare events in a row is rarer still, but the fact that the event has already occurred once does not affect the chances that it will occur again. Your chances for hitting the jackpot on a machine are the same regardless of whether the jackpot combination or a bust was the result of the prior spin.
I've never been lucky enough to experience back-to-back or near back-to-back jackpots or high-paying spins, but John Grochowski has, and he has published accounts from people who have.
Because we so rarely see jackpots and more rarely see back-to-back jackpots, it's natural to assume that the chances of hitting the jackpot go down after it has just hit. But it's a false assumption; the chances don't change.
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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