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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Can virtual reels on a slot be manipulated?

25 December 2006

John:

I think we are seeing things the same way, and the RNG does generate the number at that given time that you hit the spin button and then it correlates that given number to the virtual reel that then determines the outcome of the spin.

The virtual reel to me can be manipulated by programming.

I understand that if you wanted to change the program, the machine had to be idle for 4 minutes before and 4 minutes after to take effect. Here's my question. Could you program a machine to say... on weekends starting at 7 p.m. on Friday and ending at 7 a.m. on Monday to virtual reel payout at 80%, and then from 7 a.m. on Monday to 7 p.m. on Wednesday to virtual reel payout at 97%, and then on 7 p.m. on Wednesday to 7 p.m. on Friday to virtual reel payout to 92% and have it average out to a (not going to do the math) 91% payback machine, AND THIS BE JUST ONE PROGRAM?

You might have to register this as three programs, but if it's three programs in one, then only once would the machines have to be idle for 4 minutes before and 4 minutes after to take effect.

My biggest problem is, they should not be able to change the payback of a machine at all!!! I have played machines for years, and have noticed in the past year that machines have really gotten tighter. Progressive jackpots that used to hit at $6,000 are now hitting at $7,500 (This is on a bank of machines tied into to progressive jackpot.) $5 machines are tighter now than in the past years. Yada yada yada. I'm sure you are hearing a lot of this.

To me, the casino shouldn't be able to change any program at any time. Even if it takes 4 minutes here and 4 minutes there. I should always have the same payback percentage on this machine, 24/7/365. I don't mind losing my money if it's fair, but if you are changing the rules in the middle of the game, then I have a problem with losing my money.

Tim

Dear Tim,

The RNG is constantly generating numbers. When you press the Spin button, the program polls the RNG to find out the most recently generated number. I just wanted to emphasize the fact that the RNG is constantly running, and it does not generate the number when you hit the Spin button.

The virtual reel could be manipulated by programming, but such a routine would not be approved by any gaming jurisdiction.

A payback program is a combination of pay table and virtual reel layout. Change either element and you have a different payback program. What you described is three separate payback programs.

I think it's somewhat naive to say that casinos should not be able to change a machine's payback. They always have been able to (in most, if not all, jurisdictions). Casinos are also free to change the rules on their table games.

The only way you can be guaranteed of having the same long-term payback on a machine 24/7/365 is by playing a particular video poker pay table.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Does it really work to follow a pattern of one coin then two then three then back to two or one and keep a pattern up of randomly changing the number of coins you bet but always staying with a pattern?

Is it better to play two-coin machines as far as the machines that take fewer coins paying off more often than higher coin machines, such as the three or four or five-coin machines?

How long should a person stay on a machine when the machine is not paying much back, timewise? Does it mean that if it is not paying off for several pulls that a big win is about to happen?

Playing with the plan you suggested will probably confuse you. I know I'm confused about how one can randomly change the number of coins one bets and yet always stay with a pattern.

In any case, this betting strategy does not confuse the machine into paying you. It does, however, stretch your bankroll over betting full coin all the time. It doesn't do anything else.

There is no correlation between the maximum number of coins on a machine and its hit frequency on a reel-spinning machine. Video slots, which can accept dozens or hundreds of coins per spin, do tend to have higher hit frequencies.

You should stay on a machine that is not paying back much as long as you are having fun playing it. The odds of hitting anything are the same on every spin, so there's no mathematical rationale for leaving a machine based on past performance. Also, a big win is never due.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Dear John,

I appreciate your calm response to angry and baffled players. You must get a lot of those, given the nature of the game.

You mentioned in a recent letter in passing regulators and the state's interest in cornering their share. How is that calculated? A percentage of each evening? Of the month or year? When you say a machine is set to pay 98%, how much additional take is skimmed off by the state?

Keep up the calm — and always informative — responses.

Jon

Dear Jon,

Each state has its own formula. For example, in Connecticut the state gets 25% of the slot revenue from Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun. I'm not sure about the table game win. Other states may have separate formulas for slots and tables or just one for both. I think it would be fair to say that the amount owed to the state is based on total revenue and no operating expenses are deducted.

It's just like in Hollywood. The big stars get points on the front end — the ticket sales. Lesser stars get points on the back end — the profit a movie makes. You may recall a number of lawsuits filed against studios alleging that their bookkeeping is so creative, even immensely popular films never show a profit.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


John:

First of all, thanks for all the info and insight you have provided for us slot players over the years.

Question (that no one seems to be able to answer):

You have always mentioned that the tables, screen, etc. on any machine should be read so that we can understand the payouts.

Why does this never apply to the cherries symbols?

For example, a single bar win usually pays out 10x whatever the wager. A "double" symbol, mixed in, will pay double that.

A red 7 may pay 70 credits, with a triple symbol mixed in, paying 210x or 2 triples paying 630 total.

A cherry symbol, when hit alone, will pay 2 credits, no matter what type of machine, no matter what denomination, no matter what casino.

Why, then, will a cherry with a double symbol always pay 10x? If you are playing an IGT Double Hearts 25-cent machine, and you hit a cherry with 2 double hearts on the payline, you will win $40!

I have seen this occur on, like I say, any machine, any denomination, and I played in 80 different casinos last year. There is no reference whatsoever to this "anomaly" on any screen on any machine.

It is certainly to our advantage! You would think it would be an incentive for a slot manufacturer to post this payout to entice players to play more.

What gives??

John

Dear John,

It has been — and will continue to be — my pleasure writing this column.

It can sometimes be difficult to figure out how much a combination pays. A friend of mine said that it once took three slot floorpeople to figure out why he got paid what he did for a certain combination.

I refer to wild-symbol combinations as hidden winning combinations because they don't appear explicitly on the pay table. Instead, they're handled by some verbiage that says something like "matches any other symbol on payline, doubles winning combination."

Let's take a close look at the single bar combination with two single bars and a wild symbol. The wild symbol does two things. First, it substitutes as another single bar symbol to complete the three single bars combination. Second, it doubles the payout from, say, 10 coins to 20.

Now let's look at a cherry with a wild symbol. Again, the wild symbol does two things. It masquerades as another cherry, so the winning combination is two cherries, which usually pays five coins. The wild symbol also doubles the payout, so you get 10 coins.

When you get a cherry with two double hearts, the winning combination is three cherries and the payout gets quadrupled.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at slotexpert@comcast.net. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't send a reply to every question.

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