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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Charting slot machines

8 January 2007

Hi, John,

I play at Thunder Valley Casino in Rocklin, CA. Here is my question: Can the casino change the hit frequency via local computer without changing the computer chip and messing with all that trouble? I believe they can and have good reason to do so from personal experience.

My bankroll on the same machines gets dusted, annihilated very early on slow days, like late hours or week days. I'm not talking about not getting a good hit. What I am talking about is all those small hits that keep you in the game.

Their incentive is based on profit. When there are more people, they want them to stay longer, drink and lose all of their money. When it's slow, they must maximize everyone playing on slots. It might not be a huge adjustment. Just enough to turn one customer into two by making them get more money. If they lose faster, they want to play longer, they get more money, it evens out for them. It's more than likely possible without some huge undertaking. For instance, they have it all set up before via their computer or system. They change it to cycle B, let's say, on slow days to adjust hit frequency without breaking the law or anything like that.

I play the same games, quarters and dollars, same machines, same type but it varies so much I see a pattern. It's not that I don't get lucky sometimes on slow days. It's just my bankroll is gone quickly. Same type of bankroll too. I don't adjust. I only bring $100. Please tell me I'm wrong but I think I'm right and it's sad. I should have the same chance every day not just just on weekends.

Mike

Dear Mike,

You are wrong, but I'm afraid you won't believe me.

Let me ask you this question: When the casino is slow, why wouldn't the casino still want people to stay longer, drink and lose all of their money?

In any case, the casino makes its money on slot machines from the house edge, not the hit frequency. I've had a number of articles on this site recently in which I explain my reasons for why I don't think it makes economic sense for a casino to change long-term paybacks on its machines for special days. I've just thought of another one.

Slot machines are volatile games — that is, a machine with a 95% long-term payback does not return 95 cents of EVERY dollar played in it. It returns 95% on the AVERAGE. It takes a few million spins or so for the actual payback on a machine to home in on its long-term payback.

So, a casino could theoretically lower the paybacks on its machines on some days, but it will still take millions and millions of plays on the machines for the casino to be reasonably sure that the machines would have earned more than they would have had the casino not changed the paybacks.

You can test your hypothesis with a simple experiment. Take your $100 bankroll and play a machine on slow days and on busy days. Count the number of hits you get and the total number of spins you play on each type of day. You may have lucky and unlucky days, but if you repeat this experiment a few times on each type of day, I think you'll find your hit frequency is the same regardless of how busy the casino is.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I just read you answer about Programmable, downloadable machines. My comment and questions are this: If this damloadable (oops) system is of no value or of no value to either the casino or the player, why have it at all? Anytime a business says "for your convenience," you better watch out. You did not state that it was of no value, however a casino never spends money unless it makes them money. I think the downloadables should be outlawed.

Thanks,
Earl

Dear Earl,

I don't know where you got the impression that downloadable game technology is of no value, especially since you say that I never said it.

Right now, I think it's fair to say that there are direct benefits to the casino, and only indirect benefits to the players. Casinos can deploy new slot games and adjust the mix (number of each game and denomination) more easily with downloadable games. Players benefit by having more of the games they want to play on the slot floor.

In the future, players will have more direct benefits, such as being able to have their own personal menu of favorite games that will be available on any (downloadable) machine they play.

I think there's as much chance of downloadable technology being outlawed as there is of leaded gas coming back.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I feel the pain of the writer questioning randomness. There are days when we play and can get nothing, not even a line pay, and we feel as though we are being played the fool. But consider this:

I once had occasion to hit a $25 Double Diamond for all three Diamonds, netting the $20,000 jackpot for one coin in. Naturally I was excited and of course I lamented that I hadn't played the 2nd coin for the full $40,000 payout. But during the validation process, a slot tech took me aside and said, its a good thing you didn't have the other coin in. I said, what do you mean? He said, that payout was set for one coin; if you had played full coin, it wouldn't have hit. I said, but that's absurd; coin in shouldn't affect the win. He said, no you don't understand: jackpots are apportioned in the chip program. Some jackpots for one coin, some for two. This particular win was a one-coin hit.

Well, I thought to myself, this can't be right, this goes against everything we have been taught about slot play and randomness and regulations and fairness. But on two other occasions, two other techs have mentioned the same thing. Your thoughts?

Steve

Dear Steve,

In my experience, I've discovered that some slot techs know a lot about hardware, but not so much about software and statistics.

You didn't mention where you play. Maybe this is some sort of Class II algorithm. On Class III machines, the number of coins you play has no affect on what lands on the payline.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


I have seen players watch slot machines and write some kind of information on a pad. What are they watching and writing down?

Barbara

Dear Barbara,

They're watching the results on the machines. They might as well be writing down their grocery lists. Past results on a slot machine do not indicate anything about future results, so most likely anything they're writing down is of no real value.

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