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Coincidence or Rigged?

9 October 2006

By John Robison


I found Steve's article on your 8-7-2006 e-mail interesting. I just returned from The Horseshoe in Tunica and, while playing the 50-cent slots saw something unbelievable and made my wife say, "Something's rigged".

A guy right across the aisle from us, on a bank of five 50-cent slots hit two triple diamonds and a red seven paying 5,400 coins. As he waited for the attendant, he moved to the adjacent machine and hit two triple diamonds and a white seven. He then moved to the next adjacent machine---just as the attendant walked up and, unbelievably, hit two more triple diamonds and another red seven!

I don't believe anything was rigged. He just happened to pull the handles at the right time! Hopefully, this will happen to Steve one of these days.


Dear John,

That fellow certainly was lucky.

Here's another way to look at the situation, which may make it seem less like something was rigged.

What would you think if three different people had hit those jackpots? A coincidence, right? The machine's don't know or care who is playing them, so this is the same situation.

As you point out, that player just happened to have pulled the handles at the right time.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

I have some contention with the comments you made to Steve from Harrah's (Am I Due to Win?):

Those of us who play slots regularly, in particular the high limit slots, can get the 'feel' of a room. We can play and we can watch, and we can see if a room is cold or if it is loose. That's right, as a room. I simply cannot buy into the notion that slots are totally random. If that were true, we would see odd hits in the room as opposed to an entire room behaving a certain way.

Example: in one casino I frequent, the room increases its hit rate on Drawing Night, when there are more players there for the monthly drawing. Now I know what you're going to say: because there are more players, the number of plays per hour is increased, ergo more payouts and jackpots. Perhaps so, but consider: Would they be playing if the room wasn't paying? I'm talking going from being a dead room to being so busy the staff can't keep up.

I know we have no valid proof that the machines are being manipulated. We can only guess based on our own play and observations. And we trust our instincts. You know what I mean. That odd feeling of a foreign object working its way up your backside. The feeling that, after playing a while and not producing any profits, you are being screwed. But I will tell you this: if some slot tech comes forward and admits in court that a particular casino does fudge with the equipment, those of us who play slots will not be so surprised.

Speaking of which, with all this attention in the media to poker play, why is the slot player so ignored? Recent figures indicate more than 20,000,000 play slots regularly. Yet there is no TV coverage, no game shows, no nothing. What's up with that? We all like to watch others play, especially the high limit players, because you know sooner or later they are going to hit. Seems to me there is a marketing idea there...


Dear Steve,

You said that if slots were totally random, "we would see odd hits in a room as opposed to an entire room behaving a certain way."

Well, what would you see if you flipped 20 fair coins? Sometimes the number of heads and tails is roughly even. Sometimes there are more of one side than the other, sometimes a lot more.

Because the slots are totally random, sometimes the room is hot, sometimes it's cold, and sometimes it's neither not nor cold. If all we saw were odd hits now and then and we never saw the room acting in a certain way, then we would suspect something wasn't totally random.

You asked if players would be playing if the room wasn't paying? Even the tightest casinos in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, and elsewhere have plenty of people playing in them. I frequently get letters from people who keep going back to a casino even though they say they never win anything.

Why no slot playing on TV? Because there's no skill in playing a slot machine. It's not very exciting to watch someone hitting button and watching the reels spin. Even blackjack, which does require skill, took years before someone figured out how to make it interesting TV with the Ultimate Blackjack Tour.

If you can figure out a way to make watching people play slots compelling TV, I'm sure the producers of gambling competition shows would like to know to do it.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take several months for your question to appear in my column.

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