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More on slot cycles and randomness2 October 2006
The random number generator (RNG) does not in and of itself determine how much, if anything, is won on a spin. But you're right that the layout of the symbols on the physical reels is meaningless.
The slot machine uses numbers from the RNG to select stops on the virtual reels. The symbols on those stops determine how much the player is paid.
What I wrote was this:
The only way to change the hit frequency on a machine is to change the layout of the symbols on the virtual reels.
Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
Thank you for the kind words about my columns.
You may be justified in not believing in the complete randomness of slot machines. My statements about how machines operate are based on U.S. regulations. European-built slots may not have the same restrictions.
I am familiar with someone who claimed there are deliberate near misses. His name is Ron Harris, and he was not an IGT employee but an employee of the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Today he is an ex-convict, having been caught rigging slot machines and using his knowledge of how a keno system operated to try to win keno jackpots in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
What he claimed was nothing new. Of course there are near misses on slot machines and a near miss on the jackpot occurs much more frequently than a hit on the jackpot. But the machine does not decide when it's time to show a near miss. The frequency of near misses is determined solely by the layout of the symbols on the virtual reels.
I don't know everything and I don't claim that I do. But do you really think that it is possible that there are some deep, dark secrets at the slot manufacturers and some disgruntled employees over the past 20 years didn't reveal them?
The slot manufacturers build a product that in most cases is among the worst bets in the casino and there's no shortage of players willing to lose their money playing the machines. The manufacturers don't need to lie about how their machines operate. The regulations allow them to build machines that win plenty of money legally. The problem with conspiracies is that they can only be proven. They can't be disproved.
The only secret about the RNG is the actual algorithm used. And there is no relationship between the RNG and the Telnaes map except for the fact that the program running the slot machine uses numbers from the RNG to select stops from the map.
I find your "reasonable" conclusion completely unreasonable. You said that the machine takes a certain amount of money and then gives back some money. Sometimes these cycles are long, and sometimes they're short. "That's why it's so tough to know when exactly the give cycle would end."
Your conclusion is that the machine "can choose how much in how many spins" to give back. But your observations of varying lengths of cycles are exactly what you would observe on a machine on which the outcome of each spin is chosen totally at random and without regard for what has happened in the past. There is nothing in your observations that is inconsistent with this method of operation.
You guess that IGT wants these cycles so "no one could get ruined very quickly." The problem with that statement is that players get ruined quickly every day. I don't know how many times I've sat down at a machine and just couldn't win anything and quickly lost my session stake.
Finally, I disagree with your statement that people know what random is. On the contrary, I'd say that most people have no idea what random means. They use coincidence and events that are a natural outcome of randomness to claim that machines are not random. The presence of cycles on slot machines, for example, does not disprove randomness.
Human beings are uncomfortable with randomness. We want cause and effect. You want to find some explanation other than randomness for what you've observed.
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 send a reply to every question. Also be advised that it may take several months for your question to appear in my column.
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