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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Patterns on slots

18 December 2006

Dear Mr. Robison,

First, let me say I agree with 99% of what you say concerning the randomness, etc. of slot machines.

I do, however, have two very specific observations that have been bugging me for about three years now. There is a slot machine at the Trop in A.C. that I play very frequently that seem to have a (do I dare say it) "pattern" that is very discernible. I have "never" noticed it on any other slot I have played over lo these many years.

To get to the nitty-gritty, this is a 2-coin, dollar machine, which happens to be the "Fabulous Sevens." They seem to be very popular at the Trop, and I have gleaned from other patrons playing beside me that they have noticed these same two "idiosyncrasies." (Let me say at the onset that I have "never" sat down at any other machine and been able to have the identical conversations with players that I have had concerning this machine.) There is another identical machine next to it, and two 3-coin dollar machines on the other side of it, but these other machines do "not" ever enter into the conversation. Here goes:

(1) These players continually come back to these two machines on every casino visit because there seems to be a "much higher than usual" chance of "Fab, Fab, Red 7" hitting on this particular machine. I, myself, hit it twice in one 4-day visit, and have hit it on two other occasions.

(2) When this machine is on the dreaded "cold streak," you will notice that, in addition to all the usual non-winning combinations appearing, there will be runs of "at least" 5 or 6 in a row of plays that give you results of complete blanks all the way across; i.e., no symbols on the line at all. (On this machine, this combo does not result in a minimum payout as it does on some machines.)

Please note that many, many patrons I've spoken with who like this machine have mentioned these two very same comments. I have never sat at any other slot machines — anywhere — and had discussions of this nature, even though I have tried to initiate them to get feedback to prove or disprove my hypothesis concerning this machine.

I also know that the fact that it is a "Fab 7" machine has nothing at all to do with the "phenomenon." It could be a Triple Diamond or whatever and I realize the symbols pasted on have nothing to do with the results. I also know that the definition of "randomness" means that the same results can arise, for instance, 10 times in a row and then not again for the next 100 times.

But, all of this begs the question as to why there seems to be something "different" about this one machine.

Got any ideas or opinions from your vast repository of past knowledge?

Thanks,
Suzanne

Dear Suzanne,

Hear are my ideas:

Concerning your first observation, I don't think this is a pattern. It just shows that the likelihood of hitting Fab=Fab-R7 is high. I don't have any par sheets for this game, but I suspect it follows the Blazing 7s model — a relatively low hit frequency that is offset by greater chances of hitting mid-level jackpots than on machines with higher hit frequencies.

As for your second observation, I was going to ask you to track the number of times that you had three blanks during a "hot streak," but I realized this was useless.

One problem is that there is no definition of when streaks begin and end. For example, is two hits followed by two losers followed by two hits a long hot streak or two hot streaks and a cold streak.

Another problem is that five or six all-blank spins in a row is, probably, by definition a cold streak.

I think the only thing different about this machine is that it has a low hit frequency payback program. Low hit frequency machines tend to have long runs of losing spins and short runs of winning spins. Hits tend to be few and far between, but generally for larger amounts than the hits you get on machines with higher hit frequencies.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


Hi, John!

What do you think about the new software IGT is offering to casinos that allow them to change games, odds, payout frequencies, etc. from their master computer control room, i.e., article regarding new software on their website?

This will completely blow away the idea of "thinking" we have found our "loose" machine at our favorite casino.

Thanks for your comments!
Helen

Dear Helen,

IGT is not the only manufacturer developing downloadable games technology. Also, the manufacturer does not initiate any game changes. Game changes are all initiated and controlled by the casino.

I think players are jumping to wrong conclusions about how this technology will be used and how it will affect them.

For example, you feel that a casino's ability to change a machine's configuration remotely blows away the idea that you have found a loose machine. Most casinos can change the payback programs on their machines if they want to, albeit with varying degrees of oversight by their local gaming commission. The casino could have changed the payback on your loose machine before. This situation really hasn't changed.

It is however much easier for a casino to change a machine's configuration with downloadable games. Can a machine have one payback percentage during the week and another on the weekends or holidays? That's a subject that has generated many comments. See the next letter in this column.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


john,as a frequent patron of casinos in both las vegas and atlantic city I take issue with two items that you and several other writers on the casino city sites and various other sites and news papers in both towns seem to support. the first item is the downloadable slot,I certainly would need to rethink what I was doing with my gambling dollar if these are approved, with most casinos cutting their payoff percentages as it is I can't imagine what doors this would open up to the casino bean counters.with the amount of casinos opening up all over the country every day it seems, the time will come when the discretionary income used for gambling will be maxed out.no one wants to know that the casino can change the payout percentage according to the day of the week,the time of day ,or the amount of people on hand.you state they must wait four min. before a change in percentage can be made to insure no change can be made while a machine is being played,is this a joke,this is not enough time to get a drink,change, or go to the restroom. will the machine have a countdown clock on it like a football field to warn you that you are about to be penalized.you also state that the cost for this program may be prohibitive at 1500. per machine,I don?t know what a machine costs but my guess would be in the 10,000. dollar range at your stated lowest earning rate for a machine in las vegas of 80.00 per day this would be over 29000. a year on the low end per machine on the average.it does not take a c.p.a. to work those numbers, the 1500. per machine is neglidgebile. my second concern is online gaming it seems to me that all this does is suck business away from legitimate casinos and indeed out of the country.why would a writer not involved in the advertising of these sites literally bite the hands that feed him,namely the established casinos in the u.s.a. thank you for listening to another of my rants.I do enjoy your and all the casino city sites.

rich

Dear Rich,

I think you misunderstood what must occur on a machine before it will allow a configuration change.

The machine must be idle for four minutes before it will accept a configuration change. There is no countdown clock to inform a player playing the machine that a configuration change is imminent because, by definition, there cannot be a player playing the machine.

If anyone does anything on a machine that has a pending configuration change, the four-minute clock will be reset. Every action continues to reset the clock to four minutes. The regulation is designed to explicitly prevent a machine's configuration from being changed while it is being played.

I also think you missed a key point in my analysis of whether licensing a lower payback program for a game makes economic sense. It's true that at $80 per day, it doesn't take long to win $1,500.

But this is the baseline. The machine is already earning this amount with the one payback program licensed. We have to look at how long it takes for the additional money won with the license with the higher house edge to pay for its cost.

For example, let's say we're going to take that machine that earns $80 per day and put in a new payback program that will earn $100 per day. The break-even period is 15 days, right?

Wrong. The machine was already earning $80 per day with no additional investment. We have to look at how long it takes for us to break even with the incremental win. The incremental is $20 per day, so the break-even is 75 days, not 15. If the casino is using this payback program only on weekends, it will take 37 weeks to break even.

As I said before, I don't have an MBA and this may not be the way casinos evaluate whether it makes economic sense to license additional payback programs. In any case, I don't believe that $1,500 cost of an additional license negligible.

As for online gaming, I think Congress should pass a law sanctioning, regulating and taxing it. The War Against Online Gaming is just as successful as the War Against Drugs.

People said the same thing about Atlantic City thirty years ago. It's going to divert money away from Las Vegas. Gambling in Atlantic City grew the market, instead, as many more people discovered that they enjoyed playing casino games. Las Vegas visitorship increases just about every year (if not every year) even as more and more casinos open across the country.

Offshore casinos do take money out of the country. If we legalized online gaming, much of that money would stay in the country. The existing casino operators would be first in line to apply for licenses.

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 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