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Best of John Robison

Gaming Guru

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Was I ripped off on a progressive?

4 September 2006

What effects the variance of a slot machine? Is it the distribution of the prizes, i.e., more high-tier prizes than lower ones?

For example, can you have two similar 95% payout machines of the same type machine with two different variances?

Consider these two 95% payback machines. Both machines have 100 possible outcomes. It takes $1 to play. On one machine, there are 95 ways to win $1 and the other five spins are losers. On the other machine, there's one way to win $95 and everything else is a bust.

Both machines pay back 95%, but they have widely different variances.

Using the method to calculate variance in Casino Operations Management by Kilby and Fox, I get 0.875 for the variance of the first machine and 90.1575 for the variance of the second.

Now, these aren't "similar" machines. I don't think it's possible to have "two similar 95% machines of the same type machine with two different variances" because the machines would no longer be similar.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,
John


My wife and have visited Deadwood in each of the last two years mainly to stay in the Black Hills area. We have had very little experience with slots prior to then and still consider ourselves to be very inexperienced. This is why I have begun to read books on the subject – to gain some knowledge. We are now visiting Indian casinos off and on here in Wisconsin in order to become more comfortable and experienced.

Now to my question – I was playing the quarter, 3 coins max, Wheel of Fortune machine and hit 3 symbols of Double Diamonds on the payline. The machine gave me the 1,600 credits ($400) that was for 2 coins in with 3 coins in being the progressive. I did play the max of 3 coins. The machine did not make any noises or give me any indication that I won anymore than what it gave me. I waited awhile but that was all that happened so I just continued to play. However, I am left with the question as to why did I not win more than what the 2 coins in gave me when I had, in fact, played the 3 coin max. I know I should have stopped to ask someone but I guess that was my inexperience showing.

Basically, just what does the machine do in order to show the player that they have won a progressive jackpot. I thought that the machine would have let me know in some "bell ringing" way if I would have won a jackpot. Was I wrong? I know that the 3 Double Diamonds was not the top jackpot but it still was shown as a progressive pay.

Please help me put this nagging question behind me.

Thank you,
Chuck

Chuck,

Many years ago (in the 1950s and 1960s), slot players did have to be careful about playing off a jackpot. Some machines had a jackpot that was higher than the machine could pay itself, so players had to call over a "Jackpot Girl" to pay the jackpot. If you played off the jackpot before getting paid, you didn't get paid. Some of the machines may have locked up, but this is way before my time and my impression is that most of them did not.

You don't have to worry about playing off a jackpot today. Every machine will lock up when you win $1,200 or more (so the casino can get your tax info), when lesser jackpots require a hand pay, or when you're cashing out an amount that the casino would prefer to hand pay. If a machine has a ticket printer, it needs to lock up only when it hits a jackpot of $1200 or more.

You can be sure that the Wheel of Fortune machine would have locked up had you won the progressive. Bells would have rung and lights would have flashed. The machine would stay locked up until IGT's jackpot team arrived to verify the jackpot and then take your picture with the big cardboard check.

I think what happened to you is something that has happened to just about every slot player at one time. I think you were dropping in coins and the third coin didn't register. The missing coin is usually rejected and lands in the coin tray, but I have played a few machines that would occasionally eat coins and not give credit. When I found one machine that did this consistently, I alerted the slot personnel and they took the machine out of service.

Alternatively, you may have been hitting the Bet 1 button and the last press didn't take. You didn't realize it and hit the Spin button.

Every machine shows you the amount the will be wagered on the next spin when you place your bet coin by coin instead of pressing the Max Bet button. After the spin, every machine will show the amount bet and the amount won on the spin.

If the machine did say that you had bet three coins and paid you only $400, double-check the pay table. The most likely explanation is that you misread the pay table. If you're sure that you were underpaid, then don't touch the machine and immediately call over a slot floorperson. Even if you play the machine for a spin or two, don't despair. All is not lost. Most jurisdictions require machines to store for recall the last five or so spins played on it.

There are a few different pay tables for Double Diamond Wheel of Fortune, so I'm not sure what your pay table was. I'm pretty sure, though, that the pay table you had was what I call a hybrid - part Buy-a-Pay and part Multiplier.

The second coin bought you the $400 payout on three Double Diamonds. The only thing the third coin bought you was qualifying for the progressive should three MegaBucks symbols land on the payline. The third coin did not affect the payouts on any of the other winning combinations.

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. 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
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