If you've ever contemplated spinning the reels of a slot or have, in fact, spun one (or a few!), you've probably asked yourself a few questions every serious player in the iGaming industry has - can slot machines be rigged to trick the player, what are the odds of winning slots, are slot machines honest, and do casinos manipulate slot machines at the player’s expense. Iowa casinos had the highest slot machine hold percentage in 2014, at 9.37 percent, a tightening of almost 33 percent in the past 10 years.
Dispelling Slot Myths
Can Casinos Tighten Up Slot Machines
By Henry Tamburin
Here are some popular misconceptions about slot machines and why they are false.
'Casinos can tighten or loosen the payback on a slot machine at will'
Many slot players believe that casinos can get more money from players by decreasing their paybacks on slot machines (tighten them) before a busy holiday weekend when the casino is crowded with players. The fact of the matter is that in most gaming jurisdictions they can't change a machines payback without first notifying the state regulatory agency with a lot of paperwork. In some states the local gaming commission must be present when the change is made. It's literally too much of a pain for casinos to lower the paybacks for a short period of time and then turn around and raise them.
'She stole my jackpot'
You've either read the stories or seen it happen in person. A player is playing a machine then decides to take a break and some other player jumps in, plays, and hits the jackpot. If the first player would have played a little while longer that jackpot would have been hers. Right? Nope. The reason is that the likelihood that the first player would have hit that jackpot if she played longer is slim to none. A Random Number generator that the computer chip uses to determine the results of each spin is constantly running even if the machine is idle. The RGN spits out a sequence of random numbers hundred of times each second (remember each sequence of numbers corresponds to the symbols that you see on the reels). Whatever the RGN number was at the split second that you hit the spin button or pull the handle is used to determine the symbols on each reel. Therefore the likelihood that the first player if she stayed and played would have hit the spin button at the same exact time as the second player did is highly unlikely.
'A Machine that just hit the jackpot won't hit again soon'
The RNG determines the results of your spin. Part time poker dealer. It doesn't know or care what happened in the past. Your chance of hitting the jackpot on the next spin is the same regardless of when the jackpot was hit.
'You'll get a better payback if you alternate pulling the handle and hitting the spin button'
When you do either it tells the computer in the slot machine to get the number that was generated by the RNG, which will determine the symbols you see on each reel after they stoop spinning. The results will be the same regardless of whether you hit the spin button or pull the handle.
'Looser machines are placed near entrance ways to casinos to attract more players '
Back in the old days when slot machines were not as popular as they are today, that may have been the case. But nowadays slot managers order slots machines with nearly the same paybacks as their competitors for each denomination of machine and group slot machines by denomination and types on the casino floor.
'Always ask the slot attendant where the better paying machined are located'
Slot attendants are hard working folks but they don't have any more knowledge then you or I as to which machine will pay off next. They'll offer advice on which machines to play if asked by players because if the player gets lucky and hits a jackpot they know they will receive a tip.
By Bill Burton
Over the last year, I have heard many players complain that they are not having as many jackpots on the slot machinesas they used to have. I first heard this from a few of my friends who said they believed that the casinos were tightening the machines because the bad economy was forcing people to make fewertrips to the casino. I did not pay too much attention to this but then I started to notice other players posting the same opinions on several Internet forums.
It seems many of the players have come to believe that every casino was lowering the paybackpercentage on all of their machines.
A month ago I was contacted by a newspaper reporter from Colorado who requested an interview with me. He said he was writing a story about the casinos lowering the payback on the slot machinesthat were making it harder for the players to win. He wanted my opinion on the subject and he was surprised by my answer.
Why Players Win Fewer Jackpots
Do Casinos Ever Tighten Their Slot Machines
I told him I do believe that some casinos may be ordering new machines with lower payout percentages but I did not believe that this was the main reason why players may not be winning as muchas they used to. I gave him the following reasons for my answer.
Over the years there have been many myths associated with casino gambling. One of the most common ones is the belief that a casino can raise and lower a machine's payback with the flip of aswitch. This is not true because the slot machines have a computer chip in them that determines the pay back percentage. These are set at the factory.
In order for a casino to change the pay back, they would have to change the chip. In most jurisdictions, there is paperwork that has to be filled and submitted to the Casino Control Commissionfor each machine if the chip is changed. It is time-consuming and the chips are very expensive. For this reason, the cost of changing the chip in numerous machines on the casino floor does notmake economical sense.
Many of the gambling jurisdictions around the country require the casinos to report the overall payout percentages on a monthly basis. (California is not one of the States) These figures are amatter of public record and are published in some newspapers and gaming publications. I looked back on these figures over the last year and saw that there was very little change in most casinosaround the country. In some instances, there were even some of the payback percentages had increased.
A reason why some players feel that they may not be winning as often is the fact that many players are making fewer trips to the casino so they are not playing as many sessions. So because theyare playing fewer sessions they will see fewer big jackpots and fewer winning sessions overall. It is all proportional.
Some players may have decided to play lower denomination machines. Many of the nickel and penny slot machines have a higher hit frequency, which means you will have many smaller wins but not asmany big jackpots.
How To Help Your Payback Percentages
Do Casinos Tighten Up Slot Machines
If you still honestly believe that your casino is lowering the return rate on the slot machines you have several courses of action. The easiest thing to do is to play the older machines. It isdoubtful that a casino would go through the expense of putting a new chip in an older machine to lower the return rate. You can try a new casino. You may find that your luck is better at adifferent casino and a change is your routine will let you enjoy some new experiences.
You can switch to video poker. It is the only machine game that will let you know the payback of the machine by readingthe pay table. However, if you do decide to try video poker, make sure you learn the strategy or get a strategy card to bring along with you when you play.
Switch to the table games. Playing table games is exciting and they offer a lower house edge than the slot machines. Many casinos give free table game lessons so you can learn the basics beforeyou sit down.
Let me close by saying again that I do believe that there will be some machines on the casino floors with lower returns, however, I do not believe that is as widespread as the rumors would haveyou believe. The casinos are in competition with each other for your business so they do not want to alienate the players by offering games where nobody can win.
As a customer/player you always have the option of taking your business elsewhere. The ultimate decision of where to play is entirely up to you.
Until next time remember, luck comes and goes...knowledge stays forever.