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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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Misinformation about Slot Machines Abounds

2 July 2008

The majority of people who play slots know very little about the operation of the machines, the computer programs that drive them, and the economics of the games.

This fact is through no fault of their own, because casinos operators, quite frankly, are content to keep it that way. They are under no obligation to educate players or to divulge more information about them than they have to.

Slot play is veiled in mystery and superstition, and unless you take it upon yourself to learn all you can, you are at risk of not knowing what the "reel" odds are against you or your chances of winning a sizable jackpot.

A reader who identified himself as Buzzy sent me an e-mail with his thoughts about the "mysterious" two-second delay that occurs periodically when you're playing:

"My gambling friend and I know this as a 'cycle'. There are 99 hits to a cycle. This means you should get something at the beginning or end of the cycle. So, if things are going good on the machine and you feel this delay, you know there is a change, probably for the worse. Same would apply if you are getting nothing on the slot machine, then the delay. This means a good cycle is coming. Of course it does not always work. But this delay does mean something. Why else would electronic meters need to be updated? Why does it need this delay?

"Another thing is the speed of the reels. If they are going really fast, that is not a good sign. Slow falling reels are better.

"Also, the random number generator is a joke, too. These machines have certain times, or a casino 'flourish'. We have seen jackpots hit back-to-back."

To reach the truth about the delay, I went to the folks at International Game Technology (IGT) in Reno, Nevada. IGT is one of the world's leading slot machine developers are manufacturers. Here's what they had to say:

"The electronic meters are maintained in non-volatile RAM and updated at the end of each game. Once every 100 games, the current meter values are backed up to a secondary, more permanent storage location. It takes one to two seconds to copy the meters from the primary location to the secondary location, which accounts for the delay that the player is experiencing. This action has no effect on the outcome of the game play."

As for Buzzy's observations about the speed of the reels, the IGT engineers told me: "The speed of reels has no impact on the outcome of the game".

Finally, in reference to Buzzy's skepticism about the integrity of the computer programs that govern slot machines, IGT had this response:

"Before a machine can be placed in service, the software must be approved by the applicable regulatory agency. Gaming regulatory agencies test the operation of the game to ensure that the random number generator (RNG) is producing random output. Back-to-back jackpots are possible when the outcome is truly random."

There you have it - the truth about some aspects of playing slots directly from the source.

If you're looking for a real good book on the subject, I highly recommend John Grochowski's "Slot Machine Answer Book" (2nd Edition) available at leading bookstores and at Amazon.com.

John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp

John G. Brokopp
John G. Brokopp's gaming column appears in Chicago Sun Times (Chicago, Illinois), The Times (Northwest Indiana), The Quad City Times (Davenport, Iowa), The Courier News (Elgin, Illinois), The Gazette (Southwest Suburban Chicago) and Senior Wire (Denver, CO). He's also a regular contributor to The Colorado Gambler, Midwest Gaming & Travel, Casino Player and Strictly Slots. John possesses 28 years of experience as a professional handicapper, publicist, freelance writer, and casino gaming correspondent. He is also the author of two very popular books, The Insider’s Guide to Internet Gambling and Thrifty Gambling.

Books by John G. Brokopp:

> More Books By John G. Brokopp