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Best of John G. Brokopp

Gaming Guru

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The Slot Machine Twilight Zone

1 October 2003

I'd like to share with you an intriguing tale about my wife's visit to the slot machine Twilight Zone at the new Argosy's Empress Casino Joliet the evening of Saturday, May 31.

Since a vast majority of recreational casino gamblers play the slots, I thought it would make for interesting as well as informative reading. Here's what happened:

She was playing a 3-coin fifty cent IGT "Triple Stars" reel machine. She started with twenty dollars and had 171 credits on the machine ($85.50) after about 10 minutes of playing time. Then came the fateful spin: She hit the max-coin play button and watched as the jackpot symbol came to rest on the first reel payline, followed by the jackpot symbol on the second reel payline, then felt her heart skip a beat waiting for the third and decisive reel to stop.

Georgette knew that on the particular machine she was playing, the two jackpot symbols meant than any symbol that nestled on the third reel's payline would mean a 9-times payoff. A third jackpot symbol would mean the 6,000-coin ($3,000) jackpot. Unfortunately, she never found out.

As soon as the second reel stopped, the machine shut down. Her 171 credits were erased from the electronic meter. The third reel froze with no symbol on the payline. We immediately summoned a casino slot attendant, who determined that it would be necessary to call the on-duty representative from the Illinois Gaming Board.

The IGB official assessed the situation, then instructed the slot attendant to open up the machine. He then asked the attendant to remove the internal circuit motherboard. The official took possession of the board and ordered the machine to be taken out of service. He then informed us that it would be sent to an independent testing lab to be examined.

The slot attendant reimbursed my wife for the 171 fifty-cent credits she had on the machine at the time of the incident, then took our name and address and said we'd be contacted when there was resolution.

I presented this scenario to nationally recognized video poker and slot machine expert John Robison, who holds a Master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology. Here, in part, is what John had to say:

"Wow. That's quite a story. I know I'm stating the obvious, but there was some sort of massive malfunction. I have no idea what it might have been. Whether or not the result of the spin was going to be a hand-paid jackpot is another matter.

"The machine stores the results of the last five or so games. I don't know when the machine stores that information, but it's probably done sometime between starting the game and stopping the reels. The casino should have been able to retrieve the result of the spin, but it seems like the failure may have caused them to not be able to retrieve it.

"The outcome? Well, (mathematically) the most likely symbol to land on the third reel is probably a blank. If the lab says that the third symbol was supposed to be a blank, it's impossible not to think that you're being cheated.

"I think there are three scenarios. One: the lab cannot retrieve what the result was supposed to be. Two: The lab says the third symbol was a blank. Three: The lab says the third symbol was a non-blank."

As soon as the results of the testing lab are in and we hear from the Illinois Gaming Board, I'll let you know what happened.

In the meantime, always be alert when playing slots and video poker. Be sure to report any irregularities in the play of the machine to a casino representative.

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