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# Near Misses and Real Misses

13 March 2022

QUESTION: I am not a frequent slot player but I do understand how the RNG works in terms of your chances to win on any slot machine. My question has to do with the display a losing play may show.

Maybe it’s my imagination but on the slots that I play most frequently Quick Hits and Three Times Pay Free Games, I have noticed that on many losing spins the display will appear that I just missed a nice win by one symbol. Often times the third Free Games symbol or the Three Times Pay symbol is one click off the display. Is that something that the machine is allowed to do to keep you playing and thinking "I just missed it!” Or is it my imagination and it’s totally by chance?

ANSWER: The near misses you see are a product of chance and normal probability. There are more ways to make a near-miss combination than to make a winning combination, so you will see the near misses often.

On a five-reel game where each reel shows three symbols in the pay window, you see a total of 15 symbols. If you also can see one symbol above the window and one below, as on many slots with mechanical reels, you can see 25 symbols. Only 15 of those are available for paying combinations, while 10 are not. Forty percent of the symbols you see are available to make near misses, but not to make winning combinations.

In situations where symbols must line up, three symbols on each of five reels bring 243 possible paths across the screen. That's how you get 243 ways to win slots.

But if you count the symbols above and below on each reel, there are 3,125 paths. With so many possibilities, you're going to see combos that would have been winners if only the reels extended one up and one down than you actually see on the three-deep reels.

On any slot, there are more ways to make two-symbol combinations than three-symbol combinations, more ways to make three than four and more ways to make four than five. A slot with physical reels in which you can see above and below the symbols stopped in the window just shows you more near-miss possibilities.

QUESTION: I don't care what the by-the-book plays are, when I see a blackjack dealer with a 6 face up, I want my money on the table.

I split 10s against a 6 and I split 5s against a 6, then I wait for the dealer to bust. If I get 10s on those 5s or 5s on the 10s, what difference does it make? I don’t draw and bust; I wait for the dealer.

ANSWER: The dealer is much less likely to bust on a 6 than you seem to think. Starting with 6, dealers bust 42 percent of hands, meaning they make 17 or better 58 percent of the time.

In a six-deck game where the dealer hits soft 17 and you're allowed to double after splits, standing on 20 brings an average profit of 68 cents per dollar wagered. Splitting 10s opens the door to weaker hands and diminishes the profit to 50 cents per dollar of your original bet. You make less money despite betting more.

You do want to bet more with 5-5 vs. 6, but by doubling down. Average profit when you double is 59 cents per dollar of your original wager. If you split instead, that average profit plummets to 10 cents.

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John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

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John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.