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# Symbols and sevens

26 October 2014

QUESTION: An awful lot of video slots used A, K, Q, J and 10 symbols. I counted in one game, and there were seven other symbols. Four had characters and three were pieces of jewelry. So in all there were 12 different symbols.

It seems to me that it would be harder to get three or more in a row of the same symbol when there are so many different ones. On the old three-reel games, there weren’t so many. Maybe cherry, bar, double bar, triple bar, 7s and a jackpot symbol, so six instead of 12.

Something else has me wondering about those symbols, too. You’ve written that in games that use playing cards, Nevada says there have to be fair odds, and other states follow Nevada’s lead. So on a video poker game, the Ace of spades is really one of 52 electronic cards. What about on these slot machines? Do the A-K-Q-J-10 have to come up in fair odds?

ANSWER: Many three-reel games have more symbols than your example. In Blazing 7s, there are single, double and triple blazing 7s symbols, and in Red, White and Blue, there are red, white and blue 7s, just to name a couple of well-known examples.

Blank spaces count, too. Three-reel games include frequent reel stops on blank spaces, while there are no blanks on video slots.

In the end, it’s not entirely about how many different symbols there are or whether there are blanks, but about how often they land on a payline. Given a reel with nothing but 7s alternating with blank symbols, a programmer could design a game with 1 percent winning spins, 99 percent winning spins, or anything in between. It depends on the number set the random number generator has to work with, and how many numbers are mapped to each symbol.

The game designer’s goal is a game that balances frequency of paybacks, chances at big pays, and frequency and payback on bonus events, to yield a game that will keep players in their seats while making a profit for the house.

As for your second question, the A-K-Q-J-10 symbols on video slot machines are not video playing cards. They do not have suits and they are not represented as cards. Regulations that apply to video poker and video blackjack games do not apply to those slot symbols. The “A” symbol does not have to come up on the same proportion of spins as the “10” or any other symbol.

QUESTION: You keep writing about six ways to make a 7 in craps. I count only three – 6-1, 5-2 and 4-3. Can you explain?

ANSWER: Imagine you’re playing with two dice of different colors, one red and one green. A red 6 paired with a green 1 is one 7 combination, and a green 6 with a red 1 is another. Same with red 5, green 2 and green 5, red 2, as well as red 4, green 3 and green 4, red 3.

The dice in play are the same colors, but the concept is the same. A 6 on the first die and a 1 on the second is a different combination than a 1 on the first die and a 6 on the second.

This is important in calculating the odds of the game. If you don’t understand that 3-4 and 4-3 are different combinations, you might be fooled into thinking that 6, rolled with 5-1, 4-2 and 3-3, comes up as often as 7, with 6-1, 5-2 and 4-3. However, the 3-3 combination uses both 3s, so there’s only one way to make that particular 6, while each of the 7 combos can be made two different ways. There are five ways to make 6 and six ways to make 7. That’s why the house can pay you 6-5 on winning odds bets when the point is 6.

There are 36 possible combinations of two dice. If we counted rolls such as 5-2 and 2-5 as a single combination, we’d come up with only 21 possible combos. If there were only 21 combinations, the house would go broke paying 30-1 on the one-roll bet on 12. With 36 combinations, we now the true odds are 35-1, and we’re the ones who risk going broke by chasing 30-1 payoffs.
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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.