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# Video versus reels

28 December 2014

QUESTION: What’s the biggest difference in the way slot machines are programmed on video and on reels? Does that make a difference in the odds?

ANSWER: The method of programming in itself makes no difference in the odds on video slots vs. reel-spinners. Reel slots are limited by the necessity of fitting the reels inside the machine casing. Therefore, programmers use virtual reels, mapping each symbol onto a set of reel numbers.

If a reel has 20 symbols and 20 blank spaces, but the programmer needs the top jackpot symbol to be one of 256 to achieve the desired odds, he can use a set of 256 random numbers and assign only one to the jackpot symbol while assigning multiple numbers to other symbols and spaces. That way, the jackpot symbol will land on the payline an average of once per 256 spins, while other symbols will show up more often.

If a video programmer wants to achieve the same odds, he can program a video reel strip that’s 256 symbols long and includes one jackpot symbol. It’s possible to program the same hit frequency and payback percentage on reels and video.

However, video also opens the possibilities for bonus events, pick-a-prize games, free spins and more. Modern reel slots do include bonus events, sometimes using a video screen in the top box above the spinning reels, but video slots tend to have deeper packages of multiple events.

The bigger bonus packages account for more of your overall payback on video slots than on reels. Therefore, the base games usually are lower-paying than those on reel slots. So even though the method of programming doesn’t dictate that the odds are different on video games than on reel spinners, they arrive at their payback percentages in different ways.

QUESTION: I had something odd happen at a blackjack table, in the etiquette department. One player took it upon himself to be the arbiter of strategy. Whenever someone else was hesitating over a play, he'd weigh in with, "I'd hit that if I were you," or "By the book, you double down there."

To his credit, he knew his basic strategy, but he was driving people nuts. One guy finally said, "Look, will you let me play my own cards?" The pit supervisor backed him up, and asked the advice-giver to keep it to himself. Mr. Adviser responded to the whole table with, "Hah! They don't want you guys to win," but he quieted down after that.

I guess he crossed a line by kibbitzing every hand, but is it OK to give advice more sparingly?

ANSWER: I’ve encountered chronic advice-givers many a time. The less common part of your story is that the pit supervisor told him to back off.

I’m unclear on what level you’re asking if giving advice is unclear. Is it OK with the casino and its supervisors? Usually. Take a look at what happened in your tale. The supervisor didn’t take action until another player complained.

Is it OK with other players? Most would prefer to be left to play their own cards most of the time. I’ve been in a similar situation to yours, where a player pointed out every basic strategy error at the table with, “You should hit that, by the book,” or “By the book, you should stand.” When he left, another player said, “I’d like to take that book and hit him with it.”

I don’t give advice unless I’m asked. As far as I’m concerned, players have a right to play their own cards, and if they play hunches and make mistakes, that’s their business. I also prefer not to call attention to myself and my play. I understand the temptation to correct a poor or inexperienced player, but since you asked my opinion, I think the game works best when you refrain from giving advice unless it’s clearly welcome.
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Best of John Grochowski
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.

#### Books by John Grochowski:

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.