Gaming Strategy
Featured Stories
Legal News Financial News Casino Opening and Remodeling News Gaming Industry Executives Author Home Author Archives Author Books Search Articles Subscribe
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Robison
author's picture

Ask the Slot Expert: Anticipation and suspense in slot machine design

2 February 2022

One of the slot machine innovations that Charles Fey introduced in his Liberty Bell slot machine was suspense in revealing the outcome. Rather than having all reels stop at the same time, the reels in the Liberty Bell stopped sequentially, one after the other, left to right. This gave the player more excitement. The excitement built when the jackpot symbol landed on the first reel and then on the second reel. Then the player was held in suspense while the last reel spun, wondering whether it too would land on the jackpot symbol. (Almost always not.)

Today's slot designers have taken the suspense in sequential reel stopping and added a new dimension to it and also added features that play to another emotion, anticipation.

Let's look at one of my favorite machines, Quick Hit Blitz. Of course, this machine has sequential reel stop in the base game. (Is there any machine made today that doesn't reveal the results of a play in some sort of suspenseful manner?) It added a new dimension of suspense in the Blitz bonus round.

In the bonus round, you have to collect a certain number of Blitz symbols to move up to higher jackpot amounts. If you're on your last spin and you don't have enough symbols on the first four reels to move up to the next level and it's possible to get the number of symbols you need on the fifth reel, the machine plays suspenseful music and (I think) takes an extra long time to stop the reel.

Fortunately, the machine is not a tease. If it's not possible to get the number of symbols you need on the fifth reel, the machine takes pity on you and stops the reel normally. Also, if you collect enough symbols on the first four reels to move up, it stops the fifth reel normally then too.

Triggering a bonus round is another time when this machine and others flip the suspense-mode switch. On Quick Hit Blitz, you need to land Free Games symbols on the second, third, and fourth reels. After you land one of the Free Games symbols on the second reel, the machine plays its tension-building tune and highlights the third reel. If you get another Free Games symbol, the music continues and the fourth reel is highlighted.

The general rule for bonus round Suspense Mode is that the machine will go into Suspense Mode when a bonus symbol lands on the screen and it's possible to collect enough symbols to trigger the bonus. The machine will stay in suspense mode as long as you keep landing bonus symbols.

Quick Hit Blitz has another excitement-building feature in addition to Suspense Mode. I call this one Anticipation Mode. The difference between suspense and anticipation is that you don't know if you will win with suspense. With anticipation, the machine is telling you that you're about to hit something nice. You don't necessarily know what it will be, but you have won something.

After you hit spin on Blitz, the game area of the screen may change to a bunch of shooting stars over a field of blue. The machine also plays its anticipation theme.

I think I've always won the free games after anticipation on Quick Hit Blitz, but on other Quick Hit machines I've had anticipation on spins that paid one of the middle Quick Hit jackpots.

Some Monopoly machines also have Anticipation Mode. On Monopoly Hot Shot, Scotty the dog may walk across the screen after you hit Spin. You know that this spin will trigger the Around-the-Board bonus.

Anticipation Mode alto tells us something about how a slot machine operates. The machine has to know the result of the spin in order to go into Anticipation Mode. It must have already polled the RNG to determine where the reels will stop and it also must have evaluated the combinations that will appear to know that this spin is going to result in something worth anticipating.

On three of the last four shows in 2021 before he took his end-of-year break, Bill Maher on Real Time said something to the effect that the pandemic is over. I'm disappointed that Senator Amy Klobuchar didn't challenge the statement when she was a guest on the November 5, 2021 episode.

In fairness to Bill (and Amy), the episodes were broadcast between October 30, 2021 and November 19, 2021, the end of the Delta surge. Omicron hadn't emerged at the time. (It wasn't reported to the WHO until November 24, classified as a Variant of Concern by the WHO until November 26, classified as a Variant of Concern by the CDC until November 30, and detected in the U.S. until December 1. There was hope at the time that the Delta surge would be the end of the pandemic.

I was anxious to see if Omicron had humbled Bill when he returned on January 21, 2022.

Not only did the Omicron surge not humble him, he doubled down on his "pandemic is over" rhetoric. Worse, his program became a source of misinformation.

One of his panelists, Bari Weiss, said "cloth masks do not do anything."

Well, it's not that simple. Nearly two years ago we all saw the lab tests showing how well various mask materials blocked droplets. We've known for a long time that the stretchy material in neck gaiters is not very effective, but still better than nothing. Various cloth masks aren't as effective as surgical or N95 masks, but more effective than a neck gaiter and much better than nothing.

Cloth masks may not he as effective as other types of masks, but it's not correct to say categorically that "they do not do anything." How well they work depends on the material and how you wear it. (Do Cloth Masks Work Against COVID?)

For the last month or so, I've seen many articles and heard many talking heads say that we should all wear N95 masks while Omicron is surging in our areas. To get N95 performance, you have to wear the mask correctly so that it is sealed against your face. I've seen TV reporters that have visible gaps between their N95 masks and their faces.

My N95s arrived yesterday, so I wore one for the first time today. I got the foldable masks instead of the rigid cup masks. The instructions for putting on the mask the proper way are confusing. I can't imagine many people taking the time to figure them out.

I have an indicator to tell me how good my top seal is. If my glasses fog up, I know I don't have a good seal. Maybe you really have to push the nose clip so it is uncomfortably tight on your nose. I had a little fogging up, which I seemed to be able to eliminate by wearing a doubled-up neck gaiter over the mask.

I found this mask to be more comfortable than my cloth masks. Maybe that wouldn't have been the case if I had made the nose clip really tight. And maybe the cup-style masks are more uncomfortable than the foldable ones.

I think it was Dr. Ashish Jha who said, in effect, that the best mask for you is the one you can wear properly for the length of time that you need to wear it.

I saw someone wearing the most ridiculous face covering a few weeks ago. I wonder what this person was thinking.

This person had a face shield. Rather than being suspended from a band worn on the forehead, this one rose up from a plastic band around the chin held in place by straps around your ears. They're used mainly in the food service industry as a personal sneeze guard for the workers. They prevent whatever the workers exhale from settling on the food below them.

Because they are open on the top, they won't stop droplets and aerosols from settling into the airspace in front of your face. Useless for airborne pathogens.

Bill Maher compared deaths per capita in New York and New Jersey with Florida. His point was that Florida had pretty much stayed open and had fewer deaths per capita than New York or New Jersey.

As of January 31, 2022, New Jersey was 2nd in deaths per capita, New York 6th and Florida 18th (Cumulative COVID-19 Cases and Deaths). Bill just recited the rankings but didn't discuss the data. Going by the rankings, it seems like Florida did much better than New York. But rankings only give an order. They don't indicate how much distance there is between two rankings.

You have to be careful when you compare two states. There are many factors besides mitigation efforts that determine how well a state does in fighting Covid. Demographics, population density, and when a state's surge began all affect a state's cases, hospitalizations and deaths. Ritchie Torres, Congressman from New York and Bill's other panelist, pointed out that comparing New York's and Florida's rankings is not a fair comparison. The greater New York area is densely populated and a major hub for international travel.

Let's do what Bill should have done and look at the data.

New York has had 68,846 Covid deaths. Florida 65,265. About the same number. The main reason Florida's deaths per capita (3,003/1,000,000) is lower than New York's (3,354) is because Florida's population is slightly higher than New York's.

Even though both states reported their first confirmed cases on March 1, 2020, New York quickly became the epicenter for the disease. Remember the people banging their pots and pans in recognition of the health workers? Remember the refrigerator trucks at the hospitals to hold all the people who had died?

According to Timeline: The spread of coronavirus in Florida and COVID-19 pandemic in New York (state), by April 28, 2020, Florida had 32,846 cases and 1,171 deaths, while New York had 299,691 cases and 18,015 deaths.

Florida has a year-round outdoor lifestyle. New York does not. That could be a significant reason why New York did so much worse in the first months of the pandemic.

Another reason is population density, as Congressman Torres said. New York state has about 19 million residents and 40% of them (8 million) live in New York City. Florida, on the other hand, has 21 million residents and Jacksonville, its largest city, has only 950,000 residents.

Let's recap. Both New York and Florida started the race at the same time. Florida has built-in advantages of lower population density and year-round outdoor living. Two months in, New York was way ahead. But two years in, they're both at about the same place.

How the hell did Florida squander its advantages and end up in a tie? Why didn't Florida continue to be well behind New York?

My takeaway from the comparison is wondering how much sickness and suffering could have been avoided, how many lives could have been saved, with a different approach in Florida?

After Congressman Torres gave the latest Covid death toll, Bill said, "deaths are squishy." While it's true that counting Covid deaths isn't as easy as counting eggs in a carton, most researchers agree that the true count is probably higher than the published count. (How are COVID-19 deaths counted? It’s complicated and True number of Covid deaths in the US probably undercounted, experts say)

Both Bill and Ms. Weiss talked about the masking guidance for restaurants. Bill said, "The virus can get me when I'm walking in a restaurant but not when I'm sitting down."

Ms. Weiss said that we're creating a two-tier system. "The haves get to go into a restaurant, laugh with friends for hours, but the people serving them have to wear masks and gloves."

I'm disappointed that Bill doesn't see what is really happening in the restaurant. And Ms. Weiss, your statement is just inane.

Bill, you have the restaurant situation inverted. It's not that you have to put on a mask to go to the restroom. It's that you get to take off your mask when you're eating or drinking.

In a restaurant, you're near people whose vaccination status you probably don't know. The restaurant might have a relatively small volume of air and ventilation may be poor. You're supposed to wear a mask in these situations.

But you can't eat with a mask on. So you can take off your mask when you're actively eating or drinking, but you are supposed to wear it at all other times.

As for the waitstaff, they're working in a potentially Covid-rich environment day in and day out. Their masks and gloves are to give them more protection than going bareback.

Is there a two-tier system at my dentist's office because the hygienist wears a mask and gloves and I get to sit in the chair unmasked?

Bari Weiss gets credit for the most egregious statement.

At this point, it's a pandemic of bureaucracy. It's not real anymore.

Tell that to the hospitals.

It's not real anymore.

Tell that to my friend's family.

For the first few months of the pandemic, I had two degrees of separation between myself and someone who had been infected. (It could have been just one degree if Tom Hanks and I hadn't fallen out of touch.) In December 2020, it went down to one degree when I found out that a former co-worker back East had been infected.

That one degree got much closer to home two months ago when two friends tested positive. Both were fully vaccinated. One friend, J, has a laundry list of complicating factors: heart transplant, diabetes, and I don't know what else.

Both seemed to be recovering, but a week or so after testing positive J drove himself to the hospital. We figured that it was just precautionary because of his transplant. After all, he drove himself.

Weeks passed and still J was not released. On the one hand, it seems like your chances of recovery decrease the longer you're in the hospital. On the other hand, there are stories about people leaving the hospital after very long stays. We still had hope.

J died from complications from Covid last week.

It's a pandemic of bureaucracy. It's not real anymore.

Click here for the latest Covid data.

John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots