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6 July 2016

Question: Most slot players have heard or said, "If only I had bet two coins."

I was wondering if there is any truth to this statement.

I often play an older slot machine (Triple Gold Bar) for which there are two- and three-coin versions. While it is clear that hitting the bet max button causes the program to grab the current RNG output and compare it to the programmed payout, what happens when I use the bet one button? When does the program determine what payout, if any, I won? Is it when I hit the bet one button or hit the spin button?

I have often switched from betting two coins using the bet one button to one coin, and often win on one coin but keep losing betting two coins. I am thinking that only hitting the spin button determines the outcome, so betting two coins instead of one would not have resulted in double the payout since the spin button would have been depressed a 10th of a second or so later for which a different RNG output would have been generated.

What is your expert opinion on the matter?

Answer: I believe James Maida, president of Gaming Labs International, once said in a seminar, "Anytime a machine is sitting with a result locked in, it is vulnerable to being cheated."

In the early days of computer-controlled slot machines, there were some machines that determined the result of the next spin immediately after concluding the current spin. A slot cheat named Leo Weeks programmed a portable computer to simulate the random number generator function in those slot machines. After entering the results of a few spins, the computer was able to determine where the RNG function was in its cycle and indicate whether the next spin was going to be a winner or a loser. The Weeks Box user could then make a minimum bet on losing spins and a maximum bet on winning spins. Because those slot machines were sitting with a result locked in, the cheat had all the time in the world to figure out what the result was.

Video poker machines have been cheated using a similar method. When the first video poker machines chose all 10 cards that could be used in a hand when the player pressed the deal/draw button, a cheat had time to use the five dealt cards to figure out where the RNG was in its cycle and determine the five cards waiting in the wings to replace the discards.

In order to thwart RNG cheats, modern machines employ a philosophy that I call, borrowing a term from inventory control, Just-In-Time. The program running the slot machine does not determine a result until it is needed.

The program does not poll the RNG to get the result of a spin until the player has committed to the spin by pressing the spin button, the bet max button, pressing one of the bet amount buttons, pressing the repeat bet button, or pulling the handle. On a video poker machine, the cards needed to replace the discards are not chosen until the player presses the deal/draw button to draw the replacement cards.

I think the phrase "If only I had bet two coins" is missing the then clause. Here's how I would complete the phrase:

If only I had bet two coins, then I would have gotten a different result.

Question: Here is some more info on the 88 Fortunes game. I have found this to be one of the most enjoyable and profitable games to play in any casino.

I usually start with a high bet and work my way down depending on how the game is playing. I have never hit anything higher than the Mini prize until last week when I hit the Minor, but still no Major or Grand.

While playing the game in Montgomery, Alabama, a while back, I sat next to a fellow who was playing for 88 cents per hand. I thought this was very cheap and he would not win much even if he hit some good matches. However, he told me that he had been playing the same game in Atmore, Alabama, the day before and had won the \$8000 grand prize even though he was betting only 38 cents per game. So the game can be very fair and profitable, especially in Alabama!

We were playing some 88 Fortunes in Reno earlier this year and hit very little no matter how many times we hit the progressive. We were playing between 88 cents and \$1.76. One afternoon a lady sat down next to us and played \$8.80 into one of the same machines that we had just played and won the grand prize of thousands of dollars on the second pull!

We just got back from Oregon and played the 88 Fortunes many times and I hit for \$660 on the free games without hitting the progressive.

The game is fair, but does have slow sessions and good-paying sessions.

I hope that your other readers have the same good fortune that this game has shown us.

Answer: 88 Fortunes is a high volatility game and you can hit some very nice payoffs even on an 88-cent bet. The downside to high volatility is that the machine can eat your bankroll in a flash, especially if you're betting dollars per spin. What keeps players coming back, though, are those big hits that get them out of the hole in one spin.

There are many similar Asian-themed games on slot floors now. I checked the help screens on them and I found a very interest sentence on one. In regards to the bonus game in which you match three coins to win a progressive, it said, "Outcomes of the Jackpot Feature are not influenced by player input."

What this fine example of lawyer-speak is really saying is that the program running the machine has already determined which progressive you will win by polling the RNG. It doesn't matter what you choose during the bonus round. The simplest way to force the outcome is to have two coins for all the progressives you didn't win, and fill out the screen with coins for the progressive you did win. This would explain why the progressives attached to the coins you didn't pick are not revealed at the conclusion of the round.

I think a pick-em round in which your picks don't affect the outcome is deceptive. Although it is exciting to pick two Grands and two Majors and two Minors and two Minis, it is deceptive when it is impossible to get three of the progresives. The odds are not what they appear to be. The Nevada Gaming Commission outlawed the Secondary Decision on the Universal slot machines three decades ago because the Secondary Decision gave a false impression of the odds of hitting the jackpot.

There are many ways bonus rounds reveal a pre-determined outcome without resorting to a pointless pick-em round. But, as I said, picking is exciting and gets the player involved in revealing -- but not determining, in this case -- the outcome.

Perhaps the compromise is to disclose that the your choices are immaterial to the outcome. The only effect your choices have is in determining how quickly the pre-determined result is revealed.

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