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Ask the Slot Expert: Manipulated machines in Montana?

23 March 2022

Question: MONTANA LILS RIGGED: Please get ahold of me sir. I have some information about these lucky lils. I know they are keeping track of wins and losses and pays customers accordingly.

Please contact me when you can. I read your article and I was so happy to find somebody that sees what I see!

Answer: My first reaction was to move this letter to my slush folder. I haven't seen what this person says I have seen. I've never been to Montana. The closest I've been is flying over Montana on the way from Newark to Seattle for a scheduled workshop at one of Microsoft's many campuses in the area and an unscheduled earthquake 20 years ago.

I don't think I've ever even written about Montana. I figured this was just another instance of someone confusing me with someone else. The letter must have triggered something in the back of my mind, though. I did a bit of Googling to see if I could find the article referred to by my writer.

Well, whad'ya know? (Not much, you?) I did write a column on July 1, 2015 about rigged slot machines in Montana. A player wrote to me to say that the machines at one chain are rigged and offered evidence for the allegation.

Montana Lil's and Lucky Lil's are casino brands under the Town Pump umbrella with the modestly named URL www.montanasbestcasinos.com.

Like my current correspondent, the author of the first message said that they "track everything you do at a machine and form a pattern on when/if you win." The first half of that statement is the definition of a players club. Players clubs capture how much you play and how much you win or lose in order to give you promotional offers. That information isn't used to alter results on machines. Most (all?) jurisdictions with RNG-based machines have rules that state that the Random Number Generator (RNG) in a machine must be free from any outside influences and that the outcome determined by the RNG must be displayed without alteration.

Over the years, I've had many people write to me to say that they win less when they use their players cards. Their theory is that machines have to go into Scrooge Mode to offset all of the benefits you get from the club.

Fewer, but some, people have written to say that machines treat them better when they use their cards. Their theory is that machines go Scrooge-Post-Ghost when you use your card to reward you for being a regular customer. Why should machines pay off for someone who may never return instead of a regular who may give it all back next visit?

I call this the Yin/Yang of players cards. Machines can't be both less generous and more generous when you use your card. Neither is probably true and using your card has no effect on your results.

The first author questioned the fairness of a machine that didn't give a bonus round after 400 spins. "...something is definitely wrong."

Although my rule of thumb is that bonus rounds tend to hit about once very hundred spins, I've gone 200, 300, 400, 500 -- even 1000 spins without a bonus. Our old friend Poisson, who last week helped us calculate that it is incredibly rare to hit six royal flushes in one cycle, can also help us calculate how rare it is to not hit a particular event after a certain number of cycles.

The following table lists the number of cycles and the probability that an event has not occurred after that many cycles.

10.368
20.135
30.050
40.018
50.007
60.002
70.0009
80.0003
90.0001
100.00005

As you can see from the probabilities above, it's not unusual at all to go 100-200 spins without getting a bonus. Going 400 spins without a bonus happens less frequently but often enough that you'll experience that drought in 2% of your 400-spin blocks. Going 1000 spins without a bonus is an extremely rare event. It's happened only once to me and probably won't happen again.

A mistake many players make is equating unlikely with impossible and declaring that machines must be rigged because some unlikely event has happened.

I told the first writer that the events described may be unlikely, but they are not sufficient evidence to prove that the machines are being manipulated.

You know how to get in touch with me. I'll consider any evidence you have that the machines are rigged.


Here are the latest Covid data. There is a difference in the hospitalization data for US versus NV. The CDC reports total number of Covid hospital admissions. Nevada reports current hospitalizations, not admissions.

There must be something wrong with the latest case count from Nevada. Our test positivity rate has been steadily falling the past few weeks, but the number of cases reported this week is huge increase over the number of cases reported last week. The Nevada site has only 688,054 total cases as of 3/10, an increase that is more in line with the prior weeks' increases.

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