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# Ask the Slot Expert: My Theory of Relativity for playing the slots

16 February 2022

A while ago I wrote about my Theory of Relativity in regards to the passage of time in the casino. Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity explained how speed affects mass, time and space. In relation to time, the faster an object moves, the slower time passes for it.

You may have heard of the example of the two twins. One stays on Earth while her sister goes on a yearlong tour of the solar system, traveling near the speed of light (99.5%). The traveling sister aged one year during her journey, but the earthbound sister aged 10 years.

We don't travel fast enough to experience this effect, time dilation, but we have to account for it every day. GPS uses precise measurements of time, so the GPS equations have to account for the effect of the speed of the satellites in the system.

Time dilation is a real effect, but the effect in my Special Relativity is just how we feel, like wind chill and heat index. My theory is that time seems to pass more slowly when you're running out of credits or bankroll.

If you're on a roll and you don't have to put more money in a machine, you can just keep playing. Before you know it, it's time to go to the buffet (assuming your casino still has a buffet).

When the machine makes Scrooge look like a philanthropist and you have to keep feeding it to stay in the game, time grinds to a halt and you wonder how much it's going to cost you until it's time to go.

I think we get this impression because when we're able to play hand after hand (or spin after spin), we have one event. Having to stop and feed a machine, however, breaks up the session into separate parts and we perceive the sum of the parts to be greater than the whole.

Stopping to feed a machine also gives us a chance to check the clock and see how little playing time we got from the last cash infusion.

Checking the time always seems to make time pass more slowly. Since I've been going to the movies again the past few months, I haven't checked the time during a movie once. Pre-pandemic I occasionally checked the time mid-movie to see how much longer it was going to last. I guess this really says more about the average quality of the fewer movies in theatrical release today versus the average quality of the flood of movies released to theaters three years ago.

I had a rule when I flew a lot. I would always take off my watch and put it in my pocket sometime after takeoff. I didn't put my watch back on until we had started our descent. There was nothing to be gained by knowing how much more time was left in a flight.

I was on a flight through the Twilight Zone once. After what seemed like the tenth hour of a six-hour flight from JFK to LAX, I broke down and checked the time to see how close we were to arrival. After landing I met up with a coworker who was also on the flight. He agreed that it seemed like one of the longest flights he had ever been on.

This flight was long before planes had flight-progress displays. Strangely, being able to constantly see the progress of the flight doesn't make it seem longer to me.

User Interface design studies have shown that progress bars affect how long people think an operation took to complete. Given two operations in which operation A takes longer than B, users will report that A took less time than B when A has a progress bar and B does not. Seeing progress makes time seem to pass more quickly.

At one of my jobs, the size of the clients we processed increased while I was there. Every process had to deal with many more records. A program that used to complete quickly with a small client took much longer with a larger one. The users said that they needed a progress indicator now to know how much of the process had been completed. The first version of the program with the progress bar updated a counter (Processed: x of y) after each record was processed.

Not a good idea. Updating the screen is a relatively time-consuming operation. Even though the users could see the counter increasing rapidly, the operation took much longer to complete. We changed the program to update the counter every 500 records. The sweet spot is to update the progress indicator at about the time when users start to wonder whether the program is still running.

Ten years after publishing his paper on Special Relativity, Einstein added the effects of gravity to his equations and published his Theory of General Relativity. GPS also has to account for General Relativity. The clocks in the GPS satellites run more quickly than clocks on the ground because the satellites are farther away from the center of the earth.

I would like to present my own theory of General Relativity of the perception of the passage of time that applies regardless of your credit meter or bankroll.

My theory is that the more points you earn for a given amount of action, the less time it seems to take to play that action.

The new standard for video poker points at the two big locals casinos companies in Las Vegas now require \$2 to earn a point on video poker rather than \$1. We used to earn 1000 points for \$1000 in action, but now we earn only 500 points.

I usually play with a goal to earn a certain number of points to keep me on pace for requalifying for an upper tier in the slot club. At one casino, the amount of action I have to give hasn't changed, so my action goals haven't changed. The number of points I have to earn, though, has changed.

The perception of the passage of time playing video poker now is like relativity in GPS. One effect makes time pass more slowly and another effect makes time pass more quickly.

You'd think that having to earn half as many points might make the time it seemed to take to play that action shorter, but any effect of the lower point total is outweighed by having the point meter climb more slowly.

Cutting the speed of the point meter in half makes it seem like it takes longer to play the same number of hands.

It's that time every four years when I have to look up the difference between an Axel and a Lutz even though they look the same to me.

I don't miss the crowds at the Olympics. No more cowbells (the vuvuzela of winter sports) clanging as skiers or bobsledders pass by them. Now I can actually hear the figure skaters' skates on the ice. There was one couple in one of the Ice Dance events in the team figure skating competition that made no noise as they glided on the ice. The figure skating events, moreover, go quickly when you don't have to pick up the flowers and stuffed animals thrown onto the ice.

It's discordant to watch Olympic athletes rush to put on their masks while Americans are rushing to take theirs off.

Nevada used to have one of the clearest guidelines for lifting a mask mandate. Once a county had two consecutive weeks of low or moderate transmission, the mandate could be lifted in that county. But last Thursday Governor Sisolak threw out that guideline and said there would no longer be a state-wide mask mandate in Nevada.

Granted, we are in a different place than we were when the mask mandate was put in place on May 3, 2021. More people are vaccinated and boosted, the dominant strain is weaker, testing is more widely available, and there are additional treatments. Even though every metric is higher today than it was when the mandate was put in place (positivity rate 13% versus 6%, weekly new cases 5280 versus 2559 and weekly deaths 149 versus 40), the trend is downward and the governor hopes the trend will continue. He could have done what other states did and say that the mandate would be lifted at a given date in the future as long as the downward trend continues. Instead, he just hopes the downward trend will continue without the mandate.

Do you think Super Bowl Sunday had anything to do with the timing of the announcement and having it take effect immediately?

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