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Ask the Slot Expert: When good slot machines go bad

9 February 2022

I settled in for what I hoped to be an enjoyable -- and profitable -- session playing my favorite Quick Hit Blitz machine. Blitzy was a little glitchy that day. She just wasn't herself.

Every once in a while, the reels would take a fraction of a second pause after I hit the Spin button. The reels would start spinning and then there'd be a hiccup, like the machine had something else it had to do before getting back to spinning the reels.

I know that this machine has had display problems in the past. The machine did not render many of the symbols on the reels during the bonus round. There were plenty of blank spaces on reels that had no blank spaces.

I don't know what the reels in the bonus round looked like because Blitzy didn't give me any bonuses that day.

I considered calling over one of the slot attendants, but the glitch was intermittent and I didn't know how much weight they would put on my feeling that the machine was not behaving the way it normally did.

(They should investigate if I say something doesn't seem right. I once found a faulty card reader that was reporting that I was constantly removing and inserting my card, even though I wasn't touching it. I also found a machine that wasn't configured properly for a promotion when I didn't get something that I had earned.)

I chalked up the glitch to Blitzy having an off day and hoped she might be rebooted -- or reboot on her own -- and the problem would be gone the next time I played her.

I don't recall whether she still had the spin glitch the next time. She was much more generous with the bonus rounds, though, so I was able to see that the phantom bonus reel symbols problem was back with a vengeance.

More and more symbols disappeared as the bonus round continued. On a few spins, the reels were completely blank. There was a lady sitting at the machine across a very narrow aisle from me. She was watching her friend play, but she watched me when I hit my first bonus round. On one of the completely blank reel spins, I looked over at her and shrugged my shoulders.

I could tell when I had winning combinations because I could see the "line x pays y" message at the bottom of the screen. I could also tell when I had landed Blitz symbols by the sound made when they landed on a reel and by watching the "symbols needed" count go down after the winning combinations were paid.

As the problem worsened, I thought I should call over a slot attendant. But then my bonus round ended. I've learned that it's much better to show an attendant a problem when it is happening than to describe it after it has occurred. They think I'm just another crazy player. If I get another bonus round, I thought, maybe I'll hit the Service button then.

I did get another bonus (Thank you, Blitzy.) Symbols were blank again, so I hit the Service button after a few spins. When you get a Jackpot Upgrade on Quick Bit Blitz, you have to hit the Spin button to start the spins on the next jackpot level. I tried to wait each time I got to a new level to give the attendant time to come, but it's tough to sit at a machine and do nothing when the machine is still operating. I was able to wait a little at each level and, fortunately, the attendant came quickly.

She saw the problem right away. I said that having mostly blank reels added an extra level of excitement and mystery to the bonus. When the machine counted the number of invisible Blitz symbols (not) displayed on the screen, we'd guess how many were actually there.

She radioed for one of the supervisors to come to determine what should be done.

I was lucky enough to get another Jackpot Upgrade after she came. I asked her if she wanted to me wait to start the next level so we could ensure that the supervisor would see the problem. She said that wasn't necessary because she witnessed it.

(If I never hit the Spin button to start the next level, the machine would eventually time out and start it for me. Machines have a sort-of dead man switch to do something that it is waiting for the player to do when the player doesn't do it. If the player is supposed to choose items on the screen, the machine will choose them randomly.)

The bonus ended when I was one Blitz short of an upgrade. The machine makes a lot of noise and displays coins falling down the screen when you win anything more than toll money on the bonus. I had gotten a few upgrades and had won about $150, so the machine should have gone into Big Win mode.

Instead nothing happened. Just then two supervisors arrived. The attendant said that she thought the machine had locked up. I had been keeping track of my credits to see when I had enough credits to make it to 500 spins. I had enough credits to finish the session. I said that I thought the machine had credited me for the bonus round.

One of the supervisors said, "Let's try to cash out." He hit the Cash Out button and nothing happened. None of the buttons did anything. Reboot. His partner fumbled around under the deck trying to get his key into the reset lock. Right after he turned the key, the first supervisor said, "Wait."

Too late. The machine was already rebooting.

My machine was in a pod of four games, each of which participated in the progressive Quick Hit jackpots. My machine acted as the progressive controller for the four machines. When it started rebooting, the progressive amount displays on the other machines changed from showing a dollar amount to showing "Good Luck".

The second supervisor checked to see if anyone was playing the other two machines in the pod, which were back to back with my machine and the one next to mine. He said that no one was playing them, so we were okay. In any case, it took only a minute or so for the progressive amounts to display again.

The slot game took a lot longer to come back. About five minutes. One of the supervisors said that it keeps taking longer and longer for machines to reboot. While we were watching the machine reboot, they got a call that a player was looking for a particular game with a panda. One of the supervisors said to me, "We must have 30 games with a panda."

I asked if my Game of Thrones machine was gone for good, even though I knew that it was. The other movie- and TV show-based Aristocrat machines that they've had in the past weren't moved, they were removed, after two months or so. They said that the manufacturer had replaced them with the Crazy Rich Asian machines.

When the machine was back up, it spun the reels to where they stopped to trigger my bonus. I asked if I was going to have to hit the Spin button to start the bonus. Before anyone could answer, the machine displayed the reels for the first jackpot level and automatically spun the reels. "I guess not," said one of the supervisors.

The four of us watched as the machine replayed all of the spins in my bonus round, automatically starting each level without player interaction. When the supervisors got a bit antsy, I said that I thought this was the last level. The attendant said that I made up one more level.

She was right. I collected enough Blitz symbols on that level for an upgrade. When I was on my third spin at new level, she said that I was going to be one short of an upgrade. I remembered then that when we watched this spin in ghost-symbol mode, we knew that I had landed some Blitz symbols, but we didn't know how many. We watched as the Symbols Needed count went down to 1 and stayed there.End of bonus.

This time the machine did a nice fanfare to award what I had won in the bonus. The supervisors and attendant wished me luck and moved on to their next problem.

Slot regulations require that machines go back to where they left off when they lose power or reboot. If you were in the middle of a bonus round, they will replay the bonus up to the point of interruption and then complete it. My machine hadn't completed my bonus round -- I was out of spins, but the machine hadn't awarded me the credits I had won yet -- so it replayed the sequence from bonus trigger to not getting enough symbols for an upgrade. Then it picked up where it crashed, paying me.

I cashed out 15 minutes later with a $50 profit and some bonus entertainment.


Last week I wondered whether the Omicron surge and subsequent strained hospitals had caused Bill Maher to moderate his "time to get back to normal" message that he espoused at the end of last year.

On his first show back this year, instead of being humbled, Bill doubled down. And one of his panelists, Bari Weiss, said, "I'm done with Covid."

On his second show this year, Bill tripled down. He quoted Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf, who said, "I think everybody's angry. It's been two years now. We're fatigued and ready to move on. I think a lot of political vectors are reflecting that."

When Bill didn't discuss the virus during the panel on his February 4 show, I thought he wasn't going to discuss it at all. I was wrong. It was the subject of his editorial at the end of the show.

As I wrote last week, Real Time has at times become a source of misinformation. Bill and his writers are not doing the research.

Bill cited a paper from Johns Hopkins that said that lockdowns had little to no benefit on public health. The paper did not come from The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. No, the paper came from the esteemed doctors from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and the Study of Business Enterprise. Some of the authors may be doctors, but they're PhD not MD. The title of the paper is "A Literature Review and Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Lockdowns on COVID-19 Mortality".

Criticisms available at the time of his show said that the paper had not been peer reviewed yet. Also, it's a study of studies, some of which are also not peer reviewed. Critics also had an issue with what the authors considered a "lockdown".

The authors of the Johns Hopkins study are economists, not epidemiologists, and their ultimate conclusion is related to that expertise. They wrote that the lockdowns during the first wave of the pandemic "have had devastating effects."

...

All 3 authors are also from Sweden and Denmark. Sweden famously decided not to implement any lockdowns and never mandated, only recommended, masks in public. The country recorded more cases per capita and deaths than neighboring countries: Reported deaths were 3 times more than Denmark, 8 times more than Finland, and 10 times more than Norway. A December 2021 article in BMJ said public health experts and scientists believed "Sweden's situation remains precarious."

Controversial Paper Claims COVID-19 "Lockdowns" Had Little Public Health Effect

The findings, which have not been peer reviewed, conflict with previous studies that found lockdowns worked.

...

"Smoking causes cancer, the earth is round, and ordering people to stay at home (the correct definition of lockdown) decreases disease transmission," Seth Flaxman, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford, said in a statement. "None of this is controversial among scientists. A study purporting to prove the opposite is almost certain to be fundamentally flawed."

Did Pandemic Lockdowns Do Little to Prevent COVID Deaths?

Bill said, "A study this week from a professor at Johns Hopkins concluded that the lockdowns we all suffered through had little impact in reducing Covid deaths. Okay, that's kind of a big one to get wrong."

Bill, concluding that the lockdowns didn't work on the basis of just this one paper is kind of a big one to get wrong.

Bill also took issue with Biden's saying, "You're not going to get Covid if you have these vaccinations" in a town hall on July 21, 2021.

Bill said, "I already knew that was wrong then and now we all do."

I remember when this occurred. One of the analysts in the post-game show I saw said that Biden's statement wasn't true. There are always breakthrough infections.

Another analyst said that his job here was to encourage people to get vaccinated, not give a detailed statistical analysis of your chances of getting a breakthrough infection, being hospitalized or dying with and without the vaccine.

Bill's losing touch with the larger theme he once had. What is the long game? How are we going to live with the virus?

He seems to be advocating a total lifting of mandatory mitigation efforts, never to be reimposed, and letting the vulnerable fend for themselves. But what if hospitals are stressed again? Shouldn't we be monitoring some metric to know if we need to increase mitigation efforts to prevent hospitals from getting overloaded again?

We may be fatigued and ready to move on, but the real question is whether the virus is fatigued and ready to move on. The virus will tell us when we can shift to endemic mode.

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.

All data comes from the CDC (https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases, https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#new-hospital-admissions), except for Nevada current hospitalizations (https://nvhealthresponse.nv.gov/).


Totals Weekly Changes
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths  Cases  Hosp. Adm.  Deaths  Cases  Curr. Hosp.  Deaths 
 02/08/22   76,782,002   4,381,203   903,038   668,042   1,240   9,186   1,769,556   92,750   18,185   11,144   (387)   235 
 02/01/22   75,012,446   4,288,453   884,853   656,898   1,627   8,951   3,193,570   121,420   17,885   26,555   (344)   191 
 01/25/22   71,818,876   4,167,033   866,968   630,343   1,971   8,760   5,102,999   143,329   16,393   57,574   99   133 
 01/18/22   66,715,937   4,023,704   850,575   572,769   1,872   8,627   4,983,654   147,105   13,301   25,927   (1,787)   99 
 01/11/22   61,732,283   3,876,599   837,274   546,842   3,659   8,528   5,421,565   139,572   12,168   32,486   2,594   100 
 01/05/22   56,310,718   3,737,027   825,106   514,344   1,065   8,428   3,501,427   104,272   8,867   20,966   276   61 
 12/28/21   52,809,291   3,362,755   816,239   493,378   789   8,367   1,693,987   63,185   11,127   7,977   89   56 
 12/21   51,115,304   3,569,570   805,112   485,401   700   8,311   1,063,296   55,734   9,102   5,639   9   110 
 12/14   50,052,008   3,513,836   796,010   479,762   691   8,201   853,262   57,885   8,946   5,008   17   91 
 12/07   49,198,746   3,455,951   787,064   474,754   674   8,110   821,215   66,191   8,575   5,011   23   125 
 11/30   48,377,531   3,389,760   778,489   469,743   651   7,985   563,746   28,426   6,309   3,343   (50)   55 
 11/23   47,813,785   3,361,334   772,180   466,400   701   7,930   667,924   41,145   10,754   4,784   (24)   86 
 11/16   47,145,861   3,320,189   761,426   461,616   725   7,844   604,748   63,164   7,862   4,577   22   85 
 11/09   46,541,113   3,257,025   753,564   457,039   703   7,759   516,764   33,219   8,290   5,539   34   103 
 11/02   46,024,349   3,223,806   745,274   451,500   669   7,656   555,915   38,028   9,226   4,327   45   109 
 10/26   45,468,434   3,185,778   736,048   447,173   624   7,547   488,829   42,265   9,842   4,753   (87)   96 
 10/19   44,979,605   3,143,513   726,206   442,420   711   7,451   578,396   11,963   4,381   136 
 10/12   44,401,209   714,243   438,039   7,315   795,586   14,067   15,710   149 
 10/05   43,605,623   700,176   422,329   7,166   554,194   10,642   3,852   121 
 09/28   43,051,429   689,534   418,477   7,045   817,218   14,463   6,160   165 
 09/21   42,234,211   675,071   412,317   6,880   971,637   14,691   7,466   152 
 09/14   41,262,574   660,380   404,851   6,728   1,176,763   12,919   10,256   145 
 09/07   40,085,811   647,461   394,595   6,583   975,725   10,076   5,237   104 
 08/31   39,110,086   637,385   389,358   6,479   1,113,414   9,385   7,592   173 
 08/24   37,996,672   628,000   381,649   6,306   1,045,491   7,507   8,117   116 
 08/17   36,951,181   620,493   373,649   6,190   959,978   4,715   7,065   150 
 08/10   35,991,203   615,778   366,584   6,040   819,524   3,987   7,652   122 
 08/03   35,171,679   611,791   358,932   5,918   622,832   2,279   7,489   81 
 07/27   34,548,847   609,012   351,443   5,837   652,251   2,394   8,347   79 
 07/20   33,896,296   606,618   341,096   5,758   169,933   1,478   3,351   28 
 07/13   33,726,363   605,140   339,745   5,730   181,047   1,959   4,982   33 
 07/06   33,545,316   603,181   334,763   5,697   75,104   1,373   2,234   27 
 06/29   33,470,212   601,808   332,529   5,670   87,507   2,057   3,020   24 
 06/22   33,382,705   599,751   329,509   5,646   75,420   2,157   1,930   22 
 06/15   33,303,285   597,594   327,579   5,624   95,797   2,293   1,560   17 
 06/08   33,207,488   595,301   326,019   5,607   114,250   3,762   2,271   21 
 06/01   33,039,238   591,539   323,748   5,586   123,333   3,709   991   27 
 05/25   32,969,905   587,830   322,757   5,559   174,125   4,234   1,676   26 
 05/18   32,795,780   583,596   321,081   5,533   223,966   4,230   2,301   27 
 05/11   32,571,814   579,366   318,780   5,506   303,856   4,687   2,541   33 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
 04/13   31,076,891   559,741   308,343   5,332   480,061   5,321   2,986   57 
 04/06   30,596,830   554,420   305,357   5,275   448,935   7,124   3,084   38 
 03/30   30,147,895   547,296   302,273   5,237   439,510   6,793   939   63 
 03/23   29,708,385   540,503   301,334   5,174   388,928   7,446   1,863   53 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05   20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29/20   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
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