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Ask the Slot Expert: Where were you when the lights went out in the casino?

22 September 2021

Question: Occasionally read your column on RGT Online and it often triggers even more questions!

For example, what if I hit a big jackpot on a slot machine and the power goes out? How would I prove I won? Do casinos have backup power that keeps the slots energized in the event of grid failure? Can you imagine if there was a power outage right after hitting a $1M jackpot?!? Do the machines have non-volatile memory that would preserve the jackpot information when power is restored?

Also, any chance you can direct me to anything you've written about how progressive payouts work? I've often wondered about the machines with high jackpots such as the Buffalo machine that recently paid out $1M at the Cannery. With payouts that big doesn't that mean the rest of the time the machine is paying out worse than most machines?

Thanks for the column!

Answer: You only occasionally read my column? Oh well. Thanks for the kind words anyway.

Casinos do have generators to provide power to the casino floor in case the main power goes out. What happens to your machine if the auxiliary power doesn't kick in soon enough to prevent it from rebooting?

I admit that I've been fibbing when I've said that a machine will pick up right where it left off when it loses power. Based on my experiences, the machines create "restore points" as they're being played. If a machine loses power, it will resume at the last restore point, which may not be exactly where it was when the power went off or the machine rebooted.

I was in the middle of a video poker hand when a machine rebooted. It had dealt five cards and I had held some of them -- and then the blue screen of death and three minutes of incomprehensible boot messages. When the machine was back, my hand was there but not my hold selections. I think the restore point was the five cards dealt.

I had a machine reboot when I was playing Triple Wheel Poker. I had gotten the qualifying hand and swiped to start the wheel. And the wheel was spinning, and spinning, and spinning.... And then we were rebooting, and rebooting, and rebooting.... When the machine was back up, it didn't resume with the wheels spinning. I had to swipe to start the spinning again. The restore point was to initiate the wheel spin bonus.

In the case of the interrupted hand, I didn't necessarily get the same result as if the machine hadn't rebooted. The replacement cards are chosen after you draw. Similarly, I didn't necessarily get the same result on the wheel spin because the result is determined after the spin is started.

I haven't had a slot machine reboot on me, but the procedure is the same as on a video poker machine. If a game is not in progress, the machine will come back up with your credits intact.

If you're in the middle of a bonus round, it will come back at the last restore point. If you were in the middle of a free spin bonus round, the machine restores the number of free spins you completed and the amount you won on those spins. If you were on your fifth free spin of seven, for example, the machine will come back with four spins completed, whatever you won on those spins pending, and three spins remaining.

What if you were in the middle of a multiple picking bonus, like matching three tiles to determine the number of free spins and multiplier on a Quick Hit variation? It will either restore to the beginning of the pick with a different grid or restore the same grid and your picks. If it restored the same grid but not your picks, you might know where the valuables tiles are and are not and you could use that information to get a greater number of spins and a higher multiplier than if you chose randomly without that knowledge.

What if the reels were spinning when the power went out? I think this is the same situation as when my machine rebooted when the bonus wheel was spinning. It is also when "Malfunction voids all pays and plays" can apply. The machine had already chosen the result of the spin, so it could restore to spinning reels and then stop on that result. I think it's more likely though that the machine will restore to a point right before you started the interrupted spin.

The principle I'm following is that something a player has won (like credits on a machine) or an intermediate result (like a dealt hand or the triggering of a bonus) that has been decided and revealed to the player must be restored. A decision that has not been revealed yet does not have to be restored because we're not taking away something the player has already won.

I found only two references relevant to power interruptions in Nevada's regulations (well, actually a Technical Standards document). One, in relation to dealing with electrostatic discharges: "A gaming device may exhibit temporary disruption when subjected to electrostatic discharges...but must exhibit a capacity to recover and complete an interrupted play without loss or corruption of any stored or displayed information and without component failure."

And two: "Gaming devices must be capable of detecting and displaying the following error conditions, which disable game play and may only be cleared by an attendant...(e) Low RAM battery." RAM chips forget what was stored in them when they lose power, so a battery backup is needed for them to remember if power is lost on the machine.

Please send me your experiences with what happened on your machine after a reboot or power failure. Maybe we can figure out how manufacturers are implementing these standards.

Now, what happens if the backup power does not come on? This happened at Paris on November 3, 2016. Construction workers sliced through both the primary and the backup power cables.

If the auxiliary power fails, wait by your machine for someone to record your contact information, the machine you were playing, and the number of credits you think were on the machine. Richard Broome, executive vice president of public affairs and communications at Caesars, explained what happened next at Paris. "Then we allow one of two things to happen. One is they can cash out and we do that when we've been able to verify (the amount they've won). Or we say to them, 'When the power is restored, you are welcome to come back and play this game again' and we make sure it's not in operation until they come back." Despite a casino power outage, gamblers unlikely to be left in dark on winnings

There's a third possibility. A man had won $1000 on a Keno machine when the power went out. He had a flight out a few hours later, so Paris said it would mail him a check after the casino confirmed his winnings. Thousands evacuated as power outage hits Las Vegas resort

If you were affected by the Paris (or any other) outage, please tell us what happened. Did the casino let you back on the machine to cash out? Did it just pay you for the credits on the machine? What did the casino do if you were in the middle of a bonus round when the power went out?

As for progressives, it's true that the jackpot is included in the machine's long-term payback. In between jackpot hits, though, the machine could be paying back more or less than its long-term payback or other machines. And, of course, small sessions of play can pay back widely varied percentages. (It's all random.) I've seen and been a Buffalo player who has won without hitting the progressive.

Actually, the probability of hitting that Buffalo progressive is so small that there is (almost always) a really, really large amount of play on the machines that participate in the progressive in between progressive hits. The actual payback on the machines is going to be very close to the long-term payback without the progressive.

How much does the progressive contribute to the long-term payback? Very little. Even though the amount is very large, the probability of hitting it is very small.


Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths 
 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   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 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 
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