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Do Casinos Change Payouts on Same Slot Machine?

8 November 2012

By John Grochowski

QUESTION: In Illinois or Las Vegas, is it legal for slot machines programmers to vary the odds that a machine will allow a player to reach the bonus round depending on how many credits per line they play?

Let's say I play a penny machine (or any denomination really) where I can play up to 40 lines at once, and 1 to 5 credits per line. If I choose to play all 40 lines, can the machine be set to vary the odds that I will get the typically required three symbols to enter the bonus depending on if I play one credit per line or five?

ANSWER: If the bonus round is launched by symbols --- such as the three noisemakers on Jackpot Party or the three fishing lures on Reel 'Em In --- then the odds of going to the bonus round are the same no matter how many credits you bet per line. To change the frequency of bonus launches would mean changing the number set available to the random number generator, or changing the way random numbers are mapped to reel symbols. Both are illegal.

There are a few bonus events could be made to come up more often for bigger bettors. One is if players go to the bonus round only if the launch symbols land on an active payline. In that case, those who bet all the paylines would go to the bonus event more often than those who play fewer lines. However, a player who plays all the line with one coin wagered on each will go to the bonus as often as those who bet maximum credits.

Another way is to require a separate wager to be eligible for the bonus event. Sometimes you'll see a game with buttons that say "Bet 1 line," "Bet 5 lines," "Bet 10 lines," "Bet 20 lines," and "Bet 20 lines plus feature," or some similar combination. All those who make the bet on the feature have an equal chance of going to the bonus event. Those who do not make the feature bet cannot go to the bonus. Sometimes that means a smaller bettor has bonus chances and a bigger bettor does not. If I bet one coin for each of 20 lines and make a 10-credit bonus feature wager, I bet a total of 30 coins and can get to the bonus. If you bet 10 coins for each of 20 lines but don't kick in the extra 10 credits, then you're wagering 200 credits and can't go to the bonus feature at all. If you find yourself at such a machine, either make sure you make the bonus bet or move to a different game. Don't play without being eligible for the bonus events that are the main attraction of the games.

The third way to give bigger bettor a better chance of reaching the bonus is with mystery triggers. The mystery is that the bonus feature isn't linked to any symbols on the screen. It just turns up without you knowing how and why. One way it can be done is to randomly select a wager threshold. The RNG can be told to select a wager total between 1,000 and 1,200 credits, for example. If it selects 1,083 credits, then after the bet that pushes the total to at least 1,083, the bonus will show up.

With such programming, every player has a chance of making the wager that reaches the bonus threshold. However, those who wager more have more chances. If I bet 20 coins, then I have 20 chances of being the one to reach the 1,083 total, while if you bet 200 credits, you have 200 chances of one of your credits being the lucky one. So bigger bettors have a bigger chance at triggering the mystery round.

QUESTION: As of last Tuesday, Jumer's Casino in Rock Island, Ill., offered 10-7-5 Double Bonus Poker. However, both the straight flush and mid-grade quad (2s, 3s, 4s) only paid 239 units (quarter machine) on a five-unit bet.

These were not progressive machines. The straight. flush/mid-quad payouts did not change.)

Was this disastrous for a Midwest player risking a small video poker bank roll?

Are the 9-6-5 Double Bonus games a few miles away in Iowa a better play?

ANSWER: Dropping the 250-coin pays to 239 drops 10-7 Double Bonus from 100.17 percent with expert play to 99.8 percent. That's still far than the 97.9.5 on 9-6-5 Double Bonus. Dropping the paybacks on the more common full houses and flushes is far more damaging than the reduced returns on some quads.

The reason it's done is that Illinois regulations say no machine may pay more than 100 percent, and it's the theoretical payback they use in enforcing the regulation. In practice, few people play Double Bonus well enough to get 100 percent. The average player gets about 3 percent less. Nonetheless, the full-pay game is illegal in Illinois.
John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago, with podcasts at www.wlsam.com/sectional.asp?id=38069. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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