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Some big questions about video slot machines

28 March 2013

Way back in the late 1990s, as video slots were first gaining a foothold on casino floors, players used to ask the same question, over and over.

“How can you tell when you’ve won with all these crazy paylines?”

That was back in the days of five-line and nine-line games, revolutionary in their times. Nowadays, people are used to 20, 40, even 100 paylines, and 243-ways-to-win games such as Aristocrat’s Reel Power slots.

That doesn’t mean there’s no mystery left in video slots. Some things still are asked over and over again. I can’t get to them all at once, but let’s try to answer a few of those frequently asked questions about video slots.

How can I tell when a machine is ready to pay off?

That’s always the million-dollar -- or even hundred-nickel -- question with slot machines, isn’t it? There is no way to tell when a jackpot is coming, or when there’s about to be a hot streak, or when the bonus round is on its way.

Just as with reel-spinning slots, the results you see on the screen are determined by a program called a random number generator. Nothing humans can design is perfectly random, but the RNG is close enough that we can’t tell what’s coming next.

How soon should I leave a machine when it’s cold?

Because results are as random as humans can program a computer to be, there’s no tendency for a hot machine to stay hot, nor for a cold machine to stay cold. Just because your machine has been more of an icebox than video game doesn’t mean it’s going to stay frigid.

That doesn’t mean you should sit there pumping $20 bill after $20 bill down the gullet of a penny pincher. It’s no fun to sit through a losing session, not to mention hazardous to your bankroll. Before you play, make a hard decision on how much you’re willing to spend playing that game, then stick to it. My tolerance is fairly short -- a second $20 is as far as I’m willing to go.

Why are there so many video slots now? Why can’t I play reels if I want to?

Reels haven’t disappeared entirely. If you want to play reel-spinners, you can. You just have a smaller selection than video players do.

That’s because video slots are popular. If players didn’t play the video games, they wouldn’t be there. And if customers flocked to three-reel games in greater numbers than play video slots, there would be more three-reel games. Casinos are in the business of getting you to play, and customer preference matters.

Do video slots pay out as much as reel slots?

The old formula of slots having higher payback percentages at higher coin denominations holds true on video, just as it long has done on reel-spinning games. Dollar games pay more than quarters, which pay more than nickels, which pay more than pennies. And since most video slots are at lower denominations -- penny games are the most popular things casinos have going -- they tend to have lower payback percentages than reel-spinners.

That’s true even though players wager more coins on video, and total wagers can be as high or higher than on three-reel slots.

Is your bonus decided before you play the bonus round, or do your choices matter?

Your choices matter. Bonus round possibilities are set by a random number generator, but the decisions you make after those possibilities are set to decide how big a bonus you’re getting.

Let's say you're playing Jackpot Party and the gift box on the bottom left corner is hiding a 200-credit bonus while the one next to it is hiding a party pooper that ends the round. When you pick, you have a chance at that 200-credit bonus that will allow you to continue picking. You also have the chance at a pooper that will end it there, and you have the chance at any of the other outcomes hidden by gift boxes on the screen.

Your final bonus is not predetermined. It could be thousands of credits, it could be the minimum for hitting the pooper on the first pick, and it could be anything in between. The random number generator just sets the possibilities. It does not just give you a set bonus.

Is there a pattern to where the big prizes and the stoppers are during pick’em bonus events? If I keep track of where the stopper is on one turn, then I avoid that space on the next, do I better my chances of avoiding the stopper?

When the random number generator sets your possibilities for a bonus round, it pays no attention to what happened the last time. It gives you a whole new set of random possibilities. There is no pattern or sequence to the placement of prizes and stoppers.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
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. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

Winning Tips for Casino Games

> More Books By John Grochowski

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. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski