Answers to Common Slot Machine Questions with Syndicated Gambling Writer John Grochowski

Book john has appeared on three Travel Channel specials about casino gambling and he also writes monthly articles for several gaming related magazines. I’M sure you’ll learn some great tips from John on how slot machines work and now here’s John Grochowski Players ask me all the time just how slot machines, work and modern slot machines are all entirely computerized. There are no more mechanical slot machines where there was a clockwork type thing and the number of symbols on each reel were that determined the odds of the game. Today, everything is run through a random number generator and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a three reel slot machine or a video slot machine with five reels any configuration, it’s all computerized, a random number generator selects random numbers that correspond to reel symbols, and that determines whether You win or lose on a slot machine.

You know. Some players still think that reel slots give you a better shot to win than video slots. I get emails about that all the time. The people who just don’t trust the video games and really it doesn’t make any difference.

They both run on a random number generator. You can program whether it’s a video slot or a reel slot a programmer can program any pay-back percentage on it within legal limits. One is not more fair than the other; it’s not necessarily a bigger pay back percentage on one or the other.

All I would caution is that in casinos today, as has almost always been the case, higher denomination machines do pay higher percentages than lower denomination machines, So, whereas most video slot machines are lower denominations, therefore have lower pay back percentages, so in that sense it makes a Difference but a programmer can program any kind of machine to have any payback percentage. I had a long correspondence with a player recently we kind of went back and forth on just how random number generators work and what’s legal on slot machines and what’s not and one other thing he brought up, was that he wanted to know if a machine is Programmed to pay a certain percentage, does that mean that it can’t pay anything out until there’s already money in the bank and that’s not the way it works. You know the slot machine can pay any jackpot any amount at any time.

In the long run, it’s going to hit its targeted pay-back percentage and it does it because of the odds of the game, not because it has to go in any makeup mode or because it has to hit a certain target payback percentage. The programmer just sets the odds of the game and, over a very long time, the odds of the game will make the machine gravitate toward that targeted payback percentage. It doesn’t have to go into any make up time.

It could hit for a top jackpot. On the very first spin, that’s possible: If that does happen, it doesn’t have to make that up on the succeeding spins its just that over a long time that top jackpot will fade away into statistical, insignificance and it’ll hit its targeted payback percentage. Another thing players wonder about a lot is whether all slot machines are regulated by gaming authorities and whether there’s a required minimum pay back percentage and they’re, not all regulated.

That’S the thing you need to look for jurisdictions where the slots are regulated Traditionally for years, there’ve been slot machines in bars that weren’t supposed to be there In Chicago, where I’m from that’s a big to do getting rid of unregulated slot machines and unregulated video poker Machines In jurisdictions where the casinos are licensed in licensed casinos, then they are regulated. The random number generators are checked. The chips for every game have to be checkedby the gaming board’s, but you have to have to be a little bit careful. You can’t just walk into any bar, that’s not a licensed casino and expect that the the game is going to be regulated like that. In licensed casinos, every state has its own minimum payback percentages in Nevada.

I think what is it 75 percent In Illinois its eighty percent in Indiana, it’s 82 percent, so there are minimums in all regulated jurisdictions. Some of them also have maximums. Nevada doesn’t have a maximum in Illinois. No slot machine may have a theoretical pay-back of more than a hundred percent and that limits certain video poker games that they can put in the casinos in Illinois, But every jurisdiction that licenses casinos has minimum payback percentages. You know some people ask specifically about Indian casinos. Are Indian casinos regulated?

Do they have minimum pay back percentages and that’s the dependent on the compact that they negotiate with the state? Indian casinos are in sovereign nations. The Indian tribes are sovereign nations, they regulate themselves more or less, but they do have to negotiate a compact with the governor of the state before they build the casino and start operating.

So just what the minimum pay back percentage is depends on. The compact that’s negotiated between the tribe and the governor of the state Players, often wonder if a casino can change the payback percentage on a slot machine after the machines already on the floor, they might have a game that initially is programmed as a ninety-six percent game. Can they change it to a ninety-two percent game? Well, yes, they can change the payback percentage, but it’s not done routinely because with today’s slot machines it would require changing out a chip changing the random number generator chip, changing the interior workings of the slot machine. That can be done In most jurisdictions.

What it requires is that the slot machine be opened up, evidence tape, be broken. Chip taken out new chip placed in new evidence placed in machine, closed up and locked, and a gaming board agent sign off on it. It’S a complicated process, it’s not something that the casino is going to be doing routinely. They will do it sometimes, but it’s not done all the time.

It’S not a day or night thing or a week or weekend thing. Some players have asked me about that. You know: do slots pay different on weekends than on weekdays. They don’t they can’t change it that routinely Now in the future, it’s going to become possible to do that as server-based gaming comes into play. When the games are going to reside on a server, the casino is going to be able, at the click of a mouse, to change the game, change the payback percentage, provided they clear it with the gaming board. Not all processes have been written for this yet, But for right now, games you’re, seeing in casinos most casinos in the United States.

You cannot routinely change the payback percentage on a slot machine. One thing that nearly all slot players seem to be confused about. I get asked this all the time if a slot machine is programmed to be random if they’re supposed to act randomly. How is it that they can be programmed for a certain pay-back percentage, And the answer here is that a programmer sets the odds of the game. Just as a game designer who could call a programmer sets the odds, ofthe game in the table game. It’S the same thing in roulette.

You have 38 numbers. A single number bet is going to win about once per 38 times it pays 35-1 and that leads to a 5.2 percent house edge. It’S programmed you see with 38 numbers and then the possibilities flow randomly from that.

It’S the same thing in a slot machine, a programmer programs, the symbols so that they will occur a certain amount of times that will lead to a payback percentage in the long run. It doesn’t have to happen now. It doesn’t have to happen tomorrow, but the odds of the game that are programmed as long as the game remains random will lead to that targeted payback percentage way back when I first started writing about gaming 17 years ago now I got letters by snail mail.

We got snail mail in those days asking me what the difference was between hit frequency and payback percentage, because I’d write about both of them at the time and people still ask about it now and then what is the difference between hit frequency and payback percentage Hit? Frequency is the percentage of winning spins and pay back percentage. Is the overall percentage of money played?

That’S paid back to players, its different, For example, on a 3 reel slot machine? You can have a game that, with a hit frequency of 12 percent, you know on 12 % of spins you’re going to get something back, that same game can have a payback percentage of ninety percent or ninety-five percent or any number percent, depending on how its programmed. What the paybacks are worth so hit frequency is the percentage of winning spins. Pay-Back percentage is the percentage of money that is paid back to you, One of the new trends, one of the things that’s coming to casinos, it’s not in every casino. Yet it’s not in most casinos yet is server-based gaming.

I’Ve written about this and people immediately ask what is server-based gaming. Is this something that’s just for video slots, or can it be real slots too? Server-Based gaming is going to enable the games to reside on a server rather than on the individual game. The casinos are going to be able to change games at a click of a mouse they’ll be able to change payback percentages at the click of a mouse they’ll. Also be able to have two-way interaction with players, one of the big things that is called a server window, in which a casino that wants to make a special offer to a player can open the server window on the screen in the slot machine and say hey.

We have extra tickets to the show tonight, do you wan na go and they can do targeted promotions that way the player can also interact with the casino to order drinks or make reservations whatever in the server window. That’S all coming. It is not necessarily only for video slot machines. Igt last year started showing some reel spinning slot machines that had underneath the window with the reels was a long but not deep, video screen where they could bring up the server window and have those same kind of interactions with the players. So the game was still being played on three reels or five reels, but you also have the server window for the two-way interaction.

That’S coming. It’S more difficult to program, a slot machine with variable pay, back percentages and variable types games from a remote location, but it can be done it all they have to do. Is them programmed so at the click of a mouse.

It changes the hit frequency or changes. The pay table – and you can do this so that you can change reel spinning games as well as you can video games Now. Players do have some wariness about server-based slot machines. They wonder, you know, are the casinos going to be able to change the pay-back percent while I’m playing? If i sat down at a 96 percent game, is it suddenly going to be an 88 percent game while I’m playing, And that is up to the regulators to make sure the systems are in place that that’s not going to happen in Nevada?

The way that’s working is that before a game is changed out, there has to be a four-minute period. Were the casino is flashing, a message on the screen that says this game is going to change and then, after it changes, there has to be another four minutes in which the screens says this game has changed, so there’s actually eight-minutes and the machine has to be Sitting empty now they can’t change the paytable change the pay-back percentage, while you were playing, they have to wait until the game is empty. Then flash these messages for eight minutes before they can actually go ahead and change the game. It seems like we’ve been talking about the coming of server based gaming forever.

It’S been the next big thing for four or five years now, but regulators have been slow to approve it. So one thing I get asked is how widespread is server based gaming? Are there any jurisdictions where it’s just not available, And it’s not that widespread, yet Nevada has it the Aria opened up with it, but not every casino in Nevada has it most?

Don’T California has had field tests with it? There are pockets of places with server based games. Some jurisdictions have not approved it. Yet Illinois has not approved it.

Indiana has not approved it. There are a number of jurisdictions where these games just are not available, even if the operators wanted to buy it. That’S going to change not going to change overnight, but you’re going to see server-based gaming in increasing proportions over the years Slot machines are the most popular games, incasinos and so player. Ask questions all the time about slots and how they work and what to play every now and then somebody will come to me with the one that leaves ut open ended for me.

You know what is your best advice for slot machines, And the best advice I can offer is to play them for fun: enjoy the wins when they come, but to stay within your bankroll, don’t be playing dollar slot machines when you have a nickel slot players budget, Don’T be betting money that you cannot afford to lose. The games can be fun. The jackpots are a riot. The bonus rounds can be a blast, have fun with all that, but don’t be betting money. You cannot afford to lose play for fun and leave it at that.

If you wan na know more about me and my work, you can check out my books, the casino answer book, the slot machine answer book, the video poker answer book. You can find me every month in Midwest gaming and travel magazine. You can find me most months in strictly slots and casino player.

You can find me every week on casino city times and you can check out my website. Casinoanswerman.Com. Don’T forget that you can see more of our educational gaming videos on our YouTube channel just go to