Slot Machines: As Random as it Gets

Since the 1980’s, slot machines have been nothing more than very fancily dressed-up Random Number Generators, or RNG’s.The driving operational force of each machine is a computer chip that does nothing other than generate random series of numbers.This is done surprisingly quickly; on average approximately one hundred random number sequences are generated every second.In fact, even when the machine is idle, these numbers are still being generated.


Each number is linked to one of the symbols on the “reels.”Many slot machines use a number value of 32 to process the sequences.This means that there is a one-in-thirty two chance that the reel will land on a particular symbol.While many different games have different combinations of symbols that must be arranged in order to receive a payout, most players are looking for one thing: the jackpot.The jackpot is only achieved when all three reels show the same symbol generated by the RNG.This means that the chances of winning the jackpot with a machine that is programmed with a numeric value of 32 will be equivalent to 32X32X32.This determines, for that particular machine and its jackpot, that the chances are one in 32,768 of landing that top prize.However, because the payout and frequency amount is programmed differently for each machine and each casino, larger jackpots will have a higher number value.For instance, very large jackpots may have a numerical value of 256 for each reel.This means that the chances are 1 in 16.8 million that a player will win the jackpot on that particular machine.Numeric values can range from 32 to 512- the higher the value, the larger the prize, and the less your chances of winning it are.


The concepts surrounding random number generators are extremely complex.Many experts believe that RNG’s will eventually repeat themselves, which means that, based on the last number generated, a pattern can be mathematically worked out to predict what the next number chosen will be.To alleviate this exposure, the computer chips that power RNG’s are designed to continue generating number sequences- even when the machine is not in use.This prevents a player from knowing where in the sequence the machine is, making it impossible to derive any system of predicting the next number.


Electronic slot machines are programmed by the manufacturer to meet a casino’s specifications.In highly regulated gaming communities, like Las Vegas, machines are required to return a certain percentage of the money played in them.On average, this return is between 88% and 99%.In order to attract business, machines may rarely be set to return greater than 100%- but usually you will never know which machine is programmed with what parameters.In Las Vegas, however, there are a number of prominent casinos that actually advertise their returns as being 98% or 99%- and they tell you exactly which machines offer this rate; because they are required to do so by law.This means that for every dollar played, a customer will “win” 98 or 99 cents.With this logic, we can clearly see that casinos are always at an advantage.For example, if you play $100 in coins over an hour, with a machine that is set to return 95%, then the hotel pockets $5.Doesn’t seem like much, right?Well, the median amount spent per hour on an average slot machine is actually closer to $500.Add that to the fact that the $95 that the player “won” is likely put back into the machine several times over, and it becomes obvious why slot machines are the bread and butter earners of most casinos.


What is often misunderstood about the programmed rate of return is that the calculated percentages are payouts based on the machine being played indefinitely.This means that if you played a machine returning 95% forever, you would net 95 cents for every dollar you invested, over the term that you were playing.Being that the RNG’s still generate numbers even when the machine is not in use, the return does not accurately apply to every person who uses it, every time they play.For this reason, the longer you play, the more likely you are to achieve the return programmed into the slot machine.


Timing is a major factor in what number the RNG sequences and displays.When a number has been generated, the machine RNG chip continues to generate new numbers based on what the last number was.Although it generates these numbers based on the last constantly, it does not actually apply the change until the player activates the lever.This means that, although the last number generated is known, the next number sequenced from that number will vary according to when the player activates the play function.In practical terms, depressing the lever at times that are only microseconds apart will result in entirely different number sequences- every time.


RNG’s are impossible to tamper with.They cannot be interrupted or predicted.In fact, most modern slot machines have a “Tilt” function, much like arcade pinball games used to have.This tilt function disables the machine in the event of any kind of error, thus eliminating the possibility of a malfunctioning machine that pays out far more than it is programmed to, or a machine that has developed a predictable pattern.