Slot machine myths are a lot like the Hydra, the nine-headed serpent in Greek mythology that grew two more heads every time Herakles cut one off. So it goes with slot myths. My email rarely brings questions about whether casinos can tighten games by flipping a switch, whether using rewards cards bring lower paybacks, and ticket in, ticket out payoffs have eliminated the old chestnut about whether warm coins bring lower pays than cold coins.
The answers are no, no and no, in case just mentioning the myths have sparked any old doubts.
But mythology evolves with changing technology and new ways to play. Let’s take a look at some of the misconceptions about modern slot machines.
MYTH: On games with wheels such as International Game Technology’s Wheel of Fortune games or Bally Technologies’ Vegas Hits, the wheels are fixed so you only get the low payouts.
FACT: Wheels have random number generators just like slot reels. It is possible to win any of the amounts on the wheel, including the largest jackpots. In fact, one reader even emailed to say she had won the largest Wheel of Fortune prize on two trips to the wheel in a row.
However, even though the wheel segments look equal, more random numbers are assigned to lower-paying spaces, so you will win small prizes more often than the top jackpots.
If game manufacturers were not able to program virtual wheels in that way, the wheel spins either would have to come A LOT less often in order to keep payoffs within profitable parameters for the casino, or would have to offer much smaller payouts. With the virtual wheel, the spins can come up often enough to keep the game fun and interesting, while leaving the possibility of a big payday.
MYTH: Video slots pay off less than reel-spinners. They’re just computers, and programmers can do anything with computers.
FACT: Reel-spinning games are just computers in disguise, too. Regardless of whether you’re playing a reel slot or a video slot, the real game is being played out on the random number generator within. What you see on the reels or on the video screen is just a user-friendly interface, a visual representation designed to make it all fun and interesting for the player.
By and large, video slots do yield a lower payback percentage than reel games, but that’s because they’re on lower coin denominations rather than any inherent difference in reels vs. screen. Casinos continue to stock penny games that pay less than nickel games, which pay less than quarters, which pay less than dollars, and so on.
That’s offset somewhat by the time it takes to play bonus events. If you’re playing a game with bonus events, whether on video or many of the newer reel-spinners, you make fewer wagers per hour than if you’re playing a three-reel game with no bonus rounds.
Video slots give programmers lots of flexibility, and one key piece of that is the ability to program frequent “winning” spins with paybacks less than the total wager. Reel slots have lower hit frequencies but usually offer a better chance at a big jackpot. It’s a choice between extended play and entertainment vs. jackpot chasing.
But it’s not a matter of being able to “do anything” on video. Gamemakers can design high, low and medium-paying games just as well on reels as on video.
MYTH: The paybacks on bonus rounds have to be fixed in advance. If your choices made a difference, they wouldn’t know how much to count the bonus in programming the payback percentage.
FACT: Your choices do count on most manufacturers’ bonus events. The programmer sets the possibilities, and just as on the base slot game, that determines the odds of the game. Over a very long time, everything that can happen eventually will, and that will lead to an average value on the bonus event. That average can be calculated into the game’s overall theoretical yield.
MYTH: On slots with mystery progressives where you can win the same amount no matter what your bet size, you improve your payback percentage by betting the minimum. After all, if you don’t multiply the jackpot, what’s the point in betting more coins?
FACT: Mystery jackpots can be programmed in a few different ways, but one common way is to have a random number select a jackpot amount, within given parameters. If a jackpot must hit at a point between $500 and $1,000, and the RNG selects $798.54. then the player whose wager pushes the pot to $798.54 wins it.
Since progressive jackpots are built from a percentage of wagers, those who are wagering more have more chances to push the jackpot to the winning total. The player who bets the minimum gains no advantage, and in fact keeps his jackpot chance at its lowest.
That’s a myth that could never have arisen before the technology that has given us mystery jackpots. But time waits for no one, and mythology has to keep up.
Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
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