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HOME > > Ask the Slot Expert: Does the RNG keep spinning while a machine is not being played?

Ask the Slot Expert: Does the RNG keep spinning while a machine is not being played?

5 May 2021

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Question: When a slot machine is not being played, does the RNG still keep spinning or does it spin only when the button is pushed?

If it's spinning continuously, then the time one waits before each hit or pull could make a difference, right? If that's not correct, then how is it possible that the win/lose is picked the second one pushes the slot button?

Also if everything is random then why are there more wins when playing higher denominations? For example, if I play, say fifty cents, the lowest amount possible, the bonus comes up very frequently, but when I move up to $3.00 the bonus rarely appears.

While I would like to believe it's all random, there are just too many things happening which make me think otherwise, not that it makes a huge difference since I go to a casino for enjoyment and with a budget, being sure to leave all my debit or credit cards at home, which also causes me to play more cautiously since I want a long night of enjoyment.

By the way, am I the only one who watches on YouTube the high rollers who actually put $100,000+ into a slot machine at $10,000 a pull and wonder: Where do people get all that money? Is it illegal drug money? And even if one is legitimately wealthy, is it moral to spend that sort of money in a casino when just one single pull could feed thousands of starving people around the world? OK, enough moralizing.

Answer: The RNG constantly generates new numbers. It doesn't take a break when a machine is not being played.

That was not the case with early computer-controlled machines. They wouldn't generate a new number until someone pressed the Spin button. Because the RNG is just a mathematical function that takes an input and calculates a number using various mathematical operations, these machines were vulnerable to being cheated. Cheats with knowledge of the RNG function were able to figure out what the result of the next spin would be, so they were able to bet the minimum on losing spins and the maximum on winning spins.

The solution was to have the RNG constantly generate new numbers. Now the number generated when you hit the Spin button determine the results of your spin. You have to hit the Spin button at just the right time to have a winning spin. It's impossible to time hitting the Spin button so you have a winning spin.

Or is it?

Remember the Russian Slot Hack from a few years ago. A group of cheats -- again with knowledge of the RNG function -- figured out a way to know exactly when to hit the Spin button to have a winning spin. Their bizarre playing behavior led to their being caught. They would sit at a machine and wait. Then hit the Spin button and wait. Wait. Quickly hit the Spin button and wait. Wait. Wait. Spin.They didn't play with a rhythm. There was always a random length of time between spins.

Here in Nevada the RNG must generate an average of 100 numbers per second.

When you press the Spin button, the program running the slot machine gets numbers from the RNG in a process called Polling the RNG. These numbers, one for each reel, tell the program where the reel should stop on that spin.

It's true that when you press the Spin button has a huge influence on what you get for that spin. A losing spin might have been a jackpot winner if you had taken a sip of your drink between spins and had hit the Spin button a few seconds later. Conversely, a winning spin might have been a loser if you had played more quickly or more slowly.

Your results will be different, but not necessarily better or necessarily worse. Just different.

If you want to think of the RNG as a spinner in a board game, this is the most accurate analogy. The spinner is spinning and stopping, spinning and stopping, 100 times a second. Most of the time, no one is watching to see where it stops. Once the player hits the Spin button, we watch the next few spins of the spinner to get a number for each reel. Once we have our numbers, we stop watching the spinner. The spinner, though, keeps spinning and stopping, spinning and stopping. It doesn't care -- or know -- if someone is watching.

Why might there be more wins when you play higher denominations? As a general rule, the higher the denomination, the greater the long-term payback. A Double Diamond machine, for example, may pay back only 92% at quarters but 95% at dollars. Sometimes the slot designers lay out the symbols on the reels so that the hit frequency (the percentage of spins that pay something) is higher on the higher denomination machine than on the lower denomination machine.

What about multi-denomination machines? They can change reel layouts with denomination. In Nevada the help screens on the machine will say that different reel layouts are used for the denomination choices. The game screen itself will also say which reel set is in use.

Why don't you get the bonus as frequently with a higher bet? What I have heard from other players -- and experienced myself -- is being red hot with bonuses at a low bet. Once we've played a large number of spins and we're convinced that we're going to win so much that the casino will have a difficult time making payroll this week, we up are bets to really show the casino who's boss. After a brief cold spell at Max Bet, we drop down to protect our winnings.

Two things are happening here. One, sample size is radically different. We have many spins at the lower bet and far fewer at the higher bet. We can't really compare our results.

Two, randomness. We might have been lucky at the lower bet and unlucky at the higher bet.

And C, insufficient sample size. Hitting the bonus is a rare event. We need a large sample to guess how frequently it hits. A better comparison with small sample sizes is hit frequency. Did the spin pay something, yes or no? We need only a few hundred spins to compare the hit frequencies at the different bet levels.

The observation that makes you doubt the randomness of the machines is actually an example that shows randomness. Let's say you always got one bonus for every 100 spins you played on a machine. Something isn't random. If hitting the bonus were truly random at 1% of spins, you should sometimes go 100, 200, 300 or even more spins without hitting a bonus. And you should sometimes get two or more bonuses in 100 spins.

There was a gambling device at the turn of the century (19th not 20th) that paid out every 14 plays. That was built into its machinery -- 13 plays, jackpot, 13 plays, jackpot, etc. The machine didn't last long because it didn't take long for players to figure out the pattern.

I think you can be assured that the results on a machine are determined at random. Note though that my descriptions above are for Class III machines, like in Las Vegas and Atlantic City. The results on Class II machines at Native American casinos are also determined at random but using a different process.

Finally, I didn't know that there were videos of $10,000 pulls on YouTube. I watched a video of a few $100 pulls today. That's much more than I'm willing to risk on a spin. Much cheaper to do it vicariously.

I doubt those whales are betting illegal drug money. Nothing like throwing money around to draw attention to yourself.

Is it moral to bet that much? Well, is it moral to spend over $300,000 on a car? How about millions for a private jet or a yacht?

How do know that the $10g bettor doesn't give a great deal of money to charity?

I don't know whether it's moral. I do know that he's not sitting in front of the casino burning hundred-dollar bills. The money he loses goes to paying salaries and overhead at the casino.


Dr. Fauci was on with Wolf Blitzer this afternoon. The Blitz asked, "We're both baseball fans. What inning would you say we're in?"

After some dancing around a non-answer and some prodding, the Fowch finally said, "Something like the bottom of the sixth."

He should have said, "That's an inane comparison. A baseball game can only move forward to a higher-number inning. We can lose ground against the virus. Just look at India."

Here are the latest figures from https://www.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#cases_totalcases.

Totals Weekly Increases
US NV US NV
Date Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths  Cases  Deaths 
 05/04   32,267,958   574,679   316,239   5,473   343,348   4,908   2,559   40 
 04/27   31,924,610   569,771   313,680   5,433   383,163   4,958   2,747   65 
 04/20   31,541,447   564,813   310,933   5,368   464,556   5,072   2,590   36 
 04/13   31,076,891   559,741   308,343   5,332   480,061   5,321   2,986   57 
 04/06   30,596,830   554,420   305,357   5,275   448,935   7,124   3,084   38 
 03/30   30,147,895   547,296   302,273   5,237   439,510   6,793   939   63 
 03/23   29,708,385   540,503   301,334   5,174   388,928   7,446   1,863   53 
 03/16   29,319,457   533,057   299,471   5,121   381,695   8,362   3,078   81 
 03/09   28,937,762   524,695   296,393   5,040   480,902   11,573   2,413   83 
 03/02   28,456,860   513,122   293,980   4,957   463,356   14,129   2,835   75 
 02/23   27,993,504   498,993   291,145   4,882   451,083   13,923   2,406   162 
 02/16   27,542,421   485,070   288,739   4,720   602,906   21,411   4,149   198 
 02/09   26,939,515   463,659   284,590   4,522   779,305   21,828   5,444   244 
 02/02   26,160,210   441,831   279,146   4,278   1,007,777   22,004   7,249   249 
 01/26   25,152,433   419,827   271,897   4,029   1,312,565   23,385   10,324   250 
 01/19   23,839,868   396,442   261,573   3,779   1,317,119   21,318   11,324   279 
 01/12   22,522,749   375,124   250,249   3,500   1,790,345   22,660   17,217   294 
 01/05    20,732,404   352,464   233,032   3,206   1,499,561   18,435   14,655   233 
 12/29   19,232,843   334,029   218,377   2,973   1,258,540   15,460   12,493   186 
 12/22   17,974,303   318,569   205,884   2,787   1,656,411   18,537   16,472   239 
 12/15   16,317,892   300,032   189,412   2,548   1,494,763   17,247   18,825   229 
 12/08   14,823,129   282,785   170,587   2,319   1,375,502   15,483   18,418   175 
 12/01   13,447,627   267,302   152,169   2,144   1,114,175   10,286   15,942   121 
 11/24   12,333,452   257,016   136,227   2,023   1,197,199   10,784   14,130   106 
 11/17   11,136,253   246,232   122,097   1,917   1,099,790   8,501   11,115   65 
 11/10   10,036,463   237,731   110,982   1,852   767,645   6,838   8,868   68 
 11/03   9,268,818   230,893   102,114   1,784   588,207   5,809   5,936   35 
 10/27   8,680,611   225,084   96,178   1,749   492,026   5,585   5,238   (10) 
 10/20   8,188,585   219,499   90,940   1,759   401,037   5,053   4,501   48 
 10/13   7,787,548   214,446   86,439   1,711   351,270   4,886   3,910   48 
 10/06   7,436,278   209,560   82,529   1,663   306,965   4,962   3,232   36 
 09/29   7,129,313   204,598   79,297   1,627   303,616   5,136   3,058   54 
 09/22   6,825,697   199,462   76,239   1,573   288,070   5,370   2,196   82 
 09/15   6,537,627   194,092   72,043   1,491   250,265   5,404   1,825   65 
 09/08   6,287,362   188,688   72,218   1,426   282,919   5,638   2,734   92 
 09/01   6,004,443   183,050   69,484   1,334   251,790   5,291   3,237   104 
 08/25   5,752,653   177,759   66,247   1,230   330,411   7,889   4,076   125 
 08/18   5,422,242   169,870   62,171   1,105   358,071   7,463   4,973   114 
 08/11   5,064,171   162,407   57,198   991   365,353   7,203   5,776   117 
 08/04   4,698,818   155,204   51,422   874   418,683   7,532   7,367   109 
 07/28   4,280,135   147,672   44,055   764   460,996   7,042   7,130   91 
 07/21   3,819,139  140,630  36,195  674  463,682  5,395  8,181  57 
 07/14   3,355,457   135,235   28,744   617   422,861   5,102   5,607   57 
 07/07   2,932,596   130,133   23,137   560   351,367   3,394   5,006   24 
 06/30   2,581,229   126,739   18,131   536   278,941   6,406   4,367   26 
 06/23   2,302,288   120,333   13,764   510 


Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert™, at slotexpert@slotexpert.com. Because of the volume of mail I receive, I regret that I can't reply to every question.

Copyright © John Robison. Slot Expert and Ask the Slot Expert are trademarks of John Robison.

 
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming's leading publications. Hear John on "The Good Times Radio Gaming Show," broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoons. You can listen to archives of the show online anytime.

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