The inside scoop on how slot machines work
By Frank Scoblete
I am sure as a slot player you have heard of me. Maybe all casino players have heard of me. I am the random number generator, or RNG, that selects which symbols will come up on your machine when you play it.
I am about as random as humanly possible. Listen, you can’t outwit me. You can’t predict me. You can only face me and by facing me you have to face the fact that over time—either a short time, a medium time, or a long time—I will beat you. It is inevitable, unless you win a multi-million-dollar prize, and then you might have beaten me. There aren’t many players who have done that.
I work all the time, even when the machine is not being played. I select number systems and each of these relates to the images you see on your screen.
Now, when you decide to play a machine and put your credits in and press the play button, I will then show you what “symbols” I have selected for you. The moment after I select a “symbol,” I am selecting more “symbols,” even if you don’t see those on your screen. This selection process is done really fast—so fast, you’d have a very hard time trying to see what is actually happening. And that’s why you can’t predict what I am going to select.
[Please note: These symbols are not symbols to me. They are more like number systems that relate to the symbols you see on your screen. But it is easier for me to talk of them as symbols because it is easier for you to see them in your mind as you see them on the screen.]
Some of these symbols will appear a lot; those annoying, you-didn’t-win-symbols. You might hit these 90 percent of the time. Sometimes less, sometimes more, depending on the machine you are playing. Thus, 90 percent (or so) of your spins will be losers. Slot players have to have a lot of patience. It goes with the territory.
You can win small prizes when the “another small prize symbol” appears. These symbols can come up a rather large percentage of the 10 percent of the decisions you will win.
Slot machines register “hits” as long as something comes out of the machine. In the traditional slots, you could get a coin or two back for a three-coin wager, and that was considered a hit even though it was actually a loss. Like a baseball player, you can “hit” the ball and still make an out.
Take a look at this list and it should show you what is really happening outside of your experience on the machines:
-Those 90 percent of losing symbols that can be combinations of regular symbols that can’t win you anything whatsoever all mixed up as they are.
-Some of the losing symbols will appear as if they were about to form a winning group and then they don’t. These are the “you’re driving me crazy moments” for slot players.
-Those 10 percent of the time when you get some kind of hit—usually a winning hit but sometimes an annoying “Ha! Ha! Fooled you” hits.
The winning hits in the above 10 percent of the time that can go as follows:
- Small wins of a few credits up to a dozen or 20 credits, which can occur intermittently, and these will keep the players hanging in there.
- Larger credit wins between 21 and 100 credits, occurring about a quarter or less percent of the time, which can often allow the players to have a winning session if they hit a
- Big credit wins that might occur about one-thousandth of a percent of the time.
- The monster wins, which can occur about once every 50 million decisions.
Okay, ﬁnally: Do I know what is going to come up? No, obviously not. You see, I am not a thinking program. I am not going, “Yeah, let me screw around with these humans. They may have created me but I rule them now.”
I just fulﬁll a needed function to allow the casino to win money from the players and allow them to have a good time when they are often losing their money. Still, many slot players have gone home with nice wins and that keeps them coming back for more.
Slot machines were not always this way. They were mechanical devices that could be manipulated by crooked players and crooked saloon keepers. The prizes were quite small—nothing life changing as they can be today. Heck, I didn’t exist then. Computers didn’t exist then.
Electrical machines made their appearance then, but I was still not the be-all and end-all of the slot game as I am today.
So there you have it, from the horse’s mouth. All the best in and out of the casinos!