Telling when a machine is “due to hit” is the Holy Grail of the slot world
By Frank Legato
It’s one of the most-asked questions among slot players: Which machines are due to hit? Or, how do I tell when a machine is due? Or, which machines are the best to play, right now?
These are not only among the most-often questions asked in letters to this and other player magazines; they are questions asked at casinos across the country, to slot attendants and floor managers: “Where are the hot machines?”
Despite all that has been written about the workings of the modern slot machine, there is still a prevailing notion among players that these questions can be answered—that attendants can give you a hot tip on a machine that’s about to hit; that some outward signs visible on a slot game can show that a machine is close to a jackpot.
Helping this notion is the wealth of “slot system” trash available on the Internet and elsewhere, offering “visual clues” to when a game is “about to hit.”
The Internet “systems” are all scams, and the notions about machines being “due” are misguided. The reason is that a slot machine’s computer is constantly selecting new results—results that have nothing to do with what the machine did three spins ago, four hours ago, for the past week or for the past year.
It all comes down to our old friend: the random number generator. A slot machine’s computer contains what is basically a digital duplication of physical reels. Before the early 1980s, the probability of hitting jackpots, and their likelihood on any give spin, was tied to how many symbols and blanks—known as “stops”—were on each physical reel. The old electro-mechanical slots had 22 stops on each reel. By logging the symbols that landed on each reel, it was possible to perform calculations that would give you the odds of a jackpot landing on a given spin.
That all changed, however, with computerization of the process. For casinos, the problem with physical stops was that the odds of hitting the top jackpot could only be as long as the number of stops on each reel would allow. The use of a random number generator allows “virtual” reels—a computer simulation of reels containing as many symbols as the programmer desires. Numbers in the program represent each stop on each reel. If the programmer wants a low-paying or non-paying symbol—say, a blank—to appear more often, it is duplicated in the program so the random number generator selects it more often.
Thus, instead of 22 stops per reel, you may have 60 stops, hundreds of stops—as many as the programmer wishes, while staying within the odds limits set by the state. This is why odds can no longer be calculated through a formula involving the number of symbols on physical reels. The 22 symbols visible to the player no longer represent the slot machine’s probabilities. They display the symbols that can lead to combinations, but there is no way for the player to know how many numbers correspond to those symbols. The more of them the computer considers there to be on a reel, the more likely it will be selected by the RNG.
The All-Important RNG
The random number generator in a slot machine is just what the name indicates—it is a software program that generates numbers at random, from the list of numbers entered to represent each reel stop. The RNG generates more than a hundred sets of numbers every second, and it generates them continuously, even when the slot machine is idle. This is why each result is independent of every other result on a slot machine. The random generation of numbers is continuous, and no one sitting at a machine can predict which of the numbers the RNG will have generated at the instant you push the spin button.
When you push the spin button, the computer takes a snapshot of the numbers generated that instant by the RNG, and translates it into a reel result. An instant before you push the button, the RNG is generating an entirely different set of numbers; an instant later, yet another set. No one looking at the slot machine can predict the number it will choose next.
This is why a slot machine can never be said to be “due” to hit a jackpot. It is also why those systems you find on the Internet will never work.
One system circulating the Internet says that one can watch for “patterns” on the reels of a traditional-style slot machines for clues as to when the next spin will be a jackpot, and adjust your bet accordingly. Another actually tells the player to watch the reels on a traditional slot machine for wiggling. Bet a single coin until you see the reels wiggle, then bet the max because the wiggle means a jackpot is coming.
These gimmicks are all nonsense. No “pattern” formed by symbols in the pay window—an “X” formed by bar symbols, for instance—is indicative of what will come next. And, “wiggling” reels may mean that the slot machine is old and in need of repair, but nothing else. The physical reels are only there to do what the computer tells them to do. They are display mechanisms. They do the same thing as a video screen—communicate to the player the result at which the computer’s RNG has arrived.
Tips from Attendants
Many players still feel that a slot attendant or other floor person who is in one location all day can tell them which machines are “hot”—in other words, which machines are about to pay off. They will throw the employee a tip to identify a hot machine.
It is a waste of money. Even if a certain machine has been paying off all day, this is no indication it will continue to pay off tonight. A slot machine’s cycles are not predictable.
The only thing an attendant or floor person can give you is historical information. The sole place this historical information may be useful on a slot floor is a progressive bank—one that has been in place in the same location for a long time. The useful historical information an employee can give you here is the level at which the progressive jackpot has hit on that game. If it is substantially above that, other players who are familiar with the link will give that bank of slots more play than normal—the “jackpot fever” phenomenon. Jackpot fever pushes more coins through the game. With more changes for one of those machines to generate the winning combination, it is more likely it will hit.
More likely, but not guaranteed. And that is the vital part of my message: Even if a progressive is higher than ever before, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s definitely going to hit soon. It could go higher, and even higher—and wait until well after your bankroll is gone.