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Random or Not

Nothing in the universe is perfectly random, but slots are as random as humans can program a computer to be

By Frank Scoblete


There are several problems with randomness. The first, and most obvious, is that randomness is often mistaken for non-randomness. This you see at gambling games of all types.

A roulette game where red has hit four times in a row on the wheel is often thought to be “biased” in favor of red. Is it? No. All sorts of streaks, some of them quite weird, can happen in random games.

This is no less true for slot machines. We all know that slot machines are ruled by the RNG (the random number generator or pseudo-number generator) but that doesn’t stop machines from hitting an enormous number of times in a short period of time. It also doesn’t stop the machine from being ice cold for a prolonged period of time.

Randomness can be a mess in terms of short-term results and it would be a rare, if not unheard of, gambler who would chart millions upon millions of results to see the reality of randomness in a slot machine. Indeed, that seeming sense that something non-random is happening can mess up the minds of casino players. It can cause them to think they have hit upon ways to beat the games.

I know plenty of slot players who think cold machines will turn warm or warm machines will turn cold and that they can predict when these trends will happen. There is no such thing as a hot or cold machine; the machine is just playing out its random generator. Sometimes that is good for the player (the machine is “warm”); more often it is bad for the player (that machine is cold).

The RNG doesn’t care about what’s good for the player or bad for the player. It doesn’t care about anything at all. It is merely a device for selecting random numbers that will translate into symbols on a machine.

No betting system can beat a random game unless that system can uncover “non-randomness” at times (as card counting at blackjack can) or manipulate the game (as dice control can). Few blackjack players can count cards and far fewer dice controllers can actually control or influence the dice. Those are simple facts.

So why are so many players fooled? It probably has to do with our inherited tendency to see patterns in events.

[“That tiger who ate Morris was just a random occurrence, right? Uh, I don’t know, John Charles was eaten there last week. Maybe we should avoid that trail? Danielle was eaten there a few days before John Charles. Yes, from now on we definitely avoid that path!”]

Our sense of randomness can sometimes be wrong too!

[“Oh, no, no, not another piece of information I don’t want to know.” Sorry, yes.]

You are on a cruise in the North Atlantic that cost you over $24,000 for a room with a veranda. That’s a lot of money to toss and turn on an often roiling ocean.

You’re having your evening scotch at the premier bar on the ship when: “Why, Johnny Boy Bilbo, funny to see you here? It’s me, Jacob, your neighbor down the street, the one with the huge sunflowers in his yard. What are the odds of this? Wow! With almost eight billion people on Earth the two of us are on the same ship in the Northern Atlantic. Wowee!”

I hate to disabuse Jacob but two people from the same economic class from the same country meeting in an unexpected place is not necessarily random. It is not one person out of eight billion, it is one person out of all the people who go on cruises that they can afford. People who go on many such cruises. That limits the pool of people from your massive number of people on Earth. Limits them a lot!

There’s more to this as well—how are vacations given or taken by a person of that income in their country? The choices of who will be on that cruise are now narrowing much, much more.

Now, it’s not just Jacob of the sunflowers from that area going on cruises. There are other people that Johnny Boy Bilbo might know beforehand. There might just be people from his area that he doesn’t know but meets on that cruise. That seems wondrous as well. (“What a coincidence!”) Or they work in the same company. (“Wowee, zowee!”) Or, uh oh, they were once lovers. (“Janice, uh, ah, I’d like you to meet my wife.”)

Sometimes random is hard to ferret out and sometimes it is easy to see in events that aren’t random. It is a conundrum for most of us. A big conundrum for casino players, especially slot players.

You can see that the world is now becoming a much smaller place for the above neighbors, somewhat (but not quite) like the path of all those tigers in the jungle. Johnny Boy Bilbo and Jacob of the sunflowers are discovering that. The actual living of life is sometimes random and sometimes it isn’t. Hard to figure it out at any time.

Everything can seem random when they have real underpinnings. And some things are random but don’t seem so.

Is what is happening to you now random or not? All the best in and out of the casinos!


Frank Scoblete’s website is His books are available from, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, libraries and bookstores.

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