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Simple Questions And Simple Answers

By Frank Scoblete


Q: I know that there something called the RNG that controls the computerized slot machines but I have no idea what this means and how the results come from this computer thingy. Can you help me on this?

I know it doesn’t change the way I play, but it would be nice to know what is behind the curtain.

A: The RNG is the random number generator inside almost all slot machines – it is indeed the “man” behind the curtain. Some experts call the RNG the PRNG which means the pseudo-random-number generator. The reason it is sometimes called “pseudo” is that the randomness isn’t quite random – although it is random enough to be considered random. It is so almost random that it is for practical purposes actually random.

Okay, though I am not a computer expert (or a thingy expert), I will give you my layperson’s concept of how the RNG works in a slot machine. This is a computer program that constantly picks number sequences – really fast as in really, really fast; faster than Thor can shoot lightning bolts from his hammer – and these sequences are random or as close to random as a program can be.

Each number sequence relates to the symbols or figures or videos on the slot machine. The easy-to-win small hits have more of a chance of appearing since there are more number sequences that reflect the smaller wins. However, the big wins and those monster jackpots have very few number sequences that relate to them. Megabucks for example is approximately 50 million to one that the number sequence for the massive jackpot will be hit.

You could go from callow youth to great grandpa playing these machines with nary a massive win.

The actual events of a slot machine such as the reels spinning or the videos playing or the figures appearing in this or that order are not controlled by the mechanics of the machine. The RNG is working constantly behind the curtain even when the machine isn’t being played. A player hitting the credit button will get the symbols relating to the sequence at that instant in time.

His pressing the credit button (or kicking the machine in frustration) has nothing to do with what’s coming up. What’s coming up is coming up whether the machine is being played or not.

And remember the RNG is picking numbers at a lightning rate so there is no way to outguess the machine – and kicking it will not help you win but might get you thrown out of the casino.

Q: I once read an article stating that the best machines to play are the stand alone machines. But when I look at the return on the machines in a given venue the percentage is stagnant, so aren’t all machines in that denomination returning the same amount over time? If it is 92 percent isn’t 92 percent for all machines in that denomination?

A: Most people are not aware of the fact that not all machines in a given denomination return the same amount over time. You might have a 92 percent average in a given venue but some machines are programmed to return 94 or 95 percent, while other machines are programmed to return 86 or 87 percent even though they are in the same denomination. (These percentages are just off the top of my head.)

Generally the machines that are progressive, interlinked machines will return less money in order to build up big jackpots, while the stand-alone, non-progressive machines will return more since they are not pushing monstrous possible hits.

How does that affect you? If you are looking to get as close a game as that denomination will give you against the house, then you go with the stand-alone machines. However, if you are interested in dreaming of a big jackpot and perhaps buying your own island and you do not care that the house is taking a larger percentage of the money played, then by all means “hitch your wagon to a star.”

As an aside: I also recommend playing one coin in those standalone machines. If a machine takes three coins to be a full-coin machine, reducing to one coin will limit your losses by about two-thirds even with machines offering a bigger jackpot on the biggest winning symbols. That little extra on the jackpot is just not worth increasing your risk by playing three coins instead of one.

This advice does not really hold true for video poker but video poker is a whole different animal. The best video poker players know the specific strategy for the specific machines they play. The better the player the lower the house edge.

Q: I recently read a column answering a question about the Wheel Of Fortune bonus spin and the RNG. The answer was that the RNG for the bonus spin runs until the “…spin button is hit and not ‘predetermined’ by the original bonus spin.” Is this true with other slot machines?

A: Yes, it is. The random number generator is a software utility that is part of each game’s computer program. Bonus spins use that same utility to generate numbers from within a set of numbers that correspond to all the possible results. In cases where there are special bonus reels that contain different symbols or values than the main reels, the computer instructs the utility to generate from a different set of numbers. Predetermined bonuses are rare, if they still exist at all.

Q: I walk the casino floor and see what people are betting and what they are winning. I sat next to a guy, we were both playing a progressive that “must pay at or before $500, at any bet,” with the minimum bet of 50 cents and max bet of $2. Well, he hit the top progressive of $459 with 50 cents. I see a lot of that.

Maybe chances are higher of hitting it if you bet more, but I see it can be done with minimum, so why bet more? Saw another person win $500 in the bonus round with a 40-cent bet.

A: It’s fine to bet the minimum required for the progressive jackpot, but there are other reasons to wager more.

Remember, you’re only considering what it takes to win the progressive. Check the pay schedule in the “help” screen. Many games have other line awards that are actually higher than the top of the progressive. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to jack up the bet when you’ve got a good bank of credits built up. Your payoff for everything outside of that progressive will be a lot more, and in the end, you’ll win more, for every winning combination outside of that progressive.

Of course there’s also nothing wrong with playing for the progressive when it’s near the “must hit by” level, and wagering the minimum required during that “jackpot fever” stage when everyone’s chasing that progressive. Just don’t discount the benefits of betting more credits to win more credits as a general rule.

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