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The System Scam

There are still “systems” being sold that claim to guarantee you’ll win at slots. Don’t buy them

By Frank Legato


There were several “sponsored” articles that appeared last month on internet sites promoting “The Slot Machine System.” For $97, you get software or a book (the articles didn’t make it clear which) that purports to train you on “secret tips” that guarantee you will win on slots every day.

From what the marketing material says, “professional slot players” have figured out how to tap into slot-machine algorithms, and use the “cycle” to figure out how to anticipate when winning spins will happen.

There are other systems being hawked that claim you can locate a “hot” slot machine by what you see on the reels. I bought one of these once for fun, and followed the instructions religiously. Raise your bet when you see symbols on a three-reel slot form an “X” was one of the big tips.

You can guess the outcome of that experiment by the fact I’m still working for a living. The “systems” are all a bunch of hooey.

Leave behind the fact that it would be stupid for someone who finds a guaranteed method of winning at slots to reveal it to anyone. Why trigger suspicions of the folks who operate the slot floors? For that matter, if you can win any time you play slots, why do you need my $97? Aren’t you already set for life?

As I said, leave those notions behind to examine these claims against the facts of how slot machines work. Slot machines select results via a random number generator (RNG). This is software that does exactly what the name says: It generates numbers from a finite set, at lightning speed.

The programmer who creates a game assigns a number to each possible result on the reels. Then, duplicate numbers are assigned. Jackpot symbols get fewer numbers, or even a single number assigned. Lower-paying symbols and blanks get lots of numbers. This is how programmers manipulate the payback percentage on games to fit within a given range.

While the old-style, three-reel mechanical slot machine typically has 22 “stops”—which refers to a symbol or a blank on which the reel can stop—even those classic games today can have hundreds of “virtual stops,” because of the duplication in the program.

Add more reels and there are even more stops. Modern multi-line video slots have five reels, each showing three or four symbols. The number of possible outcomes is up to how the programmer works the numbers.

Yes, there is a “cycle” of results. This refers to the number of spins during which all possible results on the reels, including a game’s jackpot, appear. However, there is no way the lay person can recognize when a good or bad result will occur on a single spin.

That’s because the random number generator is generating the numbers that correspond to reel results at a rate of speed that can run into thousands of numbers per second. There’s no way to recognize the nanosecond before the numbers will line up to form a winning combination on the reels.

Slot machines must meet the law’s standard for randomness. That means they must, by law, be unpredictable. If someone claims to have a system to predict the unpredictable and profit from it, I have four words for you: It is a scam.

The claims involving watching the reels for magic symbol combinations to predict a win are even farther out there. That’s because what you see on the reels of a modern slot machine is simply a display of the results determined by the computer. This is true whether you’re looking at a reel- spinning slot or a video slot. The RNG generates numbers that correspond to reel results, and instructs the computer where to stop the reels. It all happens in an instant.

The reels on a slot machine, thus, are absolutely inconsequential in determining winning or losing. They are there for show. Moreover, because of the speed at which numbers are being generated, each result is independent of any other result. This is why you can’t detect a “pattern” that will let you know when a win is about to occur.

It is also why you can’t identify a “hot” or “cold” slot machine by studying what lands on the reels. Every outcome programmed into a slot machine is available on every given spin—and that includes the jackpot. (That’s also a law: the jackpot must at least be possible on every spin.) A machine can land losing spins for hours, but that doesn’t mean it’s any more likely to return winning results soon.

The reverse also is true: You can stand behind a game where someone lands jackpots and bonuses repeatedly, but that doesn’t mean you’re going to win after that player goes to cash out.

Slot-machine results are random. They are unpredictable. Your outcome depends, more than anything, on random, dumb luck.

If anyone tries to sell you something that says otherwise, don’t buy it

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