Myths and Facts about Slot machines

Myth: Slot machines are programmed to go through a cycle of payoffs. Although the cycle can span thousands of spins, once it reaches the end the outcomes will repeat themselves in exactly the same order as the last cycle.

Fact: This is not true at all. Every spin is random and independent of all past spins.

Myth: Slot machines are programmed to pay off a particular percentage of money bet. Thus, after a jackpot is hit the machine will tighten up to get back in balance. On the other hand, when a jackpot has not been hit for a long time it is overdue and more likely to hit.

Fact: As just mentioned, each spin is independent of all past spins. That means that for a given machine game, the odds are always the same. It makes no difference when the last jackpot was hit or how much the game paid out in the last hour, day, week, or any period of time.

Myth: Machines pay more if a player card is not used.

Fact: The mechanism that determines the outcome of each play does not consider whether a card is used or not. The odds are the same with or without one.

Myth: Using a player card enables the casino to report my winnings to the IRS.

Fact: That makes no difference. If you win $1,200 or more they will report it either way. If you have a net losing year, which you probably will, at least the casino will have evidence of it. Such annual win/loss statements may be used as evidence to declare offsetting loses to jackpot wins.

Myth: The slot department can tighten my game with the press of a button remotely. Thus, you better be nice to the staff and tip them well, or they will use a remote control to have the machine take you down in a hurry.

Fact: There is now some truth to the Myth that the odds of a machine can be changed remotely. Such “server-based slots” are still experimental and in a minority. Even with server-based slots, there are regulations in place to protect the player from the perceived abuses that could accompany them. For example, in Nevada a machine can not be altered remotely unless it has been idle for at least four minutes. Even then, the game will display a notice that it is being serviced during such changes. (source) Meanwhile, for the vast majority of slots, somebody would physically need to open the machine and change a computer chip, known as an EPROM chip, to make any changes.

Myth: The machines by the doors and heavy traffic flow areas tend to be loose while those hidden in quiet corners tend to be tight.

Fact: I’ve studied the relationship between slot placement and return and found no correlation. Every slot director I’ve asked about this laughs it off as just another player Myth.

Myth: Slots tend to be looser during slow hours on slow days of the week. However, when the casino is busy they tighten them up.

Fact: Nobody would take the trouble to do this, even if he could. The Fact of the matter is the casinos are trying to find a good balance between winning some money while letting the player leave happy. That is best achieved by slots loose enough to give the player a sufficiently long “time on device,” as they call it in the industry, with a reasonable chance of winning so he will return to the same casino next time. If the slots are too tight, the players will sense it and be unlikely to return.

The kind of place you’re likely to find tight slots are those with a captive audience, like the Las Vegas airport. So, if the slot manager feels that 92% is the right return for a penny game, for example, he is likely to set every penny game all that way, and keep them that way for years.