Wednesday, October 24, 2007

More Mysteries of the Random Number Generator

In my last post I addressed the all powerful RNG, or Random Number Generator, at the center of every slot machine.

The description of the workings seem simple enough --- numbers endlessly being spit out --- your particular draw, or reel stops to be determined when you press the buttom or pull the arm. But what about bonus rounds? Huh? How does THAT work?!

Bonus rounds are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and entertaining, which leads me to ask -- how exactly does the RNG come into play when I begin my fascinating journey to a bonus of free spins, and picking choices?

Does my first punch of the button predetermine my whole bonus, or do I really determine my own outcome by my wily skills at choosing jewels, or money bags or whatever the symbols might be?

I really don't know, but I do care . . . very much.

In a little over two weeks time, I will be attending the fabulous Global Gaming Expo, where the latest and greatest in Slot Machine technology is trotted out to the trade. Maybe I can corner some designer at one of the many cocktail parties and get my answer.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

How Slot Machines Work or the Mystery of the Random Number Generator

Most slot players are aware that they are not playing with a machine, but with a highly sophisticated computer. However, superstitious folks that slot jockeys are, some myths such as "machines about to hit" and "hot and cold runs" just refuse to die.

Most of us have heard of the "Random Number Generator" at the heart of the old-armed bandits evil brain, but few of us truly understand how it works.

I can't pretend to make a clear and simple explanation or something so arcane (that's the word of the day), but I will try to steer you in the right direction, should your inquiring mind want to know. This website is about as good as it gets.

In a nutshell, the RNG short for Random Number Generator, is a computer program that constantly spits out hundreds of random numbers per second.

The numbers correspond to stops on the slot reel through a mathematical equation (this is where the odds can be set), the higher value paying symbols and the chance of them matching up are programmed to hit less than the lesser paying values.

The numbers are assigned when you hit the button or pull the arm. This is important to know for two reasons -- 1. The chances of your numbers being the same as someone else's per pull is astronomical, meaning the player that just sat down at the machine you just left did not win or steal your jackpot. 2. Stopping the reels does not change the outcome of the spin.

The payback of the machine (between 75% and 99%) is set based on the lifetime of the machine (usually 3 to 5 years, although as technology advances, and machines live longer, that may be changing)

The real wildcard is how frequently the machine is played -- and how that is figured into the payback or lifetime quotient.

Noone has ever been able to explain that to me, but perhaps that is a trade secret.

The explanation of the RNG, also always claims that every pull has an equal chance of winning a jackpot. If that is true, I suspect those odds are severely stacked against the slot jockey.

Oh well, at least we can dream of one day riding a machine across the finish line and into the winner's circle.

The Best Slot Machines to Play

Last night I was back at Binion's playing "Dukes of Hazzard" on the house's dime (see previous posts about Binion's weekly $15 free play.) Next to me sat an affable gentlemen who was thoroughly enjoying his bonus rounds. He told me he had never played "Dukes of Hazzard," but he was already up $20 bucks and it is a fun machine. I replied that they were new machines, and fairly rare in town, but they also had them across the street at the Four Queens (could be that Terry Caudhill's new ownership of Binion's might be the reason for that -- I've always known the Four Queens to have an excellent slot selection, though they are quite tight.)

My neighbor then asked me "What are the best slot machines to play?" I shot back without hesistation "The machines that will put you up $20 bucks and are fun to play!" He laughed and said he like "Deal or No Deal" and had just won $300 on those machines (he was betting 3 per line, or 75 credits on Dukes.) I said I think he figured out the best machines to play, and added that the machines are really all the same when it came to odds, the important thing was luck, and playing a machine you enjoy.

So that's the end of the story, and the moral is THE BEST SLOT MACHINES TO PLAY ARE THE ONES YOU CAN WIN ON AND HAVE FUN WITH. Good Luck on your quest for the best slot machines to play.

Next blog -- how slot machines really work, or what is a RANDOM NUMBER GENERATOR?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Station Casinos Privatization Approved!

So the business news out of Vegas is that the Station Casinos are now officially approved to go forward as a private enterprise. But what exactly does that mean for the Slot Jockey?

Here's a clue - "Michael Green, a College of Southern Nevada history professor, said Station Casinos has already been aggressive in the locals market. But he said the deal could allow the company to be more flexible without having shareholders looking over its shoulder."

I only wish "flexible" meant looser slots, actually it means more Stations Casinos.

Here is a handy dandy Stations Casino timeline included in the article -

1976: Frank Fertitta, Jr. opens The Casino, a 5,000-square-foot, 100 slot machine locals gambling hall.
1977: Property renamed Bingo Palace.1984: Property renamed Palace Station.1985: Frank Fertitta III named general manager of Palace Station.
1993: February, Frank Fertitta Jr., retires; Frank Fertitta III named chairman. May, Station Casinos goes public with one major casino, price closes at $13.33 on first day.
1994: Boulder Station opens.
1995: Texas Station opens.
1997: Sunset Station opens.
1998: Acquires King 8 on Tropicana Avenue, changes name to Wild Wild West. 2000: • June, acquires Santa Fe for $205 million, changes name to Santa Fe Station.• July fined $1 million by Missouri Gaming Commission over bonuses paid to a St. Louis attorney who helped company obtain its gaming license. The company sold its riverboat operations in the state for $475 million.
2001:• January, acquires Fiesta Casino in North Las Vegas for $185 million, changes name to Fiesta Rancho.• January, acquires The Reserve for $70 million, changing name to Fiesta Henderson.• December, opens $300 million Green Valley Ranch, a 50-50 partnership with American Nevada Corp.2006:• April, $925 million Red Rock Resort opens.• December, Fertitta Colony Partners offer to take the company private at $82 per share.
2007:• February, Fertitta Colony Partners raise offer to current $90 per share, $5.4 billion.• February, Station Casinos breaks ground on $675 million Aliante Station. • August, shareholders approve buyout.

Jeez, that's a lot of casinos in a relatively short amount of time. Us locals must be suckers, or at least in love with gambling at any cost. I like to say I'm supporting the local economy, and leave it at that.

Check out the stock price that went from $13 to $90 in a little over 10 years. The best gamble would have been Stations stock.

As always, the rich get richer, and the locals get lint brushes. Well, I'm off to a Stations Casino to see how much free play the Fertittas think I deserve today. Wish me luck!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

From Slot Jockey to Slot Junkie!

A couple of days again the Las Vegas Review Journal printed an article I read with both vested interest and much amusement.

The headline screams -

GAMBLING ISSUES: Rise of slot machines decried Group calls for federal action, says states too dependent

WASHINGTON -- Slot machines are becoming increasingly deceptive and addictive and the federal government should investigate and regulate them, an anti-gambling group said Friday.

The first paragraph always gives you the summary of the article, but if you like to read, be my guest and peruse the entire column.

Slot Machines addictive?! Well, stop the presses, and news at eleven! Cigarettes bad for you?! Fast Food unhealthy?!

Who are they trying to kid . . . so the slot manufacturers build a better mousetrap and the casinos beat a path to their door. Is this really news? Still the thought of government regulation, should strike fear in the board at WMS, and IGT.

I could opine about how addictive I think these newfangled slots really are, but I'd much rather PLAY them.

Video reels, bonus rounds, immersion sensory transmissive whatchamacallits, they are still one-armed bandits, plain and simple and they are designed to take your money.

I did learn a lovely little bit of jargon from this article. I didn't know that when I was chasing my losses that I was "playing to extinction." I thought I was "just about even" my favorite euphenism for "broke."

I found this passage especially amusing -

Addicted gamblers are motivated more by a desire to escape than to be entertained, Schull said.
"Winning in fact -- this really struck me during my research -- becomes almost undesirable for these gamblers because what it does is it interrupts the flow of the gambling," Schull said.
"One gambler even told me she hated to win because it meant she had to sit there and wait for the change girls to come and fill the hopper," she said.

Word to Ms. Schull, you might want to talk to a slot player who has actually sat at a slot machine in the last few years. Hoppers are practically obsolete now with TITO (ticket in, ticket out) technology. Every now and again you might get a paper jam and require assistance, but change girls (perhaps she means "slot attendant"?) have gone the way of the dinosaur.

It is also idiotic to assume that just because you have won, you would really cash out. Obviously the gambler who hated to win was not "playing to extinction," at least not on the winning machine.

The article also notes that 90 percent of the addicted gamblers played video poker. I'm not a video poker player, so correct me if I'm wrong, but has video poker really changed that much?

So all and all, the article was filled with bad, old research, but the point it makes hold true. Slot Jockeys can soon become Slot Junkies, and that is just what the house and slot manufacturers are working for.

Should the government step in? Well, considering the financial damage done the average slot jockey, and what that could mean in lost taxes and the rising cost of social services, they probably will. If money is at stake, and of course, that is the heart of the matter, you can be damned sure Uncle Sam will demand his cut.