Slot Machine Myths and Misconceptions

Man and woman on slot machine
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No other segment of the gaming industry has benefited more from the technology revolution than the slot machine. Once considered the ugly stepdaughter placed on the gaming floor to appease the spouses of table players, the slot machine has been transformed into the fairy princess of the gaming world. With her, she has brought a dowry of riches no one would have imagined for the casino and a few lucky players as well.

Over twenty years ago the slot machine accounted for 30 percent of the casinos' profits. Today it accounts for about 70 percent. Computer technology and the ability to play with little to no gambling knowledge makes it possible to offer life-changing jackpots big enough to turn a pauper into a king.

However, the fact that it doesn't take much gambling knowledge to play means that most people don't understand the inner working of the slots -- which makes it easy to explain a loss or a win with some false logic. Like any other "wives tales" these are passed from person to person until they become gospel. Most of these myths and misconceptions are harmless but they can add to your frustration and take away some of the enjoyment of your casino visit. Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular myths and the truth behind them.

Myth #1

Someone hit a jackpot on the machine you just left -- so you would have won that jackpot if you kept playing.
This is probably one of the most common notions about slot machine gambling -- but it's patently false.

The slot machines have a computer chip inside that runs the Random Number Generator (RNG). The RNG is continuously cycling through numbers even when the machine is not being played. These numbers correspond to the stops on the wheel that display the winning or losing symbols that you see when the reels stop.

When you hit the spin button or pull the handle, the RNG picks the combination at that given microsecond. If you had stayed at the machine, it is highly unlikely that you would have stopped the RNG at the exact nano-second to display that same combination of numbers. In the time it takes to talk with a friend or sip your drink the RNG has cycled through thousands of combinations.

Myth #2

You can tell the odds of winning by counting the symbols on each wheel. 
Actually, you can't. The RNG generates a number for each spin. There can be hundreds of virtual stops on each wheel even though you only see a few symbols. For example, you may see 20 symbols on each wheel of a three-reel machine. You figure 20 x 20 x 20 = 8,000 combinations and your chance of hitting the jackpot is 1 in 8000. In reality, the computer chip may program 256 stops for each wheel which makes the odds 256 x 256 x 256 =16,777,216 combinations. Being able to generate millions of combinations is the reason that slots can offer large paybacks.

Myth #3

Casinos can loosen or tighten the slot machines with the flip of a switch.
In actuality, the slot machines have a computer chip in them that determines the payback percentage.

These are preset at the factory. In order for a casino to change the payback, they would have to change the chip. In most jurisdictions, there is paperwork that has to be filled and submitted to the Casino Control Commission for each machine if the chip is changed. It's time-consuming and the chips are very expensive. For this reason, it is more economical to decide on the payback percentages before purchasing the machines and having the factory ship them with the proper chip.

Myth #4

A machine that has not been paying out is due to hit.
There is no way to determine if a machine is due to hit. Each spin is a random occurrence and has no bearing on what has happened previously. Don't ever play more than you should because of this misconception -- it will be devastating to your bankroll if you do.

Myth #5

The temperature of the coins played will affect the way a machine pays.
Unfortunately, the machine is not affected by temperature. It doesn't matter if you play hot, cold, old or new coins. The coin slot is a mechanical device and has no feeling. 

Myth #6

If you use your slot club card the machine will pay back less.
This may well be the most damaging myth of them all. There is no link between the card reader and the RNG, but by not using your player's card you are denying yourself valuable comps and sometimes cash back from the casino.