CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Author Books Send to a Friend Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of Alan Krigman

Gaming Guru

author's picture
 

Are You Certified to Play this Slot Machine?

24 November 1997

A bronze plaque at a hydroelectric plant I once toured identified the make and model of the turbine, gave its ratings, and ended by warning, "Do not attempt to operate without reading instructions." Folks, a generator big enough to light half a city isn't something you just plug in and switch on. Skilled technicians undergo extensive training and testing before being certified to take the controls. Not like a slot machine, whose only operating qualifications are the sense - or lack of it - to know where to put the coin and how to pull the arm or push the button.

Except, not all slot machines are like that these days. Last week, I played a jazzy new unit. And needed help operating it.


The screen normally showed a matrix of 15 squares, five columns across and three rows down, containing numbers, letters, and pictures. There were five paylines: three horizontals corresponding to the rows, and two zig-zags - one from the top left angling down then back up, and the other from the bottom left angling up then back down. A separate area of the display had a credit meter to register total coins won or deposited and available for cashout, a payout meter to tally winnings on a round then reset to zero, and several other bits of information. In "bonus mode," however, the whole screen changed to show five treasure chests on a desert island.

The panel had five buttons to select one to five coins per line, five buttons to select one to five lines, and other buttons for tasks like cash out and call attendant. In bonus mode, some buttons changed function and were used to pick a treasure chest.

These were nickel machines. But they'd take up to five coins on each of five paylines, so bets could be between $0.05 and $1.25.

Players who dropped coins a nickel at a time had to squeeze out enough to cover their bets. For instance, three coins each on the first four paylines, that's 12. No problem putting in too many, they got added to the credit meter. But too few coins for the selected bet hung up the machine.

Players who pre-loaded the game with bills, or who bet from money accumulated on the credit meter, faced a different problem. They had to be careful which buttons they pushed. They could inadvertently bet too much for their bankrolls. Or, accidentally bet less than the maximum and miss their chance at the bonus jackpot.


There were more complications. Winning combinations of symbols along various paylines were dizzying. Not like seeing cherries centered on each of three wheels and knowing they stood for a $1,000 jackpot. The only practical way to tell when bets were winners was that the corresponding squares along the payline started flashing. And if bets hit along several paylines simultaneously, each of the sets of squares flashed in sequence. Worse than that, the only practical way to tell the amount won on any round was to watch the tally advancing on the payout meter.

Simplicity is supposed to be a key to popularity. But here was a bank of slot complex machines that had solid citizens waiting for seats. And the complexity was totally contrived. Not complicated as in video poker where knowledge is required to make the optimum decisions, or in craps where multiple bets can augment one another. But complexity for what seemed like its own sake.

Why? Is it a busy box for adults? A magic theater to create the illusion that something is involved beyond dumb luck? The apparatus of a guild whose secret protocols are known only to the initiated? Engineering run amok with features added by engineers eager to show their versatility rather than serve a useful purpose? Or is it a dry run for games of the future, which will actually draw players into mind-bending exercises? Would that the likely and the ideal were a little less disparate. As the sage of the slots, Sumner A Ingmark, disdainfully declaimed:


Most sports condition bodies physically,
While playing chess prepares minds quizzically,
But gaming's high points of audacity,
Are slot machines, they're for rapacity.

Alan Krigman

Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.
Alan Krigman
Alan Krigman was a weekly syndicated newspaper gaming columnist and Editor & Publisher of Winning Ways, a monthly newsletter for casino aficionados. His columns focused on gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.