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Gaming Guru

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How do you identify the slots that are scheduled for big payoffs?

18 February 2013

By Alan Krigman

Question: I've heard two conflicting theories about finding slots scheduled for big payoffs. The first is a machine that's been cold and holding back is getting full and due for a big hit. The second is a machine that's been hot and paying is in a winning cycle and building up to a big jackpot. Which is right?

Answer: Neither is right. In fact, although many players believe the premise behind your question – that slot machines follow some kind of schedule or pattern – this is wrong, too.

Slot machines could be made this way. But no licensed casino in the United States could use them. Playing the slots is no different than blindly picking colored marbles from a bowl, then replacing and mixing them thoroughly after every round. The fewer the marbles of any color, the less the chance they'll be chosen and the greater the associated payoff.

For simplicity, say a bowl contains 1,000 marbles. One is gold and pays 500-to-1. A hundred are silver and pay 5-to-1. The other 899 are red and pay nothing.

On the average, the gold marble should be drawn once every thousand tries and silver marbles a hundred out of every thousand – one out of every ten – tries. There's no way to ensure or predict when the gold marble will be chosen. Every selection is random and independent, and chances depend only on the numbers of marbles of each color.
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 were focused on those interested in gambling probability and statistics. He passed away in October, 2013.