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Posted: 2006/02/27 by: John Grochowski. Slots, Online slots stories.
I've had a flurry of slot machine questions lately, via e-mail, by the phone and in person when I visited both Empress and Harrah's in Joliet a week ago. That's no great surprise--I get more questions about slots than anything else. Let's try to answer a few.
On video slots, is the outcome on the bonus screen predetermined, or is payout determined by player choices.For example, on the Leprechaun game the player selects pots of gold until the leprechaun pops up. Then the second screen pops up--again, is the outcome of the payout predetermined? I see players agonizing over the choice to make. Does it make a difference?

Yes, the choices by players make a difference. When the bonus screen appears, the possibilities are set, but not the final outcome. When you choose a pot of gold, you'll get the amount that the game's random number generator has assigned to that pot. The game doesn't switch the amount of "gold" in that pot just because you happen to select it.

The question that usually follows is, "Is there any way to exploit that?" Unfortunately, there is not. One choice might bring us 100 coins, one might bring us 40 and another might bring us 10, but we have no way of knowing which is which until the choice is made and the awards revealed.

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I understand how slot payback percentages are calculated on reel slots over long periods of time and thousands of pulls. But how are they calculated on multi-line video slots? Some have as many as 25 lines and I notice that many people playing these slots do not bet on all of the lines.

Let's say that only one line is ever played on a nickel slot and all the second-screen bonuses and payouts occur on lines 2 through 25. Does the house now get a zero payback percentage? If only lines 1 through 10 are played, is the payback percentage now only 35 percent, etc.? Since most people will not play all 25 lines on the "Munsters" and others, do the
casinos make more money when fewer lines are played? Does this make the payback percentages much less than advertised?

The payback percentages reported each month in most jurisdictions are based on actual play. If the statistical report says a casino� returned 94.6 percent on dollar slots in a given month, it means that $94.60 of every $100 actually wagered on nickel slots was returned to players.

As a practical matter, there is no such wide disparity in payback percentage as you suggest between betting all lines and playing fewer lines.

I read an article about someone in Mississippi who won over $500,000 on a slot machine, but the casino claimed that it was only $20,000. Eventually, the court ruled in the gambler's favor. I would hate to win a big amount of money only to have the casino say NO!

Grand Casino in Tunica, Miss., held that there was a malfunction on the spin that led to an apparent $509,000 progressive win for David Hallmark of Birmingham, Ala. Slot machines usually carry a notation that says "Malfunction voids play," or something to that effect.

If proper procedure had been followed and evidence had been preserved, it's possible Hallmark could have walked away with nothing instead of the $509,000 he was awarded in court. But the incident turned into a comedy of errors, with reels being removed from the machine, failure to call in a Gaming Commission agent in a timely fashion and surveillance tapes being destroyed. Those procedural errors played a major role in the court siding with the player.

What shows on the reels is just a representation of what has taken place on the machine's random generator. If the results don't match, the jackpot can be denied. Nevertheless, such jackpot denials are extremely rare.

Do progressive slot machines pay their jackpots less often than regular machines? They're not just giving away extra money for the same odds, are they?

Casinos aren't in business to give away extra money, although they need players to win often enough to keep them coming back.
Progressive slots that pay bigger jackpots than the same games in non-progressive formats usually make up the difference somewhere. That doesn't necessarily mean jackpots are less frequent. Often, the difference will come in less frequent small payoffs, leaving a lower overall payback percentage on non-top-jackpot spins on the base game.

Progressives, like all slot machines, come in many varieties. Blazing 7s, designed as a frequent jackpot game, still pays frequent top jackpots as a progressive game. On the other hand, the games with lifestyle-changing jackpots such as Megabucks and Quartermania can go months at a time without paying the big one. Those who play progressives should keep that in mind
when choosing a game.

� Copyright 2006 John Grochowski's material. It may not be published, broadcasted, rewritten, or redistributed.