Why Everything Players 'Know' is Wrong
For some reason or another, as mentioned before, I have slot machines on the brain this week, so for my second of three articles about slot machines this week, I have decided to tackle some common misconceptions and myths about them. Basically, I am using some of the most common things I have heard during my time in playing in casinos as well as a few little misconceptions that stem from information that may, in fact, have once been true...which is the cas with Number Two on this list.
Let's go ahead and do this as a Top Five Misconceptions:
1.) You Can Tell When Free Games Are Going to Hit
If I may be blunt, this is a big fat load of crap. This stems from a combination of the Psychology of Slot Machines (see other article this week) as well as Confirmation Bias. In other words, some players see, "Free Games," symbols hit on two of the necessary reels and then miss on the third necessary reel a few times within a short span of spins and, then, BAM, Free Games!
Of course, the alternative version of this myth that I have heard is that a player will be able to tell that Free Games are coming because the player will go a few spins without seeing any Free Games symbols, or a seemingly large amount of games without seeing them on two symbols, then, BAM, Free Games!
If you have two conflicting versions of something, one of them must be wrong, right?
Actually, no. Both versions of this theory are probably right, but they do not yield any predictive capabilities. In many cases, Free Games are going to hit within a short frame of time of Two Free Games symbols being on the Reels on multiple occasions as well as after no symbols have appeared for awhile. Also, Free Games will often hit after an average amount of Free Game symbols have shown. Sometimes, Free Games hit consecutively.
Play long enough and you'll see it all. You'll see every possible, "Pattern," we're hard-wired to look for patterns, after all. That doesn't mean that there are any, because every spin is independent of every spin before it.
2.) It's Always Best to Play Max at the Highest Denomination You Can Afford.
There was a time that this statement was probably mostly true, but unfortunately, it is not a very meaningful statement anymore. We can get into a number of examples where this might not be the case:
Differing Return Percentages: If you have a slot machine where you can bet $1.00 at the $1.00 denomination vs. a penny machine with a Max Bet of $1.00, even if there are differences between the top pays on the $1.00 machine without Max Betting, you'll probably be better off to stick with the $1.00 machine and, "Short-Coin," because of how bad the overall return of the $0.01 machine is. Remember that most slot machine top jackpots only count for a small fraction of the return, so, chances are the player isn't eating a much greater House Edge by betting less than the Max Bet.
Flat Tops: Some flat top machines have what I call, "Perfectly Graduated Payouts," which means that the Pay in relation to the amount bet is always the same regardless of the result. If that is the case, and there are no other rule changes that would otherwise make it have a higher house edge to, "Short-Coin," then a player is better off to bet less than the Max Bet.
Must-Hits, Fixed Bonus Games, Progressives that do not Depend on Bet: There are a number of must-hit slot machines, in fact, almost all of them that I have seen, that the meter move is based on total coin-in or total percentage of win regardless of the amount bet per spin. Furthermore, there are machines out there with Progressive Jackpots that are eligible to be hit even by a player betting the minimum. One of the more interesting machines I have seen is called, "Dynamite Blast," and the Progressive DOES increase when a player increases his bet, but only by the base amount relative to the minimum bet.
In other words, if the Progressive is $58.50 for six dynamite symbols at a base bet of $0.50, and the Progressive base is $20.00, then betting $1.00 will yield a Progressive of $78.50 for that result. Betting $1.50 will yield a Progressive of $98.50 for that result.
Another example is one of a, "Vulture," type AP play on Konami Rock Around the Clock machines. $0.25 of every bet feeds the Progressives and pays for the Bonus Games, regardless of how much a player is betting.
Therefore, in addition to cases where a player's percentage can be WORSE Max Betting on one machine as opposed to the other, and cases in which a player's percentage return is the same regardless of bet, there are cases where Max Betting will yield a player a WORSE return...even on the same machine!!!
3.) Because of Cycles, if You Play Long Enough, You Will Eventually Get Ahead...and then Leave!
This is the biggest pile of nonsense I have ever heard from anyone. I still have yet to hear a professional Advantage Player say this, but basically, this player is advocating for, "Quitting a machine while you're ahead."
The only aspect of this that makes sense, to an extent, is that, yes: If you put $100 in a machine with the goal to get to $200, or more, as opposed to a goal of getting over $100 and quitting, you are more likely to, "Win," if you'll take anything over $100.
Honestly, I could see where a player might, "Win," on many machines consecutively playing this method. Unfortunately, while a player can jump around from machine to machine, he'll never jump over the Law of Large Numbers. Eventually, the player will encounter streaks in which the player does not get ahead that will wipe out all previous wins...and then some.
4.) Slots Always Hit Better Between xxxx Time and xxxx Time
Fill in the blanks with whatever you like, but the fact is, this is another statement born of confirmation bias. I recall hitting a $4,000 jackpot on negative expectation slots back in 2012, the time was shortly after 8:00a.m.
The slots were really hitting well at 8:00a.m. on that day. In fact, I am probably still ahead for life, only counting negative expectation games even, between the hours of 8:00a.m.-9:00a.m.
Add a few winning sessions to that, and you might eventually have a player that makes a habit of playing slots between 8:00-9:00 a few days a week.
And, eventually, you'll have a player that has lost at slots overall between the hours of 8:00-9:00 taking into account all the days he played.
5.) Since Higher Denomination Machines Return Better, I'll Get to Play Longer
In many cases, this is going to be the opposite of the truth! As with anything else, it depends on the two machines you are comparing, but if you have to bet $3.00/spin on a machine that has lengthy and semi-frequent Bonus games v. $3.00/spin on a dollar machine that has no Bonus Games and the percentage difference between the two favors the dollar machine by 5%, you might still get to play longer on the $0.01 denomination machine.
Short of learning how to play slots at an advantage, the best way to minimize the Expected Loss or Hourly Loss on a slot machine is not to play it. However, for people who want to play them, it is still important to set some kind of, "Goal," and try to pick the machine that might best accomplish that goal.
Also, for a player who says the goal is to, "Win money," no it isn't, or you wouldn't be playing slot machines.