Hyperlisk
Joined: Mar 2, 2010
• Posts: 2
March 2nd, 2010 at 4:18:13 AM permalink
Hey there, I was just wondering what the best way of calculating a slots return rate without any given information, eg reel mappings. Do most casinos allow notes to be taken while you play (I think I remember reading some do on the Wizard of Odds site)? Is note taking the only way to accomplish the task, or are there any casinos in which asking for the mappings would work? XD I've just been thinking about this recently since it seems like it'd be fun to do. Any info would be great! Thanks!
wildqat
Joined: Nov 11, 2009
• Posts: 157
March 2nd, 2010 at 10:03:30 AM permalink
Without the PARS sheet for the specific machine you're playing, no, there's no real way to calculate the return. You can approximate it, though, by taking notes and working from there. There's an easy way, a hard way, and a not-quite-so-hard way.

The easy way is finding a bank of slots that are marked "X% RETURN". IANAL, but I'm pretty sure that legally, all slots in that bank have to be set to have that return.

The hard way is reconstructing the PARS sheet. Over time, you can reconstruct an approximation of the reel striping and the probability of each symbol (or blank) popping up. Using the paytable (which you're given), you can approximate the return.

If you don't feel like taking the time to reconstruct the PARS, the not-quite-so-hard way is to simply take the winnings from each spin in a list (0,0,0,3,0,6,0,0,0,15,etc.), add them up, and divide by the coins wagered (usually 2 or 3 per spin).

One downside of the hard ways is that to get any kind of accuracy, you need a lot of spins. Hundreds is OK, thousands would be better. The Wizard did almost 4000 to clock one machine. With a high variance machine (usually they have a large jackpot payout), you would need a lot more spins to minimize variance.

The other downside is that now you have a return that only reliably works on the machine you clocked. A given style of machine could have many different PARS sheets, each giving different returns, even with the same paytable.

As far as taking notes goes, I've done it before with video poker, and I've never had any problems with the casino staff. Nosy neighbors are another story.
Wizard
Joined: Oct 14, 2009
• Posts: 20296
March 2nd, 2010 at 10:38:43 AM permalink
I agree with the above post. For a video slot you pretty much have to take a tally of the frequency of each symbol on the reels, and then do the math. The bonus should also be straightforward, where you know exactly the rules and possible outcomes, like a pick 'em bonus that always has the same prize distribution. All things considered it will take about 8 hours, and the return will only be valid for that one machine.

Taking notes should not be a problem. The only time I had a problem was in taking notes at a Fortune Cookie machine at the Suncoast, when three guys in suits approached me and said I was not allowed to play and write at the same time, and if I did it again they would have security escort me to the door.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
Doc
Joined: Feb 27, 2010
• Posts: 6873
March 2nd, 2010 at 10:56:34 AM permalink
I am not a slots player, and I certainly don't know how the machines actually work, so maybe this is a good thread in which to ask for a little education.

I had read the linked article by the Wizard when it was published and didn't understand whether the reel position weighting he described was the way machines actually functioned or just a framework for interpreting results. I had this concept in my head that the older (antique?) machines may have had mechanical devices (perhaps with physical weights or different width slots for a pin to drop into or something) to stop the wheels, with the weights and widths giving the casino's preferred payout.

My naive impression had been that the modern machines were just electronic chips programmed with a payout pattern (frequency of each type of payout) that was constantly "spinning" equivalent to a roulette wheel, with the pressing of the button or pulling of the handle providing an interrupt like the ball dropping. Then, based on the payout indicated by the "ball position" the reels were just stopped electronically in some position that would provide that payout.

Even though I don't play the machines, I am curious as to how they actually function, both the old ones and the modern ones. Can someone educate me briefly or point me to the right spot? Thanks.
cclub79
Joined: Dec 16, 2009
• Posts: 1147
March 2nd, 2010 at 12:09:24 PM permalink
Quote: Doc

I am not a slots player, and I certainly don't know how the machines actually work, so maybe this is a good thread in which to ask for a little education.

I had read the linked article by the Wizard when it was published and didn't understand whether the reel position weighting he described was the way machines actually functioned or just a framework for interpreting results. I had this concept in my head that the older (antique?) machines may have had mechanical devices (perhaps with physical weights or different width slots for a pin to drop into or something) to stop the wheels, with the weights and widths giving the casino's preferred payout.

My naive impression had been that the modern machines were just electronic chips programmed with a payout pattern (frequency of each type of payout) that was constantly "spinning" equivalent to a roulette wheel, with the pressing of the button or pulling of the handle providing an interrupt like the ball dropping. Then, based on the payout indicated by the "ball position" the reels were just stopped electronically in some position that would provide that payout.

Even though I don't play the machines, I am curious as to how they actually function, both the old ones and the modern ones. Can someone educate me briefly or point me to the right spot? Thanks.

I echo your sentiments exactly. I didn't know you could tell something by how many times a symbol came up. I always compared it to a scratch off lottery ticket; You get the 2 gold bars way more often than normal distribution would suggest, but the 3 gold bars is the jackpot...
Hyperlisk
Joined: Mar 2, 2010
• Posts: 2
March 2nd, 2010 at 5:35:17 PM permalink
Quote: wildqat

*snip*

If you don't feel like taking the time to reconstruct the PARS, the not-quite-so-hard way is to simply take the winnings from each spin in a list (0,0,0,3,0,6,0,0,0,15,etc.), add them up, and divide by the coins wagered (usually 2 or 3 per spin).

One downside of the hard ways is that to get any kind of accuracy, you need a lot of spins. Hundreds is OK, thousands would be better. The Wizard did almost 4000 to clock one machine. With a high variance machine (usually they have a large jackpot payout), you would need a lot more spins to minimize variance.

*snip*

Reconstructing the PARS would be one of the things that would make it fun! I don't mind having to play a lot, I tend to end up in casinos often as of late, so I thought doing this as an experiment would just keep me more entertained than merely pressing a button. :P

Also, one of my favorite types of slots is like All That Glitters (That was the only name of one I could remember). It seems like it'd be simple to figure out the probabilities for each symbol to drop. I think I'll start with that kind.

Thanks!
Wizard
Joined: Oct 14, 2009
• Posts: 20296
March 2nd, 2010 at 6:16:00 PM permalink
Quote: Doc

Even though I don't play the machines, I am curious as to how they actually function, both the old ones and the modern ones. Can someone educate me briefly or point me to the right spot? Thanks.

I think it is easiest to explain how video slots work, like my Atkins Diet slot. I try to explain how it is programmed here.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.
Doc
Joined: Feb 27, 2010
• Posts: 6873
March 2nd, 2010 at 8:32:31 PM permalink
Quote: Wizard

I think it is easiest to explain how video slots work, like my Atkins Diet slot. I try to explain how it is programmed here.

Thanks! That is a good explanation.

My thinking was that if the payout were going to be determined by five random number generators and five strips, why not just use one random number generator and a function to give the HA and variance you think is appropriate? Then just display an array of graphics that gives that payout. Would that violate some regulation or some player expectation? With a video game, it seems that you could generate whatever array of icons you want after determining the necessary payout for each spin. Mechanical reels would just have to be stopped intentionally at the necessary positions to give the appropriate payout.

Guess maybe my thinking is incomplete because I don't play the machines. I know a lot of people who really enjoy them, but I have never drawn any entertainment from them, and entertainment is about the only reason I participate in gambling activities (not quite foolish enough to believe that I am going to win in the long term.)
reno
Joined: Jan 20, 2010
• Posts: 719
March 2nd, 2010 at 10:40:32 PM permalink
Quote: Wizard

The only time I had a problem was in taking notes at a Fortune Cookie machine at the Suncoast, when three guys in suits approached me and said I was not allowed to play and write at the same time, and if I did it again they would have security escort me to the door.

Their paranoia was irrational, right? It's IMPOSSIBLE to cheat at slots by taking notes. Right? If casinos are ok with baccarat and roulette players taking notes, why not slot players?
Wizard
Joined: Oct 14, 2009
• Posts: 20296
March 3rd, 2010 at 5:02:49 AM permalink
Quote: Doc

Would that violate some regulation or some player expectation? With a video game, it seems that you could generate whatever array of icons you want after determining the necessary payout for each spin. Mechanical reels would just have to be stopped intentionally at the necessary positions to give the appropriate payout.

I think in Nevada the outcome of each reel has to be independent. In the late 90's I played a game in Atlantic City where the reels were not independent, that probably worked as you described, choosing an outcome first, and then finding a way to stop the reels to match it. That is also how class II slots work, choosing random bingo balls, scoring the patterns, and then finding a way to stop the reels to match the win from the bingo balls.

Quote: reno

Their paranoia was irrational, right? It's IMPOSSIBLE to cheat at slots by taking notes. Right? If casinos are ok with baccarat and roulette players taking notes, why not slot players?

Right and right. You'd have to ask them why they did it. The head engineer at IGT could not beat his own slot machines, except if a progressive machine was unusually high. They made a remark to me that I wasn't playing the machines in the way they were meant to be played.
It's not whether you win or lose; it's whether or not you had a good bet.