Slot Machine Payouts Are Not Random - Here's Why
Published: 2014-03-11 - Updated: 2023-01-18
Author: Jungle Jim | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Library: Accessible Games and Gaming Publications
Synopsis: Are slots really random? Explanation of why slot machines are not quite as random as both land-based and online casinos say they are. Playing slots, pokies, fruit machines, one-arm bandits, poker machines, whatever you like to call them, depending on where you come from, is a popular pastime for many seniors and retired singles and couples. But are slot machine payouts really random? Are all slot machines rigged when they will pay out to the player?
- Slot Machine
A slot machine (American), fruit machine (British), or poker machine (Australia and New Zealand) is a coin-operated gaming machine that generates random combinations of symbols on a dial, certain combinations winning varying amounts of money for the player. Slot machines are also known pejoratively as one-armed bandits because of the large mechanical levers affixed to the sides of early mechanical machines.
Please note that the article contains opinions only from what has been experienced from playing slots, both at land-based casinos and several different popular online casinos - all of which shall remain nameless.
Playing slots, pokies, fruit machines, one-arm bandits, poker machines, whatever you like to call them, depending on where you come from, is a popular pastime for many seniors and retired singles and couples.
Are Slots Really Random?
What Casinos and Slot Machine Technicians Will Tell You:
Online casino slot games are said to use the same kinds of random number generator programs as land-based casinos. They serve up your results via animation sent to your computer via the Internet.
Casinos often tell you that slot machines use a computer to generate random numbers, determining the game's outcomes. When players press the "Play" button, the computer generates what is known as an RNG, a gaming term abbreviation for "random number generator." Random number generators (or pseudorandom number generators) are special algorithms used in computing when an outcome needs to be as random as possible.
- When the play button is pressed, the RNG randomly selects a winning or losing combination from among millions of available combinations.
- Slots don't get hot or cold - Slot machines have something in common with goldfish: they have no memory. Every spin is independent of the previous and following spins.
- Every spin is considered a brand-new spin, with an outcome of any possible symbol combination.
- Slot players are said to either win or lose; they never "maybe win," "maybe lose," or never "almost win."
Slot machines often display a series of spins where players appear to be only one symbol away from a win, leading them to believe that they almost won falsely. Slot games do not work cyclically, and slot machine jackpots don't become due.
I call BS! - Why I Believe Slot Machine Games are Not Random
Slots are not random, and I will never be convinced otherwise; I have been playing slots for many years and seen so many examples of them being NOT random, making it incredibly difficult to believe that slot machines are random; here's why:
- If slot machine games are designed to fit into a math model, which they are said to be, then they cannot be TRULY unpredictable.
- I have played certain online slot machines where the "Payout" or money won amount is displayed BEFORE the bonus game spins end.
- How is it possible for a slot machine to be a random device and for a machine also to have to pay back a certain percentage of the money played through it?
- Anyone who's played certain slot machines, for example, could not fail to notice how you don't see ANY certain symbols on the reels for ages, then suddenly they are everywhere!
- It often feels like some algorithm is at play, preventing a certain feature from happening too soon after starting a slot game and only happening once you've lost enough money to cover the feature's payout.
- Have you ever been steadily winning by playing a certain amount, e.g., $1, so you decide to bet more to win more and increase your bet per spin to $2? What happens? The machine "instantly" stops paying and becomes deader than a Dodo bird! Strange, isn't it, considering slots are supposed to be so-called "random" (sarcasm).
On some progressive jackpots linked to a bank of slot machines, the jackpot has to be won before a certain amount of money is reached. Now, if this is the case, how are they REALLY random if they have to hit before the jackpot reaches a certain amount? Completely random means they can hit at ANY time. They must be programmed to do that if they have to hit by a certain amount.
I was once asked in an "anonymous" online casino survey, "If I felt like I received enough playing time for the amount of money fed to the slot machine!" Why ask something like that if it is beyond their control to "adjust the settings"? Was it because if a player were losing their money too quickly - resulting in a shorter machine play time - the machine would "compensate" by paying out more before the end of the playing time? This time of play adjustment would then allow casino patrons, both on and offline, to "feel" they had value for money due to the adjusted extension of playing time on the machine.
Losing on One Machine - You'll be Losing on All Machines!
What I don't get is if you have a win on one particular slot game and then move on to several others, they will all be dead. For every win I have had, I then lose constantly until the money I won, and some has been played back, regardless of what slot I play before I even begin to get above my deposit back again - it is the same pattern each time, and that does not appear random to me. It's as if all the online slot machines are linked to a central computer - For example: If you are continually losing when playing online slots, switching to another slot game doesn't matter as all the games you try, do not pay out as well. The only so-called random thing is if your player's account has been deemed worthy of a win for a change. It would be straightforward and fast, being a computer, for a "central computer" to check the deposits, as well as wins and losses your account has had over a certain amount of time and money deposited. Your account is then compensated for the losses with smaller or medium amounts, wins that will always see you losing over the long term.
Have You Noticed...
Have you ever missed out on a good winning combination because just one reel wasn't in the right position? Then lo-and-behold, on the next spin, the symbol you needed is right where you needed it to be on the previous spin! Random? No! Teaser? Yes!
When in a bonus game and, for example, you have to select three symbols from a group of symbols to reveal the bonus money, several free spins, or several free spins and the winning combination multiplier factor, "beneath" the symbols. Once you have made your choices and the selections are revealed, all the other symbols may be revealed as well - often with a better option than the ones you picked. Rest assured that had you picked the "better options"; you would still have made the same choices - So it's no use saying, "If only I had picked that symbol..." As you don't know what's "under" any symbol at the start of the bonus pick, the computer can, and does, calculate the number of free spins, etc., it is going to give you, and then reveals whatever it wants to "under" those symbols you both did and didn't choose. Nothing is ever "under" those symbols to pick from; the machine changes the icon picture to whatever its current calculation amount tells it to reward you.
Have you also noticed that after a modest win or payout, assuming you keep playing the same slot machine, it almost seems the game NEEDS to win that payout back before giving you another, albeit smaller, payout?
Have you ever been playing slot machines, for example, $1 a spin, and you get a reasonable payout win and wish you had bet $5 like you were a few minutes ago? Rest assured, had you been betting $5 a spin, the win would not have been five times as much as your $1 spin - the machine would not have been "ready" to pay out that amount then.
In my experience, it seems quite obvious that slot machines have to have some computer-coded system at play to ensure you can't win over and over again - Which is why when you win big, it is always followed by a long cold losing streak.
When a bonus round occurs, it ALWAYS seems the bonus round happens 2 or 3 more times in a short period after the first bonus round, then no bonuses for ages - and lots of cash gone.
Also, in my experience, any big wins I've had in the past have come when I've spent a small fortune on that particular slot - almost as if the slot is forced to bring you back in line with the payout figure percentage rules.
Left to right paying slot machines are designed, so high-paying symbols are frequently on the 1st reel, slightly less frequent on the 2nd reel, less on the 3rd reel, less yet on the 4th reel, and very rarely on the last reel. Slot manufacturers use another trick to give you the feeling of possibly winning and missing out on the last couple of reels.
The online casino wants to keep you as a player - when playing, you may seldom get any wins - then when you are near your last money in the machine, you receive a moderate win - just enough to make you come back to that casino for more.
I've played them long enough to believe they're not random, but as I said, it's my opinion from my observations, and you're entitled to yours. Next time you are playing slots, stop and wonder why those top slot symbols and scatters mysteriously vanish after a while - short-term random, sure - long-term random, not so much...
Feedback on This Article
1: A Mathematician Agrees
Recently, Disabled World received an email from Dave M. stating his opinion. With his permission, we have added the content of his email below:
Hi, I have just been reading an article by Jungle Jim on slot machines that was posted on your site, which was very illuminating, and everything he says seems quite accurate. Although the article is from a few years ago, I found the contents gave quite a representative appraisal of online and land-based slot machines.
My area of interest is online slot machines.
Over the past few months, I have been conducting my research; being a mathematician, I was interested in finding out if these forms of gambling were random numbers generated as the major casinos, bingo halls and other gambling establishments claim them to be.
I played an popular online slot machine after joining a popular bingo hall and online company. And low and behold, after depositing a modest sum had a virtually immediate win followed by successive wins giving me a substantial reward for my investment.
Then, as if a button had been pressed to say, OK, this person has won enough and is now "hooked" when trying other slot games, those wins accrued from a previous slot game were starting to be eroded quite rapidly with a succession of totally win free blank spells apart from very low denomination pay-outs.
So, before the "winning pot" had been exhausted, I returned to the original slot game to try again after a day or two. And low and behold, it subsequently eroded the rest of the winnings, paying absolutely nothing in the way of substantial wins, only small denominations, until it was all gone; this, in my opinion, is a very systematically heavily controlled form of gambling which also, in my opinion, is not random at all.
I went on for the next several weeks to play and document all the wins and losses from some free game plays to see if there was any difference between them and the paying games, and over a period playing the free games found that these games always paid substantial wins consistently.
However, when switching back to the paying money slot games, it was always whittling whatever I deposited away without any substantial wins whatsoever. I documented this and found that the wins I initially procured were taken back threefold.
So my research has concluded and justifiably concurred with Jungle Jim's opinions that online slot machines are not random number generators at all and are, in my opinion, being governed by the operators and companies that are running them.
2: RNG is NOT RNG
It seems there are many people out there who agree with the article above. Here is one such email (permission was obtained to include it on this page) from Lewis T., who wrote in under the heading "RNG is NOT RNG..."
Hi, I'm a fellow slot machine player at a few of my neighboring casinos, and way before I came across your post, I noticed those patterns. It wasn't just with slot machines but also with Roulette when I saw the ball's momentum slow down, rest in one spot, vibrate extremely, roll around the metal ring, and land in another pocket. From that point on, I stayed away from roulette and would always watch closely as to how the ball would do the things it would do - yet no one would notice it but me!
As for the slot machines, I would take videos of how the reels would go into hyper-speed to avoid the bonus symbol it would, and should, have landed on. All casino games are supposed to be regulated, but who can you trust when the money runs the world and the gaming commission is getting their pockets loaded by the casinos that are supposed to be operating fair games?
These places have an operations room that allows them to control the winnings and the losings, from the games to the rewards cards they persuade you to sign up for, all for them to regulate you even further.
It has been too many times that I've sat down, inserted my rewards card, inserted my hard-earned money, and played until I exhausted my $100 in the machine. Then I would sit and watch someone sit right behind me and play the same game and hit so many bonuses RIGHT AFTER I FINISHED PLAYING! And it wouldn't be just one instance.
The way my mind works, I can focus on the whole game versus just focusing on one reel and see the rhythm of wins and loses, and this is just from me!
How are these establishments, the gaming commission, and all the other "gaming regulators" able to get away with preying on people and get away with it???
3: Slot Games are Not Random at All
John V. wrote into Disabled World to give his opinion on the unfairness of slot payouts:
The opinions of Jungle Jim to me are what I have been saying all along as well. The games are not random at all. The one thing I notice most is that 100% of the time, you get free spins or a bonus on one game, win some money, then guaranteed after if you keep playing that game, you will not get another free spin or bonuses for a long period.
If I get free spins or a bonus, I will spin maybe a couple of times after knowing I will get nothing, then I will change games immediately. You have to be very focused when playing and be very patient. When you have a low balance, bet small as you have to build up your balance slowly; then, when you get to around 200, I would say you can start playing the jackpot games, bet more per spin on regular slots, etc.
They are not random. They try to brainwash you and tell you they are, but when you're an experienced player like myself, you play a game for a while and give it a chance. Please don't go in thinking I will play until I get free spins or a bonus. You could lose a lot of money thinking that. Just play 20 spins or so. If there's nothing, then move on. Don't get lazy and stick with the one game, be focused and take your time. If you feel like you're getting very frustrated and angry, turn the casino off and take a break. If you don't, you will lose it all within minutes.
It's a game between you and the casino. You can win once in a while, but don't go in expecting to win and wonder why a game paid out so well yesterday, and today there is nothing. Emotions are key, be relaxed, be alert, and take your time to be smart, and you have a good chance of winning. I have done it seven times. I have withdrawn money in the last few months; that's pretty good so that it can be done. Good luck to you all.
4: It Depends on Where You Live
Mr. B. contacted Disabled World to add his perspective to the article
I know it's hard to believe, but in the USA, slots are random, as required by law. They sure don't seem like that. but given true randomness, improbably, stuff can and does happen. If it's NOT happening, then this is evidence of cheating. Probabilities are very unintuitive, which is how casinos stay in business. :)
And while the explanation is simplified, that's really how they calculate the return to the player (the percentage). But that percentage is over the long haul. in the short term; they can vary widely because of luck. Those AGS Must Hits essentially use a weighted reel to determine when they hit, and it's extremely heavily weighted to the end of the climb. I think it's pretty sleazy of them...
It Depends on Where You Live
For the USA, the following is true:
1) Slots are random. All spins are independent, with ONE exception. That is a "must-hit," as discussed below.
2) The percentage they are set at is theoretical. This is due to US laws on how slots must work. They are not allowed to block the jackpot until they can afford it. Additionally, representation of real games (dice, roulette, blackjack, poker, etc. It MUST legally have the same odds as the real thing. Most importantly, US law does not allow slot machines to cheat. Virtual reels are not cheating.
The percentage is worked out by calculating each possible spin on the virtual reels, which are all equally likely, and comparing money in vs. money out to make each of those spins. over time, it will tend to the calculated percentage. The casino has enough of a bankroll to ride the variance out, and that's how they profit.
Must-hit progressives are different.
Here's how they are supposed to work. A number is rolled fairly between the minimum and maximum value for the jackpot. once it rises to the number rolled (hidden from the player), the next spin is rigged to pay off the jackpot. So, it's still random and fair, just differently.
AGS machines (river dragons, etc.) do cheat with their must-hits, though. The jackpot seldom hits before 10 dollars from the maximum, though it CAN happen (and must legally be possible).
There is no such thing as a streak. It's just confirmation bias.
This does NOT apply in, say, the United Kingdom.
Almost every myth about US slots is true of UK fruit machines.
They DO actively seek their percentage. So, they are foolproof in a way that US slots are not. No matter how lucky or skilled the player is, the operator has guaranteed profit. You can only win because others have lost to pay for it.
They ARE often programmed to streak intentionally because it's the only way they can give out large jackpots. They set aside a percentage of their take, and when the "rave bank" is full, they start cheating in your favor to pay it back fast.
They can tweak the odds depending on how much they have paid out vs. how much they have taken in. Occasionally, they predetermine everything... If players do poorly, and it dips too far below the percentage, they will outright force wins on you and give you an unbeatable board where you can't lose and can safely play for the jackpot repeater. After taking about 60 dollars out of a machine from a streak, it then will more often than not go ice-cold, sucking your money in and not even letting you on the board at all, or killing you on your first roll with unbelievably bad "luck," usually putting you right on the damn mystery square and rigging it to kill you.
Club machines will block the jackpot if there aren't enough coins in the machine to pay it out. A machine with full payout tubes diverts all incoming coins to the cash box. This is called "backing." Every coin that goes back to the cash box is pure profit. The machine will not give it back, ever. The odds of getting that 250-dollar jackpot is 0% unless the machine is backed.
It feels like you are fighting against a machine like that, and it's fighting back. You can get nudges, but it's usually one less than you need. You can almost feel the game going "neener neener" at you. It can do a high-low where you must guess if the next roll will be higher or lower. but if the game doesn't want you to go on, it will pick a higher number if you say low and a lower number if you say high. Even if it's a two or an 11 showing. Proven.
Sometimes you are offered holds, which in theory, increases your chances. If you are offered, hold three times in a row; nearly all games will spin in the win next if you press the hold buttons a third time. Except that said, a win is usually less than the cost of the four plays it took to get it. At least you can gamble for a chance to get on the board. Do you try to hold two red sevens and then get killed at the first mystery square? It will likely only offer holds twice, and you missed out on two possible minor wins. Of course, if you DON'T hold when offered, it will taunt you by spinning in the third seven on purpose. Rewind in your emulator and hold after all? It won't show.
Japan has a different system. their slots have skill-stop buttons. The reels may spin no faster than 80 rpm, and the reels must stop within 190 ms of pressing the button. This means they can (and do) slip up to three symbols to cheat you out of your skill-stopped win. Not that there are three symbols visible at once for each reel. But they can also cheat in your favor by helping you win when they can afford it. They MUST spin in a big bonus within 2000 spins, so if people keep missing it, eventually, it will be forced in. Depending on the settings, you can win consistently if you are skilled enough and have enough bankroll. And if someone has just lost a ton on one of them, you can swoop in and clean up if you are skilled.
5: Online Caribbean Poker
Ian wrote to Disabled World to tell us of his experience playing online Caribbean Poker.
"About ten years ago, I was playing online poker when the dealer dealt me five cards. I had a pair of kings; the king of clubs and the king of spades. The dealer also had a king of spades. I immediately took a screenshot and emailed the online casino to prove they were cheating. I got an email from the manager, who accused me of fabricating the shot. After much to-ing and fro-ing of emails, they decided to offer me £1000 to keep quiet. I have never played online poker again."
6: Revealing Slot Machine Patterns
Recently, Disabled World received an email from Ward S. outlining some of his slot-playing experiences with RNG:
I agree with everyone who contributed to the article, which states the RNG is not RNG. I have proven over 12 years of playing land-based slots in the USA that slot machines are not random, as people and others claiming to be experts claim. I am a numbers person and mechanically inclined. I study patterns on several hundred slot machine plays, playing every week. When playing slot machines, I have retained patterns over the years.
From the third to sixth free spin bonus symbol missing several times in a row as a "teaser" to taking back all winnings and more after a bonus win. I agree that after winning on one machine and then playing on other random slot machines, the casino takes all or most of my winnings as if I can't win anymore. I believe that using a player's card leads to the casino operations room technician controlling your overall experience, and as stated by one contributor, one loses in the long run.
I played several hundred dollars at one casino in one evening at a hundred dollars each and lost every time, mixing up my bets. I played eight thousand dollars in five hours between three casinos on the Las Vegas strip and lost all of it.
I believe the cameras follow us around, and the slot machines are manipulated not to pay out. Facial recognition is another way casinos track your every move. I lost more money playing slots using my player's card than not using my player's card. That is not random. Ask yourself how casino commercials or movies show the slot machine landing on 777 or another jackpot while filming. Not random. Another proof I have is playing in slot tournaments. I have sat next to older people than myself many times and noticed the player next to me barely tapping the play button during the short time we had to play. I spun the wheels more often than everyone, and the older person next to me would win out of our group. In slot tournaments, the casino pre-selects a machine to win and how much to win before each new session.
I have also proven that stopping the reels controls the outcome in the land-based USA and online free slots. I can not say that control works after hitting the jackpot; however, it has worked more times with results in getting the bonus and large wins. This has proven to be not random.
Another proof slot machines are not random in the outcome is when I witnessed the casino announcing overhead that there will be random jackpots if the player uses a player's card. About five minutes later, I witnessed three women sitting side by side playing the same type of slot machine start screaming, and all three won a jackpot in the same second. Again is that an RNG or control from the operations room like one viewer posted their belief in this article?
For all of us that contribute to these posts, and I am referring to those who believe slot machines are not simply random (RNG), that the slot machine basis is based on mathematics, not random, most bonus features are pre-determined and last of all, no one can counter the many years of real-life experience we share as facts about slot machines. We accumulate knowledge of our reel spins and outcome patterns. It would be helpful if a person who is a software engineer working for a slot machine manufacturer could add the explanation why many of us experienced slot machine play not based on the RNG.
7: Australian Pokies and J-Cards (Jackpot Cards)
Tony C. from Australia writes on his experiences with the pokies and J-Cards.
Here in Australia, over the past five years, I have noticed that more people buy their tickets immediately after a big reasonable win. This is because it's another way the casino or operator keeps a tab on you through your ticket. We also have cards here called J-Cards (Jackpot Cards), and I always wondered how they could give jackpots randomly within five minutes seated at a machine. This angered me because I knew this was rigged, yet people just played on, thinking they could win a jackpot just by being seated at a machine.
Last night, we saw several people win big, but they neither used a J-Card nor a ticket, kept cashing it in, went back to the machine, and kept winning. One lady had $1,200 in winnings yet let the machine suck it up, only for her to ramp in another $500. How do they see money in these people? It made me sick. Meanwhile, others using J-Cards and tickets all night also went home with empty pockets. I see a pattern here because the machine has to give you something at some stage. Either at the start or before you lose all your money. Although the rewards are high each time you raise your bet or domination, yet very risky.
Yet, due to people's ignorance, they will not stand with us against the government. So it continues, all the while massive amounts of people's earnings are thrashed through these machines, yet like a locomotive out of control, it can't be stopped even if you wanted to.
I saw a relative only weeks ago while I was eating; we could view him throw $2,500 when we had dinner in a stack load of machines, and guess what? He used a ticket, so he got followed when not inserting cash. I talked to him, and he was convinced he'd win because he's seen videos on YouTube. That's another issue, too many people view YouTube videos of people winning, not realizing how much they have fed the machine beforehand, not just that night or day but on previous visits. I often ask them to include how much you have provided the device before showing us the winning video. I do talk to people, and they are willing to try & beat the machines, that's their revenge, but they need strategies, as some do have, it seems?
We enjoy the pokies but try to know when to stop and take our losses or winnings when done and leave. There's always another night. Too many have to win that night, then when they do, they feed the damn machine to try and think they'll win even more.
I've taken a step back with my wife, and we can see if we play smart and set a limit, play, and as soon as we win, take the ticket, pay it out, then use the original funds to start again. The machine does recognize you for the first time; not sure, but it does. I'm also glad I have not gotten sucked in, as we both saw the damage this does to all types of people. During December 2022, we'd won over $1,350 at various pubs and clubs, no casinos. Yet once the big win was tucked away in each of the winning nights, it slowly eroded our funds, but all the while, it gave us some hope of winnings. Being humans, we fell for it occasionally but stopped after a few losses. Now we cash in after a big win. Then use our external money again to start all over again as if you just entered.
We believe they count or acknowledge the numbers on the cash notes they pay you from the machines on site; that way, they can follow you around the premises. But if you use cash, not from their building, it has some differences. A bit like counting cards at the casino. These miserable people can play funny buggers with us, but as soon as we discover a strategy, they are onto it immediately to prevent huge losses. That's why they know you through using Jackpot Cards; there is a way to use them cards at times for your benefit. We have a theory that we use often, and often it works. We'll stick to it for sure.
But sharing it with others in the meantime could backfire. We need to acknowledge the gambling problem issues before we attack the sources. This will involve using a massive strategy to attack the machines. But I see it as once they feel you have given them a weapon for attack, they will initialize it for all the wrong reasons. How do you teach people to win and finally walk away? This is how bad the problem is. Same for the drugs scene, too; gone way too far for repair.
Shame the operators and governments won't be a bit easier and not control them too much with codes, algorithms, etc. Why so many wins earlier than nothing unless you have fed the machine? Just watch some YouTubers see my point. Luck, yes, but how often? Even when they seem to have a reasonable winning strategy, they go more often. The machine sucks in all your money to give it back to you, hoping you'll stick it all back in. Then when the machines know you've walked away, the people playing are left to fill the machines. They are all networked to a point, whether central or local.
Let's Keep the Discussion Going!
So, are slots random? What do you think? Please add to the above lists how slot machines may be cheating. If so, contact us, as we'd be interested in more opinions.
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It has been said; Slot players don't lose because they never win; they lose because they don't quit when they're ahead...
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