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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: Chance, not persistence, determines the winning spin

18 December 2015

Dear Mark: Please help me save my marriage. A while back, my wife and I were in a local casino in Reno. She was playing Megabucks. We were there for about two hours, and she had about $350 invested in the machine. I was tired and told her I wanted to go, so she reluctantly cashed out the remaining $50 she had in the machine, and we headed to the casino cage to cash the ticket.

After getting cash for the ticket we headed for the door. This took us right past the machine she had been playing just a few minutes earlier. All of a sudden we heard loud screaming. A lady sitting at the same machine she was just playing minutes before hit the Megabucks jackpot . . . over 11 million dollars. The lady explained she had just sat down and had put in $10 and on her third spin of the wheel she hit the progressive payout. My wife turned to me and said, “you idiot.”

I was stunned but realized what she was thinking. Had I not asked her to leave, she thinks she would have won that jackpot. I explained to her that that may not necessarily be true. But, almost every day she berates me for getting her off that machine.

I told her that just because that woman won the jackpot within three spins of her leaving, doesn’t mean she would have won if she took three more spins. From what I understand, the RNG has to be hit at the exact same time for her to have won and it’s unlikely her staying would have accomplished that feat.

Please help me explain that to her and save my marriage, as I think she will never forget or forgive me without your expert help in explaining it to her. Anonymous


Gaming author Barney Vinson once said, “The likelihood of lining up four Megabucks symbols is somewhere in the cosmos between Jupiter and Mars, and even a spokesman at IGT would not admit to the mathematical probability of hitting one of the blasted things.” Vinson may have been a tad bit liberal with his calculations, in that, the IGT Megabucks machine DOES have an infinitesimal chance of hitting. Nonetheless, your appeal to your wife as to “whose” Megabucks jackpot it was, is correct.

Often marital bliss gets confrontational due to misinformation about how a slot machine operates. You wife believed that the Megabucks jackpot should have been hers, and you got in the crossfire because your wife, dare I say it, is uninformed. That notwithstanding, your marriage may benefit from an “apology” with a nice expensive gift; fact may not overcome belief, but love may well vanquish heartache.

The fact is all modern slot machines come equipped with a random number generator, with symbol combinations constantly changing countless times every millisecond, making the lady sitting front and center when the winning spin hit the rightful owner of the Megabucks jackpot, not you wife. Besides, even if she were to have stayed those few extra minutes, just one sip of a cocktail, a sneeze, or even a blink of an eye would have thrown her interstellar synergy completely off whack.

A slot machine’s RNG continues to crunch those 1s and 0s as many as a million combinations per minute until someone hits the spin button. This is why, unless your wife had pushed the spin button at the exact millisecond the eventual winner did, she would not have been treated to the winning jackpot. It was pure chance that the RNG generated the winning combination when it did and dumb luck that the player hit the spin button at the exact moment when that winning combination was generated. Your wife’s odds of a champagne wishes and caviar dreams lifestyle would have remained the same if she had continued to play: 48 “Millions and millions and millions to one.” – Carl Sagan


Gambling Wisdom of the Week: “It would seem that the odds of smacking Megabucks twice are much longer than the odds of Earth being sucked into a stellar black hole.” – Basil Nestor, Casino Player
Recent Articles
Best of Mark Pilarski
Mark Pilarski

As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.
Mark Pilarski
As a recognized authority on casino gambling, Mark Pilarski survived 18 years in the casino trenches, working for seven different casinos. Mark now writes a nationally syndicated gambling column, is a university lecturer, author, reviewer and contributing editor for numerous gaming periodicals, and is the creator of the best-selling, award-winning audiocassette series on casino gambling, Hooked on Winning.