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Best of Mark Pilarski

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Deal Me In: What's all the commotion about?

20 December 2013

Dear Mark: I love the slot machine Wheel of Fortune. Surprisingly, I even get my fair share of bonus spins. My question is, does it matter when I press the Spin button, or is the outcome already predetermined? Kaye S.

No matter what casino you play at, be it in Vegas, Atlantic City, or somewhere in between, you can’t help but hear the notorious “Wheeeeeel of Fortuuuune!” jingle identifying someone playing the bonus round.

Okay, sure, I am not one to promote slot play in this column, but loads of players love this machine, so much so that the Wheel of Fortune progressive slot continues to be one of the most popular slot machines of all time. Did I mention that the three-reel game is often linked to a big progressive jackpot that can pay out some ginormous prizes?

The first progressive jackpot ($1,736,401) was hit at the Luxor in Las Vegas in November, 1997. I actually witnessed one such jackpot ($1,231,000) at Bill’s Casino in Lake Tahoe in May of 1998. Like most super-sized jackpots on progressive machines, the primary prize is paid in annual installments.

As to your question, Kaye, it really doesn't matter when you press the spin button to start your bonus spin on a Wheel of Fortune machine. When you press the button, all the machine does is poll the RNG (random number generator) to get a number that it will use to determine where the wheel will stop. The probability that the wheel stops on any particular spot is the same on every spin regardless of whether you wait one second five seconds or after a five minute bathroom break.

One mistake that many players make is to not bet the maximum coin amount. Only then can you get a shot at the bonus Spin Function – or hit the progressive jackpot for that matter – if you place the max bet. Since the Spin Function is where your profits occur, playing without giving yourself a chance at a Bonus Spin takes away from all the fun.

Dear Mark: A friend of mine believes there is a way to determine when a slot machine is going to hit. The thing is, he never wins, nor backs his talk up with any solid facts. He just believes that anyone who works in the slot department in a casino knows when slot machines are about to hit. I believe him to be wrong, but I would love your thoughts on this matter? Tim H.

I won’t for the umpteenth time beat my readers down with the words “random number generator,” but just take it as fact, Tim, that I write with 100 percent certainty that no one knows when a slot machine is going to hit.

If anybody really knew, that person(s) would make the minimum wager when the machine was cold, and bet the maximum when a machine was hot. In but a few days, they, not Steve Wynn, would own the casino.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: I have stepped out onto the Las Vegas strip with a smile on my face that you couldn't have wiped off with a shovel. – Edward Allen, Penney Ante (1992)
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.