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Best of Mark Pilarski

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RNGs flirt with eternity

20 October 2006

Dear Mark,
When does the random number generator stop and determine your outcome on a slot machine? Is it with the first coin, or when the player spins the reels? I've always wondered this because you hear of players who didn't insert the maximum coin amount, and then missed getting the big jackpot. Kenny H.


The stop time of the random number generator, Kenny, is set by the individual maker of the machine. Some it's when the first coin is inserted, others the moment the player hits the button that spins the reels. I believe the largest such manufacturer, IGT, triggers theirs by the initiation of the reel spin. Assuming IGT does this, it is highly unlikely that a player would have stopped the RNG at exactly the nanosecond needed to display the mega-jackpot combination on the screen if he had inserted the maximum coin amount, versus playing short. In that blink of an eye before inserting coin three, then hitting the button, the RGN would have cycled through thousands more combinations, so the player who hit the jackpot with one or two coins played, would almost certainly not have hit it with the maximum coins inserted.

Dear Mark,
When I play draw poker at home, I have gotten a royal flush, and yet, I have never received one in the casino playing video poker. Are the odds the same, or does the casino make it tougher to receive one to keep its doors open? Willy H.

The odds of hitting a royal flush on a Jacks or Better video poker machine are identical to the odds with a hand-shuffled deck at the kitchen table, approximately 40,000 to one. Yet that doesn't mean Willy Wonder is guaranteed to hit a royal if he plays 40,000 hands. You could instantly hit a royal in 10 hands or 100,000 hands, or never see or hold one.

Take my Mom for example. She was a 20-year VP aficionada before she passed — I'm wondering out loud if the casino upstairs offers 9/6 machines — but never hit a royal. My dad, who seldom if ever plays video poker, has hit two.

The casino's advantage in video poker is in adjusting the payout for different poker hands in relation to the odds of making each hand, not in making it tougher for you to hit big in their house than it is at home.

Dear Mark,
There was this real frisky blonde just across from me at the craps table, and she was wearing this blouse that became sort of semi see-through at certain angles of the overhead lights, and I was distracted and lost big. Isn't that against the law? Gurth T.

Good to hear from you again, Gurth.

Your question reminds me of the woman who complained to Dear Abby of all the violence, nudity, fowl (sic) language, and sex on her VCR.

Gaming commissions have contemplated banning "distractive behavior" from time to time over the decades, but are still happily researching the matter. Two things you could do in self-defense: 1) Keep your head down and only make smart wagers like a pass line bet with odds or placing the 6 or 8 (you shouldn't lose big with those wagers even against a magical blouse), or 2) Have your — or someone's — wife with you; women are born experts in protecting their men from such visual assaults.

My accountant (sort of a gaming historian) would like to know just where the casino is that causes you this trouble.

Gambling Wisdom of the Week: "As a lifelong poker player, I can't believe the underhanded way this new bill restricting online poker was passed through Congress. What does Internet poker have to do with the Safe Port Bill? We Texans don't like this kind of trickery. Texas is a state where you can see an enemy coming, a friend is a friend, and you look someone straight in the eyes." -- Living poker legend Doyle Brunson

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.