A shuffle through the Gaming mailbag:
Q. Does it help at all if I alter my timing in spinning the slot reels? I feel myself getting in patterns where I hit the button in the same rhythm time after time. Would it change things if every so often I took a sip of water or skipped a beat to watch the player next to me for a spin or two, or looked around to see if I could spot the cocktail waitress?
A. Would it change things? Yes. Would the change be for the better? On average, no.
The random number generator that determines your results runs continuously. Once it receives a signal that you’re playing, such as you hitting a repeat bet button, it relays numbers for that spin to a program that maps the numbers onto reel position.
The RNG is very fast, and if you play faster or slower than usual, you will get different random numbers and different outcomes.
Sometimes those different outcomes will be better and sometimes they’ll be worse. On average, changing your timing and rhythm will yield the same payback percentage as keeping a steady betting pattern.
There’s no way to take advantage of knowing changing timing will change results. You can’t see what numbers are coming from the RNG. You don’t know if skipping a beat will bring a jackpot, a zero-pay spin or anything in between. Barring exceptional circumstances – see the question below – there’s no way to predict what’s coming next to improve your results.
If you’re in a losing streak and feel like you’re stuck in a rhythm rut, then by all means, give it a go. Try changing your timing. It won’t hurt, but it doesn’t really help, either.
Q. I’ve seen the random number generator on slot machines referred to as a “pseudo” random number generator. Why is that? Are the numbers random or not?
A. One of the phrases I’ve used over and over in describing slots and other electronic games is, “as random as humans can program a computer to be.”
Pure randomness may or may not be possible. I’ve had a scientist friend tell me nothing in the universe above quantum level is random, and even then there’s doubt.
So game makers do the best they can to approximate randomness. In a pseudo-RNG Numbers are calculated by an algorithm, almost always beginning with a seed number. Additional factors are designed into the mix. Some use varying entry points to the algorithm depending on whether you bet by touching the screen or the button panel, or whether you use the “repeat bet” button or the button for your desired number of credits on each spin.
The result is so close to true randomness that test programs can’t tell the difference. There are no obvious repeating patterns.
At times, codes have been cracked and pseudo-RNGs have been beaten. This almost always involves inside knowledge, such as the 2017 incident when a Russian team got its hands on slot machines and were able to decipher the RNG and apply the knowledge in casinos.
Without such inside knowledge, spotting any pattern in the algorithm is near-impossible. Results as so close to random they might as well be random. So they satisfy randomness standards in jurisdictions that regulate slots.
Accordingly, I used “random number generator” and “RNG” just because adding “pseudo” every time would make for clumsy reading.
But yes, slots use pseudo-random number generators because pure randomness has yet to be achieved in or away from casino games.