Myths 101: One-armed Banditry

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Recently, I sat next to a real character on a slot machine. He believed that by playing your credits at a fast pace you could trick the computer chip inside into paying more often. He also believed in playing midweek because the casino resets the slot machines to pay less on weekends when more players are in the house. At first, I thought his theories were foolish, but he started winning, even hitting a few $100 jackpots over a period of three hours. And guess what, it was a Thursday. Any merit to his method of playing? Kate D.

About the wins-In the realm of probability, the unusual is far more usual than the usual, got it? On the amazing idiosyncratic notions of some slot players: Salt over the shoulders, hot coin play, witchcraft, voodoo dolls, (wearing a never-washed special sweater on the fifth of each month, done by a family member of mine, it’s those slick casino mailings, scheduled to arrive in the same mail as the social security checks to trigger many a fifth-of-the month trip to the casinos. Not by chance, you understand.) All hogwash, Kate. But while we are at it, let us visit a whole gaggle of common misconceptions about slots-play.

Hot (or cold) coins will produce winning results.

No way. The fever or hypothermia of the inserted coins has no consequence on the outcome of the spin. Can’t you see it now? Heavy-duty extension cords with hair dryers and icemakers attached. A secret button loosens or tightens a machine at management’s whim.  Absolutely false. The manufacturer programs most machines at the factory, and not reprogrammed weekly by slot personal or casino management. What the casino does is to instruct the manufacturer in advance what they want each machine to return to the player. But you will never see frenzied slot employees opening the machines on Friday and tripping the weekend-sucker switches.

Slot machine combinations are programmed to go through a certain cycle, and once through that cycle, to repeat the combinations in the exact same order.  Once more, erroneous information. Each combination is random and autonomous. A machine that has not hit a jackpot in a long period is overdue to hit. With each machine possessing a random number generator, the probability of hitting a jackpot is the same for each spin. Playing faster (or slower) increases the chance of winning. Again, each machine uses a random number generator, calculating several billion combinations per minute, so the playing speed of the human arm doesn’t even qualify as an also-ran. Slots are remotely radio-controlled by space aliens with pointy heads. Now, you’re getting somewhere.

What rules should I follow when it comes to breaking pairs in video poker? I was told never to break a high pair. That doesn’t make much sense to me, especially when I might have four cards to a royal. Helen G.

You did not mention, Helen, which version of video poker you were playing, but here are the simple rules to follow when playing the ever-popular Jacks-or-better. Break a high pair (Js, Qs, Ks, or Aces) only for any four-card straight flush and a four-card royal. As for when to break a low pair, follow this strategy: Break your low pairs (2s-10s) against any four-card flush or straight flush, or any three-card royal flush.

Gambling thought of the week: “If the healthy horse goes off at even odds and the horse with a broken leg is listed at 1000 to 1, some people will bet on the impaired horse.” -Kenny Pearlman (Vegas dealer and writer)

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