Slot Machine Myths

Myths have surrounded slot games since the days when the games were entirely mechanical. These range from ideas about a machine running ‘hot’ (or cold) through to the cunning placement of the games on the casino floor. What these myths have in common is that once you understand how the games work, the illusions and conspiracy theories are quickly uncovered. What I like best about explaining why these commonly held beliefs are untrue is that it is almost impossible to convince some people of this – even when you present them with the cold mathematical facts.

I have covered 5 different slot myths in this article. These are the hot / cold streak myth, the placement of slots, casino’s ability to change payouts or outcomes, using player cards and pulling the levers.

Myth #1 – Slots have Hot and Cold Streaks

There are many different ways this misunderstanding can be articulated. Some people might talk about a loose slot, one which is running hot or a game which is due to pay. I have even heard some people talk machines entering the ‘paying part of their cycle’.

When you look into the programs that run slots, you will quickly find out why this kind of theory is misguided. The only piece of information you need to know concerns the ‘RNG’ (random number generator) inside each machine.

At the start of each spin, a new random string of numbers is generated. This is what determines where the reels land. A slot has no memory of previous spins, and does not need to have one to operate (unless you are inside a feature round). Each spin in an independent mathematical event and any patterns of hotness or coldness which you are attributing to a game is merely the human brain trying to impose a pattern onto these random events.

Myth #2 – Loose Machines are placed near Entrances

You’ll find a lot of myths which concern the placement of slots within the casino. The most common of these is that the biggest paying games are placed close to entrances and at the ends of the rows of games. The idea is that people will see these slots paying out, and be attracted to try out the games for themselves. The opposite idea is that the tightest slots are hidden away. I have also heard myths that the loose and tight games are spread out in such a way as to prevent players using two loose games at the same time.

Now, it may be that casinos put the newest and most interesting games in prominent positions. To suggest that identical machines in different places have different payout percentages is simply untrue. This is one myth that has a plausible motive (for the casinos) though does not bear up to scrutiny when you check the machines used.

Myth #3 – Security Adjusting Payouts

Casino gamers are watched closely by an array of security cameras and personnel on the floor. There is a myth which says that if you win a decent payout from a slot game, someone behind the scenes will flip a switch which will take that money back again very quickly.

This is another one which quickly falls over when you put it under scrutiny. Casinos can go into slot games and can often adjust the payouts. What you’ll find is that this would involve a reset of the individual game, and going into the operating system behind it. At the minimum you would see a black screen, and the commands being typed in. Even to get into this part of the argument, you would be saying that casinos have an interest in doing this. Once you look at that allegation in the cold light of day (including their licensing), this does not stand up to scrutiny either.

Myth #4 – Player Cards

There are several slots myths surrounding the use of player cards. The main one is that using a card to track your play gives you lower payouts than playing without a card for cash. Twists on this theory involve deliberately manipulating your wins or even some connection with the IRS.

Once again, the math of slots and the way they work quickly blows these kind of theories out of the water. Each spin is determined by a random number generator. Whether or not you use a card has no influence on this random string – and any patterns you see are merely your own mind trying to grab patterns from a random sequence of events.

Myth #5 – Pull the Lever!

The final myth is a quirky one. Where you get a choice between a lever and a button, some players swear that you’ll get better luck pulling the lever. This is nonsense of course; the math of the slot is exactly the same regardless of how you initiate the spin. However, if pulling the level increases your enjoyment – then why not go ahead and pull it.

Associate Writer: Geoff enjoys both live and online poker as well as casino games, and is particularly knowledgeable about the legal landscape of online gambling.