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Best of Frank Scoblete

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Why Losing Streaks Predominate in Slots

7 October 2000

In my last article, I discussed two very important figures pertaining to slot machines - the return percentage and the hit frequency. The return percentage is the reason why, in the long run, players will lose at slots. Machines are programmed to return less money to the players than the players put in. Period.

Most machines return somewhere between 85 to 98 percent of the total monies put in them. With those ranges, it is understandable why the long-run player expectation at slots is negative. The only exception to that dogma would be those individuals who win outlandishly big progressive jackpots that can change their lives. These folks would be hard-pressed to return all that money to the casino coffers since they would have to play an inordinately long time to do so.

However, the second figure - hit frequency - explains why players enjoy playing the machines even though they know that in the long run they must ultimately lose. A machine might be programmed with a 15 percent hit frequency, which means that the player is returned some money once every six spins, on average. But some of these "hits" are for goodly sums. It's exciting to play a machine that has intermittent hits with some of them for BIG money. Our adrenaline pumps with anticipation. Otherwise people would play the change machine, which has a 100 percent hit frequency but very little in the way of an adrenaline rush. It is the explosiveness of slot play that brings a thrill, the chance to win big money with a relatively little investment.

Still, the hit frequency explains something else about slots - why losing streaks are longer and more dominant than winning streaks. And players have noticed this fact but often don't understand why it occurs. I receive many letters from slot players wanting to know why it seems that every time they win a few spins in a row for nice sums, the machine "freezes up" on them and then goes into a losing mode. Players have wondered darkly whether the casinos are cheating them by employing some kind of programming that says: "Hey, you gave this person a couple of wins, now take back all the money! He! He! He!"

Let me lay these fears to rest. American casinos are totally honest and they are not cheating at anything. Because the hit frequencies of most slot machines range from 10 to 20 percent (thus the figure of 15 percent that I use), the math of gambling dictates that the overall flow of the game in the long run must show more pronounced player losing streaks than winning streaks. Here's why:

Since the probability of getting some money back (a hit) is one in every six spins, the odds of that happening are 5 to 1 (which means 5 no-hits for every one hit).

To achieve two hits in a row has a probability of one in 36 spins (6/1 X 6/1 = 36/1) with odds of 35 to one. To achieve three hits in a row is truly a long shot with a probability of one in 216 spins (6/1 X 6/1 X 6/1 = 216/1) with odds of 215 to one.

Want to go for four hits in a row? The probability is once every 1,296 spins! Yeow! These figures explain why players sometimes feel that the machines go cold after the players have had a few nice scores. They do! But they do, not because of nefarious motivation on the part of the casinos; they do because the math of the game dictates that you'll get nothing back on many more decisions than you'll hit for something.

But - and this is the big but, folks - on some of those hits you will win a lot of money, often more than enough to make up for those long losing streaks. That's the thrill ride of slot play. You don't have to win very many pulls of the handle to come away a winner at slots. One pull can literally make a losing evening a winner. In fact, as the Megabucks slogan used to state: "One pull can change your life!"

So expect to see losing streaks of 10 to 15 spins in a row. These would not be all that unusual given a 15 percent hit frequency. Are there ways to figure which machines have high hit frequencies and which machines have low hit frequencies? As a general rule of thumb, machines that do not have multiplier symbols, or progressives, tend to have higher hit frequencies. In addition, machines that have a lot of little pays with no huge jackpot lines, might tend to have higher hit frequencies. The reverse is also true. If the machine has a few really super jackpot lines but very few lower level hits, the hit frequency will tend to be lower to make up for the big wins when those hits actually occur.

Of course, smart slot players never go into a session figuring that they'll exhaust their entire earthly possessions in order to get that one pull. But like the smart gamblers that they are, they budget their money. They give themselves "X" amount of dollars for a session's play, or "Y" number of spins, and then they walk - win, lose or draw.

Frankly speaking, knowing that losing streaks are par for the slot course will go a long way to allaying your fears about casino cheating by programming the machines to "freeze up" after a win and such knowledge will also explain why there are more ebbs than flows to a slot session.

For more information about slots and video poker, we recommend:

Break the One-Armed Bandits! by Frank Scoblete
Victory at Video Poker and Video Craps, Keno and Blackjack! by Frank Scoblete
Slot Conquest Audio Cassette Tape (60 minutes) with Frank Scoblete
Winning Strategies at Slots & Video Poker! Video tape hosted by Academy Award Winner James Coburn, Written by Frank Scoblete
The Slot Machine Answer Book by John Grochowski
The Video Poker Answer Book by John Grochowski
Recent Articles
Best of Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!

> More Books By Frank Scoblete

Frank Scoblete
Frank Scoblete is the #1 best selling gaming author in America. His newest books are Slots Conquest: How to Beat the Slot Machines; Everything Casino Poker: Get the Edge at Video Poker, Texas Hold'em, Omaha Hi-Lo and Pai Gow Poker!; Beat Blackjack Now: The Easiest Way to Get the Edge; Casino Craps: Shoot to Win!; Cutting Edge Craps: Advanced Strategies for Serious Players; Casino Conquest: Beat the Casinos at Their Own Games! and The Virgin Kiss.

Frank and Casino City Times columnist Jerry "Stickman" teach private lessons in dice control. Frank's books are available at Amazon.com, in bookstores or by mail order. Call 1-800-944-0406 or write to Frank Scoblete Enterprises, PO Box 446, Malverne, NY 11565. Frank can also be reached by email at fscobe@optonline.net.

Frank Scoblete Websites:

www.goldentouchcraps.com
www.goldentouchblackjack.com

Books by Frank Scoblete:

> More Books By Frank Scoblete