Slot Machine Myths Slot machines blow ‘hot’ and ‘cold’

No, they don’t. The outcome of each spin of the reels is determined by a random number generator – or, at least, a pseudo-random number generator – and is an independent event, completely unaffected by previous events. The odds of winning are determined by the number of reels, the number of symbols on each reel and the ‘weighting’ of each symbol. Weighting information is usually known only to the casino, but the point is that the odds of winning, say, the jackpot, are exactly the same whether the slot last paid out the jackpot on the previous spin or six months ago.

The longer I play the better my chances of winning

Not so. Each outcome is completely random and independent, so the odds of winning are the same however long you play. In fact, the longer you play, the closer you’ll come to the percentage return-to-player (% RTP) figure for the slot in question. % RTP typically ranges between 85% for offline casinos and 96%, or more, for online casinos, but the inherent house edge actually means that the longer you play the worse your chances of winning.

A percentage return-to-player figure of 92% means I’ll only lose £8 of every £100 I stake

No, it doesn’t. The percentage return-to-player (% RTP) is an average, calculated over infinity – or, in practical terms, the lifetime of the slot – and, as such, does not apply to a single gaming session. In the short term, you could win the jackpot, win a little, lose a little or lose £100 for every £100 you stake, so don’t rely on % RTP as an accurate guide to returns.

Casino staff can ‘loosen’ or ‘tighten’ slot machines

No, they can’t. Whether lower than average, high than average or just plain average, the payout ratio of any slot machine is determined by a microprocessor, pre-programmed at the factory. Casino staff can do nothing to change it, one way or the other.

Elmer Sherwin According to one estimate, based on the number of stops and the number of stops corresponding to a jackpot symbol on each reel, the probability of winning the ‘Megabucks’ progressive jackpot is 1 in 49.8 million spins. Nevertheless, the late Elmer Sherwin, who died in 2007 at the age of 93, defied astronomical odds – in the order of trillions to one – to win the jackpot not once, but twice, at two different Las Vegas casinos, sixteen years apart.

Sherwin was already a 76-year-old retiree when, on November 22, 1989, he lined up the Megabucks symbols for the first time at The Mirage on the Las Vegas Strip, which had only opened to the public earlier that day, and collected $4.65 million for his $3 stake. According to a spokesman for The Mirage, Sherwin played for about an hour-and-a-half and invested about $100 before winning what was, at the time, claimed to be the largest jackpot even won on a slot machine in Las Vegas.

Evidently not entirely satisfied with winning the progressive jackpot once, Sherwin continued to pursue what he later called his ‘life’s dream’ of a second Megabucks win for the next sixteen years. The stars, or at least the Megabucks symbols, aligned for a second time at the Cannery Casino in Downtown Las Vegas on September 16, 2005, and Sherwin collected a further $21.1 million. By now aged 92, Sherwin donated much of his winnings to charitable causes, including to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, which had caused catastrophic damage to cities along the Gulf Coast, including New Orleans, the previous month.