Home / Q: Can a Slot Machine Ever Be Due for a Pay-off?

# Q: Can a Slot Machine Ever Be Due for a Pay-off?

A: There you sit, popping coin after coin into the one-armed bandit, coming up empty every time. But hey, look on the bright side – if the slot machine hasn’t paid off all day, this just means it’s due for a big pay-off, right!? Wrong. You’re a victim of what math professors call the “gambler’s fallacy.” And while it’s possible that some mechanical slot machines way back when, may have responded to continuous play, today’s computer chip-driven slots have no “memory” of previous plays. This means that every pull is a brand new game. Slot makers even claim their machines could pay off 19 times in a row, or zero times over the course of a few years.

Oh, and while we’re on the subject, a “95% average payback” doesn’t mean everyone who puts in \$100 gets \$95 back. Clear your head and think about this for a sec: a player who puts in \$10 and wins \$100 has a 900% payback. This means that a lot of other players need to have a very small, or no, payback just to keep the percentage down at 95. There’s a reason the house always wins!

• “a “95% average payback” doesn’t mean everyone who puts in \$100 gets \$95 back. Clear your head and think about this for a sec: a player who puts in \$10 and wins \$100 has a 900% payback. This means that a lot of other players need to have a very small, or no, payback just to keep the percentage down at 95.”

Yep. I run into the same poor logic from people I know who buy scratch-off lottery tickets. They seem to believe that if they buy, say, \$100 worth of tickets, they should reasonably expect that at least a couple of them will be “big winners.”

Uh, sorry, but it doesn’t work that way.

The lottery people are able to get you to buy the damn tickets in the first place by offering you the possibility of hitting a major jackpot (let’s say \$100,000). But in order to be able to pay off the small handful of people who will actually win that big stack of cash (and still make a few dollars for “education”), they need to basically steal money from every other sucker out there. And by sucker, I mean you. No offense. :-/

• I used to date a loose slot.

Wait a sec. Never mind, that’s something else.

• “I used to date a loose slot.”

Yeah? How were the payoffs? :-/

• Bliffle

Gamblers make many errors in determining payoff odds, but so does The House. In fact, they both often hold the same erroneous beliefs about probabilities. And that is why The House cheats: they think the suckers can win and they have to employ Mechanics to ensure that never happens.