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Technology : Computerization & Video slot machines

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Computerization
With microprocessors now ubiquitous, the computers inside modern slot machines allow manufacturers to assign a different probability to every symbol on every reel. To the player it might appear that a winning symbol was "so close", whereas in fact the probability is much lower.

In modern slot machines, the reels and lever are for historical and entertainment reasons only.

In the 1980s in the UK machines embodying microprocessors became common. These used a number of features to ensure the payout was controlled within the limits of the gambling legislation. As the coin was inserted into the machine it could go one of two routes, either direct into the cashbox for the benefit of the owner, or alternatively it would go into a channel that formed the payout reservoir, the microprocessor monitoring the number of coins in this channel. The drums themselves were driven by stepper motors, controlled by the processor and with proximity sensors monitoring the position of the drums. A "look up table" within the software allows the processor to know what symbols were being displayed on the drums to the gambler. This allowed the system to control the level of payout by stopping the drums at positions it had determined. If the payout channel had filled up, the payout became more generous, if nearly empty, less so thus giving good control of the odds.

Video slot machines
The video slot machine is a more recent innovation, with no moving parts at all – instead a graphical representation of one appears on screen. Since the player is essentially playing a computer/video game, the manufacturers are able to offer more interactive elements, such as advanced bonus games and advanced video graphics.

In addition, because there are no mechanical constraints on the design of video slot machines, most display five reels rather than three. This greatly expands the number of possibilities: a machine can have 50 or more symbols on a reel, giving odds as high as 300 million to 1 against – enough for even the largest jackpot. As there are so many combinations given by five reels, the manufacturers do not need to weight the payout symbols (although some may still do so). Instead, higher paying symbols will typically appear only once or twice on each reel, while more common symbols, earning a more frequent payout, will appear many times.

Video slot machines typically encourage the player to play multiple "lines", so rather than simply taking the middle of the three symbols displayed on each reel, a line could go from top left to bottom right, or any of the other patterns specified by the manufacturer. As each symbol is equally likely, there is no difficulty for the manufacturer in allowing the player to take any or all of the possible lines on offer – the long-term return to player will be the same. The difference for the player is that the more lines he plays the more likely he is to get paid on a given spin – though of course he is betting more in the first place.

To avoid the feeling that the player's money is simply ebbing away (whereas a payout of 100 credits on a single line machine would be 100 bets, and the player would feel they had made a substantial win, on a 20 line machine, it would only be 5 bets and would not seem significant), manufacturers commonly offer bonus games, which can return many times their bet. The player is encouraged to keep playing to reach the bonus: even if he is losing, the bonus game could allow him to win back his losses.

Random number generators
All modern machines are designed using pseudo random number generators ("PRNGs"), which are constantly generating a sequence of simulated random numbers, at a rate of hundreds or perhaps thousands per second. As soon as the "Play" button is pressed, the most recent random number is used to determine the result. This means that the result varies depending on exactly when the game is played. A fraction of a second earlier or later, and the result would be different.

It is important that the machine contains a high-quality RNG implementation, because all PRNGs must eventually repeat their number sequence, and if the period is short, or the PRNG is otherwise flawed, an advanced player may be able to 'predict' the next result. Having access to the PRNG code and seed values, Ronald Dale Harris, a former slot machine programmer, discovered equations for specific gambling games like Keno that allowed him to predict what the next set of selected numbers would be based on the previous games played.

Most machines are designed to defeat this by generating numbers even when the machine is not being played, so the player cannot tell where in the sequence they are, even if they know how the machine was programmed.

wikipedia.org

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