Slot MachineSo we took a trip this weekend to our local Hotel and Casino. It was just an overnight trip to get away. I took some time to reflect on the trip, and came away with some knowledge about myself, which is always a good thing.

Maybe it’s just my age, but I have decided that I am against me gambling. Notice I didn’t say I’m “against gambling”. I said I’m against “ME gambling”.

First of all, I have never been a big gambler. The only time I ever sat at a real casino table was playing blackjack just for fun. It was a slow night at this casino, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

I lost $35 in less than two minutes.

I stopped.

Now I’m not saying someone can’t make money at gambling. It’s just that the odds are against you. Some people get a thrill from that sort of thing.

Dangerous thrill, but whatever.

I’ll leave the analysis of high stakes gambling to the big dogs. I’d rather go a bit more small time and talk about the Slot Machine. I have decided that the slot machine is one of the most ingenious god damn inventions on the planet.

Think about it. People willingly put their hard-earned money into a slot, lose their money, and, here’s the kicker: they are OK with it.

That’s fucking ingenious. I mean, they aren’t buying tangible goods and services, they’re buying into an illusion.

I decided to look up “Slot Machine Probability Statistics” just to do some research for this and sure enough, appropriate to the topic, the internet is clogged up with slot machine scams.

So, I’m not going to link your computer to the unfortunate mess of online slot machine scams. You’ll have to trust me on this one. If you really want the link from which I draw my data, I will be more than happy to disclose. I had to comb through a lot of shitty data to find the real scoop on slot machines. I am no mathematician, but here’s some basics about what I found, and I am sure that many of you already know this, so I’m not expecting this to be groundbreaking information. Looking at the math, though, I find it interesting:

  1. Every slot machine has what’s called a “lookup” table with mathematical weights corresponding to each symbol in the reels, the higher monetary value symbols have lower weights. That means the higher the monetary value of the symbol, the lower the probability they will align. This is perfectly legal and does not break any US laws.
  2. The historical payout of the slot machine makes no difference whatsoever. A machine in which you put your first coin is just as (un)likely to payout a jackpot as a machine you’ve been playing all day.
  3. There is a built in psychological “mind trick” to slot machines with the way the reels are organized. They are situated in a way that gives people the illusion that they “almost” hit a jackpot or higher payout. For example, someone might get a reel that is one symbol off from winning 20 credits as opposed to 2 credits, leading them to falsely think they “almost won” for that spin. The idea, of course, is that this will get said player to keep playing under the pretense that the next spin will increase their odds of winning. This is an illusion. Once again, perfectly legal in the US.
  4. The “payout” on slot machines, even including jackpot payouts, on a per user basis can be anywhere from 86% to 97%. What that means is for every dollar you spend, considering all factors, you will get anywhere from 86 to 97 cents back. But, that is statistics according to the Casino, not on a per-outing basis, which means that one visit to the Casino does not guarantee this “return” (emphasis on the quotes). One outing you might lose all your money, the next may be up by $40 for that visit, whatever. In other words, you should expect to lose 3 to 14 cents overall per dollar spent on total visits to slot machines. Sure, you might indeed hit a jackpot and be one of the few people who actually win something life-changing, but considering all factors, it is a losing proposition, tantamount to playing the lottery. Odds are you will be out money. The odds of winning a full jackpot are anywhere from .00004 to .00007 percent, according to my “research,” for what it’s worth.

They don’t put slot machines in casinos for nothing. They are profit-making machines like anything else. But what is ingenious about it, is that they are exploiting human psychology. It’s one thing if you buy tangible goods, but putting money into a slot machine like that, it’s just too damn easy for them.

You might say it’s great for the free booze, but that’s all part of the loss as well. You are certainly more likely to spend more money if you are inebriated than if you are not. I don’t think I need to quote statistics on that.

Me? I’ll keep my money, thank you.

If anyone finds a flaw in my analysis or math, please make a comment below. I’ll be the first to admit that I am no mathematical genius. Just please be gentle. :)

* Image courtesy of Jeff Kubina via Flickr