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Ask the Wizard #3

I really enjoyed browsing through your web-site, although I am no big gambler. Great work here!! I have a question: Where can I find some good information about the business of gambling/casinos etc. I am interested in things like profitability, what it takes to start a casino: online or conventional, the legalities etc. I look forward to hearing from you.

Deva from New Jersey, USA

This is not my area of expertise but if you're interested in owning your own online casino check out the sites of some of the software providers like Microgaming or Boss Media. For a cut of the profits, they provide the software and much of the support. You can also buy an established online casino, check out the list at the River City Group for specifics. I'm afraid I don't know much about buying conventional casinos, but believe the process to get licensed to be very expensive and time consuming.

In "how slot machines works" you mention that the Random numbers (1 to 2+ billion) are drawn in a cycle to ensure each number is chosen once per cycle. Are you saying that the slot has a 2+ billion-element table that gets filled with all the possible numbers (over time)? Is this why a slot machine will sometimes hesitate (as if it's "thinking" for a few seconds before allowing you to initiate a play... because it's filled the "random number table" and is re-initializing it for another round? I have always wondered about these periodic (after maybe around 30-50 pulls) "hesitations" that slot machines exhibit; because my observations are that the pay/take characteristics of a slot machine seem to change between these "hesitations." Frequently, I have seen a slot that was in a "pay cycle" (for lack of better words) go suddenly cold after going through this hesitation. Conversely, I have seen cold machines suddenly start paying more after this hesitation occurs. Whatever! The exact reason for this "pause" it seems clear the machine is re-initializing or re-loading something... I just don't know what it is.

Scott from Leawood, USA

No, the machine does not have a huge element table of over two billion elements. The random number generators choose each number once in the cycle using mathematical algorithms and do not need to keep track of which numbers were already chosen. Regarding the pause, it has nothing to do with how much it is going to pay. I think the game does some internal auditing from time to time. There is no such thing as hot and cold cycles with slot machines. The ups and downs are just normal random variation.

How much does a Las Vegas casino chip weigh ... in grams?

Travis from Albuquerque, USA

According to Gus FanFassian, a casino quality chip will weigh 9 to 11 grams each and are made of clay and other composite materials.

How would you fare if you played roulette like this -- bet $5 on both 0 and 00, bet $15 on two of the columns. Wouldn't you have like a 70% of winning?

Matthew from Kansas City, USA

You would have a 2/38 chance of winning $140, a 24/38 of winning $5, and a 12/38 chance of losing $40. The overall expected return is [(2/38)*140 + (24/38)*5 + (12/38)*-40]/40 = -5.26%. The same house edge as on every bet in double-zero roulette (except the 0-00-1-2-3 combination, which is 7.89%).

Do the casinos tighten and loosen the slots on a daily/hourly basis, to attract business when its slow and rake it in when its busy?

James from Cherry Hill, USA

The EPROM chips, which control the theoretical return percentages on slots, are generally changed very rarely. It would be bad business to loosen and tighten the slots according to the day of the week. For any given casino there is some optimal return to maximize profit. Wherever that is, a smart slot manager would find that point and then just leave the EPROMS set to that return.

Hey Shack I hadn't been to the site in awhile and I just wanted to compliment you on the new sleek look. I know you initially wanted to stay away from the banners but they do help pay the bills eh?

Congratulations also on the new gig with Casino Player, I enjoy it the site and your occasional posts on bj21. As someone who works in the industry, admittedly not slots, I was under the impression that the more recent slots have the RNG stop the moment the first coin drops, so it really doesn't matter if you play 1,2, or 3 coins -- the symbols will line up the same. Have I been misinformed? According to your previous answer I apparently have. Keep up the good work and I'll stay in touch, thanks and best wishes.

Dave Simon from USA

Thanks for the kind words Dave. You're right that it was the money that finally made me accept the banners. It is my understanding that when the player presses the button to spin the reels the random numbers are drawn at that instant, which determine where the reels stop, and ultimately what you win. The number of coins bet does not matter.

I'm playing an 8/5 bonus machine that pays $1,199 for a royal flush and double for four 8's, in addition to the normal bonus schedule for four 2’s, 3’s, 4’s, and aces. My slot card and max coins are required. Is this 100%+?

Malcolm from Laughlin, Nevada USA

The $1199 payoff is amusing, just under the $1200 limit for which the casino would be obligated to report the win to the IRS. Winpoker 6 software allows for analysis of custom designed games. In this case, the return is 100.0079%.