Seeking practical information about playing slot machines can be a very frustrating pursuit. It seems as far as the gaming industry is concerned, the less people know about the machines and how they really work, the better.

In light of the total lack of useful information about slot machines coming from the casinos, it’s easy for curious players to become jaded. Allowing slot play to remain veiled in mystery and superstition has served the gaming industry well, so why should anything change?

Even the best books written about slot machines can’t reveal everything simply because much about every individual machine’s play characteristics are the proprietary knowledge of the manufacturers and the casino owners.

A while back while doing some research, I surfed International Game Technology’s Website ( and discovered what is the most valuable, precise and thought-provoking information about slots available to the general public. Best of all, it’s free.

Click “news room” on the home page and go to “press kits” where you’ll see “understanding gaming”. The topics you’ll discover include “Slot Machines: Separating Fact from Fiction”, and “Different Types of Electronic Gaming”,

There’s also this gem, “Introduction to Slots and Video Gaming”, a Pdf download which was compiled by the folks at IGT, one of the world’s leaders in the research and development of slot machines and other services and products for the gaming industry.

The booklet doesn't contain the publicity "puff" info you'd expect to find from a publication of this nature, but rather a substantial compilation of facts and insight. What's more, it's written from a casino insider perspective that gives outsiders a rare glimpse into slot dynamics as seen through the eyes of casino owners.

The ultimate wish for players is access to a machine's so-call par sheets which reveal details about the hold (casino win) percentage, payback percentage, hit frequency, odds against winning the top award and other vital statistics.

All of it is proprietary information to which the gambling public has no access, and while the section in the booklet titled "Slot Math" certainly isn't the mother lode, it just may be closest the average player will ever get to it.

It begins with a definition of terms such as stops, reel cycle, hits per cycle, jackpot odds, hit frequency and pulls/hit (which, incidentally, refers to the "theoretical number of plays between pays"), followed by examples of elementary slot math for three different game formats using equations that "represent the most basic operations only".

For example, if, on a 3-reel slot game the reel cycle (number of possible combinations) is 32,768 and the top award symbol appears twice each on reels one and two and once on reel three, the jackpot should hit once every 8,192 reel spins.

On a 5-reel/15-line video slot with a reel cycle of 62,015,625 where the top award symbol appears once each on lines one, two and four and twice each on reels three and five, the jackpot should theoretically hit once every 15,503,906 reel spins.

Some of the marketing strategies found later in the booklet give average players an idea of the psychology behind slot design, casino floor signage, slot placement and the mix of games.

Overall, it's a great source of information and a must-read for everyone who plays slots.


HORSESHOE: The property teamed up with Chicago Gateway Green to celebrate Earth Day on Tuesday of this week. At 8:00 p.m. a “lights out” ceremony was held which included turning off the 7,500 light bulbs which make up the famous Horseshoe marquee, mentioned in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest free-standing structure in the state of Indiana.

Throughout April, the Shoe has been collecting donations from guests to support Chicago gateway Green, a non-profit organization dedicated to greening and beautifying Chicago’s expressways, gateways and neighborhoods. The casino will match donations up to $5,000 to help plant trees in the Chicago area.

Eloise writes about food and entertainment for The Times, subjects she has covered for over two decades in and around the Region. She was the youngest of eight children in a Chicago household filled with fantastic cooks and artists.