The majority of people who play slots know very little about the operation of the machines, the computer programs that drive them, and the economics of the games.
This fact is through no fault of their own, because casinos operators, quite frankly, are content to keep it that way. They are under no obligation to educate players or to divulge more information about them than they have to.
Slot play is veiled in mystery and superstition, and unless you take it upon yourself to learn all you can, you are at risk of not knowing what the "reel" odds are against you or your chances of winning a sizable jackpot.
Readers often write about the "mysterious" two-second delay that occurs periodically when you're playing.
Here’s what one reader said:
"My gambling friend and I know this as a 'cycle'. There are 99 hits to a cycle. This means you should get something at the beginning or end of the cycle. So, if things are going good on the machine and you feel this delay, you know there is a change, probably for the worse.
“Same would apply if you are getting nothing on the slot machine, then the delay. This means a good cycle is coming. Of course it does not always work. But this delay does mean something. Why else would electronic meters need to be updated? Why does it need this delay?
"Another thing is the speed of the reels. If they are going really fast, that is not a good sign. Slow falling reels are better.
"Also, the random number generator is a joke, too. These machines have certain times, or what is known as a casino 'flourish'. We have seen jackpots hit back-to-back."
To reach the truth about the delay, I went to the folks at International Game Technology (IGT) in Reno, Nevada. IGT is one of the world's leading slot machine developers and manufacturers. Here's what they had to say:
"The electronic meters are maintained in non-volatile RAM and updated at the end of each game. Once every 100 games, the current meter values are backed up to a secondary, more permanent storage location. It takes one to two seconds to copy the meters from the primary location to the secondary location, which accounts for the delay that the player is experiencing. This action has no effect on the outcome of the game play."
As for the observations about the speed of the reels, the IGT engineers told me: "The speed of reels has no impact on the outcome of the game".
Finally, in reference to the reader’s skepticism about the integrity of the computer programs that govern slot machines, IGT had this response:
"Before a machine can be placed in service, the software must be approved by the applicable regulatory agency. Gaming regulatory agencies test the operation of the game to ensure that the random number generator (RNG) is producing random output. Back-to-back jackpots are possible when the outcome is truly random."