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Slot Machine Payouts are Fixed – Not Rigged

Question: No matter what anyone says, I just can't believe that slot machines are random. There has to be some way for casinos to control how much people can win on slots – it can't be possible that each spin is determined only by chance, can it?

First off, you are right, in a way. Slot machines payouts are fixed so that they will, over time, pay out less money than they take in. Otherwise, why would casinos have them? However, that is something entirely different than rigging machines (i.e. tampering with them to prevent players from winning).

They best way to look at this is through a simple analogy. If I take a normal die and roll it, we can agree that there is a random chance that any one of the six sides will come up. So, if I win when the even numbers of 2, 4, and 6 come up and you win when the even numbers of 1, 3, and 5 come up, we both have an equal and random chance of winning. Slot machines are exactly like that die.

The difference is, if you (the player) wins, you give me $10, but if I (the casino) wins, I give you $9. We both have a random chance of winning, but the winning amount is fixed to favor the casino. It's the exact same idea with fixed slot machine payouts.

Question: Lately it seems like when I play blackjack, I haven't been getting as many blackjacks as I should. The table I play at is hand-shuffled with a single deck and pays 6-5 for blackjacks instead of 3-2. How many blackjacks per hour should I be getting?

In a perfect world, the answer would be 'zero'. But that is because in a perfect world 6-5 blackjack tables wouldn't exist, and if they did, you wouldn't ever play at one.

There is this pervasive idea in the gambling world that single-deck blackjack always has the lowest house edge, even if the payout for blackjack is 6-5 instead of the standard 3-2. But that's not actually true.

If single-deck blackjack actually pays out 3-2, then the house edge is a microscopic 0.15% when playing basic strategy. But, at 6-5 instead, the house edge balloons to 1.5%, which is actually far worse than the 0.73% edge the house has on a 3-2 game with a six-deck shoe.

As for your other question, you should expect to get a blackjack once every 21 hands, which is the same no matter what kind of game you are playing. At 100 hands per hour, you can expect to get about 5 blackjacks an hour. Of course, luck exists so sometimes it will be less, sometimes more, but over the long term it will be around 5.

So, considering that you get 5 blackjacks an hour, if you play $10 a hand at a 3-2 table, you win $75 off those blackjacks. But if you play 6-5, you only win $60. That $15 is far too much to give the casino for the right to play single-deck.

About The Author

Insider casino expert Mark Pilarski worked nearly every job in his 18 years in the casino industry, from dealer to cashier to shift manager. Armed with that experience, he created the legendary Hooked on Winning casino advice audio series and he currently lectures and writes gambling columns for various websites, newspapers, and magazines.

  • "The roulette wheel is always kept spinning at a constant rate, even if no one is currently playing. The ball is spun in the opposite direction in order to ensure more randomness in the result."

  • "Video slot machines don't have the pay table displayed on the front. Instead, you should take a look at the help screen before you start to study the winning combinations and the bonus games, if offered."

  • "Slow and steady is the best strategy for slot playing. That way you can play for a longer time with the same money and take advantage of more casino perks, like free drinks."

  • "Usually, a roulette table will have two different balls of slightly different sizes. Dealers can choose which to use based on which is more comfortable. The size of the ball does not affect the outcome."

  • "Casinos never make rule changes that benefit the player; if you see a new rule, it's bad for you. For example, some casinos are starting to pay 6:5 for blackjacks instead of the better 3:2."

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