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Mar

21

2011

The Slot Machine Cherries Myth

Here’s a slot machine myth I read in a personal finance newsletter, of all places. It quoted an “expert” as saying players should look for three-reel machines with a cherry on the middle reel sitting on the payline. That cherry supposedly was the tipoff that a bigger payoff was on the way.

Problem is, the random number generator that determines what you see on the reels runs continuously, even when the machine is not in use. Even if a sequence was programmed to follow a cherry with a big win — and there is no such program — who knows how long that cherry sits there before it’s spotted, and how far the RNG has moved on.

I decided to try this, knowing full well that there was nothing in the program that signals winners to come. In four casinos, I looked for three-reel games that had a cherry sitting on the center reel. I didn’t find that many. On many three-reel games, a single cherry  brings a small payoff such as two coins for a three-coin bet, and three-reel players don’t always get up and go with even a small pay on the reels.

I found a total of five such games, with four on quarter machines and one on a dollar game. I played 10 spins on each machine, making a total of $60 in wagers. My biggest win was three double bars for 40 credits — a $10 pay on one of the quarter games. I hit some mixed bars, some more cherries, and at the end had $48.50.

No big win, though it wasn’t all that expensive an experiment. Still, there is no way to tell a big payoff is coming by looking at a slot machine. Picking a winner is no bowl of cherries.

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