Gambling machines are the lifeblood of any casino, and their presence allows gaming establishments to take in billions of dollars per year. But despite their massive popularity, there are numerous individuals who still don’t know what they are or how they work.
This article is devoted to answering two central questions: What are gambling machines and how do gambling machines work? As a bonus, we also look at some of the more popular cheating methods that people have developed for these devices over the years. They are all obsolete in the modern age of computer technology, but they still serve as a testament to human greed and ingenuity.
Numerous types of gaming devices are in operation around the world. While this list is far from comprehensive, it should provide you with an understanding of the most popular options available to players.
Pokies – Known as “slots,” “slot machines,” or “fruit machines” in other parts of the world, pokies pay out money to players who match several winning symbols on the game’s spinning reels. Progressive pokies are the most famous, as they take a small percentage of each wager and add it to an ever-increasing jackpot. Stand-alone pokies offer fixed cash prizes, while buy-a-pay pokies allow players to activate an increasing number of symbols by inserting additional funds. These are the biggest draws at casinos.
Video Poker Machines – While pokies winners and losers at pokies are a matter of luck, video poker games allow players to use skill in an attempt to win money. The game begins with the player receiving a five-card poker hand, and they may then choose to trade in one or more of their cards to receive replacements. The objective is to build the best poker hand possible, and payouts usually begin with a pair of jacks or better. With perfect play, a person can actually nullify the house edge on these devices.
Pachinko – Found at arcades throughout Japan, these colourful gaming machines feature large amounts of balls that are fired by the player in an effort to capture as many of them as possible. While gambling on pachinko for cash is illegal, captured balls can be turned in at the pachinko parlour for prizes. These prizes can then be taken to a nearby location and exchanged for cash. The annual revenue for pachinko ranges into the hundreds of millions of dollars.
Pachislo – An offshoot of the pachinko game, this Japanese version of a pokie is beatable with a potential payout of 200%. These games always have three reels, and they may not spin faster than 80 revolutions per minute. Each reel must also have a corresponding button that allows the player to stop the reels movement (which must occur within 0.19 seconds of the button being pressed).
Fixed Odds Betting Terminal – Normally found in UK betting shops, these devices allow punters to wager on events and games with fixed odds. This type of machine can include pokies, roulette, bingo, and simulated races with horses or greyhounds.
Machines are only one of many types of casino games that are popular in gambling halls, but they take up more floor space in most casinos than any other type of game.
Old-fashioned pokies were operated by a series of internal gears and levers, but this has long since been abandoned in favour of more modern computerized machines. Some of these devices still use physical reels, but most are moving to virtual reels due to the greater versatility they provide.
When a game begins, the player either pulls the handle on the side of the machine or presses a spin button. From the moment a pokie is plugged in, its random number generator is constantly generating digits, and prompting the machine to spin causes the computer to record the next three numbers generated by the RNG.
Each number from the RNG is then divided internally by 64, with the result corresponding to a spot on the machine’s virtual reel (which is tied to a spot on the actual reel). Digital pulses drive the step motors to move the reels, stopping them at the positions previously determined.
Video slots operate in a slightly different manner. Since their reels are virtual, there is no need for a reel to be moved into position by a step motor. Instead, the computer uses it processing power to determine which symbol is supposed to wind up where, and it then manipulates the video display into showing the proper alignment.
In the modern era, pokies and video poker machines are so sophisticated that cheating is practically impossible. In the old days, however, creative cheaters found a variety of ways to get something for nothing. Their ill-gotten gains never lasted long, though, as the casino would inevitably catch them and implement even more effective security measures. Here are some of the more notable methods of cheating at gambling machines over the years:
Light Box– By using a small light box, cheaters could use a light beam to interfere with a machine’s sensor and induce a larger payout. Also known as a “light wand.”
Monkey’s Paw – A long piece of metal was inserted into the machine’s payout chute and snaked up to the coin counter mechanism. By interfering with this device, the cheater could cause the machine to deliver all the coins inside.
Coin on a String – A string would be tied to a coin, inserted into the game, and then pulled back out after activating a spin. In this way, the cheater could use a single coin to repeatedly play the machine. These were also known as “plugs.”
Shaved Coin – A coin with filed edges would activate the next spin but also pass right through the machine. The cheater could use the same coin over and over.
Knowing how a gambling machine works doesn’t allow you to beat the game, but it does provide a greater understanding of the care and craftsmanship that goes into each device in a casino. It also indicates the casino’s devotion to making a profit, since they involve everyone from computer engineers to trained psychologists to ensure loyalty from their patrons. This information may be intimidating at first, but keep in mind that players have been winning money from the house for decades. Through practice and persistence, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same.