The World According To Damien
in a World gone mad – one sane voice emerges…

Damien on… How To WIN On Fruit Machines

In a former life, I was an electronic service engineer – and in that capacity, it fell upon me to work on fruit machines. In pubs and clubs. While they were occupied.

And the question I was most often asked was, “‘Ere mate, ‘ow can you win on those things?”

Now of course, the reply that immediately came to mind was, “If I knew that, I’d be PLAYING these things, not WORKING on them, you moron.” However, people who have imbibed alcohol tend not to react well to having their stupidity pointed out to them, so I’d just grin and shrug my shoulders.

(Now, the next time someone grins and shrugs their shoulders when YOU ask them a dumb question, you’ll know what they’re REALLY thinking).

Anyhoo, for those who seek an ANSWER to that question – here it is…

Fruit machines, one-armed-bandits or slots (depending on which country you’re reading this in) come in two basic kinds. Mechanical and electrical. Let’s deal with mechanical first.

These machines feature three or four wheels with symbols. You pull a handle which starts them rotating. One by one they stop and when certain symbols line up, you win. This is effected by a series of pins attached to the wheels. When the wheels stop, a slider detects whether the formation is a winning one and if it is, it triggers the payout.

The electronic ones LOOK similar – but those wheels might just as well be a video display. You are now playing a VIDEO-GAME. While the wheels may APPEAR to be mechanical, they are in fact rotating on “stepper motors” that stop the wheels precisely where the machine’s computer has designated.

And if said computer has decided this operation will be a winner, it energises the payout.

Of course, the “payout” is what ought to STOP any SANE person from PLAYING them. I mean, the payout comes from a tube inside, which contains a stack of coins. And when the tube is full, the coins that have cleared the coin-mech simply bounce over the top and go down a chute into the box below – from which they’ll NEVER RETURN.

Thus one can ONLY win what’s in the tube. And after a while, that’s YOUR OWN MONEY.

But what ABOUT that payout? Well, all machines have a “payout percentage” (which sounds better than a KEEP percentage). This is determined by local gaming laws, etc. – but it will NEVER be more than 100% (if it was, the machine would run out of money, unless some philanthropist was refilling it around the back).

And this payout percentage is the key to the whole thing. Typically, it will be around 95%. This means the machine KEEPS 5% of YOUR MONEY. But how does it do this?

On a mechanical one, this is determined by the symbols. Say a machine has three wheels. If each wheel had nine plums and one cherry – and three cherries was the sole winner – your payout percentage would be 0.1% (one in 10×10×10 – a thousand). And if it had five of each, it would pay out 12.5% (one in 2×2×2 – eight).

Of course, the actual machines are FAR more complicated than that, with a VARIETY of symbols and winning combinations – and THEIR percentage takes some SERIOUS maths to compute. But once computed, the payout percentage is guaranteed.

At least it is – in the LONG TERM.

However, therein lies the inducement to PLAY these things. Because as in life, you will get winning and losing STREAKS. If this were not the case, the payout tubes would only need to be an inch tall – and people would get BORED just steadily losing their hard-earned cash.

But the streaks experienced by players of mechanical machines tend to be a tad short – so enter the ELECTRONIC machine. In addition to “features” – like nudging the wheels to a win, holding wheels that look favourable and using what skill you have (which booze doesn’t improve) to stop a set of flashing lights in the right place – it’s programmed with LONG STREAKS.

Basically, every time the wheels go round, the computer calculates how much it has paid out during the last, say, one hundred games. Now it knows what it is SUPPOSED to pay out as a percentage, so let us say that percentage is 95%. Well, once the percentage descends to, say, 93% – it gets GENEROUS.

First, it will give the player a CHANCE at a big win, using one of its features. However, if the player is too dumb (or drunk) to take advantage of the chance – after a few more games, it will just come UP with winning combinations. This will continue until the percentage has climbed to, say, 97% – then it’ll get MEAN.

Of course, in between these winning streaks, it’ll continue to pop out the occasional small win, in order to retain the punter’s interest.

Furthermore, the sensors on the payout tubes will monitor the height of the coin-stack, to ensure it has sufficient money to pay OUT a big win.

Oh, and the sliders that shoot the payout coins off the bottoms of the stacks  – and the metal trays the coins land in – make PLENTY of noise to give potential punters the impression the machine has gone CRAZY with payouts. These are generally far louder than the groans of the punters as they watch their hard-earned disappear.

So, to return to the question at the top of this piece, how DO you beat ’em?

Well, you become a “LURKER”. This term is familiar to regular slot-players, but for those unfamiliar with the business, I’ll explain…

As I’ve said, whether the machine in question is a mechanical or electronic example, it’ll have STREAKS. Longer ones on the electronic versions. And what Lurkers do is keep an eye on the other punters and wait for one to hit a long LOSING STREAK – then run out of MONEY. Or change.

Then, when the punter gives up – or goes in search of more change – they POUNCE. They play the machine until it hits its next winning streak, then play it until the streak ends.

And it WORKS. Of course, if the punter just went in search of change and returns to find you winning all his MONEY… well… while you are within your RIGHTS, it really depends on how BIG he is.

Oh, one last thing. I once knew a barman who worked in a club where they had a machine which – every few days, when its computer had determined the 50p coin-tube was full – would pay a £100 jackpot.

And by keeping an eye on it as he worked, he had a pretty fair idea when it was “READY”. Of course, he had to allow it to pay out to punters SOMETIMES – but still, overall, the machine enhanced his salary by around 50%!


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