Do Slot Machines Operate on a Cycle?

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row of slot machines

We received a lengthy comment from a reader with all sorts of assertions about slots. But we’re going to focus on the first paragraph only, since that’s more than enough for the purposes of today’s Casino Myths post.

There’s no such thing [as a random number generator]. Computers can’t generate random numbers because computer programs run off algorithms. Algorithms work in set ways – you can have a long list of numbers but eventually they’ll always repeat because the algorithm’s a loop. You can actually Google that – which will tell you I’m right on that!

Chris B.

We’ve stated elsewhere around here that although the industry jargon talks about a Random Number Generator, or RNG, technically the correct term is pseudo random, because it’s created by a human and not naturally random as it occurs in nature.

But while that is true, you take a logical leap in stating that because it was created by a human, it must be a loop instead… and that’s not true. The article you linked in your assertion doesn’t say that at all.

The algorithms that make up a random number generator don’t cycle on a loop – by design, they don’t follow any pattern, whether truly random or pseudo random. And your assertion that an algorithm isn’t a long set of numbers isn’t an accurate depiction of what an algorithm is either, which is a formula, not a list.

The reason why we focused on the first paragraph alone is that if you attempt to build a house on a faulty foundation, it’s likely to collapse. That was, effectively, the case here.

For the purposes of a slot machine, a pseudo random number generator gets the job done – it’s sufficiently random that any of the outcomes is possible at any point, and over time will come out roughly the same number of times, given enough plays. It aligns with statistical sampling that would ensure it’s good enough relative to truly random number generation. 

And in turn, that ensures the game is fair to a player and not rigged. (Coincidentally this response was submitted on an article asking if if slots are rigged.)

Players tend to protest because they know this game is designed to make money for the casino, and they expect it twists in all sorts of ways to wring out money for the casino. It doesn’t have to. That structure – all the outcomes are equally possible – and the design of the game – some payout percentage of the overall amount taken in – will get the job done without any additional difficulty.

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