Wheel of Fortune remains tops in slots in Nevada
September 03, 2013 3:00 AM
by David Newstead
Originally created in 1986, the fantastic Wheel of Fortune slot machine has been at the top of the Las Vegas slot machine food chain for a number of years. What is the secret behind this machine’s success?
The Wheel of Fortune series from IGT is one of the most successful ranges of games in the history of slot machines. There are a number of different machines in the series that are modeled on other classic IGT slots, such as the Double Diamond Wheel of Fortune and the Five Times Pay Wheel of Fortune.
Each of these machines takes a little of every credit spent on their reels and siphons it off into a huge, ever-growing jackpot. Even though the odds of hitting this astronomical prize are believed to be around 50 million to 1 – the actual numbers are a closely guarded IGT trade secret – this doesn’t stop hordes of players taking a spin on this game.
When compared to other casino games such as blackjack and roulette, which boast payback percentages of over 95%, the Wheel of Fortune machines seem a bit tight, offering players a return of around 80% – one of the worst returns in the casino.
However, this fact does little to stop players from spinning the reels of these machines, with the Wheel of Fortune series taking in more money than any other casino slot in Las Vegas for the latter part of 2012.
Most of these games offer some kind of special Wheel of Fortune-based bonus round. Sometimes this is in the form of an actual physical wheel that sits on top of the machine’s cabinet. When the player hits the bonus round, they get to spin this wheel, which generally pays out a straight cash amount.
There are advanced versions of this bonus round on some of the Wheel of Fortune video slots that give players the chance to spin multiple wheels where they can hit both cash amounts and multipliers, ramping up the excitement and prizes available from this kind of simple feature.
All of the Wheel of Fortune slot machines have to be played at the maximum bet level if players want to win the progressive jackpot. Take for instance the Double Diamond Wheel of Fortune game, which is normally 25 cents per coin.
If you want to stand a chance of winning the game’s top prize, you have to play three coins – 75 cents, to qualify. There are a number of apocryphal stories often whispered in the slots palaces of Las Vegas that tell the tale of a player who played a Double Diamond Wheel of Fortune game at the one-coin level and hit the three symbols necessary to win the big progressive prize.
Of course, they were only paid out the regular Double Diamond jackpot in heart-breaking fashion. The Wheel of Fortune slots use the same technology as the Megabucks games and IGT’s brand of online progressive slot machines, the Megajackpots slots.
When slots used complex mechanical systems to govern their spins and payouts, it simply wasn’t possible for games to offer huge jackpots. That’s not to say the brains behind Las Vegas gaming technology didn’t try. They actually came up with a machine known as Big Bertha, which used eight reels with 20 symbols on each.
The problem with this machine was that the probability of any player hitting the jackpot was around 1 billion to 1, so even if one assumes players could hit the jackpot within 500 million spins, this still lacks the frequency to keep the attention of an action hungry public.
Fortunately, the computer age changed all of this when a Bally engineer by the name of Inge Telnaes created the virtual reel, which allowed developers to fine tune the odds offered by slot machines. This led to the creation of Megabucks, the first-ever wide area network progressive slot.
This type of game using a number of terminals, sometimes as many as a hundred, allows multiple players to spin its reels simultaneously while vying for the huge jackpot on offer.
It is even possible for two players to hit the jackpot at the same time, which can cause complications for casinos. They have to work out which player hit the winning combination first, paying them the big jackpot, with the unlucky player receiving the seed amount – the figure the jackpot is when the game hasn’t collected any extra value from player’s spins.
Aside from the fact this slot machine series is linked to one of the most successful American game-shows of all time, according to many players one of the biggest reasons for its success is the anticipation it creates when players are spinning its reels. Many Wheel of Fortune regulars say they like dreaming about what they would do with such a titanic windfall of cash.
It is this dream that makes the machine such a hit with the Las Vegas gambling audience, as no other game offers people the chance to change their life for such a small stake, without having to have any expert knowledge that might be required to win similar amounts from sports betting or the outrageous stakes one would need to accrue such wealth from a few hands of baccarat or spins on the roulette wheel.
Online slots players who are looking for a big money progressive game experience can get a taste of what it is like to spin for astronomical jackpots on IGT’s famous Megajackpots slots, which take the base games from titles like Cleopatra, Cluedo and Monopoly and give them the big cash treatment.
However, if they are after something a bit more in line with the Wheel of Fortune titles, there are a couple of machines they can try, including Wheel of Fortune – Hollywood Edition, which has its own in-play progressive mechanism and Wheel of Fortune – Triple Action Frenzy with its multiplier-heavy base game.
Both these machines are much more focused on conventional video slot bonus rounds as opposed to big out-of-this-world jackpots, so the only real place you can get your teeth into the big money action of the real Wheel of Fortune games is in the slot palaces of Las Vegas.
AUTHOR BIO: David Newstead is a keen player of Las Vegas slot machines and makes a couple of trips to the Nevada gaming destination every year, where he enjoys researching the latest games for his numerous trade articles and his website, www.slotsonline.co.uk. Contact us at Publisher@GamingToday.com.