Catch a ‘cold’ machine and cash in

Jun 12, 2006 3:05 AM

I hope everyone read the story in this week’s paper about the Megabucks winner, a 64-year-old retiree in Las Vegas.

What immediately caught my eye was how she played only $12 — four spins of the slot — before lining up the winning jackpot combination.

Have you ever noticed how these big winners frequently claim they hit the jackpot after playing for a very short while?

And, doesn’t it just rankle you how they never seem to invest more than a $10 bill or two?

Naturally, it’s frustrating to think someone can waltz into a casino, stumble up to a progressive machine and hit the top award before they can warm up the seat.

But, actually, their good fortune follows the scenario I’ve tried to duplicate by always "re-setting" the video keno machine.

Simply, I can state unequivocally that most of my major jackpots (IRS payoffs) have come within the first few games following a re-set.

By "re-set" I mean I’ve vacated the game I’m playing, return to the opening screen (with all the game options) and once again select the keno game I had been playing.

Sometimes, re-setting includes cashing out a ticket and reinserting it, or simply leaving the cash in the machine and playing again.

Also, it seldom includes re-marking my keno numbers. That would, in effect, be counter-productive to why I even re-set: The point is to begin anew, but using the same numbers.

Do I know why this seems to work? Not really. But I don’t think I would have hit the jackpots if I had just continued to play, over and over, plugging bills into the machine.

I don’t have concrete answers but I can speculate. First, let me backtrack a bit as to why I started to cash out and re-set the machine originally.

Years ago, I would play the same numbers, hoping and expecting that they would eventually "come to me," as they are supposed to, at least in a live keno game.

I found that I could sit there and play until I’d completely drained my bank accounts and never hit the top jackpot.

But after "giving up" and then returning to the same game with the same numbers, I found that the machine often "behaved" better by hitting numbers and combinations of numbers it incessantly avoided only seconds earlier.

Does this mean that the machine changed its payoff pattern or return percentage when the old game was ended?

I don’t know. But it sure seemed like it.

I once had someone contact me, claiming knowledge of how these machines actually work. He claimed that the "keno" game wasn’t really a keno game, but a simulated keno game that "played out" what the game’s computer had determined what was to be returned (in anything) to the player.

His point was that, if the computer was in a "dead" stage or the game had already paid out "too much" and needed to recover, then there was really nothing the player could do to change his luck.

It’s actually a scary thought that I haven’t entirely accepted, Maybe there’s a middle ground on which the game operates.

Maybe the computer behaves in a more random manner at the outset, but then lapses into a "take no prisoners" mode when it finds a player willing to play and lose nearly indefinitely.

Maybe one day we’ll know for sure how the keno machine works. But, remember, it took decades before it was revealed how "stepper" slot machines worked (a computer picks where the reels will stop).

In the meantime, let’s hope we all can catch a top award, after only four plays at $3 each!