Online Slots and the Random Number Generator

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As a slot machines player, you’ve probably heard the acronym RNG or the term Random Number Generator, but do you really know what it stands for?

By understanding the origin of RNG and how it works, you will have better chances of winning at online slots in Canada, especially since you will also be aware of concepts such as Hit Frequency, Return-to-Player (RTP) and High and Low Volatility. Finally, you will also learn a little trick to beat the RNG.

The Random Number Generator on mechanical slot machines

Ever since the invention of the slot machine in the late eighteen hundreds, a random number generator has been guaranteeing the perfect unpredictability of the game to its players.

At first, the mechanical slot machine was made of physical reels, which were equipped with stops, each marked with a different symbol.  The symbols and their positions would then make a losing or winning combination. On mechanical slot machines, the gambler would insert a coin in the slot and then press the handle. The machine would then set itself in motion, triggering three spring-powered mechanisms called the hook, the kicker and the control scam. These mechanisms controlled the speed (control scam), the force (kicker) and the moment (hook) at which the reels were released from their secure position, and the position they would stop at.

The randomness in the sequence of symbols was already ensured back then but the space limitations of the reels made the probability of having a winning combination pretty high. For example, the probability of hitting the jackpot on a classic 3-reel slot game with 5 paylines  was about 1 in 1000.

This might seem great, but this high probability also meant that the jackpot was rather low.

What is the computerized Random Number Generator or RNG?

In 1976, Fortune Coin released the first video slot machine. This innovation was followed by the first computerized Random Number Generator in 1984, which was quickly adopted by all slot machine manufacturers and is still in use today, in both land-based and online casinos.

But how does the Random Number Generator work?

The RNG is a computer component called a microprocessor that constantly generates numbers, determining the symbols the reels will stop on. As said before, the random number generator is continually conceiving new series, working 24/7 even when no one is playing. At the exact millisecond the player inserts his coin and presses the button, a random combination of numbers will construct the series of symbols that will appear on screen, determining if the spin was a losing or winning one. The microprocessor is always crunching several billions of numbers and dividing them by using an algorithm – whose accuracy is checked by the Casino Control Board. The RNG creates an incredible amount of possible combinations per second, and today the probability of hitting the jackpot at a slot machine is significantly lower than it used to be.

However, that is an advantage as it also allowed casinos to greatly increase the jackpot, whether the slot machine has a “flat-top slot” (fixed-top prize) or a progressive jackpot.

What is the Hit Frequency?

The player might see on the slot machine - land-based or online - an indication of the hit frequency (or hit rate). The hit frequency represents how often, on average, a winning combination will appear on screen. So, for example, if an online slot machine with 20 paylines has a hit frequency of 9%, it will stop on a winning combination about 9% of the time, per payline. Given that the slot game has 20 paylines, the 9% hit rate would apply to all of them. Gamblers might find slot games with high frequency more attractive but in reality the winnings, although frequent, are often less interesting than in games with lower rates.

Return-to-Player or RTP

The Return-to-player (or RTP, Payout Percentage or Payback Rate) is the amount of money that will return to the player when he plays on a slot machine. So when a gamblers wagers 10 CAD, and the slot machine has a 92% Return to Player rate, he will, on average, recover 92% of his wager, or 9.2 CAD.

In Canada, each jurisdiction has its own relevant authorities defining their own gambling laws and regulations. In Ontario for example, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation require a minimal 85% payback rate on all slots machines, but according to Gamesense, the average Canadian RTP is around 92%. Games with high RTP are always a must for an online casino, which is why Jackpot City has many online slot games in the high 90’s percentage.

High volatility and low volatility slots

Another term gamblers might stumble upon is high and low volatility (or variance). It refers to the type of risk incurred when playing the slot machine, whether online or land-based. High volatility is used to refer to high-risk slot games. On these slot games, the gambler will obtain rare but large winning combinations. Usually, these types of slot machines are chosen by players with a lot of time and an important bankroll. Highly popular with all kinds of players, slot machines with medium volatility have average levels of risk, requiring small wagers and offering the possibility of large prizes. Low volatility represents low amounts of risks. The payouts are frequent but low or medium-sized.

Is it possible to manipulate the RNG?

Contrarily to many gamblers beliefs, slots machines don’t reward diligent players and do not know if the player has been there for hours or seconds. Slot machines players that understand winning probabilities might still believe that if the chance of winning on the first round was 1 in a 1000, the second round’s probability will somehow be 1 in 999. But as we saw with the Random Number Generator, each spin is completely independent of the last.

However, there might be a way to “trick” the slot machine: if you happen to be on a losing streak, instead of continuing to wager the same amount of money, you could increase your bet -as in doubling it, not raising it ten times- and play on all active paylines. By doing that, you increase your chance of recovering and even exceeding your initial wager.

Online casinos might have policies and maximum bet limits to avoid this kind of strategy, so please read their terms and conditions beforehand.

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