I am Dave Plummer, a retired operating systems engineer from Microsoft dating back to the MS-DOS and Windows 95 days. Recently, I hit the jackpot, both literally and figuratively! I managed to take a video of the secret service and configuration menus of an active slot machine right on the casino floor after winning the top progressive jackpot on that machine, and I secretly recorded the whole thing, including cool details like the machine’s payout percentage, total drop, coin in, coin out, and so on.
So how did I do it? Well, this weekend I was at a casino with my wife and some friends. I was playing max bet on a Mardi Gras themed machine known as Spin Big Galaxy when I got the bonus wheel. It’s a good thing too, as I was about to walk away after losing what felt like 9 out of 10 games. I spun the wheel, and for the first time in my life, it landed on the MAJOR award – the top progressive jackpot for that bank of machines. How much? Well, good news bad news. The good news is that it paid 675,166 credits. The bad news is that those credits were just pennies because I’m a cheap bastard, and it was a penny slot. Still, that works out to $6,751 and 66 cents, so I’m not complaining at all.
But what happened next was even better, at least for me, at least in some ways. As you may or may not be aware, you have to pay income tax on any gambling winnings, including slot machine payouts. Now the onus is on you to accurately keep track of your win-loss ledger and report it on your tax return. But in the event you get a payout of $1200 or more, the IRS really wants to make sure that you don’t forget. Any time something happens on a slot machine that pays $1200 or more, the machine goes into what’s known as Jackpot Lockup. This isn’t when you cash out; this is right when you hit the win. You sit there and do your happy dance and wish you could find a waitress for a drink while you eagerly wait for a slot machine attendant to do three things: First, they come over and verify the win. Next, they verify your identity and your social and your income tax status to see if they have to hold taxes back right then and there. Finally, they give you your jackpot, or what remains of it after any withholdings, in good old cash along with an IRS form to file with your annual return to claim the income. Then they count out your pile of cash right there at the machine.
What made this little adventure different, however, is what happened when they came over to verify the win. Normally, a pair of slot people will come over. One validates the win while the other checks your ID and so on. This time around was different for some reason, and only one person came. Better yet, when they went to verify the win, they navigated through the entire set of configuration and payout menus looking for whatever it is they were trying to find. This was all information that the public never gets to see. Everything right down to the win percentage was right there on the screen for a nerd like me to totally geek out on. But how was I going to remember at all? I did what any reasonable man would do. I pulled out my cell phone and recorded the whole thing right over her shoulder without her even noticing.
I have spent a good amount of time in big Vegas casinos, and one thing that's always been evident is the massive security in the form of cameras, or at least domes that could contain cameras, about every six feet in every direction. Even if the security is discreet, you'll notice that they wander around continually. The casinos are sensitive about cameras being used within the premises, and they don't encourage people to take photos, especially at games or of employees working on those games. This is especially true when they are deep in the secret accounting menus.
Once, I almost got ejected for taking a still photo of the big screen showing all their sports odds. Therefore, I'm not going to ramble on about this, but I'll just show you the video and pause it at interesting parts to point out some of the cooler things that it revealed. After the slot inspection, you should hang on until I tell you what happened during the cash payout. My wife poured a drink on a screaming little old lady who I was sure was about to roll me and take my winnings, but more about that later!
When I started filming, I immediately noticed that I couldn't see the text clearly, so I switched to the 2x lens on my iPhone. This helped a great deal, and now I could see everything crisply.
Slot settings menu
At the top, we have a bunch of boring asset tag and accounting information. It doesn't get interesting until right below that, where we see the ticket in limit and the ticket payout limit both set to three thousand dollars. This means that if you had a ticket, the biggest one you could get or carry around in this casino is three thousand dollars. After that, you have to go to the cage. The IRS win limit is set to 1199.99, which means that if you win 1200 or more, you need to stop the machine, and that's what goes into the jackpot lockup and requires the attendant to come over.
Below that, there is the credit meter limit, and I'm not quite sure what that is. Perhaps one of the more interesting statistics is the percentage 92.5. I assume that is the payback amount, so for every dollar that comes in, 92.5 cents are generally paid back out. That's a terrible win percentage for a slot machine in this day and age. Normally on the strip, you can get up to as high as 98, with 96 being more normal. So 92.5 is not a great ratio.
Up in the versions tab, we can find some information about the game itself. I actually googled around for a spinbiggalaxyv6bmm.xc and a number of other file names just like it, but I could not find anything. So I was kind of disappointed. I was hoping I was going to find a copy, but if I knew the exact file name, I would have been able to find one somewhere, but it looks like this machine actually supports a multi-game menu as well, even though there's only one game, so it probably never shows the multi-game menu.
Secret slot event log tab
At the very top of the screen, we can see hand pay IRS limit exceeded. That is the machine telling us that it has to make a payout to the player that's me that exceeds the 1200, which is the limit. Before that, about seven minutes before that, I inserted my ticket, but I forgot how much it was worth. It was not the thousand and four that you see; that was somebody cashing out about 27 minutes before I arrived at that machine, so it was idle for about 27 minutes.
I saw all the other idle gaps and what other people inserted 100 bill in. However, I was not sure why it doesn't validate the amount of the ticket that you insert or it doesn't log that in the event log. I found that a little weird because I would expect it of anything. If it's going to log dollars, it should also log tickets, but maybe it does it elsewhere. I guess that there is a voucher tab that we never see, and that's where it is. The attendant was not seeing what she needs here, so she was going to fumble around until she finally changed us over to the counters page.
Slot counters page
Next, I saw that the accounting denomination is one cent, and I guessed that might be distinguished from other currencies because in the machine, you can specify whether you want to play one cent, two cents, three cents, or five cents per hand. Unfortunately, I was playing one cent, but you can change it in-game, and I don't think the change is here. That is basically what is the unit of currency here.
In the game meters section, I saw coin in and coin out. That tells us basically how much the machine has received and how much is paid out. The difference which is about 115,000 would be their profit. Total drop right below that is the amount that people have actually put into the machine. I believe it's cash and vouchers probably combined. Voters in and vouchers out tells us how much the people have put in using the prepaid tickets that you get out of the machine instead of the coins that you used to get at one time, and vouchers out is essentially the tokens or coinage that has gone out built-in.
I saw that the machine's only taking $1,461 in cash, which doesn't make any sense to me. More interesting is the games one versus games lost: 407 thousand games lost to 181,000 games won, quite a difference.
Game recall tab
In the game recall ledger tab, I saw my last seven games, which I lost all but one of before finally winning the wheel bonus of 6751.66 to yield me back some number 7863 dollars and 36 cents.
Next, I saw that because they debit you the number of credits that they hand pay you, the full 6751.66, although I don't remember getting any pennies. Oh no, I saw they roll over there to the next credit, which goes to 1111.70. So that's the final amount because they back out the hand pay amount, and that's not carried through into the balance. The delta between that 1116.20 and the 1111.70 is the game price of $4.50 a poll, which was the max bet at one cent.
I saw that this screen appears to be some basic accounting of my game in my session, the game name is here progressive no. That's because this is not really tied into a big set of multiple machines that are all linked together. This is actually just independent machines that look like they are progressive. That's hard to explain, but they have a major prize that goes up and down up on the top of the machine, even though they're not networked and linked together to share prize information. So not technically a progressive machine but it acts like one, and that's why it had a jackpot. A huge number of games played on this machine: 11 million 881,897 games. These were not just people walking up to the machine, but actual button taps. I was intrigued and decided to investigate further.
After examining the machine, I noticed that the bingo card id looked like a 128-bit grid, which was probably randomly generated to ensure uniqueness across time and space. It was interesting to learn that in some jurisdictions, such as Native American reservations, bingo was required to be played because gambling was allowed.
I showed a sample bingo card, which was a five by five grid with eight balls of bingo. I admitted to having no idea how to win at bingo, as it didn't apply in my jurisdiction. At this point, the video abruptly ended because I had to put my camera away.
I took great care not to identify the specific casino where I found the machine. While this video was somewhat technical and outside the scope of my usual content, I thought it would be fascinating to share with others.
Q: How does a slot machine work?
A: A slot machine is a popular gambling game that operates on chance. It works by spinning reels with various symbols on them, and when the reels stop spinning, the symbols line up in a particular pattern. If the symbols match a winning combination, the player wins a payout.
The slot machine is powered by a computer program called a random number generator (RNG), which determines the outcome of each spin. The RNG produces random numbers at a high rate of speed, and these numbers are used to determine the position of the reels.
When the player inserts a coin or pushes a button to start the game, the RNG selects a random number, which corresponds to a particular position of the reels. The reels then spin and come to a stop, displaying the symbols on the payline.
The payouts for each winning combination are predetermined by the game's software and displayed on the machine's paytable. The amount of the payout depends on the size of the bet and the specific combination of symbols that appear on the payline.
Overall, slot machines are designed to be entertaining and easy to play, with the outcome of each spin determined entirely by chance.
Q: Can slot machines be controlled?
A: No, slot machines are designed to be completely random and cannot be controlled by anyone, including the casino or the player. Each spin of the reels is determined by a random number generator (RNG) chip, which ensures that the outcome is unpredictable and fair.
Q: Are slot machines 100% random?
A: Yes, slot machines are programmed to be completely random, meaning that every spin has an equal chance of winning or losing. The random number generator (RNG) chip ensures that the outcome of each spin is entirely independent of the previous spin, and the casino has no way of predicting or controlling the results.
Q: Is there a secret to winning on slot machines?
A: No, there is no secret or guaranteed way to win on a slot machine. Since each spin is entirely random, the outcome is based on chance and luck. However, there are some strategies that can help players maximize their chances of winning, such as playing machines with higher payout percentages and setting a budget and sticking to it.
Q: Are slot machines programmed when to hit?
A: No, slot machines are not programmed to hit at a particular time or after a certain number of spins. The random number generator (RNG) chip ensures that each spin is entirely random and independent of the previous spin. Therefore, the timing of a win or a loss is purely based on chance and luck.