John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

Mary has played slot machines for more years than she cares to count.

“I was playing when all the slots were three reels, you pulled handles and were paid in coins that dropped out of the machine. I was playing when you had to wash your hands practically every hour or so. When you handled the coins to put them in a bucket to take to the change booth, you couldn’t help but to pick up the grime.”

It’s been nearly 40 years since Mary first played slots, but she says she recently found herself in a situation she’d never encountered before.

“I was playing a video slot progressive, one of the ones with four levels,” she said. “Out of nowhere, I won the second-highest level, worth $563.14. I was only betting 60 cents, 2 cents a line, so winning $500 made my stomach do flip flops.

“The woman next to me said, ‘You’re splitting that with me.’ I laughed and went back to my game, but she said, ‘I’m not kidding. That’s MY jackpot.’

“I told her I won it, so it was my jackpot, and she said, ‘But I built it. I was playing that machine for hours. That jackpot is my money.’

“She got so belligerent I finally cashed out and took my husband to a different part of the casino.”

Others have told me about being told, “You stole my jackpot!” after winning on a machine the other player had just left. Those stories are mainly about reel slots and video poker — this might be the first relayed to me about a video slot machine.

The base claim is nonsense, of course. Not only does the jackpot belong to the player who won it, but there is no guarantee the other player would have won had she stayed at the same game.

In Mary’s case, the prize she won was a mystery jackpot. I asked her about the “out of nowhere” phrase she used in describing her win, and she confirmed that she didn’t line up winning symbols. She got a message on the screen saying, “Congratulations! You have won GOLD jackpot. $563.14.”

Mystery jackpots work by having a random number generator set a target amount. A percentage of each wager is added to the jackpot until a player’s bet pushes the total to the target. In Mary’s case, the RNG selected $563.14 and her bet pushed the jackpot to that amount.

Such machines usually are linked progressives, which means all players at all machines in the bank contribute to the same jackpot. On the four-tier game Mary played, each bet on any of the linked machine helped build all four pots.

The player who preceded Mary did help build the jackpot. So did others. It’s the nature of progressive slots that the final jackpot is built by the play of many, with a percentage of each bet going into the pot until somebody wins it.

This player did not stop help building the jackpot when she changed machines. She was right next to Mary at another machine on the same progressive link. A portion of each of her bets continued to be funneled into all four progressive pots.

And since she was still playing on the same link, she was still eligible for the same jackpots. Even at a different machine, it could well have been her bet that pushed the pot to $563.14.

But it wasn’t her bet that did the trick. It was Mary’s, and the jackpot was all hers.

Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

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