John Grochowski

John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski John Grochowski

Rick and Ellen are slot players who are friends of friends. I see them two or three times a year at group outings, but they’re always ready to talk slots.

The last group get-together was on a Friday in early June. Rick and Ellen were psyched for a casino visit the next night, and they asked if my wife and I wanted to come along. I declined, noting their casino of choice is really crowded on Saturday nights. My favorite times to play are mornings on weekdays, when I can move freely and pick my own games.

“You’re missing the best part then,” Rick said. “The crowded times are when all the jackpots happen.”

Ellen chimed in, “I usually don’t like big crowds, but the casino does seem more exciting when there are a lot of people.”

Ellen’s point is well-taken. The atmosphere and energy in a busy casino can be something special, although my personal preference is for quieter times.

As for Rick, I asked, “Do you think watching others collect jackpots adds to the excitement?”

Rick replied, “Yes, it’s fun when there are lot of jackpots around you. Besides, it just feels luckier. I just don’t get that winning feeling when there aren’t so many people.

“A busy casino equals jackpots. An empty casino equals no jackpots. It’s that simple.”

I wished them both luck. If the casino feels more exciting to them when it’s crowded, that’s when they should go. But if they think the presence of other players increases their own chances of winning big, they’re mistaken.

There are more jackpots when more people are playing, but that’s because there are more players, more spins and more chances at a big payoff. For individual players, the chances of hitting a big jackpot are the same regardless of how many others are playing.

Let’s make up a hypothetical situation. Imagine a casino filled with slot machines that pay their top jackpot an average of once per 10,000 spins. Results are random, so it’s possible for the jackpot combination to show up two spins in a row, or not at all for 20,000, 50,000, 100,000 or even more spins.

On a slow Wednesday morning, 100 people are playing, each playing for 1,000 spins. In all, there are 100,000 spins. With average results for these machines, we could expect about 10 jackpots. Depending on where you are in the casino, you might or might not see a player win big.

On a busy Saturday night, 1,500 people each play 1,000 spins. There are 1.5 million spins, which with average results would yield 150 jackpots. Those 150 jackpots come in the space as the 10 jackpots when there are fewer players and more empty machines, so there’s a lot better chance you’ll witness a big win or two or three.

With all those big jackpots, the lights and sound effects from the machines and the hubbub with slot attendants, supervisors and security guards paying off the big winners, it will feel as though there’s a whole lot of winning on the busier night.

But notice that whether the numbers are 10 jackpots for 100 players or 150 jackpots for 1,500 players, it’s still an average of one jackpot per 10 players. The notion that there’s a better chance to win on busier nights is an illusion.

Real world conditions vary. Not all slots within a casino have the same jackpot frequency, many paying a lot less often than once per 10,000 spins.

But the principle remains the same. There are more jackpots on crowded nights, but the individual players' chances remain the same regardless of crowd size.

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