People often believe that a slot machine or video lottery terminal that has not paid out for a long while becomes ‘due’ to pay out. This belief can lead a person to continue to gamble for long periods of time while awaiting the expected big payoff to come.
Machines programmed to be random, however, never become ‘due’ no matter how long the interval between substantial pay outs.
Each time you pull a slot machine handle you have exactly the same odds of winning as you did on ever other occasion that handle was ever pulled.
These machines are programmed using random number generators. These generators produce millions of number combinations and thousands of these number combinations cycle past every second. The results that pop up on the screen depend on the number combination that rolls over at the split second that you press the bet button.
No matter how long the machine has gone since paying out, you have the same odds of hitting a ‘big payday’ sequence of numbers from the random number generator chip as you did on every other bet.*1
The Gambler’s Fallacy
Over the long term, over thousands and thousands of spins, a coin will land heads 50% of the time and tails 50% of the time, and a roulette wheel will pay red as often as it pays black.
Over the short term, however, things are not so stable.
When betting on something with a fixed probability, like a coin toss, a slot machine or most forms of casino wagering, past events do not influence future outcomes.
The roulette wheel does not remember that it just landed on black 5 times in a row and when it's set spinning again, it has exactly the same odds to land on black or red as it did in the 5 preceding spins.2
You Don’t Have a System
If you gamble, do it only as a recreational pastime and never bet more than you can afford to lose.
Remember that no machines ever come ‘due’ to pay, and that in a casino, no matter how many times a past event has occurred, future events are not affected.
Page last updated Sep 09, 2010