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Reason I like Bovada #2:

Good Odds

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The odds are always against you when you gamble, so it pays to play at a casino that offers good odds. I spent some time looking for an online casino with good odds, and I found it in Bovada. Let me first tell you about the competition, though.

It's disappointing that most online casinos are greedy when setting the odds on their games. They think they'll make more money by setting the games tighter, so the player has less chance of winning, but they're wrong. Most gamblers eventually gamble away all their playing budget anyway. They're going to lose the same amount of money no matter what, the only question is how long it takes them to do so. And when they play at a tight casino and lose quickly, they're less likely to return.

A casino which offers good odds will make just as much money as a tight casino, because the players will usually gamble away whatever they deposit anyway, no matter what the odds. The only difference is that with better odds, they'll get to play longer before they go bust. And that means they had more fun in the process, and they're more likely to return.

Bovada is one of they few casinos that understands this. They offer games with good odds, knowing that if your money lasts longer, you'll be a happier, loyal customer. Among their offerings are:

  • Two blackjack games returning over 99.8%
  • Single-0 roulette
  • Full-pay Jacks or Better (99.54%)
  • Nine other video poker games returning over 99%

You don't have to play at Bovada, but wherever you play, make sure they offer odds at least this good!

All in all, I think Bovada is the best bet for U.S. players.

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Gambling Problem?
Call the 800-522-4700 hotline, and read this.

Also, know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling

Slot Machine Malfunctions

Players don't get the jackpot money they expected

August 2017

Like all machines, slot machines screw up sometimes.  Sometimes such a screwup makes the player think s/he's won a huge jackpot, which feels like a punch to the gut when s/he learns s/he didn't really win. 

There are generally two types of malfunctions that make players think they won.  With video slots, the machine shows a huge number of credits won, even though the player didn't land the jackpot symbols on the payline.  With electromechanical slots (with physical reels), the reels can accidentally land on symbols other than what the computer actually chose.

There are tons of examples of both.  And lucky for you, I've summarized them for you below.  As you read through, you'll notice that you keep seeing the same kind of malfunction over and over.  Because there aren't tons of ways for slots to screw up.  And if this happens to you, maybe you'll know better than to think you deserve an impossibly large payout that you didn't actually win.  On the other hand, it's certainly heartbreaking to be denied a large jackpot, and it's entirely appropriate to press the casino for meaningful compensation for giving you such a bad experience.

Payout display errors

Sometimes slot machines show an impossibly large number of credits won.  And I do mean impossibly large:  the number of credits shown as won is way larger than the actual top jackpot on the machine.  In most cases, the players didn't even line up the symbols in a winning combination for the top prize.  Cases like this are simply programming errors, which the game manufacturers will investigate and fix.

In situations like this, players don't get—and don't deserve—the big payout.  It's like if a craps dealer mistakenly said you won $5000 when you'd won only $500, you're certainly not entitled to the $5000 just because the dealer misspoke.  A display error on a slot machine is just the machine version of a dealer misstating the payout.

Some players might wonder, "If these slot malfunctions happen, how can I trust the game at all?  How do I know that it's not ripping me off all the time.?"  It's a fair question.  The answer is that the random number generator (RNG), the heart of the machine, is completely separate from the part that controls how many credits are displayed.  The RNG is subjected to rigorous testing by the game manufacturer, and, in most cases, by the governmental agency that regulates gameplay in whatever jurisdiction the game operates.  Further, both the casino and the agency can run diagnostics on demand to test the RNG and other aspects of the game.  In short, the occasional display error doesn't suggest that the overall game itself is faulty.

Below are some examples of machines telling players they won more than they actually did.

Katrina Bookman's machine told her she'd won a whopping $42.9 million.  That would have been the largest slot machine jackpot in U.S. history were it actually legitimate.  As a computer programmer, I can tell you exactly where the winning jackpot figure came from: Computers work off multiples of 2, and 2 to the 32nd power is 4,294,967,296. Put in decimal for the cents, and you get $42,949,672.96, almost exactly the amount shown in Ms. Bookman's selfie.  (Yes, her selfie shows 20¢ less than that; she probably gambled away 20¢ before realizing that the machine was telling her she had $42.9 million in credits waiting.  The $42,949,672.96 power of two is so close to the $42,949672.76 displayed on the machine that clearly this is the source of the malfunction.)  Then question then becomes, of course, what caused the machine to display that amount?  The answer is that there's simply some kind of error in the programming code.

While it's clear that Bookman didn't really win, the casino's reported offer to Ms. Bookman was ridiculous: a free steak dinner.  Really?  After delivering the soul-crushing news that she hadn't really won multiple millions of dollars, the casino could have, and should have, offered her much, much more.  She's suing, and doesn't have any realistic chance of winning, but the negative attention might convince the casino to simply give the player the reasonable compensation they should have offered in the first place. Aug. 2016, Resorts World, Jamaica, Queens, NY  (CNN)

Veronica Castillo had a decent spin on the Jurassic Riches machine (see picture at right), which should have paid 210 credits.  Instead, the machine said she'd won 171,787,374 credits, which on her 5¢ machine would be $8.6 million dollars!  The top jackpot available on the machine is only $20,000, and based on the number of lines and credits Castillo was playing, the most she could have won was $6000.  Lucky Eagle Casino in Rochester, WA, 11/2/15 (Daily Mail, Lucky Eagle's statement)

Behar Merlaku lined up only four of the five jackpot symbols on his machine, but the slot told him he'd won $58 million.  More specifically, it told him he'd won 43 million euros.  If that number looks familiar, it should: it's the same as in Ms. Bookman's case above (and in Mr. K's case below), and the result of the same kind of programming error.  This amount isn't just more than the biggest jackpot ever won, and isn't just more than the actual top payout of the machine, in this case it's actually more than typically allowed by Austrian law, which is two million euros.  Despite this, as with almost every other case, the player insisted on getting paid the full amount and filed a lawsuit. Bregenz casino, Austria • March 26, 2011 (Yahoo News, Daily Mail)

Louise Chavez had the fortune of her slot telling her she'd won $42.9 million dollars.  And then the devastation to hear from a casino employee that the machine had simply malfunctioned and she hadn't really won at all.  The $42.9 million figure is a common one in cases like this; see the Katrina Bookman story above for an explanation of how that specific number comes up when a machine suffers this particular type of glitch.  Of note, this is one of the rare cases in which the player didn't sue the casino. Fortune Valley Casino, Central City, CO (ABC News)

Bill Seebeck was playing Bally Ultimate Party Spin when it told him he'd won $167M.  Which is absurd, since that's four times the largest slot jackpot in U.S. history.  The max payout on Seebeck's machine is only $99,000, and only $2500 for the $1.50 per spin that he was playing.  Hard Rock Casino, Tampa, FL • Nov. 1, 2009 (Sun Sentinel)

The slot that Ly Sam was playing told him he'd won $55 million.  As per usual, this is not only more than the actual top jackpot on the machine ($46,000 or $95,000, depending on which article you believe), it's more than any jackpot ever won on any slot machine, ever.  It doesn't seem that the player actually lined up the jackpot symbols, because the few articles I found made no mention of the symbols.  As usual, the player sued, and in a surprising move, the court ordered that the player be paid.  The casino of course appealed, but I can't find any further information about this case, probably because it's not being covered much if at all in the English-language press.  Sheraton Hotel, Sept. 25, 2009   (Talk Vietnam, South China Vietnam Post)

Twice, a video poker machine told a certain player that he'd won a million dollars.  Unfortunately for him, the top prize on the machine was $40,000.  As a result of the glitch, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corp. shut down all 296 of its video poker games while the gaming commission investigated.  The player was paid $1000 and $4000 for his wins.  Rideau Carleton Raceway, Ottawa, Canada • June 2009  (The Star)

Paul Kusznirewicz's "Buccaneer" machine said he'd won an incredible $42.9 million prize.  You'll remember that number from two of the cases above, meaning it's the result of the same kind of programming error.  Anyway, the top prize in Mr. K's machine was only $9,025.  News reports don't give a lot more details about this particular case. Georgian Downs Casino in Innisfil, Ontario, Canada, Dec. 8, 2008  (The Star)

Gary Hoffman thought he won $1.6M on the slot machine he was playing, because that's what the slot told him.  As usual in cases like this, he ignored the fact that he didn't even line up a winning combination, as well as the fact that the top payout on the machine he was playing was only $2500.  And as usual, he sued in district court.  And as usual, he lost.  (The court dismissed the suit.)  He appealed to the NM Court of Appeals, which upheld the decision of the lower court.  He then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.  Usually the player loses in court because the casino has evidence of a malfunction, but in this case, the casino was owned by a Native American tribe, which can't be sued because it has sovereign immunity.  As one attorney said, "You can't sue the state of New Mexico in Texas."  Sandia Casino, NM • Mystical Mermaid by IGT • Aug. 16, 2006  (Albuquerque Journal, ABC News)

Mechanical Errors

With video slots, the common malfunction is that the machine shows a bunch of credits won, even when the player didn't line up the jackpot symbols.  With electro-mechanical (physical-reel) slots it's the opposite: the jackpot symbols line up, but the machine says the player won nothing, or just a small amount.  In these cases, the computer inside the machine has chosen the combination to be displayed, but for whatever reason, the physical reels don't actually display what the computer chose.

The typical reasons this happens is because the coin or bill acceptor is jammed, or the machine thinks someone's trying to open the cash door.  When that happens, the reels will either stop immediately (rather than stopping on the combination the computer chose), or spin backwards until the error is cleared, where again, they'll stop suddenly, and not on the combo chosen by the computer.  When the reels stop suddenly, it's possible that the jackpot symbols might happen to all land on the payline.  But if so, that's just a side effect of the sudden shutdown; the reels didn't stop where they were supposed to stop.

Las Vegas butcher Joe Pepitone thought he won $463,895 on a slot by lining up the jackpot symbols.  In fact, the coin acceptor was jammed, so the slot went into error mode, spinning the reels backwards until the machine could be reset, at which point the jackpot symbols happened to line up.  But that wasn't the combination chosen by the computer when Pepitone pressed the spin button.  He filed a claim with the gaming commission, which ruled against him.  He then filed a case in district court, which also gave him no relief.  He appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, which yet again sided with the casino.  Arizona Charlies, Las Vegas • Nevada Nickels slot by IGT • Oct. 1997  (Las Vegas Sun, 2000, 2001)

Cengiz Sengel had a similar experience.  The bill acceptor signaled that the cash door was open, so the machine shut down immediately, causing the three jackpot symbols to be displayed on the payline.  After the casino refused to pay the $1.8 million jackpot, Sengel took the Nevada Supreme Court, which ruled against him. Reno, 1996  (Las Vegas Sun)

No winning combo AND no payout display error

In the cases above, the player either lined up the jackpot symbols, or the machine told them they'd won.  But there's a third situation in which neither happens, but the player still thinks s/he won anyway.  Here are some cases like that.

Nov. 16, 1997 • $509k jackpot • Grand Bucks slot.  Very similar to the 4/8/95 and 10/14/95 cases below.  A player thought he won the progressive jackpot, the casino said he didn't, and the state gaming commission sided with them  The player appealed to a Mississippi court, which sided with the player because the casino had foolishly destroyed the evidence.  The casino appealed to the MS Supreme Court, which sided with the player and ordered that he be paid, probably because the court was getting tired of all these cases in which casinos failed to properly preserve evidence.  Note, the court didn't argue that the player had legitimately won the jackpot (they noted that he likely had lined up only two jackpot symbols).  Instead, the casino simply screwed itself by failing to safeguard the evidence.  David Hallmark, Grand Casino Biloxi, MS  (FindLaw, I. Nelson Rose)

Oct. 14, 1995 • $2.7M jackpot • Cool Millions slot.  Extremely similar to the 4/8/95 case below, right down to the brand of slot machine:  A player said he lined up the jackpot symbols, the casino said he didn't.  The Mississippi Gaming Commission sided with the casino.  The player appealed to a court of law, and after losing there, appealed to the MS Supreme Court, which also sided with the casino, but which again reprimanded the casino for spoiling the evidence which hurt the player's claim.  James Thomas, Isle of Capri Casino in Lula, MS. Slot made by Casino Data Systems  (MS Supreme Court)

April 8, 1995 • $1.7M jackpot • Cool Millions slot.  The player said she played three credits (necessary to win the top jackpot), and lined up all three jackpot symbols on the payline.  The casino said she played only one credit, and that one of the jackpot symbols was above the payline.  The player was possibly lulled into believing she'd won because the machine had gone into a hopper tilt (the coin acceptor was jammed), which caused the slot to flash its top light and make a loud noise.  That's to notify casino staff that the machine needs to be serviced, not that a jackpot has been won.

The computer logs from the machine corroborated the casino's version of events, and the Mississippi Gaming Commission ruled that the player hadn't really won the jackpot.  The player appealed to a circuit court, which sided with her and ordered that she be paid.  They based this not on evidence that she actually won, but that the casino had failed to protect the evidence:  For example, their security cameras failed to record the dispute because the tapes were being changed at the time, they opened the machine and messed with it before the Gaming Commission agent arrived, and they put the game back in play before the agent arrived.  The gaming commission and the slot maker (which would have had to pay the progressive jackpot) appealed to the Mississippi Supreme Court, which reversed the lower court's decision, and ruled that the player hadn't legitimately won the jackpot, but criticized the casino's handling of the situation.  Effie Freeman, Splash Casino in Tunica, MS (FindLaw, Las Vegas Sun)