How Pokies Work

How Pokies Really Work

infographics-pokies-addiction

Infographic by RSL.

“I use pokies a lot, but don’t fully know how they work. Are they rigged?”


Pokies are computers. They are completely random and each spin is independent of past spins

A modern poker machine in Australia is simply a computer that has been programmed to look and act like an old style machine. There are no reels spinning around, and the ones we see are just projected onto the screen. The images we see above or below the pay line have nothing to do with how close you were to winning[1].

The machines operate by a Random Number Generator, which is part of the internal computer. As you probably guessed, the Random Number Generator generates random numbers. When you press the play button these random numbers translate into the random outcomes of the machine. It doesn't matter what the previous outcomes of the poker machine were and how long you've been sitting at that machine, each spin is completely independent and random.

icon_random_numbers

The machines operate by a Random Number Generator, which is part of the internal computer. As you probably guessed, the Random Number Generator generates random numbers. When you press the play button these random numbers translate into the random outcomes of the machine. It doesn't matter what the previous outcomes of the poker machine were and how long you've been sitting at that machine, each spin is completely independent and random.

Poker machines will ALWAYS take more money than they pay out

Pokies are designed for the purpose of making money. Many people think if they use the same machine or if they haven’t won for a while that they are due for a win. This isn’t true. Jackpot rates are based upon hundreds of thousands or even millions of spins over the lifetime of a machine (not per play), so it doesn’t matter what has happened that day. Less than 1 % of winnings are paid out in jackpots.

Less than 1% of winnings are paid out in jackpots

In the ACT, the return to player percentage is 87%. The return to player percentage is not actually the MONEY put in, but the CREDITS bet. In a typical pokie session, you may get a number of small “wins” along the way. The credits from these “wins” are used to bet more and extend the session. So what is really happening is a recycling of credits. This means that the amount of credits bet during a session is usually much greater than the amount of money inserted into the pokie machine. The longer you play, the more credits you’ll burn through.

Some poker machines can be played at extremely high intensity – a gambler could lose more than $1,500 in just one hour.

There is no skill involved in playing pokies

Using a poker machine is just like a computer game, but instead you are playing with real money. It is designed to take more money than it pays out, and there is no skill or trick to winning. All you do is decide how many lines you want to play and how much you want to bet on each line.

False wins are not really wins

An example of this is where you may spend $1 per push, and you win back 40 cents. The machine’s lights and sounds activate and make it seem like you’ve won, when actually you’ve still lost money. This experience makes it feel and look like you’re winning more often, when in reality it’s still a loss. Machines will activate lights and sounds for any type of win, if it’s genuine or not, regardless of the total amount you’ve gambled over the session. More often than not, the total amount will be more than you actually win, so on the whole in reality you lose. A pokie near-miss will trigger the same areas in your brain as if you had really won money. These areas in the brain are the same as those involved in drug and other addictions.

Why does it feel like I’m about to win?

Poker machines give the (false) impression of near misses—that may make you feel that you have almost won, so you keep playing. A loss is a loss, not a near win; the symbols displayed above or below the payline have nothing to do with how close you were to winning the jackpot. The desire to win can affect the way our brain operates, and we can sometimes believe that a machine is more or less likely to pay a prize without there being any evidence to support that.

Near Win

“Oh I would definitely feel excited, a little bit jealous...it makes me want to go ‘oh maybe i'll put a little bit in’....but two seconds later you would see someone else punch their machine because they’d put more money that machine than the other person. So...there is no way of knowing whether you are going to win or not.”



Gaming Machines: Facts and Myths. Gambling and You.

References and Links:
  1. Inside the Pokies, A Player’s Guide, 2009 http://sydney.edu.au/science/psychology/gambling_treatment_clinic/resources/Inside_the_Pokies.pdf