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Gaming Guru

 

Why Losing Feels Like Winning

30 July 2010

The other day as I was walking through the casino, I noticed three young ladies playing a progressive slot machine. One of them was actually playing the machine and the other two were looking on as she did. As I walked by the girls let out a shriek of excitement and I thought that they must have hit something big. However, after the initial yell of excitement one of the girls exclaimed, "Damn, we were so close!"

I moved closer so I could see the reels of the machine and noticed they had four of the winning jackpot symbols on the pay line and the matching symbol on the fifth reel was just above the pay line. They had experienced a "Near Miss." Being so close to the winning jackpot can get anyone's heart racing.

Near Misses

There are two types of near misses you can experience. (For simplification I will use the three-reel machine.) The most common near miss is when you line up the winning symbols on the first two reels and a non-winning symbol on the third. The second type is when you line up the winning symbols on the first two reels and the wining symbol is right above or below the pay line on the third reel. Many players believe that when they get a near miss, they are close to winning. Unfortunately this is just a myth.

Modern slot machines are controlled by a computer chip and even though there are a limited number of symbols on the physical reel, they can program a large number of virtual stops that correspond to one of the symbols on the reel. On the new video slot machines the game designers can incorporate any number of video symbols on each reel. Most of the new games have five reels and this produces millions of winning and losing combinations that can occur.

Although your belief that the machine is getting ready to hit is just a myth, your desire to keep playing may be due by a physical reaction in your brain caused by the near miss.

The Gambler's Brain

The feeling you experience when you get a near miss on the slot machine is not just due to the false belief that the machine is getting ready to pay out. Most players actually experience a change in their brain activity that is stimulated by the near miss. A study was conducted by a team of doctors and it revealed that when the players experienced a near miss, it drew more blood to the "reward regions" of the brain than when the players had "full" misses. This provides almost the same feeling as when you have an actual win. The feeling can invoke a desire to play more.

The study reported: Using a simplified slot machine task, we measured behavioral and neural responses to gambling outcomes. Compared to full misses, near misses were experienced as less pleasant, but increased desire to play.

Programming Regulations

The results of this study showing that a near miss causes a desire to play the slot machines longer is not really new. There was a controversy 30 years ago over a slot maker allegedly programming their machines to generate more near misses than the statistical average. This was done in hopes to make the player think that the machine was due to hit the jackpot (and probably how the myth got started). In 1980, the Nevada Gaming Board looked into this allegation and passed a gaming regulation that outlaws the practice.

Enjoy the Feeling

The most important thing to remember about all near misses is that they are not signs of things to come on a machine. A cold machine that starts showing a lot of near misses is not trying to tell you that it is about to turn hot. And a hot machine that starts showing a lot of near misses is not signaling you to stop playing because it is about to hit the jackpot. The computer program running the slot machine doesn't know anything about near misses. It only produces spins that are either winners or losers and there is nothing in between.

If you are a frequent slot player, you will experience many near misses. And video poker players will get their fair share of four-card royals, which are the equivalent of a near miss. Near misses are part of the fun of playing the slots. They're the slot player's equivalent of the fisherman's tale of "the one that got away." Now that you know the feeling you get when you experience a near miss is a result of an actual stimulation of your brain you should enjoy the feeling. After all you play for entertainment, and it should make you feel good.

Until Next time remember:
Luck comes and goes.....Knowledge Stays Forever.

Bill Burton
Bill Burton is a gambling expert and best-selling author of Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em and 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets. He is the former Casino Gambling columnist for About.com.

Burton's Texas Holdem book was published in 2002 long before the game became a national phenomenon. The producers of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown used his book during the first season to teach the game to the participants.

He writes for several national gaming magazines and newsletters. These publications include: Casino Player, Strictly Slots, The Southern California Gaming Guide, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Southern Gaming and Destinations magazine, Midwest Player and Blackjack Insider.

Burton is an instructor for the Golden Touch Craps dice control seminars teaching players how to gain the advantage in craps. He is an expert at all casino games and can teach players how to play any casino game as well as offering them advice to get the most out of their casino visits.

Bill Burton Websites:

www.billburton.com
www.goldentouchcraps.com

Books by Bill Burton:

1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets

> More Books By Bill Burton

Bill Burton
Bill Burton is a gambling expert and best-selling author of Get the Edge at Low Limit Texas Hold'em and 1000 Best Casino Gambling Secrets. He is the former Casino Gambling columnist for About.com.

Burton's Texas Holdem book was published in 2002 long before the game became a national phenomenon. The producers of Bravo's Celebrity Poker Showdown used his book during the first season to teach the game to the participants.

He writes for several national gaming magazines and newsletters. These publications include: Casino Player, Strictly Slots, The Southern California Gaming Guide, Midwest Gaming and Travel magazine, Southern Gaming and Destinations magazine, Midwest Player and Blackjack Insider.

Burton is an instructor for the Golden Touch Craps dice control seminars teaching players how to gain the advantage in craps. He is an expert at all casino games and can teach players how to play any casino game as well as offering them advice to get the most out of their casino visits.

Bill Burton Websites:

www.billburton.com
www.goldentouchcraps.com

Books by Bill Burton:

> More Books By Bill Burton