The popularity of Wheel of Fortune in the casino is hard to understate. Dozens of versions of the game have popped up over the last couple of decades, from three-reel classic slot machines to modern 4D versions featuring Vanna White.
Most Wheel of Fortune games have a wheel atop the machine, and many players wonder if the Wheel of Fortune wheel is weighted or not. There’s generally some set number of wedges of various values.
STATUS: That’s a weighted wheel.
What is Weighting?
Weighting is a technique used in slot machines most often when there’s physical limitations to overcome, although virtual elements could be weighted as well.
During the era of physical reel slots, and the wheels atop them in the case of Wheel of Fortune, there are physically only so many wedges that can be present and still be visually appealing, or for objects to be read/told apart. That would theoretically limit the number of combinations that can occur, and with it limit the size of jackpots or special events to happen.
To counteract this, manufacturers adapted weighting, which means that not every spot on the reel or wheel will hit with the same frequency. On a reel, blank spaces or single bars may appear with more frequency than a bonus symbol or 7, for instance. On the wheel, the lower paying wedges will be weighted to hit with more frequency than the top amount.
Weighting Allows for More Outcomes
This is why although there’s only so many wedges on the wheel, it seems so difficult to hit the top prize – it’s not as simple as a one in x chance where x is the number of wedges on the wheel. Technically the number of possible outcomes is increased because there’s some spots that can be hit more than 1 in x.
This also gives the slot manufacturer the ability to offer bigger prizes because the odds of hitting it are lower. This of course can make a game more enticing – would Wheel of Fortune be as exciting if the top prize was 100 credits instead of 1000, for instance? Probably not.
Weighting is in play in other ways on slots for a variety of reasons, such as the chances of hitting the Mini or Minor vs. the Grand on Dancing Drums when you trigger a progressive (as well as any others in that sort of model). It’s weighted highly in favor of the lower two progressives, and that’s why it’s a predetermined outcome instead of picking coins – otherwise it would be a 1 in 4 chance of winning it and that would just make it too easy.
So when you get that wheel spin, while you certainly have a shot at a big prize, note that the odds aren’t as good as it might look on the surface.