March 6th, 2013

Derpy Stamp

Letters From Our Readers: Stacked Against You

An email was received regarding an older post I made.

"What do you mean, 'a Stacker game, only mine won't cheat?'  Stacker games cheat?"

You betcha, babushka.  The Stacker game is rigged.  What's more, if your brain processes visual information fast enough, you can see it happen.

Here's the gag -- each Stacker machine has a control dial inside that can be set for how many losses happen before a win happens.  I've dug up models vary from 400 to 3200, and expansion kits allow it to be even higher than that.

Here's the math -- let's say you have a Stacker machine and you want people to pay money.  So you hie yourself to GameStop and buy an Xbox for, say, $400.  Your Stacker machine is $1 per play.  You set the dial to 800.  At 800 plays, someone is allowed to win.  They get an Xbox for $1, and you've pulled in $800 total, for a profit of $400.

"But Peter," I hear some of you asking, "how can the machine guarantee that many losses?  If someone's reflexes or timing are good enough, they should be able to beat the machine anytime they want, right?"

Wrong.  As Alice Cooper sings, "Nothing's free."  This is where how fast your brain operates comes into play.  The final row at the very top is where the loss will be forced to occur (which also inspires people to try again because, "I ALMOST HAD IT!"  Stacker is less a video game and more of a slot machine).  The final block zipping back and forth will actually skip over your stack (you can see it happen if your brain works fast enough.  Mine does, and I've witnessed it.  If yours doesn't, use a video camera and play it back slower.  There are videos on YouTube showing it).  So even if your timing is perfect, the block is not where it should be, and you lose, all the while thinking you just weren't fast enough.

Now, mine won't have to cheat -- I'm not awarding prizes, it's literally just a game.  But those nice machines in malls and such?  Those aren't games.  Those are gambling machines.

And the first rule of gambling is, "The house always wins."