Making IT: Len Smikun

Posted on February 15, 2018 at 12:50 PM UTC



Making IT is a monthly Question and Answer article featuring the people who make IT games possible. From game designers, to sound engineers, to programmers, each role is vital to the production and success of each slot Incredible Technologies produces. Players and customers see the polished, finished product, but rarely have a chance to peek behind the curtain and understand the people or the process that make their favorite games happen. Making IT is the spotlight on the creative minds that make IT games incredible.


Len Smikun, Senior Mathematician


Q: How long have you been at IT? In this role? 

A: I have been at IT since August 2000. I’ve been involved with gaming projects since the very beginning, I believe it was 2005.


Q: When someone asks what sort of job you have, how do you explain what you do?

A: I design math models for slots machines. Usually, the next question is ‘Oh, so how do I win in those?’


Q: When did you develop an interest in math?

A: That was so long ago … I believe there was a weekend publication for kids where you could get some small prize for solving math problems.


Q: What sort of jobs did you imagine having as a mathematician?

A: Doing purely theoretical research in areas that most people don’t understand and don’t care about, like group theory, language theory, etc. My research turned out to be more practical, related to analysis and optimization of computational algorithms.  


Q: How did you get into Class III game development at IT?

A: Back in 2005, I heard that we were was getting into Class III. Aside from seeing slots in casinos, I had no clue what it was about, but I thought that my math skills would be of some use. So, I offered my help.


Q: How do you come up with new ideas for math models?

A: Like a sponge, you have to absorb everything that goes on around you. I play a lot of competitors’ games. I listen to people around me who have been in gaming much longer than I did. I get ideas from our game designers. Sometimes I decide to build a model around particular feature that I like. Sometimes new idea pops up seemingly out of nowhere.   


Q: Math is what drives slots - so how do you get inside the head of a player and make the math fun?

A: Hard to say, I guess, it just comes with experience. But I get a lot of help. We have a proprietary tool that converts players’ preferences into hard numbers. Our marketing team supplies valuable information about what is popular in the field. Finally, my wife, who happens to be licensed psychologist, introduced me to a theory of what makes people form their likes, dislikes, and habits.


Q: Something you wish slot players knew about slot machines in general?

A: Slot machine are not supposed to pay over 100%, usually they pay much less. And don’t waste money on books telling you how to beat casino in slots.


Q: Did you play slot machines or gamble before you started working here?

A: Didn’t play slots. However, I did semi-serious card counting in Blackjack.  Way back in time, when single-deck and double-deck game was still around.


Q: Did you ever think you’d be working in this industry or have this job?

A: Not until 2000, when I actually started working in this industry.


Q: Favorite game(s) you’ve worked on?

A: I believe, the game is made to be loved by players and, consequently, bring money to IT. I was fortunate to work on all games from Crazy Money, Money Rain, Money Roll, and Fired Up/Heat ‘Em Up families. All of them are successful, and all of them are my favorites.

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