I have made a quick video that answers a few of these questions or at least on IGT machines. I can't say for the other manufacturers.
1. Stopping the reel animation does not change the outcome of the spin.
2. Payout percentages are listed in some casinos and is up to the casino but not required.
3. A machines yield is a specific percentage set by the manufacturer or by the casino as a percentage that the machine will pay back. This is somewhat disputed however, I have found that these machines operate within a fairly specific range of +/- that yield %.
Based on the information above the machine if in a (+) of the programmed hold % then it will be "Hot" or "Loose" until the range is back in line with the overall hold %. On the flip side of that, if the machine is (-) of the programmed Hold % then it will feel "Tight" or "Cold" until it recoups back in line with the programmed yield %.
This is more impacted by the total bet played each spin rather than the total number of spins. So if a machine is -3% to the programmed yield and has a total accounting of 1m on the machine then it will essentially be "Loose" until the $30k or so has been paid back to the players. That is also impacted by the selected denominations hold %. There are not many casinos that will give you the specific hold % per denomination on a multi denominational machine for obvious reasons. Some may have a better % at a lower denomination cough cough. All of the machines that I have owned stay within a fairly narrow range +/- or the yield % for each denomination.
4. The yield % can be set independently for each denomination on a machine.
5. Soon the casinos will be able to set the Yield via network connectivity real-time without having to key chip the machine to unlock the yield settings.
6. Given the above information this explains why new machines appear to pay out like crazy and then eventually tighten up.
Watch my video I shot today to help explain this using an IGT I Cleopatra 2 using the latest Game King 044 board and flash game board. This is what the majority of casinos have in them today.
Update: After more testing it appears as though the higher the denomination, the larger the swing to +/- the machine yield. This means larger wins and larger loss periods as it appears to open the volatility up incrementally with the denomination. I don't know exactly the % of swing on either side however, I can say that it appears to be approximately 1.5% +/- @ .10 bet denomination. So if we scale that up to $1 denomination, that would give us a 15% swing on the yield +/- , and 30% on a $2 denomination.
So if the machine is sitting at the programmed 98.6% yield, this means it could swing in either direction up to 15% before it reverses it's trend assuming a $2 bet per line playing 300 lines or $600 a pull. I think that is why you see the high limit players are either raking it in or hating life. It really is luck as to if you are sitting at a machine that is at -15% or +15% to machine hold/yield. Just no way to know without seeing the programmed percentage hold and the accounting screen. So any how, just wanted to clear that up.
I would relate slot machine play to playing the VXX in the stock market. If you look into that you will find that it is a never ending decline that ultimately goes to zero. However, if played (invested) in with good timing (luck), can yield you with a solid return but is not a good long term investment. Meaning if you sit at the same machine long enough, you are guaranteed to loose 100% of your money.
Cheers & BOOOM!