You can’t see the random number generator at work as it determines your results on the slots.
That leads to a certain mystique as players wonder how to get the best of the games. The way to penetrate that mystique is to ask questions, and that’s something players do. This chapter provides answers to the questions players ask most. Some have been answered throughout this guide in explanations of how the machines work. Here, you’ll find some of the hottest topics gathered into one chapter with concise replies.
Among the questions asked most often are:
- How can you win on the slots?
- What is the best strategy for playing slots?
- How can you tell when a machine is about to pay off?
- How do you choose the right machine?
In this chapter, you’ll learn just what is possible and what is not possible with respect to the things players most want to know about slot machines.
FAQ NO. 1: HOW CAN YOU WIN ON THE SLOTS?
Answer: With extremely rare exceptions, you can’t beat the slots on any consistent basis. Slots are as pure a game of chance as there is in the casino, with random, unpredictable results.
There are a few things you can do to maximize your payback percentage, as detailed in Chapter 8: Maximizing Payouts.
- You can be sure to bet the max on machines with large jackpot jumps at the top of the pay table.
- You can scout progressives and play only when jackpots are at a high level.
- Where machines with banked bonuses are available, you can look for partially completed bonuses and gain a small, short-term edge.
In addition, those who play well on the small selection of games with skill-based bonuses can get a higher payback percentage than weaker players, as outlined in Chapter 5.4: Mystery Bonuses and Skill-Based Bonuses. However, there’s no guarantee you will win a progressive; progressive jackpots rarely are high enough to cancel out the house edge; banked bonuses are rare and there’s no guarantee you will ever find one with a partially completed bonus; and while good play will improve your returns on skill-based bonuses, the house edge is high enough on the non-bonus portion of the games that players can’t gain an edge. Everybody who plays slots can win sometimes, but the wins are a matter of chance. Enjoy the wins when they come, but understand losses are part of the game and no one can win consistently.
FAQ NO. 2: WHAT’S THE BEST STRATEGY FOR PLAYING SLOTS?
Answer: There is no strategy that can change what you will see on the slot reels or screen. The best strategies involve money management and making sure you don’t risk money you can’t afford. Consider the following chart of wager sizes, typical payback percentage and average losses per hour when you make 500 spins per hour:
Payback percentages are in line with the ranges listed in Chapter 1: Slot Machine Basics, though some casinos offer higher paybacks than others and there is room for variation. If you bet more than one coin per line on video slots average risk and loss increase proportionally, so that a 2-cent per line bet on a penny slot takes risk up to $300 and average loss to $45 per hour.
Note that as the money you risk rises, so does your average loss.
That’s something to keep in mind as you plot your strategy for a day in a land casino or a lengthy time in an online casino. If you have $100 and expect to make it last, you can’t afford to play higher-denomination games. Penny slots are more your speed. Even if you start with $500, $1 slots are iffy and $5 slots are out of the question.
With a $500 base, a player who wants to try $1 slots needs to remain aware of the state of his bankroll. If you lose $200 quickly, it’s time to think about cutting back to 25 cents or to less expensive video slots. To have a 90 percent chance of staying in action for three hours without draining your bankroll, you should be prepared with about 250 bets worth of money. Therefore, the recommended session bankroll for the games listed above would be at least $75 on penny slots with a one- coin per line bet, $250 on nickels, $187.50 on quarters, $750 on dollars and $3,750 on $5 slots.
The recommendations rise as your wager rises. If you bet two coins per line instead of one on a 30-line video slot, then your base bet is 60 cents and the three- hour bankroll recommendation rises to $150. Even with adequate bankroll, there remains a 10 percent chance your funds will drain in less than three hours. There also will be times you win, and even win big. All that leads to the following strategy recommendations for playing the slots:
- Choose games that fit your bankroll – don’t overbet.
- If you find yourself losing early in a session, take a timeout to relax, and consider reducing your bets.
- Set a limit on how much you are willing to lose before you play.
- If you are winning, stop to make a conscious choice whether to add those winnings to your session bankroll or to put them away as money you’re sure to take away from the casino.
- With any large win, bank at least half as money to take home.
A woman once told me she’d won a $1,000 jackpot on a quarter machine, moved up to dollars and lost it all. I told her there’s nothing wrong with taking a chance on dollars with some of the extra money, but the smart move is to take $500 of that $1,000 and put it away, not to be touched again in that casino session.
- Above all, play for fun.
Slots are entertainment that is enhanced by the shot to win. They are not consistent profit-making opportunities. Enjoy the wins when they come, but stay within your betting limits so that the losing sessions are just a reasonable price for the day’s entertainment.
FAQ NO. 3: HOW CAN YOU TELL WHEN A MACHINE IS ABOUT TO PAY OFF?
Answer: You can’t. Machines give no signal that they’re about to pay off.
There is no special sound, nor is there any clue on the reels or screen that a payoff is coming. Results are as random as humans can program a game to be. All results are possible on all spins, and there is no way to tell what’s coming next.
FAQ: NO. 4: HOW DO YOU CHOOSE THE RIGHT MACHINE?
Answer: A large piece of the puzzle is choosing a game that fits your bankroll, as discussed in FAQ No. 2. Beyond that, it comes to personal preferences.
If you want the best shot at a big jackpot, and are willing to accept a low hit frequency, then three-reel games with big jackpots or progressives are your games.
If you want a shot at a big jackpot, but prefer to balance it with a moderate amount of small wins, then look for big-jackpot video games. If you want a high hit frequency but with a shot at some big wins, video slots with free spin bonuses are for you.
If you want very high hit frequencies that will extend your play with small wins and are looking more for entertainment than jackpots, then video slots with pick’em bonuses are your first choice.
Those are simplifications. There’s some overlap in playing styles, and many video slots have both pick’em and free spin bonuses. But that’s a general guide, a starting point when you ask yourself what kind of game you find the most fun to play.
FAQ NO. 5: IS IT BETTER TO PLAY VIDEO OR THREE-REEL SLOTS?
Answer: That depends on your preferences.
Three-reel games tend to have fewer winning spins, but a better chance at a big jackpot. Video slots tend to have more small wins, but a lesser chance at a lifestyle-changing payout. Odds are designed so the house has an edge, but results on video slots are just as random as on three-reel games.
FAQ NO. 6: HOW CAN YOU TELL A MACHINE’S PAYBACK PERCENTAGE?
Answer: You can’t.
Payback percentages on individual games are not published. Games are designed with several possible payback percentages, and it’s up to the operating casino to decide which to put on its floor or website. But the casinos don’t tell players which version they are offering. In many states, gaming boards publish payback percentages, but they are casino-wide averages for each coin denomination, not percentages for each machine.
FAQ NO. 7: IF A CASINO SAYS ITS MACHINES PAY 90 PERCENT, DO ALL MACHINES PAY 90 PERCENT?
Answer: No, such a figure is a casino-wide average.
All the wagers and all the payouts on all machines in the casino are calculated into a single average. Similarly, when a gaming board reports payback percentages broken down by coin denominations, what’s reported is a casino-wide average. For example, if a monthly report says a casino’s 1-cent slots paid 86 percent, that means all the bets and all the paybacks on all the casino’s 1-cent machines were lumped together to calculate an average payback percentage.
FAQ NO. 8: CAN YOU OVERCOME THE HOUSE EDGE WITH PLAYER REWARDS?
Answer: No, player rewards aren’t large enough to make up the difference between slots’ payback percentages and 100 percent.
The most generous player rewards club I’ve ever encountered returned the equivalent of 1 percent of wagers in cash back and another 1 percent in comps. Even if you assume a $5 machine paying 96 percent, 1 percent in cash and 1 percent in comps takes you to only 98 percent. That’s with an exceptionally generous club. More typical are cash back and comp rates ranging from 0.2 percent to 0.5 percent.
FAQ NO.9: HOW DO PAYBACKS ON SLOTS COMPARE TO OTHER GAMES?
Answer: Payback percentages are inverses of the house edge. That is, a game with a 90 percent payback percentage has a 10 percent house edge.
Analyses of table games usually use house edge instead of payback percentage. The following chart compares house edges on a number of games, including slots:
Blackjack house edges change with house rules and video poker returns vary widely with available pay tables. But you can see that slots have a relatively high house edges. The tradeoff is that you can play with smaller wagers than on tables, and that the games offer entertainment value beyond your paybacks. Those factors make slots popular favorites with players.
FAQ NO. 10: HOW DO CASINOS DECIDE WHEN YOU WIN? CAN THEY TELL A MACHINE TO GIVE YOU A JACKPOT?
Answer: No, casinos can’t decide when you win. That’s between you and the random number generator.
For a long time, there has been a popular myth that casino operators can reward players by pressing a jackpot button from a remote location. There is nothing to that myth. The casino’s control over results starts and stops with deciding which version of a game to purchase, with odds leading to a desired payback percentage. In regulated or game-certified casinos, there is nothing an operator can do to influence results on a given spin.
FAQ: NO. 11: CAN THE CASINO MAKE THE MACHINE GO COLD IF YOU’RE WINNING TOO MUCH?
Answer: No. Hot streaks and cold streaks grow out of the normal odds of the game and random results.
Smart casino operators wouldn’t even want to stop a player on a hot streak. Casinos need winners to spread the word to friends, co-workers and acquaintances. Without winners, no one would play. Operators also understand that over many thousands of plays, the inevitable losing spins will balance out the big winners and the machine will pay something very close to its expected percentage. Let’s imagine you’re a player on a hot streak at a machine that normally would pay 90 percent.
In this hypothetical example, you’re betting $1 per spin, and in the last 10 minutes or so, you’ve wagered $150. You’ve also had a hot streak, with 10 $5 wins, four $10 wins, two $20 wins, a $100 win and a $3,000 jackpot for a total return of $3,230 for your $150 wagered. Now let’s say players come and go over the next few weeks, spinning the reels 200,000 times and getting the normal 90 percent return. That means their returns total $180,000. When your play is included, that’s $200,150 wagered, and $183,230 returned. The payback percentage, even including your hot streak, is 91.5 percent. Your streak has moved the return only 1.5 percent. With 500,000 plays at normal payback after your streak, the payback percentage is down to 90.6 percent.
As long as the machine keeps paying its normal return, your streak eventually fades into statistical insignificance. The same goes for long cold streaks. Eventually, normal paybacks will bring the overall return close to expectations. Hot and cold streaks are both normal parts of the game, and both eventually fade into insignificance. There is no need for the casino to force cold streaks after a hot one.
FAQ NO. 12: DOES IT MATTER WHEN YOU PLAY? DO SLOTS PAY MORE AT LESS BUSY TIMES?
Answer: The odds on slot machines remain the same no matter how busy or how slow the action at a casino.
In order to change the odds so that games paid more at less busy times, operators on land casinos would have to stop the games and change them – and they’d have to have approval from regulators. In most slots in land casinos, that would require opening the game to change a chip, and that’s usually done by removing the central processing unit and taking it to a back shop to make the change. On some server-based games, it’s possible to make the change remotely, but regulators require that the machines be halted and a message displayed that a change is being made. The busy/not busy time doesn’t really apply to online casinos.
There, players aren’t influenced by what they see from other players, and that’s the basis of this myth.
The reason for higher pays at less busy times, according to the myth, is that players want to feel they’re in a casino where people are winning.
In a crowded casino, you’ll see other players winning just because there is a lot of play happening. In a less crowded casino, it can be a longer time between observed wins because less play means fewer opportunities. However, regulators would frown on changing games routinely day to night or weekday to weekend. Even with approval, a double dose of down time would be unprofitable, with one change to increase payback and one to bring it back down, every day to night and night to day, or every weekend and back.
FAQ NO. 13: ARE JACKPOTS TIMED SO THEY COME WHEN YOU BET LESS?
Answer: Jackpots aren’t timed at all. They are random.
This is an old belief among players, and it’s the result of selective memory plus word of mouth. It’s not a far leap from a player winning while making minimum bets to a firm belief that the wins come only win minimum bets. But if players actually kept track for thousand plays with results after minimum bets and results after larger bets, they’d see that wins and losses come up in the same proportion no matter what size the bet. The random number generator isn’t fed information on how much you wager. It just keeps generating random numbers. What you see on the screen or reels isn’t affected by the size of your bet.
- Slot wins are random, and no strategy can change what you see on the screen or reels.
- The best strategy for playing slots is to play games appropriate to your bankroll and set limits on losses.
- Slot paybacks are lower than on some other casino games, but slots have low minimum bets and emphasize entertainment value
- True or False: Players can’t get an edge on slot machines except in rare circumstances such as large progressive jackpots or partially completed banked bonuses.
- The best strategies for playing the slots: A. Look for a pattern in wins and losses. B. Conserve your bankroll so that even losing sessions are a fair price for entertainment. C. Size bets at one coin per line for the first 10 plays, then go to bigger bets after the machine has been primed.
- What signals should you look for that tell when a slot machine is ready to pay off?
- How can you tell a slot game’s payback percentage?
- Can you beat the slots if you include player rewards along with your payouts?
- Casinos can make sure valuable players win a jackpot by: A. Pushing a jackpot button from a remote location. B. Steering players to games that are reader to pay off. C. Keying in a code at the game. D. None of the above.
- If you’re in a hot streak at the slots, can the casino make the games go cold?
- Do slots pay more at less busy times so others see more jackpots to entice them to play?
- Do slots pay off more often when you bet less
- True, players can’t get an edge on slot machines except in rare circumstances such as large progressive jackpots or partially completed banked bonuses.
- The best strategies for playing the slots: B. Conserve your bankroll so that even losing sessions are a fair price for entertainment.
- There are no signals to look for that can tell you when a slot machine is ready to pay off. Results are random and all results are possible on all spins.
- There is no way for players to tell a slot game’s payback percentage. While casino-wide averages often are published by gaming boards, individual game percentages are not.
- No, you can’t beat the slots if you include player rewards along with your payouts. Player rewards are not high enough to make up the difference between a game’s payback percentage and 100 percent.
- False, the house edge on slot games is not lower than on table games. In fact, the house edge on slots tends to be on the high side compared to other casino games.
- Casinos can make sure valuable players win a jackpot by: D. None of the above. Casinos have no control over who wins jackpots or when jackpots are won.
- No, if you’re in a hot streak at the slots, the casino can’t make the games go cold. Results remain random.
- No, slots don’t pay more at less busy times so others see more jackpots to entice them to play.
- No, slots don’t pay off more often when you bet less. The random number generator doesn’t know how much you bet.
Written by John Grochowski