Slot Machine FAQ – Part 1 of 4

This set of questions discusses who invented the first gaming machine, which company first invented electronic slots, and what the largest online progressive slot jackpot was. I also tackle a couple of slots misconceptions, including schemes to beat the casinos with progressive betting systems and the myth of slots which are “due” to hit.

This FAQ page answers the following questions:

You can view other slot questions and answers in Part 2Part 3Part 4

Slot Machine Questions Answered

What is a flat top slot machine?

Flat top slots have fixed jackpots, instead of a constantly increasing progressive jackpot. The jackpot doesn’t rise, so the slot machine is flat.

What is the etiquette about reserving machines on slots row while you’re away?

People who need to go to the restroom or get a smoke outside used to leave their coin cup on their seat to reserve their machine. With more machines not using coins, people are likely to leave an article of clothing. Proper etiquette says respect their belongings and let them return to their machine. If you’re the one leaving for a minute, try to return as soon as possible. Those who want to be conscientious can ask an attendant to stand next to their machine while they take a break. If you use this option, good manners says you tip the attendant for their trouble.

I don’t like getting much junk mail. Is the slots club worth joining?

I don’t like junk mail either, but the slots club is well worth joining. When you get to the casino, all you have to do is sign up at the chips cage or with the concierge. You’ll be issued a slots card. Before playing one spin, slide the card into your slot machine. Every dollar you bet is recorded and you get credit for the money wagered. When you reach certain plateaus, you’ll receive slots club rewards. Rewards include cashback and comps. The comps might include free meals, free hotel rooms, tickets to shows, or free drinks. All kinds of other promotional offers might accrue. Players go on the mailing list, but the casino sends out information on special promotions which are worth knowing about (and I don’t consider spam or junk mail). The slots club adds 1% to 2% to most players’ payback percentage, so you have to look at the comps as money you don’t have to spend.

Can money management make me a winning slots player?

Money management does not lower the house edge. If that’s the case, money management techniques certainly do not assure you of a winning edge. What setting “loss limits” and “win goals” does is keep you from losing all your money in one slots sessions, while assuring you walk away with extra chips when you do get lucky and win. This keeps you playing longer, but be under no illusions that you have the advantage over the casino on the slot machines.

Are online video slots rigged?

At casinos which are licensed, regulated, and audited, online slots are unlikely to be rigged. A gambling license gives a casino the ability to run legal slot games where they have a house edge. The casino is almost certain to draw in more money than they lose. The rewards of cheating do not offset the risks involved. Those operators found cheating would lose their costumer base overnight. In the first 10 years of online gambling, a few major scandals happened. The industry has formed watchdog organizations and several respected third-party companies (such as TST) now audit online casinos, to make sure they are fair and their software is secure. All of what I’ve said comes with one major caveat: if you play at a site which isn’t legally licensed and regulated, the slots could be rigged.

Why don’t I ever win playing airport slots?

Airport slots tend to have some of the worst odds in all of casino gambling. If you’ve made a trip to Las Vegas and you’re playing on the Vegas Strip, your casino of choice has a ton of competition. When you head out to the airport, those airport machines have no competition. People are stuck in a terminal waiting for their flight. They aren’t heading back into the city. They can either sit there people watching, have a drink at the bar, read a magazine, or head to the slot machines. The airport is dealing with a captive audience and you’ll pay the price for your captivity.

Are all slot machines regulated?

Slot machines in licensed casinos are regulated. That does not mean every machine everywhere is regulated. Slots in random bars anywhere in the United States might not be regulated.

Who invented the slot machine?

Charles Fey invented the slot machine sometime between 1887 and 1895. Charles Fey lived in San Francisco at the time, but Fey emigrated from Bavaria in Germany. The Liberty Bell was the name of the first slot machine.

Since it pays out so much more, why wouldn’t someone always play a progressive?

The lower the jackpot, the more action a slot machine is going to have. Having more winning spins doesn’t assure you get the best odds, but it’s only natural that a machine which has to save up for some huge payout in the future is going to take your money most of the time. Some people find a machine more interesting if it pays out on a higher percentage of spins. The size of the small payouts matters, too. Many 25 payline and 50 payline machines pay on many spins, but those payments are so small they don’t cover the expense of playing one spin. They make a lot of noise, but otherwise should be considered a losing spin. Machines which aren’t building up a stash to pay out a progressive are likelier to give good (but not great) payments when they do hit.

How do you tell when a slot machine is due for a payout?

You don’t tell when the slot machine is due. Back in the days of mechanical slots, the idea reels begin to line up might have had validity. The process is entirely electronic these days, so the reels don’t start to align.

What is the biggest online jackpot for a slot machine? 

Mega Moolah Slots paid out a €6,374,434 jackpot to a man in 2009, which translates to over $8,200,000 in American dollars. Mega Moolah paid $5.5 million in 2008. MegaMoolah Slot is probably the best option if you want to break a new record for Internet slots jackpots. Keeping an eye on the latest news about large progressive jackpots also helps.

Which slots have the best odds?

All things being equal, slot machines played at higher denominations have better odds. On average, non-progressive slots with the lowest payouts are going to have the best odds. As a general rule, the bigger the jackpot, the higher the house edge is. Machine designers want to attract customers, so they put in features and game mechanics to attract players. The progressive jackpots attract people because players have a chance to change their life course by winning a jackpot prize. They can get away with a higher house edge. Machines that don’t have the progressive need something to attract players, so they appeal to smart players who know the odds are better on the flat-top machines. If you want the best odds, playing a non-progressive slot machine with a low jackpot prize played at the highest denomination in your money range. This should give you the best odds for your bankroll.

Can the Martingale betting system help me win at slots? 

The casino has a large house edge at slots, so no betting method assures you’ll win. Mathematical simulations have proven time and again the Martingale system make no difference over the long haul. The Martingale system is what’s called a progressive betting system. Start at a set amount–let’s say $5. If you win, bet $5 again. If you lose, the Martingale tells you to double your bet. So you’d bet $10. If you win, you pocket $5 (10 won this time against 5 lost last time). The bet goes back to the original amount: $5. If you lose, you double the wager again, up to $20. If you win, then you pocket $5 ($15 from two successive losses against $20 you won). The winning player goes back to the $5 bet. The losing player doubles their bet again: $40. If you win, then you pocket $5 ($35 for three consecutive losses against $40 for the winning stake). The winning player again wins $5. The losing player doubles their bet again, to $80.

I repeated the process several times, hoping you’ll notice two patterns. One, as long as you win, you’re pocketing $5 in each sequence. Two, if you lose several times in a row, the bet starts to get huge. Unlucky players are likely to start betting much more than they feel comfortable with. If a few more losses happen, then they face the risk of ruin, busting most, if not all, of their bankroll. You might think the law of averages says you’re more likely to win after several losses, but that isn’t the case. The odds don’t change a bit from a $5 wager and a $160 wager–just how much money you could lose.

Who manufactured the first electric slot machine?

Bally created an “electromechanical” slot machine with the Money Honey in 1963, but the Fortune Coin Company built the first electronic video slot in 1976.

Final Thoughts

It’s hard to keep fact separated from fiction in online slots. Remember that the best odds come with the highest coin denominations, so calculate the best denomination considering your financial situation and expectations.

Slot machines in unregulated bars across much of the country are likely to have odds comparable to or worse than an airport terminal slot machine. Gamblers often just take what they can get. No matter where you’re playing, stick with the fundamentals. Use money management, don’t place bets over what you can afford, and be kind to the other players.