Slot Machine FAQ – Part 2 of 4

Any set of slot machines questions is going to tackle the subject of “beating the slots”. The faster a player learns that beating the slot is unlikely to happen, the better off they’ll be. While strategies exist in blackjack and video poker which should be studied and analyzed, no such tips exist for slot machine gaming. The first half of our Part 2 FAQ covers slot machine.

Slot machine questions range over land-based and online gambling, so the subject matter is always new and interesting. In the selection of slot machine questions this time around, I’m asked whether I happen to be a slot machine cheat (no) and have any tips to pass on (definitely not). Otherwise, this selection of questions is about the many myths around slots design. This includes the idea of casinos changing the odds if they don’t like how you’re behaving, or when a machine has to build up profits, so it can afford to be generous later.

Don’t sweat the details with online slots. Non-peak hours are nothing to be concerned about, while you don’t have to worry about whether the machine’s jackpot money has built up yet–that’s not how slots work. It’s best not to worry about cheating. Slot machines are meant to be enjoyed, so don’t stress over the strategy options.

Following this, we answer questions regarding tips to help maximize the slot clusb. I also go over the sometimes confusing terms like win frequency and payback percentage and a brief mention of the UIGEA

This FAQ page answers the following questions:

You can view other slot questions and answers in Part 1Part 3Part 4

Slot Machine Questions Answered

What’s the best system for beating slot machines?

No effective system exists to beat the high house edge of slots. The casino sets a high house edge on slot machines, compared to video poker machines, blackjack, and several other casino games. Payout percentages don’t mean you’ll lose, because results can deviate in the short term from the probabilities. The longer you play, the more likely the results are going to meet the payout percentages. Taking this into account, I’d say play short sessions, hope for good luck, and get out before the odds catch up to you. Since most gamblers play slots because they enjoy the hobby, this is easier said than done.

Should I only play higher denomination machines, because I heard they are better?

Only play on the high limit slots if you can afford to do so. As a general rule, it’s best to avoid having any one bet higher than 5% of your bankroll, though some people suggest as low as 1%-2% or as high as 10%. Your bankroll should reflect your economic reality, including only your disposable income (not used for bills, living expenses, child support, and those kinds of things).

Once you have determined whether you can afford to play on high denominations, then yes, it’s better to play on the higher denominations. Casinos want to encourage high dollar games, so they offer better odds to the high rollers.

How widespread are server based slot machines at the moment?

They aren’t as widespread as they could be, because regulators must approve server based gaming before they can appear in an area. Some jurisdictions are dragging their feet, since regulators don’t want to approve a method of gambling they don’t have the capability of regulating thoroughly.

What is the difference in hit frequency and payback percentage?

The hit frequency is the percentage of winning spins. payback percentage is the overall percentage of money played which is paid back to players. You can have a high hit frequency with a low payback percentage, if the amount of money paid on the average hit is low.

How much does a progressive betting system increase my odds of winning?

A progressive betting system doesn’t increase your odds of winning. A progressive betting scheme like the Martingale assures you’ll have a lot of small wins. The rare losses are going to be so catastrophic that they’ll offset all the small wins. This is a dangerous combination, because you’ll find yourself lulled into a fall sense of security. The next thing you know, you’re betting $1028 on the result of one single die roll.

I often see people tout the autoplay feature in online slots, but isn’t autoplay bad for players?

If you’re trying to minimize how much you lose, it is. Autoplay lets a player program in how many automatic spins to have without the awful burden of hitting the “Spin” button. This means the spins keep coming and coming without human distraction getting in the way. A person could walk away from the screen and not notice a jackpot. Since the casino has a house edge, shortening the length of time on your spins is to your disadvantage. Another option to avoid is hit a button to end the reel spins quicker. Once again, this just increases the money you’re likely going to have to pay to play.

How are slot machine payback percentages changed?

A version of this question gets asked a lot, but state laws against mid-game changes tend to be strict in the USA. Most states require machines to be opened, computer chips to be changed (for the sake of evidence), and a gaming board member must sign off on the machine.

Is it true that hot coins increase your odds of winning?

People try the heated coin routine on occasion, but this is a misconception about how modern random number generators work. The heated up coin or token does not increase your chances.

What is slots row etiquette on cigarette smoke?

In casinos which allow smoking, players are allowed to smoke on slots row. Smokers should place their cigarette tray in a position to where it wafts on the fewest people possible.

Knowing the proper slot machine etiquette is important in the casino. Most people want to do what’s right by other people, so knowing what good manners are gives you a quick reference. I once again discussed the hit frequency versus payback percentage, which was addressed in an earliest post. I don’t mind giving multiple answers to the same question, if it helps to enlighten.

Which books should I read to learn about slot machines?

If you like the Q&A style of collecting information, I suggest you read John Grochowski’s The Slot Machine Answer Book. This book might is dated when it comes to the latest 21st century innovations and technological frills, but it answers many basic questions about slot machines.

Why do old people play the 3-reel slot machines?

I didn’t know “old people” play only 3-reel classics. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned the definition of old is subjective. Someone once said old is 15 years older than yourself and that’s kind of how I look at it these days.

I suppose the answer you want is these people are tied to the machines they played when they were younger. In truth, the flat-top 3-reel machines with 2000-5000 coin max jackpots often have some of the best payout percentages on slots row. They tend to offer better odds than progressive slot machines, for sure. They’d have to, so people would give them a try. Remember, young person, sometimes you can learn things from your elders.

Are there techniques to maximize the advantages of a slots club?

Players have more options if they live near a casino and can pick-and-choose their game times. If you live close enough to a casino to tailor your playing habits to the casino, find out when their special bonus promotions are. Many casinos offer bonus days which pay 2x or 3x the points on certain days or during certain hours. Only play during these intervals and it’s like you’re wagering two to three times the money.

What is a minimum payback percentage?

In many states, the law requires casinos pay back a certain amount of the money wagered on their games. This is called the minimum payback percentage. Let’s say you wager $100 and the minimum payback percentage is 80%. If you play a game, it should pay back to you at least $80 of every $100 you wager. That isn’t to say you’re assured of getting back $80 when you wager $100–the percentage involves the odds, which only play out over a long time. You might lose the whole $100, or you might win $100.

The payback percentage is therefore the sum total of all players who play over a long period of time, not the results of any one player. Most of the time, casinos offer significantly more than what state law requires, because they face competition from other casinos for players. This is especially true in gambling destinations like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Tunica, Monte Carlo, and Macau. Licensed, legitimate online casinos face a lot of competition, so they might offer good odds on certain games.

In places where the competition isn’t as fierce, the minimum payback percentage might be closer to what you face, especially on games like slots and keno. Even then, casino operators face the dilemma of wanting to collect profits and hoping to avoid running off customers with tight machines and other games with bad odds. Therefore, all sorts of pressures work in the favor of players, though it pays to remember that casino operators can’t stay in business if they don’t maintain an edge on you and all the other gamblers on the floor.

What is the difference in “slot machine frequency” and payback percentage?

What you mean by slot machine frequency is probably hit or win frequency. This just tells on what percentage of spins you’ll win money. Payback percentage refers to the amount of money, as a function of 100%, you expect to win back from a machine. The payback percentage tells you how much you expect to win and lose, while the hit frequency tells you how many spins you’ll be happy with results (on a micro level). Hit frequency doesn’t take into account how much you’re winning, so this is not a full indication of how good the game is going to be. Machines with lots of paylines sometimes pay less than the spin wager.

Why are so few online slot machine software companies in the United States?

The United States government passed a law back in 2006 which sent many of the big design companies out of the US market. In September 2006, the Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act or “UIGEA” as part of the Safe Port Act. The UIGEA gave U.S. agencies more power to prosecute casinos and the companies which support them, especially the money transfer companies. The American government’s interpretation of the UIGEA was the old Federal Wire Act of 1961, which let the government prosecute mobsters, applied to online gambling. Companies like PlayTech, Microgaming, Cryptologic, NetEntertainment, and IGT Wagerworks decided to sever their connection to casinos which accepted U.S. players.

Going back to the subject of slot machine books, I wouldn’t worry about reading too many strategy books on the pokies. While blackjack has Edward Thorp, basic strategy charts, and card counting, real counterparts in the slot machine world exist. That’s the great thing about slots, though: you don’t have to sweat the strategies.

What keeps casinos from making changes to the probabilities while I play?

The software itself won’t allow changes to be made while a game is in progress. If a game machine is being changed, then a black screen appears and the words “Remote Configuration in Progress”. No changes can be made while money is in the machine for the sake of wagers. Also, a buffer time is set, so changes can’t be made for a certain number of minutes before or after a wager is made. The specifics change from one machine to another and one slot design company to another, but these are indicative of the protocols in place to assure changes aren’t made during the course of a game. State laws require this. Only rogue casinos would change the game during play (or have the opportunity), but these are aberrations in the industry. All of this reminds me: don’t play slots at underground casinos, because you risk this type of skulduggery.

How long after a jackpot is hit does a machine stay tight?

I’ll assume you’re going by the assumption a machine gets looser the longer it goes without a jackpot, while it gets tighter again after a jackpot is hit, to build up a stash of money again. This is not how slot machines work. Every spin is separate from every other spin in slots. Even if you hit a jackpot on the last spin, your odds remain the same (really low) of hitting that jackpot again. Many people assume having a payback percentage means a game can’t be random, but this is a fallacy.

Why are slot machines called one-armed bandits?

In the old days, mechanical slot machines required players to pull a lever to trigger the spin. This looked like the machine had a single arm. They’re called “bandits” because the slot machine offers bad odds–they tend to take your money. Seventy percent of all casino revenue come from the slots.

Do players have an advantage playing in non-peak hours at a brick-and-mortar casino?

The house edge isn’t likelier to be lower, if that’s what you mean. Players might enjoy their experience more if they play when the crowd isn’t as big. They’ll have a bigger selection of games for their gaming needs, but this is the only real advantage to playing when the crowd is thinner.

Do you know any slots cheats which really work?

Several devices worked to cheat the casinos out of money in the past, but game designers found ways to patch the holes in their security within months. Light wands and mechanical tools might still help someone cheat, but I wouldn’t recommend anyone trying to do the same. If you get caught, it’s a felony and you won’t like the consequences. Easier ways exist to make money.

What are video slots?

Video slots try to increase the entertainment with bonus games with video game quality graphics. Offering a bonus mode with free games, multipliers, and interactive game features takes more time. That’s time when someone playing a reel slot would be betting, so this slows down the game a bit. Therefore, video slots offer more paylines and the option to bet more coins per payline, in order to account for that lost time. So the features of a video slot machine are bonus games, free spins, more paylines, and more coins per payline.

All of this increases the entertainment value of the game, with one major pitfall I see (besides increasing the cost on higher denominations). Even one winning paylines activates lights and winning sounds, but the wins on video slots are often for less money than you paid for the spin. This can be frustrating for players who get the impression they won, then realized they really lost money on the spin. I’ve heard certain old-timers complain that the many paylines and additional sounds confuse them, too.