Slot Machine Myths

The number of myths and superstitions surrounding slot machines and how to win at them is staggering. Many of them are just variations of the below list of misunderstood slots phenomena, but once you understand most of these principles, you’ll be able to recognize all kinds of other slots myths, too.

Cycles

One of the most popular myths about slot machines is that the random number generator works in cycles. For example, a slot machine might offer a chance of winning the big jackpot of 1 in 50,000. Believers in this myth assume that the game will pay out a jackpot after around 50,000 spins, and then it won’t be due to pay out again until another 50,000 spins have happened.

That’s not how slot machine spins work. Each spin of a slot machine is a separate, independent event. If you win the jackpot on your first spin, your chances of winning on the next spin are 1 in 50,000 still. They don’t get lower after that spin and get progressively higher over the next 50,000 spins. That’s not how they work.

Think about how often you see the same color come up twice in a row at a roulette table. That’s because each spin of the roulette wheel is an independent event—the odds don’t change based on what happened on the previous spin. Slots work the same way.

Hot and Cold Machines

This is related to the cycles myth. The idea is that a machine that has just paid out a large amount “tightens up” for a while to make sure that the percentage paid out stays within the expectations set by the manufacturer. This isn’t true, and it isn’t even necessary. The odds on a machine are set up so that the casino will show a profit over the long run. Anything can happen in the short run.

Slot machines don’t get “hot” or “cold” based on how long it’s been since someone won a jackpot. Every spin is an independent event.

The IRS and Taxes

Some people think that they can avoid paying income taxes on their slot machine winnings if they don’t use their players club card while playing. This isn’t true. Casinos are required to report your winnings to the IRS once they hit a certain amount, regardless of whether or not you’re using your players card. You should get into the habit of using your card every time you play; there’s no advantage to not using it.

Locations

Lots of systems-sellers claim that slot machines are hot or cold depending on their location on the casino floor. They claim that machines on the ends are set to pay out more often in order to attract more players to the games. This might have been true at one time, but it’s not likely to be true anymore.

That being said, it’s not a myth that some venues offer better payouts than others. For example, the slots games at the airport in Vegas have notoriously low payout percentages, while the games in North Las Vegas and on Boulder Highway have relatively high payout percentages.

Don’t worry about trying to figure out where in the casino the higher-paying games are. The location only matters if there’s a high-limit slots area, and that’s based on the higher wager amounts, not the location inside the casino. (Slots with higher wager amounts are usually programmed with a higher payback percentage.)

Patterns

Some true believers think that certain patterns start showing up on a machine right before it’s due to pay off. For example, if two cherries are showing on the reels above or below the payline, a superstitious person might think that the game is about to hit a jackpot. Like all the other myths on this page, this is just an example of not understanding how the random number generator works.

Player Cards

Some people think that using your player rewards card makes the game tighter. This isn’t true. The computer program inside the slot machine uses a random number generator to determine results, and those results are based on the par sheet for the machine. The math on these doesn’t change based on whether or not you’re using your rewards card. The RNG has no way of detecting whether you’re using your card or not.

The Spin Button

Some people think that you’re more likely to win if you use the lever instead of the spin button. This isn’t true, because both methods lead to the same result—a random number generator producing an outcome.

This myth does have a kernel of truth to it, though. Players who use the “spin” button instead of the lever make 50% more bets per hour. Any time you place more bets per hour in a negative expectation game, you stand to lose more per hour. This isn’t because the likelihood of winning or losing has changed—it’s because the amount of money you’re putting into action has changed.

For example, you might place 60 bets per hour on a game if you’re using the lever every time. But using the spin button might result in 90 bets per hour. If you’re betting a dollar per spin, you’re betting $90 per hour instead of $60 per hour. If the machine has a payout percentage of 90%, your expected loss per hour has gone from $6 to $9.

Time of Day

Another popular myth is that casinos change the payout settings on the games based on the time of day. The theory is that during slow periods, the casinos set the machines up to pay out more often in order to attract more players, and vice versa.

The problem with this theory is that it’s just not true. The random number generator doesn’t know what time of day it is. It just sits there inside the machine, quietly generating numbers that determine the results of each spin of the reels.

Temperature

This might be the silliest slot machine myth of all. The idea is that warm coins win more often than cold coins. The idea is ludicrous, and if you’ve read the debunkings of the other myths on this page, you’ll know why—the random number generator. That little computer inside the machine has no way of knowing whether or not the coins are above or below a certain temperature. In fact, it can’t tell whether you inserted coins or bills.