Slots Play Hints

videoslots-logoDespite the fact that all a player does is simply pull the lever or push the button and wait for the outcome, a win or a loss, there are ways to optimize gameplay and maximize earnings using various strategies.

A player should always look for ways to improve his/her game by choosing a better casino or a better slot machine. Through proper money management a player can get in the green zone, while also having fun.

Knowing what is good to do and what is not in any given situation can often make the difference between winning and losing and sometimes can even provide a player with an edge over the casino.

Choosing the right casino area

Like in every other business, casinos are competing against each other to gain more popularity among players and often they will offer different payout ratios. This is important to understand, because it can be used to a player’s advantage.

Some casino operators may prefer small-coin players and give them better playing odds, while others may strive to attract more medium- and large-coin players and act accordingly.

However, due to geographical restrictions a player could not always visit the casino with the best odds for his/her play.

Let us look at an example of the odds at casinos in Clark County Nevada:

The Odds at Casinos in Clark County Nevada
1 cent 10.86%
2 cent 5.81%
25 cent 5.83%%
$1 cent 5.57%
Megabucks cent 12.63%
$5 cent 5.13%
$25 cent 4.26%
$100 cent 4.97%
Multi-denomination 5.10%

These are the win percentages for the casinos, stated in a report issued by the Nevada State Gaming Control Board. The figures cover the period from February 1st 2014 to January 31st 2015.

As you can see, the casinos in Las Vegas favor the big-coin players, particularly the $25 and $100 ones. These percentages will often be similar to the ones offered by casinos located in a high competitive regions.

Usually, casinos prefer to pay more to big-coin players, as establishments generate more revenue from them.

Additionally, some regions have set a minimum payout or different laws that one must comply with. For example, the state of Victoria, Australia has required casino operators to pay at least 87% and has banned $100 slot machines.

It is always better to gather as much information about a casino as possible before one decides to pay it a visit.

Photo of slot machines in casino

What to avoid

It is always a bad idea to play the slots in places where they are not the main business, including locations like airports, bars, gas stations and similar. People who go to those places are there to do some other business rather than play the slots and in many cases slot machines in such establishments will offer a lot lower payout ratios compared to those at casinos.

However, not all slot machines in a casino are good choices either. You should avoid one-armed bandits placed in odd locations like bathrooms, buffet lines and similar. Those machines are often set to pay lower ratios, as people who use them will spend a limited amount of time playing before they return to the main floor.

Often casino operators will place “loose” or slot machines with higher payout ratios in visibility areas, so that they can attract as much attention as possible and encourage other people to play them.

Screenshot of VLTs on airport terminal

What to do when in unfamiliar casino

If you are visiting a casino for the first time, a good thing to do is to identify someone local or sometime with more experience at the certain casino than you. You should observe what they are doing, which machines they are playing and which ones they avoid.

For instance, if you notice that most of the local players stay away from a certain bank there is a good chance that they know something about those machines that you do not.

So basically, you can try mimic their movements until you familiarize yourself with the particular casino.

Choosing the right denomination

Slot machines in a typical casino have different denominations. There are those one-armed bandits that allow a player to bet anywhere from between one to five coins per spin, and in some cases 100 or higher. In nowaday casinos, however, the prevailing number of machines accept multiple denominations. And although the higher denomination machine usually have better payout ratios, it is important to pick a denomination that can be supported by your bankroll. The number one rule of gambling, any gambling, is to not bet money you cannot afford to lose either financially or emotionally.

A player should never move to a higher denomination just because it has a higher payout ratio. For example, if you’re playing a $1 machine with a 95% payout ratio, it is not worth the effort to move to a $5 machine with a 96%. If your bank cannot sustain playing at $5 denomination, you should simply abstain from doing it. What should be noted is that whatever denomination you choose, it is always better to bet the maximum amount allowed.

Photo of Double Gold slot machine

Bet Size

As we already pinpointed, it is always better to bet the maximum at the machine you are playing due to several reasons. First, there are proportional payouts. Like the name suggests, if you bet $1 dollar and win $10, then you will win $20, if you bet $2. Thus, your earnings grow larger, but so does the amount of money you gamble.

If you have chosen a $1 denomination and the maximum amount of coins allowed is 5, then, essentially, you are betting $5 per spin. You should not forget that when choosing a machine.

Another good reason why you should always bet the maximum amount is that progressive machines pay the full, huge jackpots, when they are played with max coins.

There are some machines, which do not have proportional jackpots. For example, if the jackpot is 1 000 coins when played with one coin, one will expect that the payout will be 2 000 coins with two coins bet. However, some machines will pay more – in this example the one-armed bandit could pay 3 000 coins. Be sure to always check the payout display before you attend a machine.

When playing at non-progressive machines, there are often discrepancies between payout amount when played with different amount of coins. For example, one coin can pay 400, two 900, three 2200 and so on.

Additionally, if you find yourself playing at a buy-your-pay machine, you either have to bet the maximum amount, or get up immediately.

Photo ot VLTs in a lobby

No Penalty Machines

The higher-coin machines often provide better odds and it is always better to bet the maximum allowed. However, there are some devices, which do not penalize for playing a lower-than-the-maximum amount of credits.

For example, a machine will pay a proportional amount for every coin added, meaning that it does not reward the player for betting more credits per spin. A good way to utilize this is to switch to a higher denomination. For instance, a 25-cent player can easily move to a $1 machine at a single-coin play and it will not put any additional weight on the player’s bankroll. What is more, this will boost his/her return rate.

By playing a 25-cent machine at maximum credits a player is already betting more than $1 per spin, while moving to a higher denomination is a good way to improve odds. It is important to note this only applies to machines, which do not have a penalty for a single-coin play. Additionally, a player should never skip a denomination level. For example, moving from a 25-cent machine to a 5-dollar one. Such an action will most likely hurt the player’s bankroll.

Hot and Cold

Slot machines are programmed with given odds and every spin is close to random. The spins are not linked together nor does the machine alter the chances of winning or losing based on the last several spins. The probabilities are built-in and cannot be modified by the player.

However, if you are attending a machine, which has not paid out for a while, there is a chance you are sitting at a cold machine. The best thing you can do in a situation like this is to simply stand up and relocate to another machine, or take a brake from playing the slots. It is not going to improve your chances, but it will cut your losses and, more importantly, it will keep you confident and calm. No one likes losing money and doing so may cause some people to feel bad or angry, which is not what you’re aiming for when playing the slots.

On the other hand, if you are seated at a hot machine, you should never leave it and move to another unproven device. The best thing you can do is stick to the machine that is constantly giving you credits. Do not get up and get everything the machine is willing to offer. However, if the one-armed bandit starts taking back its credits, you should stop playing for a while and take a little break before you choose another machine to play at.
Additionally, if you are seated at a machine, which pays from time to time and if you spot a player leaving a hot machine, you should grab this opportunity and relocate there immediately. When playing the slots, you should always attempt to play the machine, which appears to be paying the most, because it usually is the best device the casino has to offer.

Manufacturers program the probabilities of a payout and, although in some cases they are similar or the same for some machines, they can also differ and provide a greater opportunity for a win. Note that a player will probably have some winning and some losing streaks and when this happens he/she should be ready to either cut his/her losses early by getting up, or to maximize his/her profit by playing the machine for all it is worth.

Photo of girls playing slot games in a casino

Mega Progressive Jackpots

Let us discuss the structure of Mega Progressive Jackpots, in order to give you a better understanding of your chances, while covering the pros and cons. Let us assume that we have three different jackpots, called A, B and C and each one of them has a 90% payout rate, but not all three provide the same return for a player.

Now, let us assume we have $20 million in bets and $18 million in payouts. Additionally, each game is played by 200 000 players betting $1 per spin for a total of 100 spins. After all bets are placed for a total of $20 million, the casino takes it 10% cut and returns the rest to the players. However, depending on the structure of the jackpots, the payout rate for the individual player may vary.

Jackpot A pays one big win of $16 million to one lucky player and distributes the remaining amount of money to the rest of the players. Thus, the $2 million are spread among the 199 999 players who did not hit the jackpot, which results in a win of about $10 for each player. Basically, a non-jackpot winner gets $10 back for each $100 player or a 10% return rate.

Meanwhile, Jackpot B is set to pay 50 lucky players $20 000 each and spread the remaining amount. The structure results in $1 million for the big winner and $17 million, or $85 each, for the non-jackpot winner.

Jackpot C does not feature large amounts and it will constantly pay small wins to players. The $18 million are spread among all players, who get $90 back for every $100 bet.

Jackpots A and C are not based on any existing jackpots, because they are the extremes, while Jackpot B is more balanced and more realistic. A offers a huge win for a single player and terrible returns for the others, which will drive the majority of people away after playing for an hour or two. C is not a large jackpot and it will not be very popular, because many of the slots players are on the hunt for big wins. However, it still has a good return rate.

Meanwhile, example B is similar to the present big jackpots, because it has a decent payout rate, it is not scaring many players away and it also provides the opportunity to win it big. Overall, progressive slot machines will offer lower return rates in exchange for the chance of a big hit.

Let us look at statistical data for the Megabucks jackpot offered in casinos in Nevada.

Megabucks Jackpot
2014 $61 023 13.16%
2013 $54,212 11.53%
2012 $68,198 12.89%
2011 $67,205 11.24%
2010 $53,135 12.60%
2009 $46,826 10.60%
2008 $72,977 11.77%
2007 $75,518 12.70%
2006 $86,245 12.50%
2005 $76,838 11.36%
2004 $55,410 10.32%
Total $656,564 11.88%

According to reports issued by the Nevada State Gaming Control Board, slot machines affiliated with the Megabucks Jackpot in Clark County, where Las Vegas is, have an average 88.12% payout rate.

Pros and cons of progressive machines

As we mentioned before, the progressive slots will pay less compared to the regular ones. However, they do provide the chance of scoring massive wins that can settle a player for life. Although the odds of hitting the jackpot are very slim, they do still attract hopeful players. The Megabucks jackpot has been hit 24 times since 2004. The smallest amount paid was slightly more than $8 million, while the largest sum was $33 million. Since 2005 the jackpot starts at $10 million after being hit.

However, there are smaller progressive jackpots that often offer better returns, while still providing the opportunity to win a substantial amount of money.
Screenshot of a won slot progressive jackpot
An important thing to note is that, should you decide to play a progressive slot machine, be sure you have checked all the progressive jackpots that the casino has to offer. Often identical machines will offer different amounts for jackpots and a player should always be striving to get the highest one.

Additionally, you should always bet the maximum amount of credits when playing the progressive slot machines, otherwise the spin will not be eligible for the big win.

Finding the best odds in a casino

As we noted, not all slots in any given casino have the exact same return rate. The payout ratio is set by the manufacturer in line with the request from the casino operator and often a particular casino may offer some higher paying machines mixed with low-return ones.

However, very few people have knowledge over the payout ratios of the casino’s slot machines as the positions of the slot machines, banks and carousels are designed by the slot director with the aim to extract maximum profit.

There are several general rules and estimates that suggest where the higher paying machines are placed, but the only way a player could be sure is through observation.

You need to understand what exactly a ”looser machine” does for the casino. Although it still generates profits, the main aim of such a machine is to attract dedicated players who will spend hours in front of a machine with lower payout ratio.

Often a casino would place a looser machine next to a tighter or an average paying one-armed bandit. Consistent wins cause euphoria, which attracts attention and players, who will most likely attend the machine next to the winning one.

Usually, loose machines will be placed in clearly visible areas where players can sit comfortably and play for an extended period of time. Central areas, which are surrounded by or are in a slot carousel, are a good spot to place a loose machine, because it will attract much attention. Overall, slots with higher payout percentages will be strategically placed, so that they can constantly attract new players.

Meanwhile, tighter machines are usually placed where they cannot make the player stay for an extended period of time or attract new players. For example, slots in bathrooms and buffet lines often have the lowest payout ratios, because players are not expected to stay there for more than a minute or two.

Slot machines that are facing open aisle are usually set to a tighter payout ratio, because serious players are not comfortable playing for hours when there are people constantly walking behind their backs. These machines may attract people who are looking for some time to kill and are not bothered by the less privacy.

Additionally, slot machines that are facing table games often have a lower return rate as it is unlikely a table-game player to be fascinated enough by the joyful screams of a lucky winner, so that he/she would switch to the one-armed bandits.

As we said the best way to determine which are the best slot machines is by observation. However, a good thing you can do is ask the slot attendant what are his/her observations on the subject as they tend to spend hours circulating around the slot machines and surely have picked up on a thing or two. You have to ask really politely, though, and tip afterwards.

Photo of a casino with many slots

Hot and Hot do not mix

It is a well-known fact that people would usually go in groups to play the slots and that a winning machine quickly attracts players around it. Thus, for this reason casinos almost never place two loose machines next to each other. If a group of friends come to play at the slots, one of them will sit at the hot machine and his/her constant winnings will boost the overall morale of the group, encouraging the other participants to keep playing.
Additionally, if a single player hits a hot machine and starts winning, he/she will quickly draw more people towards the area.

Casinos are willing to trade some of their edge in order to provide extra excitement for their players and keep them happy. Additionally, casinos do not really lose much as the payout ratios on the machines next to the hot one, more than make up for the reduced house advantage on that particular slot. A player should keep all that in mind when choosing where to sit and begin his/her gaming session.

Photo of girls playing slots

Playing one slot at a time

As we mentioned in the previous section, hot machines are not usually located next to each other, so it is not wise to play at more than one machine in the same row. You might want to try to play at two machines, which are apart from each other, but it can be physically difficult, not to mention you will be leaving a slot full of credits.

Additionally, you will increase your bet sizes by occupying more than one slot and, as a result, your bankroll may not last as long. Such a situation is solvable by moving to a lower denomination, but it will, in turn, reduce your return ratio.

Therefore, the best thing you can do is to simply play on a single machine all the time.

Hitting a non-progressive versus a progressive jackpot

Many players will immediately abandon a slot machine, once they hit the jackpot, and it is not the wisest decision at all. Although slots capture data in relation to spins, wins, time played and similar, they alter neither the chances of hitting, nor the payout of a jackpot based on previous information. Basically, a player can hit the jackpot as soon as the next spin, although its has a low probability it is possible.

So if you have already picked that particular machine to play, there is no real reason to leave after you hit the jackpot.

However, if a player hits a progressive jackpot, the smart thing to do is to push the Cash out button and leave. Although the chances of hitting the jackpot again would be the same, the amount won would be significantly lower.

The progressive jackpots reset to a predetermined amount every time they get hit and thus it is not worth it to continue playing once you hit the big win. The same goes if someone else hits the jackpot that is linked to the machine you’re currently playing on. Although some progressive jackpot have a pretty high starting point, including IGT’s Megabucks which has a initial amount of $10 million.

Let us look at an example just to clear things up. Let us say we have 100 balls, including 60 red ones, 39 blue ones and one green. We put them all in a hat and we close our eyes and pick one at random, if its red we lose $1, for blue we get $1 and green give us $20. After each draw, we put the ball back into the hat and repeat.

Now, because every ball has 1/100 chance to be picked and we have 60 red ones, we have a 60% chance to lose $1. Similarly we have a 39% chance to win $1 a 1% for $20. Overall, after 100 draws we should expect to lose one dollar, meaning that the house has an edge of only 1%. Calculation : 60/100*1 – (39/100*1+1/100*20)

Let us see what happens once the magical numbers get hit. Assuming that the green ball is the progressive jackpot and the predetermined reset amount is $10 the player is now expected to lose $11 for every 100 draws. Which is a huge jump down in expected return. Calculation : 60/100*1 – (39/100*1+1/100*10)

Although the example is similar to how slot machines work, the numbers are far from the real one as in this example we use only two winning combinations when in really there are a lot more. Additionally, the applied win rate, 40%, is much higher than the ones implemented in the one-armed bandits.

All-in-all, if you want to play progressive machines, although they have a lower return rate, do it before the jackpot is hit.

Screenshot of a Slot Progressive Jackpot Hit

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