How Slot Machines Work
Slots are a great equalizer—there is no skill required, and getting lucky happens often enough that it’s a fun way to kill time while hoping you hit the big payday.
However, casinos have lots of different slots, and it is confusing sorting out how machines work, which ones to play, etc.
In truth, there isn’t any surefire method for winning, and the longer you play, the more likely it is that the house will get it unfair share of your money. Still, it helps to know about how to avoid needless mistakes.
Keep in mind that casinos make the majority of their winning off of slot machines—up to 80%. You can pour in a fair amount of cash in a short amount of time and walk out broke if you are not careful. So manage your money and play smart!
Slot Machine Basics
- A slot machine has three spinning wheels marked with symbols. Certain combinations of symbols cause a payoff. Some machines allow you to wager more coins to receive greater paybacks for winning combinations.
- The outcome of each pull or push is controlled by a random number generator inside the machine.
- Although the computer tells the reels where to stop, the games are not pre-programmed to pay out at a certain time. The random number generator ensures that each pull has an equal shot at hitting the jackpot (caution: “an equal shot” is still a longshot).
- When you pull the handle, the computer records the next three numbers from the random number generator. The first number is used to determine the position of the first reel, the second number is used for the second reel and the third number is used for the third reel.
Each of the symbols is assigned to a number, and each symbol is “weighted” differently. There might be 5 cherries, 8 gold bars, 33 blanks, etc. In this example, this weighting causes the blanks to appear more often, and the cherries to appear less often. Although it is possible to hit the jackpot at any time, the likelihood of this happening is very small. And this brings us to the first myth to dispel: No slot machine is ever “due” to hit. The odds reset every time.
By the way, the “spinning” is just for your entertainment. By the time you pull the lever, the computer has already decided which symbols will appear.
This takes us to myth number two: if you leave a machine and someone else walks up a hits a jackpot, this doesn’t mean they “stole” your jackpot. The truth is the computer inside the slot is randomly generating numbers constantly—therefore the jackpot was not predetermined if you had pulled the lever.
One more myth to cover: you may have heard that “loose slots” are always on the outside rows, so the casino can show people “winning” and thus create more gambling.
In truth, there are many factors that cause a slot machine to pay off more often, and although some slots are tighter than others, where they are located matters less than the machine’s payout schedule.
The best payout schedule is one that offers the most winnings for the lower and medium symbol combos, because these are the ones you will be hitting most often.
If one machine pays 5 coins on a 3 coin wager for the lowest winning symbol combination, while another machine offers a payout of 7 coins for a 3 coin wager, you know which machine to play.
Slot Machine Tips
Tip #1: Know what kind of slot machine you are playing and how it pays off.
There are two basic types of slots – Straight Slots and Progressive Slots – and within these categories you’ll find a number of variations that include Classic 3-Reel Slots and Video Slots, Multiplier Slots, Bonus Multiplier Slots and Multi-Line Slots.
Straight Slots: Specific maximum payout, and a predefined jackpot that never increases, i.e., $10,000.
The Multiplier: On a multiplier, payoffs are proportionate for each coin played. For example, three bars will pay back 20 for two coins and 30 for three coins. Read the glass to find out how increasing coins bumps up the payouts.
Progressive Slots: Payoff starts at a minimum amount and rises with each play. Keep in mind though, that just because the jackpot has not been hit, the odds do not change (they do not lessen just because no one has hit the jackpot yet.
Skill Slots: Instead of just using luck, these machine factor in skill level.
Video Slots: Most video slots contain 5 reels, sometimes 7. The major attractant of video slots is the availability of multiple paylines, ranging anywhere from 5 to 50 lines on a single slot. These machines take multiple coins, so you gotta pay to play!
Tip #2: Play the right number of coins
First, know your limits. While it is all well and good to play the maximum coins on the highest paying machines, you can also go broke in a hurry this way. On the other hand, it helps to know how to play within your means AND tilt the odds a bit in your favor.
Some slots require three coins. The first coin only pays on limited symbols, such as cherries and bars. The second coin pays on the next set of symbols and the third coin pays on any win.
When playing progressive slots or three liners or five liners make sure you have inserted the proper number of coins in the machine. If a winner shows up a line you haven’t covered, you won’t get paid.
Tip #3: Manage Your Money
Remember: The object of going to the casino is to make money. The reality is only a select few actually do. Even smaller is the number of people who really hit it big.
Knowing this, what is your money management strategy?
Keep your losses manageable. If you’re having an off day, cut your losses and live to play another day. You can easily make hundreds of pulls in an hour, so the losses can mount up quickly.
On the other hand, a good tip is to pocket some of youor winnings as you go along. Put the money in a separate pocket and count that as “take home” money no matter whatever else happens.
Best Casino Payouts – Illinois Slots
These figures reflect the total percentages returned by each casino for all of their electronic machines. As you can see, the Casino Queen returned the most to its slot machine players, while Harrah’s in Metropolis returned the least.