- The country boasts more 'pokies' (slot machines) than most countries, and that's in a country that only has 22 million people. Top Gambling Centres When it comes to gambling, we're all equal.
- John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.
- New Winning Slot Machines Videos
- What Are The Statistics For Winning Slot Machines Win
- How To Pick A Winning Slot Machine
- What Are The Statistics For Winning Slot Machines Wins
Unlike normal slot machines, where payouts are made for matching symbols across paylines, in this slot, you win if you have a poker hand on one of the five paylines. The game includes a joker, which substitutes for all cards. Plus, the scatter label can randomly appear on any card. Get 3 or more and free deals, the equivalent of free spins are.
Slots machines, as games of chance (rather than skill), are generally more about having fun than they are about making money.
However, there are things you can do to maximize your wins and minimize your losses. For example, by calculating a slot machine’s payout percentage, you can obtain a larger picture idea of how much money you stand to win back. Other tactics include using effective bankroll management techniques, joining a slots club to benefit from its rewards programs, and more.
What Are the Odds of Winning on a Slot Machine?
Slot machine odds used to be easy to calculate. When you’re dealing with three reels, ten symbols on each reel, and a limited pay table, then it’s just a simple math problem. But the rise of electromechanical slot machines and (later) video slots added some complexity to the situation.
How Probability Works
Probability has two meanings. One is the likelihood of whether or not something will happen. The other is the branch of mathematics that calculates that likelihood. To understand the odds as they relate to slot machines (or any other gambling game), you have to understand the basic math behind probability.
Don’t worry though. The math isn’t hard. Probability involves addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, all of which you learned in middle school.
The first principle of probability is that every event has a probability of between 0 and 1. If something has no chance of ever happening, then its probability is 0. If something will always happen, no matter what, then its probability is 1.
Probability is, therefore, always a fraction. It can be expressed in multiple ways, as a decimal, as a fraction, as a percentage, and as odds.
A simple example is a coin flip. The probability of getting heads when you flip a coin is 50%. That’s common sense, but how is it determined mathematically?
You simply take the total number of possible outcomes, and divide the outcome you’re trying to determine the probability of it by that number. There are two possibilities when flipping a coin, heads or tails, but only one of them is heads. That’s 1 divided by 2, which can be expressed as ½, 50%, 0.5, or 1 to 1 odds.
Odds are expressed as the number of ways something won’t happen versus the number of ways that something will happen. For example, if you’re rolling a single six-sided die, and you want to know the odds of rolling a six, you’re looking at 5 to 1 odds. There are five ways to roll something other than a six, and only one way of rolling a six.
When you want to determine the probability of multiple things happening, you use addition or multiplication, depending on whether you want to determine whether one OR the other event will occur, or whether you want to determine whether one event AND the other event will occur.
If you’re looking at an “OR” question, you add the probabilities together. If you’re looking at an “AND” question, you multiply the probabilities by each other.
So if you want to know what the probability of rolling two dice and having one or the other come up with a six, you add the probabilities together. 1/6 + 1/6 = 2/6, which is rounded down to 1/3.
If you want to know the probability of rolling two dice and having BOTH of them come up six, you multiply the probabilities. 1/6 X 1/6 = 1/36.
How Slot Machine Odds USED to Work
Early slot machines were mechanical devices. They had three metal reels that had ten possible stops each.
To calculate the odds of a single symbol appearing on a reel, you just divide the one symbol by the total number of potential outcomes. So if you had one cherry on a reel, your odds of hitting that cherry were 1/10, or 10%.
To calculate the odds of getting three cherries, you multiple 1/10 X 1/10 X 1/10 and get 1/1000, or 0.1%.
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If the odds of hitting that symbol are the same as all the others, then you have 10 possible jackpots you can win, which means that your chances of winning SOMETHING are 10/1000, which is 1%.
Most people wouldn’t play a slot machine that lost 99 times out of 100, though, so slot machine designers added additional, smaller prizes for getting two symbols out of three for certain symbols. And as long as they paid out less in prizes than the odds of hitting those jackpots, then those slots are guaranteed to make a profit in the long run.
For example, if a prize for hitting three cherries was $1000, you’d be playing a break-even game, but if the prize were $750, it’s easy to see how the casino would be guaranteed a profit. The difference between the odds of winning and the payout odds is where the casino makes its money.
How Slot Machines Work Now
Modern slot machines use a computer program called a random number generator to determine the outcomes of the various spins of the reels. This creates an imaginary reel with a number of symbols limited only by the program in question.
A mechanical slot machine with 256 symbols per reel would be huge, too large to play, much less to build. But a computer can create an imaginary reel with 256 symbols per reel and take up no more space than an iPod Shuffle.
To make things even more interesting and entertaining, slot machine designers can program different probabilities for each symbol to come up. Most symbols might come up once every 256 spins, but others might come up twice as often, while still others might only come up half as often.
This enables slot machine designers and casinos to offer slot machine games with far larger jackpots than they were able to when they were limited by mechanical reels. And they’re able to offer these large jackpots and still generate a healthy profit.
How Does This Relate to Payback Percentages?
The payback percentage is the amount of money that the slot machine is designed to pay out over an enormous number of spins. This number is almost always less than 100%. The difference between 100% and the payback percentage is the house edge, and that’s where the casino makes its profits.
A simple example can help illustrate how this works. Suppose you have a slot machine with three reels with ten symbols on each, and it only pays out when three cherries hit. The odds of winning that jackpot, as we determined earlier, is 1/1000.
If we set the jackpot as $900, and charge $1 per bet, the payout percentage for that game will be 90%, or $900/$1000. Of course, no one would play a slots game which only paid out once in every 1000 spins, which is why there are various smaller payouts programmed in.
There’s no way to tell what the payback percentage on a particular game is unless you have access to the par sheet for that machine. Casino management has that information, but players never have access to that info.
The best slot machine odds are almost always found in real casinos. If you see slot machines in an airport or a bar, be aware that the payback percentages on those games is much lower than you’ll see in a real casino.
How to Win at Slot Machines
Everyone would like to know how to win at slots, but the truth is that winning at slot machines isn’t any harder than losing at slot machines. You put your money in the machine, spin the reels, and hope for the best. Slot machines are meant to be fun; they’re not intended to provide the player with an income.
In fact, the reality is just the opposite. Slots are there to provide the casino owners with an income. How that works is one of the subjects of this page.
On the other hand, you can minimize your losses and increase your enjoyment of slots games by understanding how they work. You can also learn which slots pay back the most money. In the long run, the house will still have an edge over you, but understanding how much you can expect to lose in a given venue can help you make better bankroll management decisions.
In fact, it might be a good idea to modify you definition of “winning at slots”. Instead of considering yourself a winner if you bring home a big profit, consider yourself a winner any time you played and had a lot of fun.
How Slots Work
All slot machines in modern casinos use a random number generator (an “RNG) to determine the results of each spin. An RNG is a tiny computer that does nothing but constantly generate numbers. When you push the spin button, that microcomputer selects a number which determines the outcome. In fact, this happens before the reels have even stopped spinning.
On modern slot machines, the reels are just there for show. From a practical standpoint, you could put a quarter in a machine, push a button, and have the screen flash: “You lose!” or “You win $10”. The mechanism that determined the outcome would be the same, but who would want to play a game like that, especially if you know that the house has a mathematical edge over the player.
The spinning reels, the sound effects, and the bonus games are all there to make the game more interesting to play. If you don’t like the artwork, the music, or any other aspect of a slots game, don’t bother playing it, because those are the real rewards of playing. The chance of getting lucky and winning a jackpot is a real reward, too, but don’t ignore the other aspects of the game.
The random number generator is programmed to pay back a certain percentage of the money paid into it over a period of time. This period of time is known in gambling math as “the long run”, and it’s a lot longer than most people think. We’re talking about tens of thousands of spins, not dozens or hundreds.
This percentage that’s programmed into these machines is always less than 100%. If a slots game were programmed to pay back more than 100% of the money put into it, it would lose money for the casino.
Casinos aren’t in business to lose money.
The trick is to find slot machines that have the highest payout percentages.
Which Slots Pay Back the Most Money
If every slot machine game in the world had a payback percentage posted on the machine somewhere, it would be easy to determine which slots pay back the most money. You could limit your play to machines with a payback percentage of over 95% for example.
It’s too bad casinos don’t provide that information on specific games, though.
You can find information about specific locations and their payback percentages, though. Some gambling guides and magazines publish this information. For example, The American Casino Guide provides certified information about the payout percentages in various states. Not all states reveal this information, but it’s not a huge leap of logic to expect better payback percentages in states that do reveal this information.
For example, the overall payback percentage for slots in Black Hawk, Colorado is 92.8%. In Central City, Colorado, it’s 92.93%, and in Cripple Creek, it’s 93.66%. Alabama doesn’t release the numbers on their payback percentages.
Which casinos do you think offer the better game?
A couple of guidelines hold true no matter where you play, though. One of those is that payouts are better in large cities with lots of gambling. For example, the payouts in Vegas are higher overall than the payouts in Colorado. And the payouts improve when you play for higher stakes. For example, penny slots in Vegas average around 88% to 91%, but dollars slots average between 93% and 96%. Finally, slot machines at airports usually offer the lowest payouts.
What does that mean for the player? It means that over the long run, if you wager $x on a particular game, you’ll win back $x times the payback percentage for that machine. If you’re playing a dollar slot machine on the Strip in Las Vegas, for example, and the payout percentage is around 93%, then if you place $10,000 in wagers, you’ll win back $9300. You lost $700.
That’s only a long term mathematical expectation, though. In the short run, anything can happen, and that’s what keeps people playing.
How to Maximize Your Winnings and Minimize Your Losses
There are three ways to maximize your winnings and minimize your losses. The first is to always join the slots club, and always use your member card while you play. Slots club members get a percentage of their play returned to them in the form of casino rewards and cash back. This is normally a tiny percentage (think 0.1% or 0.2%), but it adds up, especially if you play a lot.
Don’t buy into the myth that playing with your slots club card lowers your expected return on the game, either. That’s not true. The random number generator in these games has no way of knowing whether or not you’re using your slots club card or not.
The second way to increase your winnings and minimize your losses is to use effective bankroll management techniques. This means limiting the amount of time that you play, limiting the amount of money that you’re willing to lose in any session and in any given gambling trip, and finding other fun things to do with your time besides just playing the slots.
Finally, try to play the machines with the highest payout percentage. Over the long run, if you keep playing, you’ll probably eventually wind up a loser at the slots (unless you hit a huge progressive jackpot), but you’ll lose your money more slowly and get more entertainment value for the money you gambled.
Some people might want to know how to find the payout percentage on a slot machine. Sadly, it’s not something that’s printed on most games — at least not here in the United States.
This post is for them.
Understanding this topic involves some rudimentary understanding of probability as it relates to casino gambling. You’ll need to understand three separate concepts thoroughly:
- Payback percentage
- House edge
- Return to player
This post explains each of those in enough detail that even a beginner should understand what they mean.
Some Basic Facts Related to Probability, the House Edge, Payback Percentage, and Return to Player
Probability is the branch of mathematics that deals with how likely an event is to happen. If you want to measure how likely you are to win a jackpot on a slot machine, probability is the way to figure that out.
But the word also refers directly to that likelihood.
In other words, if I say the probability of getting heads when I flip a coin is 50%, I’m not talking about that branch of mathematics. I’m talking about the actual statistical likelihood of that event.
You should understand a few things about probability in general.
Probability is always a number between 0 and 1. An event with a probability of 0 will never happen, and an event with a probability of 1 will always happen. The closer to 1 the probability is, the more likely the event is to happen.
Probability can be expressed multiple ways. It can be expressed as a fraction, a decimal, a percentage, or as odds. The probability of getting heads on a coin flip can be expressed as 1/2, 0.5, 50%, or 1 to 1.
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An event’s probability is the number of ways it can happen divided by the total number of possible outcomes. When you’re discussing a coin toss, you have two possible outcomes. Only one of those is heads. That makes the probability 1/2.
The probability that an event will occur added to the probability that an event won’t occur always equals 1. Therefore, if you know the probability that something will happen, you also automatically know the probability that it won’t happen, and vice versa.
/hotel-closest-to-casino-de-montreal/. The house edge is a statistical measure of how much the house expects to win (on average, over the long run) from every bet you make on a game. The house edge is a theoretical number that accounts for the probability of winning versus the probability of losing AND the payout if you win.
All casino games carry a house edge. In the short run, it doesn’t matter much, but in the long run, it’s the most important thing.
If I say a game has a house edge of 4%, this means that over time, you should average a loss of $4 for every $100 you bet on the game. This is a long run statistical average, though. In the short run, you’re unlikely to see results that mirror the house edge.
The return to player and the payback percentage are the same thing. Some writers use one to refer to the statistical expectation and the other to refer to the actual results, but most writers use these terms interchangeably.
The payback percentage added to the house edge always equals 100%. The payback percentage is the amount of each bet that you get back, and the house edge is the amount of each bet that the casino wins. Again, these numbers are on average over the long run.
A game with a 4% house edge has a 96% payback percentage.
In the United States, slot machine payback percentages are impossible to calculate and not posted on gambling machines. To calculate the house edge or the payback percentage for a casino game, you need two pieces of data:
- The probability of winning
- The amount of money you’ll win (the payoff)
Slot machines include their payouts on their pay tables, but they don’t include the probability of achieving any of the winning outcomes.
In some countries, the payback percentage is posted on the machines, but not in the United States.
To make things even worse for a slot machine player, the random number generator program can be set differently even if the slot machine is identical to the one next to it. You could be playing The Big Lebowski slots at Choctaw Casino in Durant, Oklahoma, and your buddy could be playing the identical machine right next to you.
The payback percentage on his machine might be 94%, and the payback percentage on your machine might only be 88%.
The difference comes from how the probabilities are weighted for each symbol. On one game, the bars might show up 1/4 of the time, but on the next, they might only come up 1/8 of the time.
This has an obvious effect on the payback percentage.
The payback percentage would be easy to calculate if you knew the probabilities. The payback percentage is just the total expected value of all the possible outcomes on the machine.
Let’s assume you have 1000 possible reel combinations. Let’s also assume that if you got each of those in order, from 1 to 1000, you’d win 900 coins.
The payback percentage for that game would be 90%.
You’d put 1000 coins in, and you’d have 900 coins left after a statistically perfect sampling of 1000 spins.
If you knew the payback percentage and house edge for a slot machine game, you could predict your theoretical cost of playing that game per hour in the long run. You’d only need to multiply the numbers of bets you made per hour by the size of those bets. Then you’d multiply that by the house edge to get your predicted loss.
Most slots players make 600 spins per hour. Let’s assume you’re playing on a dollar machine and betting three coins on every spin, or $3 per spin. You’re putting $1,800 per hour into action.
If the slot machine had a 90% payback percentage, you’d lose $180 per hour on that machine. You’d have $1,800 at the start of the hour and $1,620 at the end of the hour — assuming you saw statistically predicted results.
In the real world, though, where you’d be seeing short-term results, you’d see some hours where you won and some hours where you lost. If you played long enough, the Law of Large Numbers would ensure that you’d eventually see the statistically predicted results.
But in the long run, the math will ensure that the casino will win a net profit.
How You Could Calculate a Payback Percentage Based on Actual Results
Of course, you have some data that you can directly observe when you’re playing slot machines.
But tracking this data and calculating the payback percentage on a specific session can add to your enjoyment of any slot machine game. It can make you more mindful because you’ll be paying more attention to what’s happening.
Here’s how to do it.
Start by tracking how many spins you’re making per hour. This is easy to do, but it takes more effort than you might think. It might help to get one of those clicky things people use to count stuff with. You will probably also need a stopwatch of some kind. I just use the timer function on my phone.
Make a note (mental is fine) of how much you’re betting per spin. It helps to bet the same amount.
Also note how much money you started with so that you can calculate how much you’ve won or lost. The slot machine will convert your money into credits. The easiest thing to do is to keep up with how many credits you had at the beginning of the session and again at the end of the session.
Now, let’s do the math using a hypothetical 45-minute session.
I made 300 spins in 45 minutes. I was betting $3 per spin, and I started with $600.
After my playing session, I had $500 left. At times I was up, and at times I was down.
But my net loss was $100. (My starting bankroll was $600, and I finished with $500.)
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Over 300 spins, that means I lost an average per spin of 33 cents. $100 in losses divided by 300 spins is 33.33 cents per spin.
How much was I betting per spin?
Since I was playing a $1 machine, and my max bet was three coins, I was risking $3 per spin.
33 cents is 11% of $3, which means my actual loss was 11%. The machine paid back 89% for the session.
Does this mean that the payback percentage for the machine is 89%?
In the scheme of things, 450 spins is a small sample size. To have any confidence in your statistics, you really need to have at least 5,000 spins under your belt.
Even then, depending on how volatile the game is, your actual results might be wildly different from the mathematically expected payback percentage.
Here’s another example that will prove that point.
My friend Leo went to the Winstar last weekend and played the $5 slots. He started with $3,000, and when he left, he had $4,800, which means he had an $1,800 profit for the day.
He played for seven hours.
I’ve watched Leo play. He’s slow, but not much slower than average. He makes about 500 spins per hour.
This means that he made about 3,500 spins.
$1,800 in winnings divided by 3,500 spins is an average win of 51 cents per spin.
Since he was betting $5 per spin, his return was 10.3%.
His actual return for the trip on that slot machine was 110.3%.
I have friends who design slot machines for a living — more than one, in fact. They’ll be happy to tell anyone who asks that the algorithm is never set up to have a payback percentage of more than 100%.
What About the Casinos That Advertise a Specific Payback Percentage?
Some casinos advertise a specific payback percentage. This is almost always stated as an “up to” number.
So you might see an ad for a casino that says, “Payback percentages up to 98%!”
They’re almost certainly telling the truth, too. They probably have one slot machine in their casino that has a payback percentage of 98%. Of course, it isn’t labeled, so you don’t know which one it is.
And in the short run, which is what you’re going to be playing in as an individual gambler, there’s not much difference between a 98% payback percentage and a 92% payback percentage. You could walk away a winner or a loser at either setting.
Also, keep in mind that the games aren’t designed to tighten up after a win and loosen up after a lot of losing spins. That’s not how it works at all.
The machines are designed to allow you to win a certain specific percentage of the time because of the probability. Then there’s an average amount that you’ll win based on the payout for the specific combination of symbols that you hit.
But every spin of the reels on a slot machine is an independent event. You can hit a jackpot on a spin, and your probability of hitting the jackpot on the next spin hasn’t changed at all.
What About the Denominations and Location Reports I See Advertised on the Internet?
You’ll find websites like Strictly Slots and American Casino Guide which post payback percentages for specific denominations and specific casinos. These are AVERAGES.
These averages have little bearing on the machine that you’re sitting in front of.
you might be looking at a casino that reports an average payback percentage of 94% on its dollar slot machines. That casino might have half their machines paying off at 90% and the other half paying off at 98%.
And you won’t be able to differentiate between the two because the hit ratio might be the same from one of those machines to another.
What Do Hit Ratio and Volatility Have to Do With It?
The hit ratio is the percentage of time that you can expect to hit a winning combination on a slot machine. Something like 30% isn’t unusual, but it can vary 10% or more in either direction. The casinos want you to a hit a winning combination often enough that you won’t lose interest in playing the game.
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But hit ratio is only part of the equation. The average size of the prize amounts is also important. Volatility takes this into account. A game that hits less often but has higher average prize amounts might have the same payback percentage as a game that hits more often but with lower payouts.
Either way, in the short run, it will be all but impossible to discover this number, too.
If you wanted to, you could track how many spins resulted in wins for you and calculate the percentage, but you’re facing the same obstacle you are with the overall payback percentage of the machine.
You just don’t know what it’s programmed to accomplish in the long run.
Online Slot Machines
Some online casinos post the payback percentages for their slot machine games. I think this information is of limited use, but I also think it’s fairer to the gambler than not providing them with that information.
After all, table games are transparent. You can calculate the house edge for any casino table game there is because they all use random number generators with known quantities — cards, dice, and wheels.
There’s been a push to label food, both at the grocery store and at restaurants, with nutritional information that includes caloric amounts.
Requiring casinos to provide similar information about their gambling machines only makes sense.
We’ll see if it ever happens, though.
You can’t find the payout percentage on a slot machine — at least not in the United States.
I’ve heard that you can get this information on slot machines in Europe, but I’ve never seen an actual photograph of this kind of labeling.
You can, though, have some fun calculating actual payback percentages in the short run. This at least gives you something to keep track of while you’re playing slots, which is honestly one of the more mindless activities in the casino.