If you’re searching for a winning slot machine strategy, let me disappoint you right from the beginning: there is no winning slot strategy. There’s a reason why casinos make the bulk of their profits from slots, and it’s because the game is always going to favor the house in the long run.
Instead of filling your head with superstition and wishful thinking, the purpose of this article is to focus on sensible ways to save money while playing slots, as well as dispelling a number of myths and half-truths that surround the game. I know that’s not as sexy as offering you some miraculous method of play, but I think it’s better to be realistic about a situation than look at the world through rose-colored glasses (with regards to John Conlee).
The Random Number Generator Explained
All slot machines have a random number generator, whether they’re land-based or online. This device operates with computer precision, constantly generating numbers at the rate of hundreds or thousands of combinations each minute. The instant you press the spin button, the RNG grabs the most recent string of numbers and compares them to their matching symbols on the reels. Before the colorful reels even begin to spin, the outcome has already been determined internally.
While certain symbols are weighted to show up more often than others, the combinations are entirely random and cannot be predicted by the human brain. Each spin is also independent of all others, which means slots never get hot or cold. If a game paid out a massive jackpot five minutes ago to a lucky player, you can take over the machine and enjoy the same (if unlikely) mathematical chance of hitting the jackpot.
The Best Slots Strategy
Without a doubt, the best slot strategy is simply to avoid slot machines in favor of other casino games. Slots are one of the worst bets when it comes to odds, and the fact that the payback percentage is usually kept secret doesn’t help matters.
No slot machine on the planet offers a 100% payback percentage, which means all games are programmed to take in more money than they pay out. That means anyone who plays long enough is going to come out on the losing end, so either avoid them entirely or cash out as soon as you’re lucky enough to score a decent win.
Ways to Save Money at Slots
If you want to walk away a winner, the best thing you can do is manage your money. In order to help you do so, here are some practical tips to remember during your next gaming session:
Avoid Big Progressive Jackpots – Games with massive progressive jackpots (Wheel of Fortune, for example) tend to have worse odds than machines with lower payouts. If you want to be smart, stay away from the monster progressives no matter how tempting they seem. Even though a winning spin could allow you to retire, the most likely outcome is a quick drain on your finances.
Research Online Casinos – Before you play at an online casino, always do some research to make sure that it pays its players in a prompt manner and has an overall solid reputation. While this might not help you win at slots, it can save you a lot of time and trouble in the long run (especially when a winning balance is involved).
Choose Games with Smaller Jackpots – These machines are usually easier to win on, even though the payouts may not be as generous. If you’re looking to play for fun instead of profit (which should always be the case), stick to the machines on the lower end of the spectrum.
Play Off the Strip – If you’re fond of playing at brick-and-mortar casinos, I suggest giving your business to the more out-of-the-way establishments. They’re likely to offer better payouts, as they need to do so to help siphon away customers from their better-situated competitors.
Manage Your Bankroll – Before you begin a session, always calculate how much money you can afford to lose. Once that amount is gone, stop playing immediately. While that might not sound like the most exciting slots strategy, it’s much preferred over dipping into your personal savings and then being unable to pay for food or rent the following month.
Take Advantage of Comps – If you’re a regular player at land-based casinos, it’s common to receive comps from the casino in order to ensure you continued patronage. Always look to take advantage of these perks, as free hotel accommodations or meals can turn an otherwise losing trip into a profitable one. Just make sure that your player’s club card (issued for free by the casino) is always inserted into the machine, as this allows the establishment to monitor playing sessions and ensure that you’ll be awarded for frequent business.
Don’t Get Drunk – People who drink and gamble often lose control of their senses and make stupid decisions. This can have disastrous results, so always try to keep a clear head during a session.
Slots Machine Myths & Strategies to Avoid
While no slot machine strategy is going to allow you to win on a consistent basis, there are some playing techniques and myths that may actually hurt your chances in the long term. At the very least, following these methods may make you look foolish to any knowledgeable slots player in the vicinity. So whether you’re more concerned with saving money or maintaining your dignity, don’t fall for the misinformation and superstitions listed in this section.
Casino Slots Don’t Cheat – When a player loses or even fails to win big, there’s often a tendency to accuse the casino of cheating. This is especially true of slots, and the solitary nature of the game allows players to sit alone and grumble about their misfortune.
Let me assure you right now that casinos—both online and land-based—don’t cheat when it comes to slot machines. There’s no need to, actually, as these games are always programmed to generate a profit for the house over the long term.
If a machine pays back 98% of the money put into it, then it’s guaranteed to make a 2% profit over time. That might not seem like a great amount at first, but consider all the people who play slots on a daily basis, as well as the sheer number of virtual and land-based machines.
Based on volume alone, 2% generates a nice chunk of change over time. All the casino has to do is sit back and rake in the revenue.
Slots Aren’t “Due” to Hit – With slot machines, past events have no influence over future events. If a slot has a 1 in 50,000 chance of hitting, those numbers are going to be the same on every spin, regardless of what happened during the previous one. If a slot hasn’t paid out in a while, your odds of winning aren’t any better or worse than they’ve ever been.
Pressing the Button at the Right Time – Another common myth about slots involves pressing the spin button at just the right time to get an advantage. As discussed earlier, the random number generator is spitting out streams of digits each second, and it locks onto a group as soon as the button is pushed to determine the symbol combination for that spin.
If you could predict the exact numbers generator, know how they correspond to game icons, and push the spin button with superhuman reflexes, then you might be able to get an advantage. None of these are possible, however, so this is nothing more than a pipe dream.
Lever vs Button – Some land-based casinos still include a lever on the side of the machine, although these are becoming increasingly uncommon. Some players think that pulling the lever provides an inherent advantage, although this is just another example of wishful thinking.
Men Selling Secrets – You’ll find a lot of people online who are willing to sell their winning slot machine secrets for just $19.95. Don’t be one of the chumps who deposit money into the bank accounts of these con men, as their so-called secrets are nothing but a bunch of nonsense. In most cases, it’s not even original nonsense, but rather long-standing “systems” that can be found for free all over the Internet.
One of the most ridiculous examples is the “Zig Zag” system, so called because the player is asked to zig zag across the casino floor looking for slots where the last position of the reels is just short of a winning combination. The supposed logic is that if the machine nearly hit a payout, then those symbols are due to line up soon and deliver a win.
Picture me writing this article. Now picture me shaking my head in disbelief that anyone would fall for this silliness.
If someone actually possessed a foolproof method for beating slots, they’d get crazy rich off the information and retire; they wouldn’t waste their time peddling cheaply produced e-books to the general public. The individuals in this line of business are bottom feeders of the lowest order, as they prey on the ignorant and desperate to achieve their ill-gotten gains.
Always Play Maximum Coins – A lot of experts suggest playing maximum coins, as some jackpots aren’t available unless you’re risking the maximum amount of money. If you can’t afford to do this, then they suggest moving down to the next denomination.
This isn’t the best strategy, however. You’ll usually lose less than 1% of the possible return by playing the smallest amount of the highest denomination while moving down to a lesser denomination will wind up costing you more than 1%.
Sure, you’ll be screwed if you hit the jackpot and miss out because you didn’t play maximum coins. If you’re relying on the jackpots to make a profit, however, then you’re already in trouble.
Consulting the Staff – Some players believe that members of the casino staff are aware of the most profitable slots since they spend all day around the machines. Please take a moment and think about that statement. If waitresses and attendants actually had a line on machines that would consistently generate a profit for the player, they’d be busy pumping money into the machine instead of waiting on you hand and foot. As I’ve said before, the house has an edge over everyone…even its own employees.
Location of a Slot Machine – Players at land-based casinos frequently buy into the mistaken notion that the most profitable slots are placed near casino doors and intersections in order to attract additional business. First of all, slots are placed randomly on the casino floor. Secondly, a casino doesn’t need to resort to such tactics to lure in extra business. As the disembodied voice said in Field of Dreams, “If you build it, they will come.”
There’s No Correlation between Time and a Winning Slot – Another common misconception is that slots are more likely to pay out at certain times of the day or during special events. The RNG is totally oblivious to whether it’s noon, midnight, Wednesday, or the day of a lunar eclipse. It just goes about its business as always, which is what you should be doing instead of falling for folklore and old wives’ tales.
The Hot Coin Myth – Some poor fools cling to the notion that a warm coin inserted into a land-based machine provides a better chance of winning. I hope you’ve never tried this tactic, as nothing could be further from the truth.
The random number generator doesn’t give a hoot about the temperature of the coin, and even if this were true it certainly wouldn’t apply to online games. If you want to look like a total noob at a casino, however, be sure to rub each coin vigorously between your fingers before inserting it into the machine.
The 75% Payback Myth – Thanks to a misinformed Travel Channel show on gambling several years ago, a lot of players have the mistaken notion that most slots are set to have a 75% payback percentage. Just in case you saw that episode or had the details related to you by a panicked friend, let me assure you that the information is false.
The truth of the matter is that most slots are programmed to pay back anywhere from 87% to 97% of the money put into them. Even a low-paying slot should be around 85%, and it should also be reassuring to know that most gambling bodies have a minimum requirement to prevent casinos from setting their machines to some ridiculously low number.
If you play online, you may even come out ahead of your land-based counterparts. Internet slot machines tend to be programmed with an overall higher payback percentage in order to lure customers away from brick-and-mortar establishments and remain competitive with other virtual gaming sites.
Dollar Slots – Remember that brilliant Travel Channel gambling episode I mentioned in the last entry? Well, they also put forward the notion that dollar slots give a player the best possible odds among casino games. Whoever approved this in the script should’ve received a comp trip to Vegas from some shrewd casino, as they could’ve likely cleaned the person out within a matter of hours.
The idea that dollar slots give you a better chance of winning than video poker is ridiculous. For that matter, certain craps and roulette bets are superior wagers for the player. In the grand scheme, dollar slots are far down the list when it comes to odds. An instant progressive millionaire might disagree, but these events are few and far between.
As you may have realized by now, there’s no slot machine strategy that’s going to allow you to beat the house on a consistent basis. Perhaps even more sobering, there’s no strategy that can even guarantee and player of breaking even.
The moment you place your money into a slot, you’re leaving the results in the fickle hands of Lady Luck. And while this mercurial entity may sometimes smile on players, she can also be a harsh mistress who sometimes delights in draining bank accounts and ruining lives. Now that I think of it, Lady Luck is actually kind of a jerk.
The only foolproof strategy that works 100% of the time is this: don’t play slots. The odds are always in favor of the house, and even the occasional winning streak can quickly be erased by playing at higher denominations. If you’re serious about making a profit at the casino, I suggest playing video poker, as it’s about the only game that gives the player a mathematical advantage under the right circumstances.
If you want to have a bit of fun and take a shot at winning a huge jackpot, then there’s nothing wrong with spending a few bucks on slots from time to time. Just keep the right state of mind, focus on having fun, and view any winnings as a nice bonus to supplement your session.