- Generally, the more cash you put into a slot machine, the higher its payout percentage is going to be. The slots that require at least $1 pay out 95-99%, where 25 and 50 cent slot machines pay out less, 92-95%. Now for the sake of comparison, let’s say a certain slot machine has an RTP of 92% and it costs you $1 to spin its reels.
- Slot machines don’t become due for a win when they haven’t paid out in a long while, and they also don’t become hot and start paying out more. Every spin is like a single coin toss or a single roll of the dice—the outcome is independent of all the outcomes prior to it. The location of the slot machine.
- Loosest Slot Machines: When you hear other players talk about “tight” and “loose” slot machines, they are talking about the payout percentage. A looser slot machine pays out often and a higher percentage, whereas a tight machine has a lower return to play and will pay out fewer times. Looser slots are much better for players.
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- Big Payouts On Slot Machines
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- Biggest Slot Machine Winners Recorded
- Slot Machine Big Payouts
One of the most common ones is the belief that a casino can raise and lower a machine's payback with the flip of a switch. This is not true because the slot machines have a computer chip in them that determines the pay back percentage. These are set at the factory. In order for a casino to change the pay back, they would have to change the chip.
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.
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.)
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.
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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.
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.
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Requiring casinos to provide similar information about their gambling machines only makes sense.
We’ll see if it ever happens, though.
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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.
Biggest Slot Machine Winners Recorded
Remember the movie National Lampoon’s Vegas Vacation, when gambling fever consumes Chevy Chase’s character, Clark W. Griswold? He goes on a losing streak to beat all losing streaks while his son, Rusty, wins four cars by playing the slot machines. Maybe Clark would have done better if he had read Probability For Dummies! In this article, you discover the basic ideas behind slot machines and how they work, so that you can get past the myths and develop a strategy based on sound probability.
Understanding average payout
When casinos advertise that their slot machines pay out an average of 90 percent, the fine print they don’t want you to read says that you lose 10 cents from each dollar you put into the machines in the long term. (In probability terms, this advertisement means that your expected winnings are minus 10 cents on every dollar you spend every time the money goes through the machines.)
Suppose you start with $100 and bet a dollar at a time, for example. After inserting all $100 into the slot, 100 pulls later you’ll end up on average with $90, because you lose 10 percent of your money. If you run the $90 back through the machine, you’ll end up with 90 percent of it back, which is 0.90 x 90 = $81. If you run that amount through in 81 pulls, you’ll have $72.90 afterward (0.90 x 81 = 72.90). If you keep going for 44 rounds, on average, the money will be gone, unless you have the luck of Rusty Griswold!
How many pulls on the machine does your $100 give you at this rate? Each time you have less money to run through the machine, so you have fewer pulls left. If you insert $1 at a time, you can expect 972 total pulls in the long term with these average payouts (that’s the total pulls in 44 rounds). But keep in mind that casinos are designing slot machines to go faster and faster between spins. Some are even doing away with the handles and tokens by using digital readouts on gaming cards that you put into the machines. The faster machines can play up to 25 spins per hour, and 972 spins divided by 25 spins per minute is 38.88 minutes. You don’t have a very long time to enjoy your $100 before it’s gone!
Slot Machine Big Payouts
The worst part? Casinos often advertise that their “average payouts” are even as high as 95 percent. But beware: That number applies only to certain machines, and the casinos don’t rush to tell you which ones. You really need to read or ask about the fine print before playing. You can also try to check the information on the machine to see if it lists its payouts. (Don’t expect this information to be front and center.)
Implementing a simple strategy for slots
Advice varies regarding whether you should play nickel, quarter, or dollar slot machines and whether you should max out the number of coins you bet or not (you usually get to choose between one and five coins to bet on a standard slot machine). In this section, you’ll find a few tips for getting the most bang for your buck (or nickel) when playing slot machines.
Basically, when it comes to slot machines, strategy boils down to this: Know the rules, your probability of winning, and the expected payouts; dispel any myths; and quit while you’re ahead. If you win $100, cash out $50 and play with the rest, for example. After you lose a certain amount (determined by you in advance), don’t hesitate to quit. Go to the all-you-can-eat buffet and try your luck with the casino food; odds are it’s pretty good!
Choosing among nickel, quarter, and dollar machines
The machines that have the higher denominations usually give the best payouts. So, between the nickel and quarter slots, for example, the quarter slots generally give better payouts. However, you run the risk of getting in way over your head in a hurry, so don’t bet more than you can afford to lose. The bottom line: Always choose a level that you have fun playing at and that allows you to play for your full set time limit.
Deciding how many coins to play at a time
When deciding on the number of coins you should play per spin, keep in mind that more is sometimes better. If the slot machine gives you more than two times the payout when you put in two times the number of coins, for example, you should max it out instead of playing single coins because you increase your chances of winning a bigger pot, and the expected value is higher. If the machine just gives you k times the payout for k coins, it doesn’t matter if you use the maximum number of coins. You may as well play one at a time until you can make some money and leave so your money lasts a little longer.
For example, say a quarter machine pays 10 credits for the outcome 777 when you play only a single quarter, but if you play two quarters, it gives you 25 credits for the same outcome. And if you play the maximum number of quarters (say, four), a 777 results in 1,000 credits. You can see that playing four quarters at a time gives you a better chance of winning a bigger pot in the long run (if you win, that is) compared to playing a single quarter at a time for four consecutive tries.
The latest slot machine sweeping the nation is the so-called “penny slot machine.” Although it professes to require only a penny for a spin, you get this rate only if you want to bet one penny at a time. The machines entice you to bet way more than one penny at a time; in fact, on some machines, you can bet more than 1,000 coins (called lines) on each spin — $10 a shot here, folks. Because these machines take any denomination of paper bill, as well as credit cards, your money can go faster on penny machines than on dollar machines because you can quickly lose track of your spendings. Pinching pennies may not be worth it after all!