What Casinos Don't Want You To Know About Slot Machines

by John Robison
Do the slot machines on the ends of aisles pay better than the machines in the middle? How about the machines near the table games? They’retight, right? And are the machines near the coin redemption booths loose? Join us on our journey for finding loose slot machines.
The loose slot machine is the slot player’s Holy Grail. Much as King Arthur’s Knights of the Round Table searched Britain for the Holy Grail of myth, slot players search casinos for loosemachines. Slot players have formulated many theories about where casinos place their loose machines to aid them in their quest.

Before we can figure out where the loose machines are, we have to figure out what they are. There is no U.S.D.A. system for grading the looseness of machines and no national orinternational standard that determines whether a machine is tight or loose.

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For every 27 people in Japan, you’ll find a slot machine. In the United States, you’ll find one slot machine for every 350 people. So, yes, we have a lot of slots in the United States. But we don’t even come close to having the kind of slot machine fever that they have in Japan.

Casinos don’t want you to know about these games. That’s because they are their cash cows. According to casinos, most table games besides the traditional ones like craps, roulette, baccarat, and blackjack are just rip-offs. As per a few insiders, you should stay away from Caribbean Stud, Let it Ride and Three-Card Poker. Whether you are a seasoned high roller or a slots enthusiast, casinos have been designed in a way that you’ll keep playing. Of course, by the time you are going to play at a casino you already have a clue of what exactly you’ll be going to do. You also know that there are high chances that the casino. Slot machines are the prized possessions of live online casino malaysia because it is estimated that casinos rake in most of the profits from these machines. You should know that unlike some machines in casino games, the slot machines have some secrets. One of the main reasons why slot machines are so loved by unwitting patrons of casinos is.

So, what is a loose slot machine?

Say we have two 94% payback machines. Are they loose? I bet some people say yes and some say no. Why isn’t there agreement? Let me add a little more information to thescenario to see if it gives you an idea of why one person calls a 94% payback machine loose and another calls it tight. What if I told you that one machine was a nickel machine and theother a dollar machine? For most people who play nickel machines, a 94% machine is among the best-paying machines in their area. For most people who play dollar machines, on theother hand, a 94% machine is among the worst-paying machines in their area. The person who called 94% loose probably plays lower-denomination machines, while the person who called 94%tight probably plays higher-denomination machines.
Let me add one more piece of information. The dollar machine is a video poker machine. Dollar video poker players would rather have root canals onall their teeth with no anesthesia while their fingernails and toenails are ripped off than play a 94% payback machine. They have many adjectives for a 94% payback machine, but loose isnot one of them.
You see, loose isn’t an absolute. Looseness depends on your frame of reference. Looseness is actually a comparison. We shouldn’t say “loose.” We should really say“looser”. We should really be asking where the looser machines are. But let’s bow to common usage and continue using the term loose machine.

So, what is a loose machine?

Quite simply, a loose machine is a machine that has a higher long-term payback percentage than another machine. The loose machines in acasino are those machines that have the highest paybacks. These are the machines that will take the smallest bites out of your bankroll in the long run. No wonder slot players areconstantly searching for them.
Over the years, players have developed a number of theories about finding loose slot machines. Casinos place loose machines near the entrances, for example, so passersby can see playerswinning and are enticed to enter the casino and try their luck. The loose machines are also at the ends of the aisles to draw players into the aisle, where the tight machinesare.
And, of course, a loose machine is always surrounded by tight machines. You never have two loose machines side by side. That’s done for players who like to play more than onemachine at a time. If they should happen to stumble upon one of the loose machines, they’ll be pumping their winnings from it into the tight machines around it.
More theories. The machines near the table games are tight because table games players don’t want to hear a lot of bells and buzzers going off and happy slot players whooping it up aftera big win. Another reason the machines near the table games are tight is because table games players will occasionally drop a few coins into a slot machine and they don’t expect to winanything, so why give them a high payback.
Similarly, the machines near the buffet and show lines are tight. People waiting in line are just killing time and getting rid of their spare change. They’re not going to play for along time or develop a relationship with those machines, so the machines can be like piggy banks – for the casino! Money goes in and rarely comes back out.
The machines near the coin redemption booths, on the other hand, are loose. Players waiting in line for coin redemption are slot players and the casino wants them to see other playerswinning. Seeing all those players winning will make them anxious to get back on the slot floor to try their luck again.
Finally, finding loose machines in highly visible locations is most likely. Again, casinos want players to see players winning and be enticed into trying to get a piece of the casino’sbankroll themselves.
These are the theories I can think of off the top of my head. Maybe you know of some others. Most of the theories have a basis in psychology. When we see others winning, we’llwant to play too because 1) we’re greedy, 2) we’re envious, or 3) we see that at least some machines really do pay off and if we keep trying we might find one too.
Based on my own discussions with slot directors, interviews with slot directors, and seminars I’ve attended, I don’t think these theories are relevant in today’s slot world. To see why,we have to look at how slot machines and slot floors have changed.
Picture a slot floor of 10-20 years ago. Even if you don’t go back that far, I’m sure you’ve seen pictures on TV or in books. The slot machines on a casino floor in that era arearranged in long rows, much like products out for sale in a supermarket aisle. There’s no imagination used in placing the machines on the floor. The machines are placed using cold,mechanical precision.
On page 193 in Slot Machines: A Pictorial History of the First 100 Years by Marshall Fey, there’s a great picture of Bally’s casino floor in Atlantic City that illustrates my point. Thepicture shows hundreds of slot machines all lined up in perfect rows like little soldiers. The caption reads, “Like a Nebraska cornfield, rows upon rows of Bally slots extend as far asthe eye can see.”

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Compare that image with the slot floor layout at a casino that was designed in the last five or so years. Studies have shown that players feel very uncomfortable playing in longaisles. They feel trapped when they’re playing in the middle of a long aisle, particularly if the casino is crowded. As a result, modern casinos have shorter aisles and when a long aislecan’t be avoided, it will be wider than others so players won’t feel like they can’t get out.
One of the finding loose machines theories has casinos placing loose machines at the ends of aisles to draw people into the aisles. Having shorter aisles means having more machinesat the ends of those aisles. Can all of these machines be loose?
In addition to being uncomfortable in long aisles, players are also uncomfortable being put out on display for the other players. Perhaps they feel like they might become a target iftheir good luck is too visible.
One slot director I heard speak said that he tried to create “comfortable niches” for his players. Instead of being in a fish bowl, visible to most of the slot floor, players in hisniches can be easily seen by only the other players in that niche.
Another theory about loose machine placement is that casinos place them in highly visible areas. Modern casinos still have highly visible areas, but the areas are visible to a smallernumber of players. A loose machine in this area will influence fewer players than before.
The last change in the slot floor that I want to mention is perhaps the biggest change of all. Casinos used to have hundreds of slot machines. Now they have thousands. Oneslot director in Las Vegas said in an interview a few years ago that with so many machines on his floor, he didn’t have time to micro-manage them. He and his management decided the holdpercentage they wanted for each denomination and he ordered payback programs close to that percentage for his machines. Furthermore, he said this was the common practice in LasVegas.
As much as the slot floor has changed, the changes on the floor are dwarfed by the changes in the slot machines themselves. One thing that struck me about that picture of Bally’s is howall the machines look alike. They really do look like soldiers being inspecting, all standing at attention and in identical uniforms, or like rows of indistinguishable corn plants. In fact, it looks like there are only three different games in the 10 machines in the first row in the picture. Granted, the majority of the machines in Bally’s casino were Ballymachines. Still I’m surprised by the lack of variety in the machines in the front row in the picture.
I heard that one theory why Americans have gotten heavier is that we have access to a wider variety of foods today than we had before. When meals consisted of the same thing time aftertime, it was easy to pass up second helpings of gruel and eat just enough to no longer be hungry. But now we have Chinese one night, Mexican the next, followed by Thai, burgers, pizza,and pasta -- it’s easy to overeat on our culinary trip around the world.
Just as variety in food creates desire, so does variety in slot machines. “Hey, I used to watch The Munsters all the time. I’ll try that machine.” “I never miss TheApprentice. I’ll give that machine a go.” “I played Monopoly all the time as a kid.” “I have a cat and a dog and a chainsaw and a toaster.”
Not only is there more variety in themes on machines, there’s also more variety in paytables. Back in the 1920s, a revolutionary change in slot machine design was paying an extra coin fora certain combination. Adding a hopper to the machine in the electro-mechanical era made it possible for the machine to pay larger jackpots itself instead of requiring a handpay from ajackpot girl. Adding a computer to the slot machine made it possible for today’s machines to pay modest jackpots of a few thousand coins all the way up to life-changing jackpots ofmillions of dollars.
The computer also makes it possible to add more gimmicks to machines. Gimmicks like “spin-til-you win,” symbols that nudge up or down to the payline, haywire repeat-pays, and double spinall add more variety and interest to the games.
Today’s machines are immeasurably more interesting and fun to play than those of even just a decade ago. Each new generation of machines has crisper graphics and better sound than theprior generation. Slot designers are working overtime to devise compelling bonus rounds that will keep players playing for just one more crack at the round. How many people playingWheel of Fortune are trying to win the jackpot? Not many. Most people keep playing to get one more spin of the wheel.
Slot directors today don’t need to pepper their slot floors with loose machines to stimulate play. Today’s machines themselves generate more desire to play than seeing a player doingwell.
Now I'll finish our discussion of where slot directors place loose machines with some additional thoughts, with a few anecdotes I've heard at slot seminars, and with what I think will be thefinal nail in the coffin of loose machine placement philosophies.
One of the placement theories says that tight machines should be placed near the table games because the table games players don’t like a lot of noise while they’re playing. Have the peopleputting forth this theory ever been near a craps table? A craps table with a shooter on a hot roll has to be one of the loudest places -- if not the loudest place -- in the casino. Crapsplayers can be a boisterous lot even when the table isn’t hot. Okay, I can see players needing peace and quiet at blackjack tables (It’s difficult to count cards even in a quiet casino.), butnot at craps, roulette, Let It Ride, and other tables. In any case, the casino can adjust the volume level on a machine. The slot director can put a very quiet, loose machine near the tablesand not disturb a single table games player.
Another problem with following a loose machine placement philosophy is that it limits the flexibility slot directors have in moving their machines around on the slot floor. If the directors aregoing to give up a little bit in payback on some machines, they certainly will want to get their money’s worth and ensure that these machines are in locations where they’ll be played, be seenbeing played, and entice other players to play. Slot floors have only a limited number of high visibility areas. Slot directors won’t want to waste any of their high-paying machines in the morenumerous less visible areas, where the machines won’t be encouraging other players.
Now I’d like to share some anecdotes I’ve heard at panel discussions during the big gaming show (first the World Gaming Congress, then the Global Gaming Expo) that’s held in Las Vegas eachyear.
First, one slot director described an experiment he conducted in his casino. He had a carousel of 5 Times Pay machines that all had the same long-term payback. He ordered new chips to lower thepayback percentages on a couple of the machines to see if anyone would notice. The machines with the lower long-term paybacks received just as much play as the higher-paying machines. Noplayer, furthermore, ever complained that some of the machines in the carousel were tighter than others.
In another seminar, a slot director shared the philosophy he used to place some machines that he had inherited from another property. These machines, he said, had lower long-term paybacks thanthe payback he usually ordered for machines on his slot floor. He said, 'I read the same books that the players read. I put these lower payback machines in the spots that the books said shouldhave the high payback machines.'
My last anecdote is about a decision made by the slot director at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas many years ago. He was ordering 10 Times Pay machines for his slot floor and he was concerned aboutthe low hit frequencies available for those machines. (Machines with multiplying symbols tend to have low hit frequencies, and usually the higher the multiplier, the lower the hit frequency.)The slot director was afraid that his players would think the machines were very tight because they hit so infrequently. He said that he ordered higher paybacks than he usually does for thosemachines in an attempt to offset the low hit frequency. The machines would still have a low hit frequency, but at least the average value of a hit would be a little higher than if he hadordered a payback percentage nearer the percentage he usually ordered. He hoped that would be enough to keep his players from thinking these were tighter than the other machines on his slotfloor.
Although I think these anecdotes are the exceptions that prove the rule that some casinos at least order the same long-term paybacks for machines of a particular denomination, there is evidencethat some casinos may not. In the first edition of Casino Operations Management, for example, Kilby and Fox list a number of “general philosophies that influence specific slot placement”including: “low hold (loose) machines should be placed in busy walkways to create an atmosphere of activity” and “loose machines are normally placed at the beginning and end of trafficpatterns.”
They then say that “high hit frequency machines located around the casino pit area will create an atmosphere of slot activity.” I’m not sure whether they’re saying high hit frequencyshould or shouldn’t be placed near the pit. In any case, note that one philosophy said that loose machines create an atmosphere of activity and another said that high hit frequency machinesalso create an atmosphere of activity. This is the perfect segue into what I think puts the final nail in the coffin about loose machine placement theories.
There is no correlation between long-term payback and hit frequency. A low hit frequency machine can have a high long-term payback. High hit frequency machines, in addition, can have lowlong-term paybacks. Larry Mak, author of Secrets of Modern Slot Playing, recently queried the Nevada Gaming Control Board to find out the payback reported on penny machines. The Board said itwas 90.167%. Most of the penny video slots have very high hit frequencies, yet the overall average long-term payback is very low.
The usual reasoning behind putting loose machines in highly visible areas is so slot players can see other players winning. Maybe we should be more precise here and say that players will seeother players hitting and assume that they are winning because they are playing loose machines. But because there’s no correlation between hit frequency and long-term payback, these players canactually be playing machines with low long-term paybacks.
I don’t put much stock in loose machine placement theories, but I do believe slot directors may follow a hit frequency placement philosophy. Slot directors may try to place high hit frequencymachines in visible areas to encourage play. This philosophy says and implies nothing about the long-term payback of the machines.

John Robison is the author of 'The Slot Expert's Guide
to Playing Slots.' His website is


One of the most common questions you’ll see about anything in the casino gambling industry relates to “honesty”. You’ll see this question asked about every casino game under the sun. You’ll also see it asked about every casino, especially the online gambling sites.

In this post, I want to address this specific question:


Are slot machines honest?

How Do You Define Honest?

When I use Google to look for a definition of honesty, I see some of the following definitions listed:

  • “Free of deceit and untruthfulness”
  • “Sincere”
  • “Morally correct or virtuous”
  • “Fairly earned, through hard work”

I think most people are thinking of the first definition when they ask whether slots games are honest. They want to make sure they’re not being cheated. In this context, the answer is yes, slot machines are honest. I’ll explain why in detail in the rest of this post.

In the second context, where “honest” means “sincere”—I’m less sure. Are the casinos sincere when they want you to think you’re able to win money? I think so, but they know in the long run, anyone who plays slots long enough will lose all their money.

In the third and fourth contexts, I’d have to say that slot machines are NOT honest. Slot machines are closer to morally neutral than they are to sinful, but you might have a different belief system about such things. It’s hard to say that slots don’t appeal to one of the seven deadly sins, though (greed).

I’m not sure anyone could (or would) consider money won on a slot machine “earned” or to have anything to do with “hard work”. It’s a game of luck. If you win, then you got lucky—it has nothing to do with working hard or being smart.

I’ll explain more about that later in this post, too.

How a Slot Machine Works Mathematically

Answering the question “are slot machines honest?” begins with learning how the games work mathematically. The math behind the games is easier to understand than most people probably think.

The first concept to understand is basic probability. When someone says “probability”, they’re talking about the mathematical likelihood that something is going to happen. That “something” is called an event.

The probability of an event is always represented as a number between 0 and 1. An event that will always occur no matter what has a probability of 1. An event that will never occur has a probability of 0. An event that will occur half the time has a probability of 0.5.

For simplicity’s sake, and to make understanding the concept easier, I just used whole numbers and decimals in the previous paragraph. But probabilities are almost always expressed as percentages or fractions.

How to Express Probability as a Percentage

You’re watching the evening news, and the meteorologist says there’s a 50% chance of rain tomorrow.

That means it’s just about as likely to rain as it is to not rain.

Here’s another example:

You flip a coin. You have a 50% chance of it landing on heads. You also have a 50% chance of it landing on tails.

If you add the probabilities of all possible events together, you always get a total of 1 (or 100%).

Probability is the mathematical engine that makes gambling games possible.

How to Calculate a Probability

Here’s how you calculate a probability:

You take the number of ways an event can happen. You divide that by all the total events possible (including what can happen and what happens if it doesn’t.)

You’re rolling a single six-sided die. You want to know the probability of getting a 6.

There are 6 possible outcomes. Only one of them is a 6.

The probability of getting a 6 is 1/6.

Another way to express that is using odds, which can be useful when calculating whether a bet is expected to be mathematically profitable or not.

Odds expresses the number of ways something can’t happen versus the number of ways it can happen.

In the six-sided die example, the odds of getting a 6 are 5 to 1. You have 5 ways of NOT rolling a 1, and only 1 way of rolling a 1.

If you want to calculate a probability that includes the word “or”, you add the probabilities of the events together.

If you want to calculate a probability that includes the word “and”, you multiply the probabilities by each other.

You want to know the probability of getting a 1 or a 2 on a roll of a six-sided die. The probability of each is 1/6.

1/6 + 1/6 = 2/6


You can reduce that to 1/3.

Here’s another example:

You roll 2 dice. You want to know the probability of getting a 6 on both dice. The probability of each is 1/6.

1/6 X 1/6 = 1/36

Applying Probability to a Simple Hypothetical Slot Machine Game

But how does all this apply to the honesty of slot machines?

I’ll use a super simple hypothetical slot machine game to explain how this probability affects the integrity of the game.

This super simple game has 3 symbols on each reel—an orange, a lemon, and a cherry.

The probability of getting a lemon on the first reel is 1/3.

The probability of getting a lemon on the second reel is also 1/3.

In fact, it’s the same on each reel.

But the game only pays off if you get 3 of the same symbol on each reel.

The probability of that is 1/3 X 1/3 X 1/3, or 1/9.

Let’s suppose the payoff for getting 3 lemons is 4 for 1.

And let’s suppose the payoff for getting 3 cherries is 3 for 1.

Finally, we’ll suppose the payoff for getting 3 oranges is even money.

What Casinos Don
  • The probability of winning 4 coins is 1/9.
  • The probability of winning 3 coins is also 1/9.
  • The probability of winning 1 coin is also 1/9.
  • The probability of winning nothing is 6/9, or 2/3.

Now let’s suppose you’re putting $1 in on every spin, and you play 9 spins, getting every possible result once.

You win 4 coins once. You win 3 coins once. You win 1 coin once. That’s a total of 8 coins you’ve won.

But you’ve inserted 9 coins into the game.

Where did the extra coin go?

In the pockets of the casino, that’s where.

By setting up the payoffs so that they’re lower than the odds of winning, the casino sets up a situation where it’s guaranteed a mathematical profit over the long run.

Of course, most modern slot machines aren’t quite this simple. They have more symbols on each reel, for one thing. For another, the probability of getting a particular symbol might be different from the probability of getting another symbol.

For example, you might have a 2/3 probability of getting a pear, and only a 1/24 probability of getting a cherry.

What Happens in the Long Run vs. the Short Term?

By manipulating the payoffs and the probabilities of the symbols, the casino can guarantee that over a long period and many spins, they’ll profit.

But in the short run, a player might win a big jackpot or lose several times in a row.

That’s the nature of random events. In the short run, anything can happen. In the long run, the numbers get closer to the theoretical probability.

This is obvious when you look at it with an extreme example.

On one spin, you could literally win 100 coins, 1000 coins, or nothing.

On an infinite number of spins, your average loss per spin will mirror the mathematical expectation.

The closer you get to an infinite number of spins, the closer you’ll get to the mathematical expectation.

Do Slot Machines Cheat?

ALL slot machines are programmed to have a mathematical edge over the player.

The casinos don’t need to cheat to make a healthy profit.

The slot machine designers and manufacturers don’t need to cheat to make a healthy profit.

What Casinos Don't Want You To Know About Slot Machines Without

In fact, in well-regulated jurisdictions (like Nevada), games are thoroughly audited for fairness. When they’re auditing a game for fairness, one of the things they check is whether a game has a jackpot that’s impossible to win.

That’s the main concern many players have when they ask if slot machines cheat.

Does the game have jackpots that are impossible to win?

The short answer in almost every case is no, they don’t.

But you have no way of knowing what the probability of winning that jackpot is. Slot machine games have opaque odds and probabilities. The results are generated by a computer program called a random number generator (RNG).

The only people who know the exact settings for that RNG are the designers and the casino managers.

In fact, you could be playing two identical slot machines located right next to each on the casino floor and have different odds of winning. Not only is this legal, it’s common.

Does that sound like cheating?

By the strict letter of the law, it’s not.

Is it honest?

I’d say yes. Having two games next to each other offering different odds is intentionally misleading. It’s legal, but it’s not sincere in any way.

Online slot machines are no different, except that in some cases, these games HAVE been known to cheat. But not reputable casinos and not reputable software providers.

How do they cheat?

They set up games which are impossible to win.

The reasons baffle me. You stand to make far more money in the long run if you offer an honest game.

Even an idiot can tell after a while that he’s never going to win a rigged casino game on the Internet.

But otherwise smart people will continue to deposit money and wager it at a breakneck pace if they’re winning something every now and then, even if they’re showing a net loss over time.

That’s how gambling works.

What About Video Poker Games?

You need to understand immediately that video poker games are NOT the same thing as slot machine games. They look similar on the surface, but the math and the gameplay couldn’t be more different. And the philosophy behind these games is different, too.

Here’s why:

A video poker machine uses a random number generator that duplicates the odds found in a 52-card deck of cards. You know the probability of getting a specific symbol. Any specific card has a 1/52 probability of appearing.

A card of a specific suit has a ¼ probability of appearing. A card of a specific rank has a 1/13 probability of appearing.

Payback Percentages and the House Edge

Knowing this enables mathematicians and computer programs to calculate the actual payback percentage for these games.

What’s a payback percentage?

It’s the percentage of each bet that’s paid back to the player on average in the long run. It’s the opposite of the house edge.

On a slot machine, you have no way of calculating a game’s payback percentage. It’s impossible, because you have no way of knowing the probability of getting a specific symbol.

But on a video poker game, you can calculate all the possibilities. And since you know how much the game pays out for various combinations, you can add the expected value of each to get an overall payback percentage for the game.

And you know what’s even better than this?

The payback percentages for video poker games are significantly higher than the payback percentages on slot machines in almost every case.

Even the worst video poker game usually has a payback percentage of 95% or so. But the better games offer payback percentages in the 98%+ range. Some (rare) games have pay tables which offer a slightly positive game for the player, like 100.2%. But those numbers assume perfect strategy on your part.

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But even the best slot machine games usually have a payback percentage in the 95% range. The more common games slip down into the lower 92% or so range.

Expected Hourly Loss Rates in Slot Machine Games vs. Video Poker Games

What does this mean to your bankroll?

Let’s look at how much money you can mathematically expect to lose playing 2 different games:

We’ll start with an average slot machine game with a 94% payback percentage. You’re playing for $1 per spin, and you’re making 600 spins per hour. You expect to win 94% of each bet back, which means you expect to lose 6% of each bet.

6% of $600 is $36, which is the amount the casino expects you to lose on this game on average over time.

Then we’ll consider a 9/6 Jacks or Better game which you’re playing with perfect strategy. The payback percentage for this game is 99.54%, which means the house edge is 0.46%.

We’ll assume you’re playing a quarter machine and betting 5 coins per hand. You’re putting a little more money into action on each bet–$1.25. Most video poker players are as fast as slot machine players; they play 600 hands per hour. That’s $750/hour in action.

But with a house edge of 0.54%, your expected loss on that kind of action is only $3.77.

That’s right.

Playing slots costs you 10 times as much as playing video poker.

Video poker offers other advantages over slots, too. One of these is the skill element. You might not want to think about what you’re doing when you’re gambling.

But if you’re anything like me, you want to be able to at least exert a little bit of control over your destiny.

In video poker, you get to do that. The decisions you make playing each hand have a direct effect on your bottom line.

Play your hands well, and you’ll be playing one of the best gambling games in the house.

Should You Play Slot Machines at All?

This is a legitimate question. Should you play slot machines at all?

Here are some pros and cons of playing slots:


What Casinos Don't Want You To Know About Slot Machines Made

  • You can win bigger jackpots on slot machine games than any other gambling game except maybe keno. If you’re looking for a life-changing jackpot, like you’d see if you won a lotto drawing, slots are the way to go.
  • They require little in the way of attention or effort on the part of the player. This suits some temperaments just fine. Relaxing in front of the spinning reels seems like a good deal for a lot of people.
  • They’re available in an endless variety. You can find a slot machine game with any theme you can imagine. Love Elvis Presley? You’ll find a slot machine for it. Play Dungeons & Dragons when you were 12? There’s a slot for that, too. The themes and games are almost endless.


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  • They offer some of the worst odds in the house. The house edge for slot machines vary widely. Some of them might offer good odds, but most of them have a house edge of between 5% and 10%. This isn’t awful. After all, roulette has a house edge of 5.26%. The problem is that slots play so fast that you can easily put more money into an action than you thought you could.
  • You can’t figure out what the odds are. I have a philosophical problem with slot machine games. No other casino game is opaque about your odds. You can calculate the house edge for any table game in the casino. You can calculate it for video poker, too. But you’re never given the information you need to figure out the house edge on a slot machine. This is unacceptable to me.
  • They’re designed to be addictive. Slot machine manufacturers spend millions doing research into what kinds of stimuli are going to put most people into the “flow” state. Flow is great if you’re interested in personal productivity at work, but if you’re playing a gambling game, it’s awful. No other casino game is as addictive as a slot machine.


Yes, slot machines are honest—in a manner of speaking, anyway. Casinos don’t make claims about slot machines that are blatantly untrue. If a game has a maximum jackpot of $1 million, you do have a chance of winning that much money.

What you don’t know is how likely or unlikely it is to win that amount.

Is this disingenuous on the part of the casinos?

I think it is, at least to some extent.

But all casino games have math behind them that puts the odds in the casino’s favor. That’s just the nature of the games. Slots are no different in that respect.

No matter which casino game you play, if you stick with it long enough, you’ll eventually lose all your money.

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The only exceptions are certain games that can be played with advantage techniques, but that’s another subject entirely.

The only way for you to get an edge against a slot machine game is to cheat.

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In most jurisdictions, cheating is blatantly illegal. You’re better off learning to play poker at an expert level, or learning how to count cards in blackjack.

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