When To Switch Slot Machines

Most people look at the vast array of casino slot machines and assume they are all alike. They see a handle, a coin slot, flashing lights and figure one is as good as another. However, in making this assumption, they fail to see a lot of valuable information to help determine if they should play a particular slot machine.

  1. “Time on Device” (TOD) is the #1 metric that casinos and slot machine manufacturers are.
  2. Most modern slot machines are designed to look and feel like the old mechanical models, but they work on a completely different principle. The outcome of each pull is actually controlled by a central computer inside the machine, not by the motion of the reels. The computer uses step motors to turn each reel and stop it at the predetermined point.
  3. Someone hit a jackpot on the machine you just left - so you would have won that jackpot if you kept.

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For older style slot machines, this is at least 7 days and may be as much as 2 weeks, as I’ve expressed in Professor Slots Episode #21: Winning at Slots on Older Casinos-Kentucky Slots 2018. Most recently, since 2012 or so, relatively newer casinos have been able to reduce this costly workforce thanks to new casino operating systems.

Surprisingly perhaps, machines aren't all the same. The best way to separate one from another is to learn how to “read” a machine by looking at the payout schedule on the front. Let’s see what information can be found on a typical slot machine.

Casinos here in the U.S. and abroad keep several types of slot machines in play at any given time. A few you'll most often see:

Multiplier: This machine has a payout for a certain symbol and the number of coins played multiplies it. If the machine pays 5 coins for three lemons when you play one coin, it would pay 10 for the second coin and 15 for three coins played. This machine does not penalize you for not playing maximum coins. If you plan to play only one coin at a time, this is the type of machine you should look for.

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Bonus Multiplier: This machine operates like the multiplier but offers a bonus when you play maximum coins and hit the jackpot. Three 7’s may pay 1,000 for one coin, 2,000 for two coins and 10,000 for maximum coins. The central question is whether the bonus is worth playing the extra coin.

Multiple Payline: These machines have more than one line of play. Each coin activates a particular line. If you hit a winner on a line that is not activated, you will not receive anything. The older machines used to have three lines but the newer video slots can have up to nine lines.

Buy-a-Pay: These are the most misunderstood machines in the casino. Each coin activates a different payout. You need the maximum coins to receive the largest jackpot.

One example is the Sizzlin' 7s machines. This machine will pay on cherries, bars, and sevens. The sevens pay 1,000 coins. If you play one coin you collect only on the cherries. If you play two coins you collect on cherries and bars.

Three coins are required to collect on the Sizzlin' 7s. If you hit the jackpot with one coin in you will not win anything -- do not play this machine under any circumstances unless you are playing the maximum coins.

Progressive Slots: The progressive slots take a certain percentage of the money played and add it to a pool for the top jackpot.

First and foremost, It is never wise to play a progressive machine with less than the maximum coins -- stories abound of people losing out on lesser progressive jackpots because of short coin play.

Some casinos link machines together within their own facility to offer mini-progressive jackpots.

Megabucks and Quarter Mania are examples of machines from several casinos linked together to offer 'life-changing jackpots'. It's important to keep in mind that payback percentage on lesser wins is lowered to allow for these jackpots.

All of the information you need is posted on the front of each slot machine. Before sitting down to play, taking a minute to “read” the machine will help make you more knowledgeable in determining which machines may be best suited for you.

Until next time, remember:
'Luck comes and goes..Knowledge Stays Forever.'

You are playing a three-coin slot machine. You only are playing two coins at the time. The jackpot is hit. If you had been playing one coin, or if you had been playing three coins, would it still have gone off at that point?

If you had put in one or three coins the outcome would likely have been entirely different. The machine is constantly drawing random numbers and the numbers that were drawn at the moment you spin the reels determine the outcome. So, if you had played fewer or more coins you would have spun the reels at a different moment and thus the outcome would have been different.

When To Switch Slot Machines

Hey Shack I hadn't been to the site in awhile and I just wanted to compliment you on the new sleek look. I know you initially wanted to stay away from the banners but they do help pay the bills eh?
Congratulations also on the new gig with Casino Player, I enjoy it the site and your occasional posts on bj21. As someone who works in the industry, admittedly not slots, I was under the impression that the more recent slots have the RNG stop the moment the first coin drops, so it really doesn't matter if you play 1,2, or 3 coins -- the symbols will line up the same. Have I been misinformed? According to your previous answer I apparently have. Keep up the good work and I'll stay in touch, thanks and best wishes.

Thanks for the kind words Dave. You're right that it was the money that finally made me accept the banners. It is my understanding that when the player presses the button to spin the reels the random numbers are drawn at that instant, which determine where the reels stop, and ultimately what you win. The number of coins bet does not matter.

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How many numbers does the RNG (Random Number Generator) pick for each spin in a slot machine? Is it three numbers (1 for each reel) or is it 1 number that's mapped to a unique combination of symbols for all 3 reels?
This is a great website!. FYI - A guy missed the Megabucks jackpot (7.9M) yesterday because he had just two coins in. To the best of your knowledge, when does the RNG stop and determine your outcome? If it stops on the first coin, then he blew it. If it is on the last coin, he could have had an entirely different outcome. My guess that the stop time is set by the individual manufacturer, and there is no regulation telling him when to do so. Just wondering if you knew different.

Thanks for the compliment. The outcome of the game is determined when the player initiates the spin. The game is constantly drawing random numbers, even when not played. The random numbers chosen at the moment the button is pressed to spin the reels determine where the reels stop, which determines what the player wins. So, if the player bet three coins he would have pressed the button at a different moment, causing a different outcome.

Have you noticed when you look sideways past the right reel on IGT games there are 4-5 counters inside the machine labeled 'coins in, coins out, jackpots' or similar wording? I was just wondering what your experience with the counters was. Is there any way to get helpful information from those? Thanks for your time.
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No, that information won’t help you at all. Your odds are always the same on every spin, regardless of the counters.

I have heard it is illegal for a slot machine to deliberately have too many near misses. Can you tell me what you know about this?

To answer your question I asked a well connected gaming consultant and he said Nevada regulations state that one stop on a reel can not be weighted more than six times more than either stop next to it. So if a jackpot symbol were weighted by 1 and both bordering blanks were weighted by 6 then there would be 12 near misses for every one time the reel stopped on the jackpot symbol. This would be the maximum allowed near miss effect. My own results detailed in my slot machine appendix 1 back up this theory well. The red double seven was the highest paying symbol and I saw the blanks above and below it about 5 to 6 times as often:

When To Switch Slot Machines

Double Strike Actual Results

SymbolReel 1Reel 2Reel 3
Double red 7525155

The same source said that New Jersey and Mississippi likely have adopted the Nevada regulations.

When To Switch Slot Machines Machine

This is not a game theory question, but I figured since you answer dating questions you might handle this. I had a dream recently where I sat down at an open slot machine. I was getting my player’s card out of my pocket when a guy came up from behind me and put money in the machine. I told him it was my machine and hit the cash out button and gave him his ticket. He said he had his eye on the machine and since he had his money in first it was his machine. I turned to call a slot attendant and while I was doing that he put his money in again, pushed the button and hit a jackpot. In my dream we then had an argument over who gets the money, the person who clearly had the machine and intended to play it or the person who unsolicited put the money in the machine. I realize this is a bizarre situation but who do you think would win the argument?

My understanding is that the person who is pressing the buttons gets the money. I asked Brian, who helped with the last question, about this. Here is what he wrote, which I agree with.

'the Lobby') of an online casino is worth your money.Casino sites use the lobby to display the most attractive games and push you to try something new every time you log in.But the most attractive games aren't necessarily the slot with the best odds — and you know that finding games with good winning odds should be your mantra.While it's great to know what the best new slots are, you need to focus on value and chances to win money.The secret to making this work is to open all the games in the lobby, head to the payout page of each slot, and check the RTP. Special BonusesEvery time you register an account to play online, you can claim online casino sign up bonuses and receive free spins or bonus money to play slots online.These, however, are not the only promotions you can use to win at slots.Most casino sites have special bonus codes to claim offers that you can add to the signup one. Use the Casino LobbyNot everything you see on the homepage (aka. /slot-machine-win-images.html.

In the scenario described, the person who put in the money and pressed the buttons would receive the jackpot.

What I find interesting about this question is the paradox that in all likelihood, the jackpot never would have occurred without this chance encounter.


As you know, the random number generator in the slot machine is continuously working even when the machine is not in play. So even though one patron feels cheated, their run-in ultimately led to pressing the spin button at that exact millisecond when the RNG was on the winning combination. So, if one patron had acquiesced, there is never a jackpot to fight over.

I have used your site to knock down myths and betting systems with many friends and your proofs always win the day. On the Pink Panther (and some others) there is a bonus round that presents a screen with pictures from which to pick. Behind some are coin amounts and others have a symbol that ends the bonus round. Once you are presented with the bonus board the placement of the symbols cannot be changed, can they?

Thanks for helping in the fight against betting systems. First let me say that I have never worked for a major slot machine company and don’t have direct knowledge of this. However, I know many people in the industry and those I trust pretty much are in agreement on this topic.

That said, it is my understanding that in all forms of electronic games, including video slots, video poker, and video keno, the outcome is usually determined the moment you make your decision. Meanwhile the possible outcomes are constantly being shuffled, thousands of times a second. I can’t speak for every slot machine but I believe that with the major U.S. slot makers the outcome is not predestined but depends on the exact microsecond you press the button to make your play.

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First, love the site, very informative! Background: When using a Random Number Generator (RNG) to determine certain payouts for a finite set, such as 1 million lottery scratch off cards, the RNG can be programmed to drop non-pay or add pay selections so as to keep a more even distribution of winners throughout the finite set of cards created. The goal is to maintain a more even distribution in the cards along with the payout percentage as required. Is this, or can this programming be done in Nevada? The law of averages would indicate no need for this, but is it not theoretically possible for a signed 97% slot machine to payout 95% one year and 99% the next year unless some control on the RNG was made?

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Thanks for the kind words. Scratch cards and pull tabs can indeed be printed in batches. These batches will have a specified number for each win, and the return of the overall batch will be exactly as the maker intended. In some jurisdictions, where only pull tabs are legal, the outcome can be displayed to the player on a video monitor, in the form of a slot or video poker machine. However, in Nevada, that is not how slots work. Each play is completely independent of the past. A machine programmed to average a 97% return, could indeed pay under 95% or over 99% over a year, especially if not heavily played.