Casinos don’t need much help in convincing people to play slot machines. They make the vast majority of their revenue from gamblers spinning reels.

Casinos are also aided by the fact that there are numerous slots games and themes. Just about anybody can find a slot machine that suits their tastes.

Nevertheless, casinos do use some tricks to keep people playing these games longer. After all, more play means larger profits for gambling establishments. You should never play slots longer than you feel like. Unfortunately, some of the tricks at hand make it difficult to quit within a reasonable timeframe.

The best way to avoid falling for these ploys is to know and understand them. That said, I’m going to cover 7 of the biggest slots tricks that keep players glued to the reels.

1 – Being Mesmerized by the Lights and Sounds of Slot Machines

The main reason why slots developers use attractive graphics, flashing lights, and sound effects is to make their games more appealing. Having popular slots helps them sell/license more machines to casinos.

But there’s a more-nefarious reason behind the amusing nature of slots. These lights and sounds capture your attention and keep you immersed in the experience.

One study suggests that the sound effects and flashing lights also encourage quicker play. Considering that casinos have an advantage over everybody, this helps them make more profits.

Some researchers refer to slots trances as the “slot machine zone.” This term describes a phenomenon where you forget your surroundings and only focus on the game at hand.

Many video game players also fall into these zones and waste countless hours in front of a screen. But the slots zone is even more damaging since you can lose lots of money.

A study appearing in the Psychology of Addictive Behaviors Researched journal shows how problem gamblers behave on slot machines. The University of British Columbia (UBC) Team that performed the study recruited two groups of people, including one that frequently played slots along with another that didn’t. They then had both groups participate in 30-minute slot sessions at the UBC facility.

Each slot machine featured panels on the sides that showed moving white circles. Participants were asked to push a button whenever one of the white circles turned into a red square.

UBC researchers discovered that those who were at higher risk for problem gambling missed pushing the button at the right times more often non-problem players. This group also reported falling into a trance-like state while playing slots.

Luke Clark, who heads the UBC Centre for Gambling Research, told UBC News that the slot machine zone is a big reason why problem gamblers lose track of time.

“When the experienced slot machine gamblers played, we found they not only felt that they lost track of time and their surroundings,” he explained,“but they often failed to notice the shapes on the periphery of the machine.”

Clark would like to see slots designed in a way that doesn’t entrance players so badly. But until that happens, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings and avoid becoming too immersed in these games.

2 – Falling for Losses Disguised as Wins

Slot machines have come a long way since the days when they were single-line machines with mechanical arms. Modern slots are now computerized and feature anywhere from 20-300 paylines.

Numerous lines makes for the exciting possibility of forming multiple wins in any round. Furthermore, you can feel like a winner more often when you land a payout on at least one payline.

Unfortunately, this also has a negative effect in convincing you that you’re winning when you are in reality losing. Losses disguised as wins (LDWs) are commonly used by casinos and slots manufactures to trick gamblers. It’s very common to win a prize on one or more pay lines and still lose money overall.

Here’s an example of LDWs:

  • You bet $1.00 on a slot spin.
  • You win small payouts worth $0.10 and $0.25 ($0.35 total).
  • The machine makes a triumphant sound and lights flash.
  • You feel like a winner, because you just picked up two payouts.
  • The reality, though, is that you actually lost $0.65 overall.

Anybody with basic math skills can see that this is a losing spin. But it’s more difficult to ascertain that you’re losing when there are signs and lights going off.

The fast pace of slot machines also plays a role here. You don’t normally have time to process how much you’ve won or lost when playing at a consistent pace.

Natasha Dow Schüll, a cultural anthropologist at New York University, wrote a book about slot machine addiction called Addiction By Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas.

She covers the concept of LDWs on a number of pages. Schüll also spoke with Vox about how these fake wins contribute to people losing more money on slots.

“The laboratory research on this (LDWs) shows that people experience this in their brains in an identical way as a win.” The study that she references was performed by the University of Waterloo in 2011. The team wanted to explore whether LDWs caused the same “arousal” as true wins.

They measured heart rate changes and skin conductance response (SCR) amplitudes after real wins, complete losses, and LDWs. Complete losses of course produced low SCR and heart rate changes. But LDWs and true wins surprisingly produced around the same increases in both categories.

The U. of Waterloo researchers concluded that LDWs and real wins create similar excitement due to the winning lights and sounds that occur for both.

3 – Near Wins Convincing You to Keep Playing

Another type of slot machine trick is near wins. A near win is a result that comes just short of a huge payout or any prize in general.

Here’s an example:

  • Aslot offers a 10,000-coin jackpot for five diamonds in a payline.
  • You get three out of the necessary five diamonds in a line.
  • This offers a significantly lower payout at 50 coins.
  • You feel so close to the jackpot that you continue playing for another unscheduled hour.

This example might make it seem like you were close to the jackpot. But it’s important to realize that you’re much farther off than it seems.

Even near wins that are complete losses can encourage you to keep spinning. For instance, you might get two of the necessary three icons for payout. Even if the game doesn’t award you anything for landing two symbols, you might feel more encouraged to continue playing for this prize and others.

Research shows that near wins are similar to LDWs in that they feel like true wins. Furthermore, they also cause you to keep playing.

Even social games like Candy Crush can include near win elements. But the difference is that slot machines are usually much costlier than Candy Crush and other smartphone games. Additionally, they’re more arousing than losses, even when you don’t win any money. Just as with LDWs, you need to look at near wins logically.

If you miss a payout or jackpot by 1-2 symbols, you aren’t really that close to winning it. Instead, the odds of you getting those extra one or two icons are much longer than you think.

4 – Giving In to Gambling Dopamine

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that the brain releases during pleasurable activities like eating and having intercourse. It spikes even further when there’s a potential reward waiting at the end of a fun activity.

Therefore, it makes sense that slot machines can cause a rise in dopamine. You have a chance to win a big reward every time you spin the reels.

Research shows that dopamine increases during gambling are similar to those experienced by drug users. Just like with abusing drugs, frequent gambling can lead to long-term changes in the brain. These brain changes only further the chances of problem gambling by making you crave action. They can also change the way that your mind responds to losing spins.

As discussed earlier, research shows that most people don’t get the same thrills out of losing spins as they do with LDWs and true wins. But brain chemistry changes can cause dopamine to be released after both wins and losses.

This phenomenon causes an obvious problem where you draw excitement from winning and losing money. Therefore, you become addicted to playing slot machines regardless of how you’re doing. Casinos don’t directly have anything to do with dopamine releases during slots play. But some of the other tricks they use can keep you playing longer, which has the potential to change your brain chemistry and reactions to losses.

That said, it’s important to resist the other tricks on this list as much as possible so that you don’t develop a natural problem.

5 – Being Fooled by Skill Based Slot Machines

Land-based casinos have been testing out skill-based slot machines since the mid-2010s. These games typically play like normal slots, with the exception of featuring a skill-based bonus round.

Here’s an example:

  • Scientific Games’ Space Invaders sees you spin the reels like normal.
  • You trigger the bonus by getting 3 or more scatter symbols.
  • You choose whether to play random free spins or a skill-based round.
  • The skilled bonus sees you shoot as many aliens as possible before they reach the bottom of the screen.

The commonly stated reason why casinos offer skill-based slots is because they want games that will appeal more to millennials. This is a valid reason, because millennials don’t play slot machines as much as previous generations.

But skill-based slots also give casinos another advantage. Many people who play these games overestimate their chances of winning. They think that because there’s a skill-based bonus round available; they can eventually beat the game or at least break even with enough practice.

The reality is that a skilled-based bonus only affects payback by so much. Most of the payout percentage is wrapped up in what happens on the reels. You may be playing a slot machine that offers anywhere from 92% to 96% payback. The 4% in wiggle room is the amount that you can control through the bonus round.

While still exciting, you can actually find plenty of online slots that pay higher than 96% RTP if you’re mainly worried about winning. This is why you should treat skilled-based slot machines as an entertaining gambling experience, rather than a way to beat the casino.

6 – Chasing Slots Comps

Both land-based and online casinos offer slots comps as a way to reward frequent players. And many gamblers love receiving cashback and other freebies. Obviously there’s no problem with wanting to earn rewards based on your play. But this becomes a dilemma when you begin chasing comps.

Chasing rewards refers to gambling for the sole purpose of earning more comps. This often occurs when somebody is trying to upgrade their current comp to a better reward. It’s hard resisting the urge to go for a free hotel room rather than just taking the show tickets. However, the key thing to realize is that these rewards aren’t worth anywhere near the losses it takes to earn them.

Most casinos only offer low-level slots club members a 0.1% comp rate. This means that you’ll only receive $1 for every $1,000 wagered.

Here’s an example on how this rate compares to theoretical slots losses:

  • You’re playing a slot machine with a 6% house edge.
  • The casino offers you a 0.1% comp rate.
  • You gamble $10,000 on a machine.
  • $10,000 x 0.06 = $600 in theoretical losses
  • $10,000 x 0.001 = $10 in comps
  • The theoretical losses are 60x higher than the comps

It certainly doesn’t make sense to chase rewards when your losses dwarf what comps are worth. Therefore, the best strategy is to simply play slots when you feel like it and let rewards come naturally.

7 – Believing That Bonuses Are “Free Money”

Online casinos commonly give out deposit bonuses as a way to draw new customers and retain current ones.

Here’s an example of an online casino slots bonus:

  • A gaming site is offering a 100% match deposit bonus up to $500.
  • You deposit $300.
  • This puts you in line for a $300 bonus.

Some players look at this as a way to earn “free money” while they’re playing slots. But pretty much every one of these bonuses is rigged in the casino’s favor. Gaming sites attach wagering requirements (a.k.a. playthrough) to bonuses. Wagering requirements are useful in that they prevent people from depositing just to cash out their bonus right away.

However, playthrough is normally set high enough to where casinos are guaranteed to make money off the average player — even if they do earn their deposit reward.

Here’s an example:

  • A casino is offering a 100% match bonus up to $200.
  • You deposit $200, thus putting yourself in line for a matching reward.
  • Wagering requirements are 40x the bonus.
  • $200 x 40 = $8000 must be wagered
  • You play an online slot with 96% payback (4% house edge).
  • 8,000 x 0.04 = $320
  • $320 – $200 = $120 loss

You can see that despite earning a $200 reward in this instance, you’ll still end up losing $120 overall.

Of course, many players attempt to get around this by choosing slot machines with the highest payback. After all, some online slots offer up to 99% payback.

But the problem is that casinos simply reduce the contributions these slots make towards playthrough. It’s common to see a game with 99% RTP only contribute 20% towards wagering requirements. Reduced playthrough contributions severely limit the value of certain slots when it comes to bonuses. You’re almost always at a long-term disadvantage when chasing these offers.

This is another scenario where it pays to simply enjoy yourself while playing slots and let the bonuses come naturally.


Casinos don’t want to create a bunch of problem gamblers. Doing so reflects badly on their public image and also reduces the amount of long-term customers.

But casinos do want to keep people playing slots a little longer. And they/slots developers use various tricks to make this happen. Some of these gimmicks are psychological in nature and make gamblers play more without even realizing it.

The most-obvious such trick is the lights and sound effects that slot machines feature. The lights/sounds keep players more immersed in games and likely to continue spending money.

Two more psychological ploys include LDWs and near wins. These are both similar in that they make players feel like winners — or at least near winners — when they’re in fact losing money.

Skill-based slot machines create the impression that you have more control over your winnings than what’s actually the case. Even if you master these games, you won’t overcome the house edge without luck.

Comps and bonuses may seem like harmless ways to reward you. But they can become a problem when you chase after them.

The key to realize is that casinos never truly give anything away for free. Instead, the odds are skewed in their favor even when it comes to bonuses. It’s crucial to avoid falling too hard for any of these tricks. After all, developing a slots problem can alter your brain chemistry and lead to gambling induced dopamine spikes.

When this happens, it’s harder than ever to control your slots urges. That being said, keep all of these slot machine tricks in mind so that you don’t fall for them.

Related Articles
Leave Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *