Slots players can be entertained by chasing any jackpot, whether it be big or small. But there’s nothing like the thrill of going after a huge progressive jackpot.

Some progressive payouts reach immense proportions and are worth seven or eight figures. The reason why these prizes grow so large is that countless players contribute to them through their betting action.
The end result is life-changing payouts. For example, Jon Heywood won a record-breaking £13.2 million prize on Microgaming’s Mega Moolah in 2015.

Of course, not every progressive jackpot becomes this massive. Otherwise, Heywood wouldn’t be in the Guinness Book of World Records for winning the biggest online slots jackpot.

But even having a chance at a six-figure prize can be an exciting prospect. The only question, though, is how you maximize your chances of winning these mammoth payouts.

Keep reading as I discuss how progressive slots work and tips on improving your chances of winning big.

How Does a Progressive Jackpot Work?

Slots jackpots generally break down into two classes: progressive and static prizes.

A static (a.k.a. non-progressive) slots jackpot doesn’t change no matter how many bets are made. Instead, it stays the exact same regardless of the situation.

An example would be a slot machine with a set jackpot worth 10,000 coins. The value of this payout is always 10,000 credits, regardless of if one person or one million people play the game.

A progressive jackpot, on the other hand, grows by a small percentage with every qualifying wager. Here’s an example of how a common progressive slots game works:

  • An online slots maker seeds a progressive game’s starting jackpot at $500,000.
  • The minimum spin to qualify is $0.50.
  • 2% of every wager goes towards building the jackpot.
  • This means that one cent (0.50 x 0.02) from each minimum qualifying spin goes towards the top prize.

The percentage that’s taken out of each wager varies based on the game. But you can see that only a small amount is used to fund the progressive jackpot.

The rest of the money essentially covers for all of the other payouts offered by one of these games. Remember that progressive slots are about more than just the jackpot.

You’ll spend most of your time racking up smaller wins just like any other slot machine. The only difference is that you also have a tiny chance at a huge payout.

Many players realize that they don’t have the greatest odds of winning a progressive jackpot. They’re completely fine with this, though, as long as they can dream big.

How the Average Progressive Slots Jackpot Pays Out

If you’ve played online slot machines before, you probably have a good idea on how payouts work. The goal is to line up enough matching symbols in an active payline to win.

A game’s pay table explains how many times you need to land each symbol in a payline for the corresponding prize.

Here’s an example:
  • Three leprechauns in an active payline offer 10 coins.
  • Four leprechauns offer 50 coins.
  • Five leprechauns offer 500 coins.

The payouts increase since the odds of you landing extra leprechauns in a line are lower. Therefore, the game rewards more for getting extra symbols.

Progressive jackpots work a little differently, though, because you don’t get part of a prize for landing three or four icons. Instead, you only win a progressive payout in a 5-reel slot by getting all five jackpot symbols in a line.

Considering that progressive jackpots are the largest rewards in their respective games, they feature low odds of winning. Nevertheless, some players do get lucky and line up the necessary jackpot symbols.

Some Jackpots Pay Randomly

Random progressive jackpots don’t require getting matching symbols in a payline. Instead, the random number generator (RNG) can award a progressive jackpot at any time.

The scenario allows you to hit the top payout on any spin, regardless of your bet size or if you win/lose the round.

Here’s an example on how this situation can play out:

  • You bet the $0.20 minimum.
  • You fail to win a single payout.
  • But the RNG determines that you randomly win a progressive prize.

Random progressive jackpots are fun to play, because they don’t require a qualifying jackpot wager. Furthermore, you can still win the top prize even if your spin is a complete miss.

Bonus Rounds Are the Key to Certain Progressive Jackpots

Some jackpot slots deliver the progressive payout through a bonus round. This scenario calls on you to first trigger the bonus before having a chance at the jackpot.

Mega Moolah and NetEnt’s Mega Fortune are 2 good examples of slots that pay their jackpots through a bonus round. The games feature a wheel that you spin to determine your prize.

Most of the payouts are credits that don’t come close to the jackpot value. The hope is that you get lucky and the wheel lands on the progressive payout.

Mega Fortune’s bonus has a concentric (multi-layered) wheel, where you need to land on arrows to continue moving towards the inner layers. The wheel’s inner-most layer is where you have a shot at the jackpot.

Another example is NetEnt’s Hall of Gods. This game’s bonus sees you use Thor’s Hammer to smash mirrors and hopefully find enough matching jackpot symbols.

Slots bonus rounds ultimately award jackpots just like spinning reels. The RNG determines bonus results, meaning that skill doesn’t come into the equation.

Nevertheless, bonuses present a fun way to play for progressive jackpots, versus spinning the reels over and over.

You May Be Playing for Multiple Jackpots in One

Progressive slots are commonly thought of as only offering one jackpot. But some games feature multiple progressive prizes.

The long-time slots developer Realtime Gaming (RTG) creates games like this. Older RTG slots offer both a “Major” and “Minor” progressive payout.

Hall of Gods is another example, because the bonus wheel features a Mini, Midi, and Mega jackpot. Your odds of winning the Mini jackpot are much better than the larger prizes.

Slotsmaker Arrow’s Edge is yet one more instance of multi-jackpot games. Some of their games feature a “Super Slots,” “Mystery,” and “Cash Grab” jackpot.

Playing for multiple progressive prizes is a fun way to spice up your slots experience. Even if you never win the largest jackpot, you may hit the smaller payouts one or more times.

Tips to Boost Your Chances of Winning a Progressive Jackpot

Progressive slots aren’t skill-based games, where you can improve your chances through concentration or experience. Instead, you merely spin the reels and hope that luck is on your side.

But this isn’t to say that you can’t do certain things to boost your odds of winning a progressive payout. Performing due diligence before playing ensures that you both qualify for a jackpot and have the best possible odds of winning.

Read the Help Screen Immediately

The first thing that you want to do upon choosing any new progressive slot is look at the help (a.k.a. info) screen. This screen shows the game rules, allowing you to see exactly what’s required to win a jackpot.

Knowing the rules helps you avoid a scenario where you keep playing a game, only to later find out that none of your spins qualify for the top prize.

Some slots require you to make a side bet to hit the jackpot. Other games have no requirements other than you betting the minimum spin amount.

I’ve seen some intense jackpot qualification rules, which is why reading the info screen is crucial. For example, Playtech’s Beach Life requires you to get five sun symbols on the 20th payline to hit the top payout.

Situations like these make it imperative to check the help screen before you make a single real money spin.

Choose the Spin Size That Best Suits You

Progressive games that allow you to qualify for the jackpot on any spin offer betting flexibility. Therefore, you need to make a decision on how much to wager with each spin.

This matter comes down to a personal choice based on if you want to maximize your playing time or throw everything at the jackpot in the shortest amount of time.

I personally like making minimum bets as long as they still qualify for the jackpot. Doing so allows me to play longer and still have a chance at hitting the big prize.

The only catch with the low-roller strategy is that some progressive slots give you a better chance to win with max wagers.

For example, Mega Fortune sees you qualify for the bonus round — where the top payout is awarded — with a $0.25 minimum bet. But your odds of winning the bonus improve as you bet closer to the $80 max.

Even in these cases, I still enjoy wagering the minimum qualifying spin. However, other players may prefer betting as much as possible to boost their odds of winning the progressive jackpot.

Consider Payback & Volatility
Payback is important in any slots game because it refers to how much money you stand to win back on each bet. If I wager $1 on a game with 95% payback, then I theoretically stand to earn back $0.95.

You obviously want to play slots with higher payback. After all, this indicates your long-term chances of winning.

But there are two other factors to keep in mind:

  • 1) Base payback for progressive games.
  • 2) Volatility.

Every progressive slot machine has a starting jackpot value. The game developer seeds the value at a specific amount (e.g. $1 million) every time that the jackpot is hit.

Progressive slots payback grows along with the top prize. You’re playing for a larger jackpot, meaning the pay schedule’s overall value increases too.

But it’s also important to consider base payback, so that you don’t get too caught up in the jackpot. You always have to consider the likelihood that you won’t win the top payout — thus its increasing size becomes irrelevant.

Mega Moolah and Megabucks (land-based Vegas slot) both offer low starting payout percentages at around 88%. NetEnt’s Arabian Nights is far more reasonable with base payback of 95.2%.

Knowing the base payout percentage doesn’t necessarily improve your chances of winning the jackpot. But this knowledge helps you pick games that offer enough smaller prizes to sustain your bankroll.

Don’t Fall for Progressive Slots Jackpot Myths

Certain myths regarding progressive slot machines have been circulating for years. One prominent myth is that you should never play a jackpot slot immediately after it has been won.

The thought here is that the game won’t be ready to pay for a while since it has already delivered a jackpot.

In truthfulness, when a jackpot last paid has no bearing on future wins. The RNG isn’t programmed to take into account when the last progressive payout was hit.

If you’re looking for an example to dispel this myth, consider that Mega Moolah paid its jackpot twice within 48 hours in March 2018. Many players probably avoided Mega Moolah after the first payout under the assumption that it was “cold.”

Another common progressive slots myth is that you must bet the maximum to win. This belief stems from decades’ past, where you always needed to risk the max to qualify for a jackpot.

I covered earlier that a game’s help screen has everything you need to know regarding jackpot qualifications.

You should rely on the info screen to determine how much you must bet to win. Never assume that you have to wager the max just to get the top prize.

When Should You Play for a Progressive Slots Jackpot?

A slot machine won’t penalize you just because it recently paid a jackpot. I discussed in the section above how the RNG still gives you the same odds of winning the top payout regardless of when the jackpot was last hit.

But you also want to keep the progressive payout’s size in mind before you begin spinning. The larger the jackpot, the more theoretical value you gain by playing for it.

Here’s an example:
  • Mega Moolah’s Mega jackpot is seeded at $1 million.
  • The value grows to $10 million over the next few months.
  • The game’s 88.1% base payback is likely much higher at this point.
  • You jump in and start playing to take advantage of the situation.

I’m not saying that you have to wait until the Mega Moolah jackpot is worth $10 million before playing. You could simply love this game and not want to wait at all.

But if you want to maximize your value when chasing jackpots, then waiting for them to grow is the best route. A bigger jackpot raises the payback of the game and theoretically increases your winnings.

Some slots actually offer over 100% payback when the top prize reaches a certain amount. Figuring out the “break-even” point allows you to play for a progressive payout at the optimal time.

The only problem is that not all of the variables are known to calculate break-even points for the most-popular jackpot slots. Therefore, you’re left guesstimating on when you should start playing.

don’t suggest putting too much thought into the exact value that the jackpot needs to be before joining in. But you can at least look at a jump from $1 million to $5 million and know that the payout is more valuable at this point.

Bankroll Management Helps You Keep Playing for Progressive Jackpots

One of the biggest things to realize when hunting progressive jackpots is that this hobby can be quite expensive.

You’ll find plenty of games with big jackpots that only require a quarter to play. But others may force you to bet $1 or more to spin for the top payout.

This scenario is especially common in land-based casinos, where popular games like Megabucks require $3 per spin. Given the cost of playing progressive games, I suggest that you do some bankroll management calculations beforehand.

Slots bankroll calculations are among the toughest in gaming due to the volatility. Slot machines are like baccarat or blackjack, where you win almost half the hands on average.

It’s common to suffer cold streaks when you go 10 spins and longer without earning a payout. Nevertheless, it’s still possible to get a good read on your slots bankroll needs.

The average player loses between 250 and 350 credits per hour. Games with big progressive jackpots see you lose closer to the higher end of this range.

Therefore, I commonly use 350 bets in my progressive calculations. Here’s an example on figuring out how long your bankroll will last:

  • You have a bankroll worth $1,000.
  • You’re playing a jackpot slot with $0.25 minimum bets.
  • 1,000 / 0.25 = 4,000 bets
  • 4,000 / 350 = 11.43
  • Your bankroll will theoretically last for 11.43 hours.

Remember that slots volatility can throw your math off. But the more total bets you’re dealing with, the more likely your bankroll calculations are to be accurate.


The point of playing progressive slot machines is to have fun. But it’s always more exciting when you add some strategy into the mix and boost your odds of winning.

The main key is to figure out what you must do to qualify for the jackpot. These qualifications can include using every payline, placing a side bet, or betting a specific coin size.

Check a game’s help screen to find out exactly what you need to do to win the progressive prize. Otherwise, you’ll be spinning without any chance to win big.

If you’re dealing with a small bankroll, look for random progressive slots. These games allow you to win the jackpot on any spin, no matter the wager size or your payline combinations.

Another key to chasing progressive payouts is a game’s payback. You especially want to consider jackpot slots with high base payout percentages.

Games with good base payback ensure that you net plenty of small wins. This is crucial when considering your low odds of hitting the jackpot anyways.

Keep everything that I’ve discussed here in mind next time you play a progressive slot. These tips won’t guarantee that you’ll win, but they’ll at least increase your chances of doing so.

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