Entire books have been written about how to beat slot machines. Almost all of them are worthless. Slot machines are “negative expectation” games. And most of them have no skill element. Even the ones that do offer odds that make it impossible to be a long-term winner, no matter how skilled you are.

What’s a “negative expectation” game? It’s a game where the expected value of every be is negative rather than positive. Here’s an overly simplified example:

Suppose you’re playing a slot machine with one prize of $1000. The odds of winning that prize are 1000 to 1. That’s a break-even game. You’ll lose 999 times, but you’ll win once, recouping all your losses. Over the long run, neither you nor the casino stands to win.

But suppose the casino changed the top jackpot for that game from $1000 to $980. Can you see how the casino would then have an edge over the player, mathematically?

That’s how a negative expectation game works. So I’m writing a post about how to beat slot machines, which can’t be beaten in the long run at all.  What could I possibly have to say on the subject? You might be surprised. Read on.

1- Understand the Concept of Payback Percentage

In the example I gave above, where the game had 1 in 1000 shot of paying you off at 1000 to 1, the payback percentage was 100%. All the money you put into the machine is eventually paid back. It’s a break even game.

But the payback percentage for the game with a top jackpot of 980 and a 1 in 1000 shot of winning has a payback percentage of less than 100%. The difference between that payback percentage and 100% is the house edge.

The payback percentage is a function of payouts versus the probability of winning those payouts. The game doesn’t have a memory or a cycle. It’s completely random, but the probabilities of the outcomes are known. As a result, in the long run, the payback percentage for a slot machine is going to be under 100%.

Generally, the lower the payback percentage is, the harder it is to walk away from that slot machine a winner. Things like hit frequency matter, too, but payback percentage is the most important metric to consider. And the thing about the slots’ payback percentages is that there’s no way of gauging that number by looking at the machines themselves.

They show the payouts for the various combinations, but the machines don’t include the probabilities of achieving those outcomes. It’s impossible to calculate a payback percentage when you don’t know the probability of winning.

Understanding the concept of payback percentage is the 1st step on the road to beating slot machines.

2- Learn Where You CAN Find Information about a Slot Machine’s Payback Percentage

Even though you can’t get specific with a single machine’s payback percentage, you can find general information about slot machine payouts in general. Magazines like Strictly Slots and books like American Casino Guide publish information about slot machine payback percentages.

This information is normally organized by denomination and location. Generally, the higher the denomination of the game, the better the payback percentage. Also, the busier the location of the casino, the better the payback percentage.

When you’re playing a slot machine with a $1 denomination, the casino can afford to have a higher payback percentage on that machine and still make the same (or higher) profit. And they can afford an even higher payback percentage on a $5 machine.

When you’re stranded at the airport waiting for a plane, or if you’re sitting at a bar waiting for your buddy to finish his karaoke song, you don’t have many options besides playing the slots there in the airport or the bar. They consider you a captive audience.

As a result, they offer lower payback percentages than casinos in competitive locations do. They do this because they’re not feeling the need to be competitive.

If you want to find the slot machines with the highest payback percentages, you should look at the major casinos on the Strip in Las Vegas. You should also look for the games with the higher denominations as best you can. Of course, you can only afford what you can afford, but the penny slots aren’t as cheap as you might think.

It’s useless to try to figure out the casinos’ schemes for where they’re putting the slot machines with the highest payback percentages. At one time, someone wrote a book claiming that the games with the highest payback percentage were always located nearest the walkways. The idea was that the casino wanted to entice players to their games.

That’s no longer true, if it was even true to begin with. As far as I know, that was a tip that came from a single source.

You can try clocking a game to see what kind of payback percentage you’re actually experiencing, but that doesn’t tell you what the payback percentage is over the long run. It’s just what you’ve experience in the short term. The more spins you make, the more accurate it should be, but you’re talking about thousands of spins, not hundreds.

Here’s how to do that if you want to, though:

Start by recording how much money you bought into the machine for. Then track how much each spin of the reels is as a wager. Count how many spins you make. At the end of the session, record how much you lost. Multiply the number of spins by the amount you wagered per spin.

Divide the amount you lost by the total amount you wagered. That’s the percentage of your action that the machine kept.

Subtract that from 100%, and you have the payback percentage for the machine during that session. You can expect that amount to fluctuate wildly if you record multiple sessions.

3- Slow Down

I’ve seen various estimates of how many spins per hour most players make, but the consensus average seems to be 600 spins per hour. The lowest number of spins I was able to get down to was 400 spins per hour, and that was when I was consciously trying to slow down. I’ve watched some gamblers make what I’m sure were at least 800 spins per hour.

Anything you can do to slow down your rate of play increases the probability that you’ll wind up a winner. That’s because the payback percentage is a long term expectation. The more spins you make, the closer you get to the long term. This means that you’ll be that much closer to the expectation—which is negative by the way.

Also, when you’re losing, you can expect to lose less money by making fewer spins per hour. Sometimes this won’t be true in the short term either—after all, this is gambling, and we are talking about random events.

But here’s the predicted loss per hour formula for slot machines: Spins per hour X amount wagered per hour X the house edge = predicted hourly loss

Here’s an example of how that works:

I’m playing a game for $1.25 per spin, and I’m making 400 spins per hour. That’s $500 per hour in action. The game has a payback percentage of 85%, which is the same thing as having a house edge of 15%. My expected loss per hour is $75.

My friend Leyla, though, plays a lot faster on the same machine. She makes 800 spins per hour instead of 400. Her expected loss per hour is $150.

Not only do I have a better probability of going home a winner, but I also have a better probability of losing less money than she does.

4- Consider Playing a Different Game

I’m not bullish on slot machines. The house edge on the slot machines is unknown, but they’re impossible to beat in the long run. And you’re less likely to beat them in the long run, too. That’s because the house edge is so big.

How big’s the difference? Let’s compare some games with some estimated slot machine house edge figures. We’ll assume that you’re playing a “loose” slot machine with a  payback percentage of 93%. The house edge on that game is 7%. Blackjack offers a house edge of 1% if you play with perfect basic strategy. Most video poker games offer a house edge of 3% or 4%–less if you find a good pay table. Even craps only has a house edge of 1.41%.


What do your hourly predicted losses look like on those games? At the fastest blackjack tables, you’re probably looking at 200 bets per hour. At $5 per bet, that’s $1000 in action per hour. 1% of that is only an expected loss of $10/hour. At the craps table, you might make 60 bets per hour. At $5 per bet, that’s $300. Your expected loss there is only $4.23.

On a video poker machine, you’ll probably see 600 hands per hour. At $1.25 per hand, you’re looking at $750/hour in action. With a 3% house edge, that’s an expected loss of $22.50 per hour.

On that slot machine we talked about, you’re looking at 600 spins per hour at $1.25 per spin minimum. That’s $750 per hour, but your expected loss is 7% of that, or $52.50 per hour.

No game in the casino will take up more of your bankroll in a short period of time when  contrasted with slot machines.

5- You Could Also Try Free Slot Machine Games

For the most part, you can’t beat slot machines by only playing the free games online. But some casinos and websites do offer free games with real cash prizes. Winning any money on such a game is a longshot, but it’s still possible.

Usually the ones which offer money are offering free slot machine tournaments, where they have a prize for someone who wins the most money in a week or someone who makes the most spins in a week.

And if you just like the sights and sounds of a slot machine, but you don’t enjoy losing money, you can just play the free games until the cows come home. You can consider that slot machine “beaten” because you didn’t lose any money to it.

6- Learn How to Win a Massive Jackpot on a Table Game Instead

It might seem like the only way to win a massive jackpot at the casino is by playing a slot machine offering such a possibility.

But my favorite gambling writer Michael Bluejay suggests a system where you can win $100,000. The odds are against you, because even when you’re playing the best table games, you’re facing a mathematical edge. But the odds are still better than winning at slot machines.

All you must do is find a table game where you have a maximum bet of $50,000. Then every time you win, put your winnings back into action. Basically, you’ll be doubling the size of your bet repeatedly. If you can win 14 times in a row, you should have $100,000.

Here’s what the progression looks like:

  • $10
  • $20
  • $40
  • $80
  • $160
  • $320
  • $640
  • $1280
  • $2560
  • $5120
  • $10240
  • $20480
  • $40960

After winning 13 bets in a row, you’ll have over $80,000. You don’t have to double the size of your bet this time. Just bet $10,000 and win, and you’ve won $100,000.

Winning at baccarat, craps, blackjack, or roulette 14 times in a row is much likelier than winning a big jackpot on a progressive slot machine.

Most of the time it won’t happen, and if you try this often enough, the house edge will eat up your bankroll. But it’s still a better option than trying to win $100,000 on a slot machine.

7- Play the Most Basic, Boring Slot Machine You Can Find

All the bells and whistles that make modern slot machines so much fun? You pay for all of them in the form of a reduced payback percentage.


If you can find a slot machine with 3 reels and a single pay line that looks like an antique, that’s your best bet at getting a high payback machine game. The bigger and fancier the game is, the worse the payback percentage will be. This means you should avoid games with progressive jackpots. Avoid games with scatter symbols. Avoid games with wild symbols. Avoid games with dozens of paylines.

The top jackpot for most of these basics, boring slot machines will be around 1000 coins, but you’ll be more likely to hit that jackpot than you will to beat a fancier slot machine.

Conclusion

The best way to beat slot machines is by eschewing them in favor of a casino game offering better odds. If you must play slot machines, though, try to keep in mind the tips in this post. Don’t play with money you can’t afford to lose. Be willing to walk away quick if you get lucky. Play as slowly as possible. Stick with games in competitive locations, like casinos. And play the highest denomination games you can afford, even if it means betting fewer coins on fewer paylines.

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