Several casino games offer progressive jackpots, including blackjack, Caribbean stud, Caribbean hold’em, slot machines, and video poker. As you may know, a progressive jackpot increases with every qualifying wager that’s made. Some slots automatically put a percentage of each bet towards the jackpot. Table games, on the other hand, require you to make a side bet to qualify.

The main reason why people love progressive games is that they offer the chance to win a huge payout for a small bet. The only problem is that you have low odds of winning any progressive payout. What’s more is that these games can also have really low return to player (RTP).

Megabucks slot, which offers the biggest land-based jackpot, and Mega Moolah slot, which features the largest online jackpot, both have RTP of 88%. If you don’t get lucky and win the top prize in either of these games, then your odds of earning profits are slim. Luckily, there’s a way to find out when certain progressive games will offer you much higher chances of winning. Keep reading as I discuss how you can spot these opportunities. But first, I’ll cover more on the basics of progressive jackpots.

How Do Progressive Jackpot Games Offer an Advantage?

Every progressive jackpot starts with the game developer or casino seeding its original starting value. The amount that jackpots are seeded at varies based on the game type and popularity. These prizes can initially offer anywhere from $100 to $10 million. A higher seed amount increases the likelihood that a progressive game will be popular. This is why Megabucks – which has a starting jackpot of $10 million – is played more than any Las Vegas slot machine and has paid a record-breaking jackpot of $39.7 million.

Of course, the vast majority of casino games don’t offer top prizes anywhere near this amount. They’re instead worth somewhere in the $5,000 to $10,000 range. Regardless of where a progressive jackpot begins, it can offer positive expected value (+EV) when it grows to a certain amount.

Here’s an example:

  • A jackpot begins at $25,000.
  • The game’s base RTP is 96%.
  • The jackpot grows to $300,000.
  • The game’s RTP is now at 102%.

The only way to determine the +EV point is if you have the proper information and mathematical formula. You can’t calculate the +EV point with standard progressive slot machines, because you don’t have all the proper info (explained later).

But table games and video poker offer enough variables to where you can figure out the +EV point. You’ll gain a theoretical advantage by playing when a game is profitable. Chances are that your theoretical edge won’t mean anything, because you’re unlikely to win the jackpot. However the goal is to continue finding these opportunities and putting yourself in favorable situations.

The Problem with Finding a Progressive Slots Advantage

I’d like to discuss why it’s impossible to figure out +EV with standard progressive slots, before moving on to games where you can determine an edge. Progressive slot machines are just like progressive table games and video poker in that their top prize can eventually provide an advantage. The problem, though, is that slots developers don’t offer the details you need to figure out this point, including the odds of winning each payout.

Table games and video poker differ in this sense, because the odds of each result is readily available information. Let’s say, for example, that you’re playing a progressive blackjack game with a side bet. You win the jackpot when your first two cards are aces, combined with the dealer’s upcard being an ace.

Given that you have this information and know how many cards are in a standard back (52), it’s possible to perform calculations on your chances of winning. You can also figure out when the game will be offering a theoretical advantage. Going back to slots, most of these games’ details are shrouded in mystery. Therefore, you can only make educated guesses on when you think a jackpot will be offering over 100% RTP.

How to Spot a Theoretical Edge in Progressive Jackpots

Knowing that it’s possible to figure out the +EV point in a progressive jackpot game and actually doing it are two different things.But you can take a massive shortcut by using helpful resources to find games that are currently offering an edge. Casino actuary Michael “The Wizard of Odds” Shackleford and CasinoListings have put together a jackpot tracker that shows exactly when games feature an advantage.

Here’s an example of one game on the list that’s offering over 100% payback:

  • Game is Rocket Jacks (Saucify)
  • Jackpot is worth $10,755.
  • Break-even point is $9,426.
  • 1 in 40,170 chance of winning jackpot.
  • RTP is currently 100.7%

These values will of course change as more players continue betting. And the theoretical edge is gone when somebody wins the Rocket Jacks jackpot and it resets back to normal.

But this resource allows you to easily find favorable progressive jackpot opportunities. Furthermore, you don’t even have to leave the house since these games are already online. You can find other jackpot trackers throughout the internet that will notify you of games with an advantage.

Mystery Progressive Slots Feature a +EV Formula

Earlier I discussed how standard progressive slot machines don’t give you a chance to find when their top prizes are offering an advantage. Mystery progressive slots differ, though, because their jackpot must be paid at a specific value. For example, a slot machine might deliver its jackpot at exactly $300. You win this payout if your jackpot contribution pushes the value to $300. Given that the jackpot’s win point is a known variable, you can calculate when a mystery slot gives you an edge.

Here’s the formula:

  • Formula: t = m × (h + c) / (h + 2r)
  • t = Target point
  • m = Max jackpot
  • c = Jackpot contribution (usually around 2%)
  • h = House edge (including average jackpot win)

This formula looks confusing at first. But it’s actually easy to understand after looking at an example.

The main roadblock involves knowing all the variables for a given game. The jackpot contribution is another case where game developers don’t offer this info. Many games feature a jackpot contribution of around 2%, which is the number that I use in mystery progressive calculations.

Finding the house edge is easy when dealing with online slots. But you’ll have more difficulty with land-based machines, which don’t feature publicly available RTP. You can make a reasonable assumption, though, by looking at state gaming reports to see how much each coin denomination pays on average. For instance, you might see that nickel slots on the Vegas Strip offer 94% RTP (6% house edge).

Now here’s an example of using the formula:

  • Max jackpot = $200
  • Jackpot contribution = 2%
  • House edge = 6% (94% RTP)
  • Formula = $200 jackpot x (0.06 + 0.02 rise in meter) / (0.06 + 0.02×2)
  • Target point = 160
  • You should begin playing this game when the jackpot is at $160 or higher.

Mystery progressive slot machines are nice in that they actually offer the opportunity to figure out +EV situations. But you need to find these games first before you’re able to take advantage.

You can do so by scouting out mystery progressive slot machines in various casinos. You should also look at when these games are set to pay their jackpots. Next, go home or to your hotel room and perform calculations on the perfect target points for these games. You can then walk around casinos and monitor these games to look for the right times to play.

Pros of Playing for +EV Progressive Jackpots

I’ve covered an easy method for finding progressive jackpots that offer a real chance to win. But is it worth monitoring this info and scouring online and/or land-based casinos for these opportunities?

You can judge for yourself by looking at the benefits of playing for progressive jackpots when they’re in the +EV zone.

You Have a Theoretical Advantage

Casino games rarely offer you a chance to win in the long run. That’s because the house holds an edge in almost every game. Progressive casino games are different, because they do provide an advantage at a certain point.

Casinos don’t care about this advantage since it’s not affecting their bottom line. Instead, gamblers contribute the necessary money to push a game’s RTP into +EV territory. This means that you can play progressive slots in favorable situations without worrying about getting booted from the casino like a card counter. More importantly, you actually stand a chance to win long-term profits by capitalizing on these opportunities.

You Know the Best Time to Play for a Jackpot

Most people don’t think much before they start playing a progressive casino game. Instead, they simply begin making bets and hoping that they hit the big prize. You, on the other hand, can actually play in a calculated manner by knowing the optimal point to jump into a progressive game.

This can be as easy as referring to an online resource and choosing any available game that’s currently offering +EV. You can begin each online gaming session by referring to this resource(s) and continually playing games that provide you with an advantage.

Win Profits from Home

Advantage gambling methods like card counting, shuffle tracking, and hole carding require you to play in a land-based casino. Perhaps you enjoy the land-based casino environment and don’t mind this. But the average advantage gambler would jump at the chance to make money from home instead.

Playing for online progressive jackpots gives you this opportunity. I covered a resource that tracks online jackpots and shows you when there’s an +EV situation present. I certainly don’t recommend that you quit your day job right away to chase progressive payouts. But this can be a fun hobby that’ll eventually result in profits.

Cons of Playing for +EV Progressive Casino Jackpots

Looking for advantages with progressive jackpots isn’t a perfect way to make gambling profits. Otherwise, you’d hear about this advantage play technique more than card counting.

Playing to win with progressive casino jackpots has a couple of major downsides, which you can read about below.

You Have Long Odds of Winning

There’s a difference between having an edge and actually are realizing this advantage. Progressive slots may offer +EV at certain points, but this doesn’t guarantee you anything. The bigger progressive jackpots may only give you 1 in 1,000,000 odds of winning or higher. Even if you play the same game every day for hours, you have low odds of hitting the jackpot any time soon.

Finding out when progressive jackpots give you an advantage is only a small piece of the puzzle. You also have to play enough hands or make enough spins to eventually realize profits. Advantage play can be a boring and long grind. Therefore, you may not like spending hours trying to cash in on different progressive slots advantages – even if you’re playing from home.

Progressive Jackpot Bets Usually Reduce Your Chances of Winning

One nice thing about progressive jackpots is that they can be attached to games with low house edges like blackjack (0.5% to 2.0%) and European roulette (2.70%). But you normally raise the house edge on these games by making the progressive side bet.

Here’s an example:

  • You’re betting $10 on a blackjack game with a 0.5% house edge.
  • You make a $5 progressive jackpot side wager.
  • You never win the jackpot, meaning the side bet house edge is 100%.
  • 10 x 0.005 = $0.05 in theoretical losses
  • 5 x 1.0 = $5 in theoretical losses
  • $5.05 in losses per round.
  • 5.05 / 15 (both bets) = 33.67%
  • 33.67% “house” edge on combined regular and jackpot bet.


This isn’t to say that you’re guaranteed to lose every bet when playing for a blackjack jackpot. But there’s a high likelihood that you’ll lose every time unless you make a considerable number of wagers.

Herein lies the reality of progressive casino jackpots in that they lead to more losses for the average player. Only one person can win the top payout at a time, which means that there’ll be numerous losers.

You Need a Large Bankroll

You’re going to need a big bankroll if you want to make a serious attempt at being an advantage player with progressive prizes. I’ve mentioned multiple times how the odds of winning a progressive payout are extremely thin. Seeing as how you’ll be losing lots of money, you need the type of bankroll that can sustain these hits.

Here’s an example:

  • You’re playing a progressive video poker game.
  • The odds of getting a royal flush and winning the jackpot are 1 in 40,000.
  • You place a $1.25 normal wager and $1 side bet ($2.25 total).
  • Base payback is 99%.
  • 40,000 x 2.25 = $90,000 in total wagers
  • 90,000 x 0.01 house edge = $900 in losses before jackpot increase
  • The game is now offering 101% RTP based on an increased jackpot.
  • 90,000 x 0.01 advantage = $900 in winnings after jackpot increase


What’s great is that you’re looking at a $900 theoretical profit after the jackpot rises. But the problem here is you need to bet $90,000 on average to win the progressive prize and realize your advantage.

Nothing guarantees that you’re going to get a royal flush after wagering $90k. You could bet up to $200,000 and still not win, thus likely relegating you to heavy losses. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t still play for jackpots in +EV situations with a small bankroll. But you can’t take your chances of winning seriously until you have thousands of dollars to spare.


Simply knowing the point at which a progressive jackpot gives you an advantage doesn’t guarantee anything. But you’ll at least know when to play in order to obtain +EV. The easiest way to find jackpots that are offering the most value is by using tracking sites. These show you if a jackpot is currently offering an advantage.

These sites track table games with jackpots, because it’s actually possible to calculate when there’s a theoretical edge available. The average progressive slot machine, in contrast, doesn’t offer the same luxury. Not enough information is known to accurately determine when these games feature +EV.

One exception, though, is mystery progressive slot machines. Considering that you know exactly when the jackpot will be hit, you can use a formula to determine the optimal playing point. It’s always wise to make sure that the casino game you’re playing offers high RTP to begin with. After all, the chances of you winning a jackpot and realizing your advantage are low.

Most progressive table games already offer good payback. But some of the more-popular progressive slots can be a problem in this area. Also keep the pros and cons of playing for jackpots in mind. Remember that your advantage is over the long term – not the short-term. In summary, going for jackpots when you have an edge is exciting. But be sure to temper your expectations on profits.

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