Playing slots is an exciting experience that gives you the chance to win big payouts and trigger bonus rounds. The downside, though, is that slot machines can quickly drain your money. You may have no problem with this if your bankroll is worth hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars. But what if you’re dealing with a tiny bankroll, such as $20?

In this case, you can’t just choose any slot machine and expect your bankroll to last. You instead need a proper plan to stretch your money further. Keep reading as I cover different ways that you can make $20 go the furthest possible while getting the most entertainment out of slots.

Choose Online Slots Over Land Based Slot Machines

The first thing that you want to do when making your small bankroll last is play internet slots. Here are the main reasons why you should choose online games:

  • You don’t have to spend money traveling to an internet casino.
  • Online slots are cheaper to play.

Chances are that you don’t want to make a special casino trip when you only have $20 to gamble with. This is when online casinos become perfect, because you merely need to pull out your smartphone or tablet to begin playing.

Land-based slot machines are typically more expensive too. Many of the games featured in brick-and-mortar casinos require anywhere from a $1 to $3 minimum bet. These games are often labeled as “penny slot machines.” However, these are anything but penny games since you must play 100 to 300 pay lines.

This isn’t to say that all online slots are cheap. Some require you to use 50-100 lines, which mean that you’re spending between $0.50 and $1 per spin. However, the majority of internet slots only require you to bet $0.25 or less. Some games even allow you to set the paylines to one, and coin size to $0.01.

Make the Lowest Possible Bets

I just discussed how many online slots allow you to adjust betting options to the lowest-possible amounts. But just because this is the case doesn’t mean that the options start at the lowest levels.

Some games begin at higher betting options, and you won’t realize it until after playing a few spins. Here’s an example:

  • You’re playing a 5-reel, 20-payline slot.
  • The coin size is automatically set at $0.01.
  • But the paylines start at 20 and the coins per line begin at 5.
  • These options mean that you’ll be betting $0.50 per spin.
  • This only gives you 40 total betting units (20 / 0.5).

I suggest that you begin every slot session by ensuring that the betting preferences are to your liking. Oftentimes, you’ll find that they’re set slightly higher than the lowest amounts. But what if you like betting more on each spin? The truth is that you can do whatever you want when playing slots. If you’d like your coin size to go up to $1, then by all means do so.

However, I suggest that you only turn the paylines to the maximum value. You should change the coin size and coins per line down to the lowest amounts. The higher number of paylines maximizes your chances of winning on each spin. You still won’t be risking much since your coin size and coins per line are turned down.

Furthermore, you’re rarely rewarded for betting a higher coin size or more coins per line. Your payouts typically increase proportionally to the bet size, meaning there’s no incentive to choose higher values. Going back to paylines, you can always play a single line per spin if they’re adjustable. I personally don’t like this, though, because it takes forever to accumulate any wins.

Here’s an example on how I set betting options to maximize my bankroll:

  • Set paylines to highest amount (e.g. $0.25).
  • Turn coin size to $0.01.
  • Turn coins per line to 1.
  • 0.25 x 1 x 1 = $0.25 per spin.
  • $20 bankroll / $0.25 = 80 betting units

Divide Your Bankroll into Units

You can make slots bankroll management easier by dividing your bankroll into units. A unit is the average bet that you make when playing a particular game.

Units are a good way to keep track of your bankroll without dealing with dollars and cents. You can instead simply look at how many bets you have remaining.

Here’s an example on dividing your bankroll into units:

  • Your bankroll is worth $15.
  • You bet $0.10 per spin on average.
  • 15 / 0.1 = 150 units

Looking at your bankroll in terms of units is a clean way to determine how many total bets you have available. You can also decide how many units you want to use in any given session. Obviously you don’t have many options when dealing with $20 or less. But you can still limit yourself to $10 or so per session.

Here’s an example:

  • Your bankroll is $20.
  • You bet $0.20 per spin.
  • 20 / 0.2 = 100 units
  • You want your bankroll to last for four sessions.
  • 100 / 4 = 25 units
  • You’ll quit playing a session after losing 25 units.

Play Slots with Low Volatility

Volatility is the measure of how closely short-term results compare to statistical averages. Slot machines generally have high volatility, because the short-term results are wildly different from the return to player (RTP).

Assume that you play a slot machine with 95% payback. This means that you should theoretically win back $0.95 for every dollar bet. In reality, though, you might win anywhere from $0.10 to $5 per dollar wagered in a single session. Of course, not all slot machines are as volatile as the rest. You can find plenty of games that have a decent “hit frequency,” which refers to how often you win per spin.

The only problem is that most slots don’t come with hit frequency or volatility ratings. I’ve seen some Pragmatic Play games that do, but the vast majorities don’t. This leaves you guessing on volatility by looking at multiple factors, including the jackpot size, bonuses, and low payouts.

Here’s an example on judging slots volatility:

  • You play a game with a jackpot worth 2,500 coins, which is fairly small.
  • The only available bonus is 10 free spins.
  • This game offers several low payouts (i.e. worth less than 50 coins).
  • This slot likely has low volatility.

Most slots with high hit frequency don’t offer big jackpots and large bonuses. But they will see you win often enough to sustain your bankroll and stay in the game.

Avoid Games with Big Progressive Jackpots

As covered above, slots with large jackpots don’t pay as frequently as the rest. You should especially be wary of the biggest progressive jackpot games. It’s important to mention that players – not the game developers or casinos – contribute the most towards increasing progressive jackpots. But the game maker does have to seed the original amount.

The jackpot can make up a sizable portion of the RTP if it’s seeded at a high amount. Failing to win this jackpot means that you’ll be playing a game with far lower RTP than what’s listed.

Here’s an example:

  • A progressive slot has a jackpot that’s seeded at $1 million.
  • This game’s base payback is 95%.
  • The jackpot makes up 8% of the RTP.
  • The payback is actually 88% if you don’t win the jackpot.

One downside to progressive slots is that you won’t know how much of the payback consists of the original jackpot amount. But you can make an educated guess that a jackpot seeded between $500k and $10 million will comprise anywhere from 5-10% of overall RTP.

Considering that the chances of you winning such a jackpot are extremely low, you’ll only have a chance at the regular payouts. If the jackpot makes up 5-10% of overall payback, then you might be eligible for less than 90% RTP. The only reason to play these games is if you’re set on competing for a massive prize and could care less about how long you last. In every other case, you should choose slots with smaller progressive or non-progressive jackpots.

Find Slots with High RTP

Payback isn’t of the utmost importance when you have a $20 bankroll. But you should still factor RTP into the equation since it does relate to your chances of winning. Payout percentages are especially useful when you combine them with low volatility. The lower volatility indicates that your short-term results are more likely to equal the high RTP. The only question remains exactly how you go about finding slots’ payout percentages.

You have several options for doing so with online slots, including looking at the paytable, googling the game, and googling the developer. Here’s a closer look at each of these methods:

  • Some game developers put the RTP directly in their slots’ paytables.
  • Google a game’s name followed by “RTP” (e.g. “Mega Moolah RTP).
  • Look up a game developer (e.g. “NetEnt RTP”) to find a list of their games’ payback figures.

Ideally, you’ll only have to look at the paytable to find payback. But since the majority of online slots don’t offer this info, you normally must look up the specific game or developers.

Googling “game name RTP” is the most-direct route for doing this, whereas looking up the developer and a larger list of games is a last resort. You’ll have a far more difficult time figuring out payout percentages for land-based slot machines. The developers of these games rarely release RTP to the public.

Megabucks, which offers 88.0% payback, is a rare exception. But this is only because Megabucks is the most popular game in Las Vegas and offers record breaking jackpots. Your best bet for finding land-based RTP is to check out reports from state gaming agencies. Visit your respective state gaming agency’s website and look for annual reports on slot machines.

These often show a composite average on how much slot machines pay back per coin denomination. Here’s an example from the Nevada Gaming Control Commission:

  • Penny Slots = 90.17% RTP
  • Nickel Slots = 94.54% RTP
  • Quarter Slots = 93.06% RTP
  • Dollar Slots = 93.94% RTP
  • $5 Slots = 94.16% RTP
  • $25 Slots = 95.03% RTP
  • $100 Slots = 93.21% RTP
  • Megabucks = 87.93% RTP

This doesn’t give you an accurate measure of what individual slot machines pay. But it does offer a ballpark figure for when you’re playing penny slots, nickel slots, etc.

Have a Stop Loss Limit

It’s tempting to keep playing slots until you run out of money with such a small bankroll. But having a stop loss limit can make your $20 feel like $200.

A stop loss limit refers to a predetermined amount of losses that indicate when it’s time to quit a session. The idea is to force yourself to stop at a certain loss amount so that you can play more sessions.

Here’s an example of setting a stop loss:

  • You have a $20 bankroll.
  • You break this bankroll down into units worth $0.25 each.
  • You set a stop loss limit of 40 units.
  • You quit playing at the exact point when you lose 40 units.

The stop loss limit doesn’t guarantee that you’ll quit at a specific point. After all, it still requires willpower to force you to stop playing. But these limits at least make you conscious of how much you’re losing. Hopefully, you’ll be able to quit playing at your predetermined point.

A good way to ensure that you follow your stop loss in land-based casinos is by bringing cash to the gaming floor. Only take enough money to reach your stop loss point – no more. A good technique for online casinos is to only deposit up to your stop loss designation. You’ll be forced to deposit again if you’re tempted to go beyond this point.

Unfortunately, setting stop losses with $20 doesn’t give you much playing time. But I still recommend that you use this practice, because being able to play multiple sessions is more entertaining than losing everything in one trip.

Go for Quality Bonuses & Rewards

Not everything in slots is about what you win on the actual reels. You can also pick up comps and bonuses that increase your bankroll and allow you to play longer. The rewards offered at online casinos relate directly to cash, including deposit bonuses, cashback, and free spins. These bonuses are nice since they help you reload your bankroll.

Here’s an example on earning a deposit bonus:

  • A casino is offering a 100% match bonus up to $100.
  • You deposit $20.
  • You’re now eligible for a $20 bonus.
  • Wagering requirements are 40x the bonus.
  • 20 x 40 = $800 must be wagered
  • You play a slot with 96% payback (4% house edge).
  • 800 x 0.04 = $32 in theoretical losses

You can see from this example that you’re more likely to lose $20 before meeting wagering requirements. Nonetheless, this deal still gives you a chance to earn $20 if luck goes your way. Even if you can’t withdraw the bonus before losing everything, you can at least look forward to earning other rewards like cashback.

This term refers to either exchanging your points for cash, or receiving a percentage of your losses back. Both offers give you an opportunity to earn money along the way and sustain your bankroll. Land-based casinos offer a wider variety of rewards, including drinks, meals, hotel stays, and limousine transportation.

These comps are exciting because they involve physical rewards and services. But they won’t do much with regard to helping you stretch $20. The best you can do is find a land-based comp program that allows you to exchange points for cash. This lets you earn money back over the short run and continue playing longer.


Chances are that you won’t get hours’ worth of play out of a $20 bankroll. You may not even last one hour due to the volatility of slot machines. But you can at least improve the chances of playing longer by following the tips listed here.The biggest thing you can do is play online slots with small minimum bets. Ideally, you’ll play a game that lets you select your coin size and number of paylines. You also want to look for slots with low volatility. This means choosing games that have smaller jackpots, fewer bonuses, and more low payouts.

The jackpot aspect is particularly important. Playing a slot with a big progressive jackpot severely lowers the hit frequency and makes it difficult to play for longer. RTP plays a lesser role in preserving your bankroll, because it’s a long-term figure. Nevertheless, you can still boost your odds by choosing games with high payback.

One more important step is to set a stop loss limit. Doing so gives you a point to quit playing based on losses, thus allowing you to play more sessions with a small amount. Again, there are no guarantees with slots. However, being mindful of the games you play, your bankroll, and volatility will improve your chances of playing longer.

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