One of the best things about playing online slots is that you have a chance to win big progressive jackpots. Some games offer top prizes worth seven or eight figures. This kind of money makes it very tempting to spin for life-changing payouts. The only problem, though, is that your odds of winning these jackpots are small.

The biggest online slots jackpots can go for months without being hit. This makes it painfully obvious that you don’t have a very good chance to win. Nevertheless, you do have at least some chance of winning. After all, somebody has to hit each jackpot at some point.

The only question is what exactly the jackpot odds are on your favorite online slots. I’m going to answer this question by looking at the basics of progressive jackpots, what you can do to calculate your chances, and if it’s ultimately worth playing for these prizes.

What Is a Progressive Slots Jackpot?

A progressive jackpot is one that increases with each wager. A small percentage is taken out of every bet to make a progressive payout grow. These jackpots continue increasing until somebody wins. The size of a progressive payout largely depends upon its programmed odds of hitting.

The longer the odds, the longer a progressive jackpot will go without being claimed. This is exciting from the perspective that the jackpot can grow to immense proportions. The downside, though, is that your chances of winning bigger prizes are low. If your main goal is to increase your chances of hitting a jackpot, then you’re better off choosing smaller progressive payouts that hit more frequently. Large progressive payouts, on the other hand, are great if you’re more concerned about life-changing prizes versus your short-term odds of winning.

Slots Don’t Offer Clear Odds of Winning a Jackpot

The main problem with progressive slots jackpots is that you’re not given much information. I’ve never seen an online slot that publicly displays its jackpot odds. The gamemakers and possibly internet casinos know this info. But you as a player don’t. The only exception that I’ve seen in the entire industry is the Megabucks slots machine, which is found in Las Vegas casinos. This IGT-produced game offers 1 in 49,836,032 odds of winning the jackpot per spin.

These odds seem terrible on the surface, and they only get worse when considering that the minimum bet is $3. The good news, though, is that Megabucks has paid the largest of slots jackpots ever at $39.7 million. Megabucks is an exception to the norm with its publicly available jackpot odds. You won’t, however, find this info with other land-based and online slots.

The official reasoning behind why casinos don’t list the odds on winning jackpots is unknown. My guess is that they don’t want players to recoil in horror upon seeing that their chances of winning are 1 in x-million or x-billion. Whatever the reasoning maybe, the key point is that you must perform your own calculations in order to get an idea on how likely you are to win a top payout.

Variables Used to Measure Your Odds of Winning an Online Slots Jackpot

The key to calculating your chances of winning online slots jackpots begins with knowing what variables to use. You’re never going to come up with perfect odds, because you’re dealing with incomplete information. But having the right variables at least allows you to make a reasonable assumption. I’m going to look at three different variables that will help you make a solid estimation on how likely you are to win a progressive prize.

Jackpot Contribution

Jackpot contribution (a.k.a. rise in meter) refers to how much each bet contributes to the progressive payout. Much like jackpots themselves, you won’t know the exact jackpot contribution of any given game. The manufacturer would have to list this figure in the help screen, which I’ve haven’t seen before.

But based on what I’ve read from various industry experts, 2% is the average jackpot contribution for a progressive game. If you were to bet $1 on a progressive slot in this case, then $0.02 would go towards the jackpot. Obviously $0.02 isn’t much money at all. But jackpots can rise pretty quickly when thousands of people are making these contributions every hour.

Average Jackpot Win

A progressive slots jackpot will pay out at varying amounts over time. This differs from fixed jackpots, which always offer the same amount (e.g. 10,000 coins). Performing calculations on your odds of winning a fixed jackpot are easier, because you know the exact prize every time. Progressive jackpots, on the other hand, are more difficult when considering that the payout size differs.

But you can make your calculations easier by knowing the average jackpot size for any given progressive game. Learning this variable at least gives you something to work with in terms of payout size.

It’s hard to find this figure for any land-based slot machine besides Megabucks. Doing so is easier with online slots, though, because there are sites that track various progressive jackpots. Some of these tracking sites record the average jackpot values for popular slots. You can simply visit one of these tracking sites, find the average jackpot size, and plug it into your formula.

Minimum Bet

All progressive slots games require a minimum bet in order to qualify for the jackpot. The minimum wager to both play an online slot and qualify for the jackpot are usually one in the same.

Microgaming’s Mega Moolah, for example, requires a $0.25 minimum bet. This allows you to play all 25 lines (one cent apiece) and still have a chance at winning the top prize. This is the easiest variable to find from what I’ve covered so far. You’ll immediately know the value as soon as you discover a game’s minimum wager.

Calculating Your Odds of Winning an Online Slots Jackpot

Now that I’ve covered the required variables, the next step is to put them to use by calculating your odds of winning a progressive payout.

The only matter left now is knowing how to calculate your odds across a variety of progressive internet slots. You can see this below by looking at your theoretical chances of winning the Mega Moolah jackpot:

  • The average Mega Moolah “Mega” jackpot payout is $5.5 million.
  • 5,500,000 / 0.02 (contribution) = $275,000,000 is bet before the jackpot hits.
  • You make the $0.25 minimum wager.
  • 275,000,000 x 0.25 = 1,100,000,000
  • You must make 1.1 billion bets on average to win the jackpot with $0.25 wagers.

I’ll look at one more example using Playtech’s Jackpot Giant:

  • The average Jackpot Giant progressive payout is $6.4 million.
  • 6,400,000 / 0.02 (contribution) = $320,000,000 is bet before the jackpot hits.
  • You make the $0.50 minimum wager.
  • 320,000,000 x 0.50 = 640,000,000
  • You must make 640 million bets on average to win the jackpot with $0.25 wagers.

Don’t take the odds that I’ve presented here at face value. After all, I’m operated on incomplete info when making these calculations. But knowing vague odds of winning a game’s jackpot is better than having no idea at all. That said, you can use the math covered here on your favorite online slots to gain a better idea on your chances of hitting the top prize.

More Play Improves the Long Jackpot Odds

You probably came into this post knowing that your chances of winning an online slots jackpot are low. But you may still be surprised at the calculations features above. This might make you feel like not playing progressive slots at all. However, the good news is that your odds of winning big improve as you continue playing.

My math only shows your chances of winning jackpots on a per-spin basis. But you stand a better chance when you perform hundreds or even thousands of spins on a given game.

Here’s an example on what would happen if you played Jackpot Giant for a long session:

  • Your odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 640 million.
  • You make 600 spins per hour.
  • You play for 5 hours.
  • 600 x 5 = 3,000 spins
  • 640,000,000 / 3,000 = 213,333
  • Your odds of winning the jackpot in this session are 1 in 213,333.

Now look at what would happen if you played Mega Moolah for several hours:

  • Your odds of winning the jackpot are 1 in 1.1 billion.
  • You make 550 spins per hour.
  • You play for 6 hours.
  • 550 x 6 = 3,300 spins
  • 1,100,000,000 / 3,300 = 333,333
  • Your odds of winning the jackpot in this session are 1 in 333,333.

Your odds of taking down a jackpot don’t suddenly become great just because you play for a while. But the astronomical odds improve when you keep spinning the reels. It’s also worth mentioning that you’ll win back a large portion of the money that you bet over time, which brings me to another point…

Base RTP & Volatility – Two More Important Factors to Consider

It’s great to have an idea on your chances of winning a jackpot. But this is far from the only crucial aspect to consider when playing slots. It’s also good to know a game’s return to player (RTP) and volatility. RTP refers to how much money you can expect to win back from a slot on average. If a game’s RTP is 95%, then you’ll theoretically earn back $0.95 for every $1 wagered. Payout percentages are a simple concept in theory. But RTP becomes more complicated when dealing with progressive slots.

After all, a progressive slot machine features variable payback based on the jackpot size. A game may offer 94% RTP when the jackpot is at its starting value, then feature 97% payback as the top prize increases. Base RTP is the figure you should concentrate on here when looking at progressive slots. The reason why is because you want to know how much payback you can expect in the likely event that you don’t win the jackpot.

Mega Moolah and NetEnt’s Mega Fortune both offer huge progressive prizes. But they also differ greatly in terms of their base payback. Mega Moolah only offers 88% base RTP, while Mega Fortune features 96% base RTP. The latter gives you a far greater chance to win in the long run.

Volatility refers to how likely your short-term results are to equal the payout percentage. This concept is especially important when you’re dealing with a small bankroll and want to get more play out of it. Low volatility slots offer the best bang for your buck, because they deliver more frequent payouts. The downside, though, is that these games don’t typically offer very big jackpots.

High volatility slots usually offer one or more big prizes. But the drawback is that they pay less frequently than the average game. Some online slots actually offer a volatility rating. Unfortunately, the vast majority of games force you to guess on this category. Generally speaking, slots with huge progressive jackpots have high volatility. Meanwhile, games with smaller jackpots have less volatility.

Here’s a simple example to explain the difference:

  • Slot A and Slot B both offer 95% payback.
  • Slot A features payouts worth 1 million coins, 100,000 coins, 5,000 coins, and 100 coins.
  • Slot B features payouts worth 10,000 coins, 1,000 coins, 100 coins, and 5 coins.
  • Slot B is the least volatile game, while Slot A is highly volatile.

If you’re very risk-averse and want to win life-changing jackpots, then you should be fine with volatile slots. But you should stick to low volatility games if you’re trying to stretch your bankroll.

Should You Still Play for Progressive Jackpots?

Progressive slots are a lot of fun since the jackpot continues increasing until its claimed. But as I’ve discussed, you don’t have very good odds of winning a progressive jackpot—especially when dealing with larger payouts.

Therefore, it’s worth asking if you should still consider playing progressive slots. The answer all depends upon what your individual preferences are. You may love the idea of chasing a variable payout that can grow to a huge sum. Certain slots like Mega Fortune, Mega Moolah, and Jackpot Giant give you an opportunity to win dream payouts.

The downside, though, is that you’re very unlikely to hit jackpots in these games. Your odds of winning on any individual spin are extremely high. Your most-realistic chances of collecting a jackpot lie with smaller progressive games or fixed jackpot machines. These games still make it difficult for to win, but you at least have a stronger chance.

On the other hand, you also have to consider how your odds of hitting any progressive prize improve as you keep spinning the reels.  You may only have a 1 in 500 million chance to win a jackpot on a single spin. But these odds can be reduced to 1 in 50,000 as you continue playing.

Another way to look at this is that you’ll collect more winnings along the way with progressive slots than you would in a popular lottery game. Standard payback for an online progressive slot is 95% RTP. Meanwhile, lottery games usually only offer around 50% RTP. That said, slots are one of the best deals in gambling with regard to playing for life-changing amounts.


Many of the most-popular online slots are also the games that offer the biggest progressive jackpots. This makes sense when considering that many internet slots players are also dreamers. But it’s also important to understand that your odds of winning a huge payout are low in the short run.

My earlier calculations show that Mega Moolah and Jackpot Giant offer 1 in 1.1 billion and 1 in 640 million jackpot odds, respectively. The good news is that both Mega Moolah and Jackpot Giant don’t cost much to play. The bad news is that your chances of winning their top prizes are extremely low.

You can improve your chances, though, by performing more spins. The more you play, the more these astronomical odds are reduced. But your odds will still be fairly long even when you play a lot. This is why it’s also crucial to consider base RTP and volatility when choosing games.

Progressive slots with high base payback give you a stronger chance to win without considering the growing jackpot. This is important given your low odds of winning a top prize. Volatility determines the amount of short-term risk you take with slots. You should choose low volatility games if you want more action out of a small bankroll. Overall, the point of playing online slots is to have fun. And you’ll move closer to this goal by picking games that satisfy your tastes in terms of jackpot odds, RTP, and volatility.

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