Slots FAQ – Questions / Answers on Slot Machines

People often come to the Internet to find answers to questions. You’ll find a lot of information on the Internet on a wide variety of subjects, and some of this information is organized into “FAQ” format, or “frequently asked questions”. Some of that information is, especially about slots and slot machines, can be misleading.

Accurate information is really important when you’re discussing gambling subjects. After all, you have money on the line. On this page, we offer accurate answers to many frequently asked questions about slots.

What are slots and how do they work?

The “slots” refer to slot machine games, which have a variety of different names throughout the world. For example, in England, they call slots “fruit machines”. In Australia they’re called “pokies”. No matter what word you use to describe them, though, their definition is the same. Slots are casino gambling machines with spinning reels.

Gamblers insert money into the game, then the game pays off based on the pattern of symbols which show up on the reels. Traditional slots have three reels, and they pay off when three symbols match in a horizontal line. Modern slots have a bewildering array of pay lines available, but most of them have five reels or fewer.

Early slot machines used mechanical reels to determine outcomes, but modern games use a computer called a random number generator to determine outcomes. These computers use virtual stops on the reels, which enables the manufacturers to set the odds within a thousandth of a percent. Some symbols might be programmed to show up as seldom as once every 256 spins, while other symbols might be programmed to show up as often as every other spin. Any probability in between those two extremes can be programmed in, too.

All slots have a pay table which explains which combinations of symbols result in which payouts. But other than deciding how much to play for on any given spin, a slots player has no decisions to make. You insert your money, you press the “spin” button, and the machine tells you whether or not you won. (And if you did win, how much you won.)

How can you win more at slots?

No formula or playing strategy can guarantee increased winnings at slots. The best you can do is research which games offer the best payback percentages. The payback percentage is the theoretical return to the player. For example, on a slot machine with a 99.5% payback percentage, over time, a player should eventually win back 99.5 cents for every dollar she wagers.

Of course, gambling isn’t about the long run—it’s about the short term. Over a short number of spins, anything can happen. For example, you might win a 100 to 1 payout on your first spin. But over the next 100 spins, you might lose (or win) even more than that. The long run, when it comes to slot machine games, is best expressed in terms of thousands or tens of thousands of spins.

Magazines like Strictly Slots publish estimates of the payout percentage for various slot machine games, casinos, and areas. If you want to increase your chances of winning, find the locations with the highest payback percentages. Or play slots online. Internet casinos generally have much higher payout percentages than traditional land-based casinos, because they have so little overhead.

Is there a best time of day to play slots?

Your chances of winning are determined by the random number generator for the machine you’re playing on. The time of day has no effect on this program. So in terms of your chances of winning, there is no “best” time of day to play.

On the other hand, if you’re a morning person, the best time to play is in the morning. If you’re in bed every night at 9pm when you’re at home, but you’re playing slots at 3am at the casino, you might not be making the best decisions about managing your bankroll. God forbid you gamble away the rent money because you’re not getting enough sleep.

So the best time of day to play slots is the time when you’re most alert, make the best decisions, and enjoy life. Slots are meant to be fun. You’ll have more fun when you’re more alert.

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Which slots offer better odds of winning? Penny, nickel, quarter, or dollar slots?

As a general rule, the higher the denomination, the better the payout percentage is. So dollar slots offer a better chance of winning than quarter slots, and quarter slots offer a better chance of winning than nickel slots, and so on. Casino managers have targets for how much money they want to make per hour and per square foot. They can afford to offer higher payout percentages on higher denomination games.

Here’s an example. If you have a penny slot machine that pays out at 99%, and your average player makes 600 spins an hour at a penny per spin, then you’d expect to win 6 cents per hour. (You have $6 per hour in action, and you expect to give back 99% of that.) On the other hand, if you have a dollar slot machine with the same payout percentage, the casino expects to win $6 per hour.

The casino could set the payout percentage to 90% on the penny game and only increase their expected winnings to 60 cents per hour. Compared to the $6 per hour on the dollar machine at 99%, the casino still makes more money per hour from the dollar game. You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist to figure out which denomination will have the lower payout percentage.

How do you pick a slots game to play?

Since slot machine games offer a negative expectation to the player, you should choose the game which seems like it’s the most fun. Concerns about how much you expect to win are secondary to the amount of enjoyment you get from playing the game.  The best way to choose a slots game is to put a little money into a game, and if it’s fun, keep playing. If it’s not fun, or if you’re bored, move on to another game that looks like it will be more fun.

Smart slots players understand that the game is all about entertainment value. If you want an edge over the casino, learn to count cards in blackjack.

Are electronic bingo games and slots games the same thing?

In some jurisdictions, electronic bingo games are designed to look just like slots games. The program that determines winners works somewhat differently, but for all intent and purposes to the player, the game plays just like a slot machine. In Oklahoma, for example, the native American casino games use a bingo algorithm to power all their games. If you look, you can find a virtual bingo card on the screen which shows the bingo combination that determined your payout.

Is there a secret to slot machines?

Most people asking for the secret to slot machines are looking for a magic formula for winning. They want to know if you can find a machine that’s “overdue” for a payout. Often they’ll think that certain combinations on the reels will indicate a readiness to pay out on the game.

Unfortunately, there is no secret magical formula. The random number generator determines how often winners are paid out. And you have no way of predicting when that will be. That computer program generates thousands of numbers per second. When you push the spin button, the program stops on whichever number is in the cycle at that moment. There is no reliable way to predict that outcome.

The only secret to slots is to have fun and avoid spending money you need for the rent on them.

Why do people like playing slots?

People like playing slots because they’re fun. In fact, they’re designed to be fun—otherwise no one would play. Slot machine designers study how often they have to reward players in order to keep them interested. The chances of winning a lot of money on a single bet is attractive to players, and the sights and sounds in the banks of slot machines at casinos has never been more exciting. No matter what you’re interested in, you’ll find a game that caters to your niche, from games shows like Let’s Make a Deal and Wheel of Fortune to brands like Budweiser and Playboy.

Can you become addicted to slot machines?

Depending on what literature you’re reading, not only can you become addicted to slots, but they’re designed specifically with that purpose in mind. Robert Breen, a psychiatrist at Brown University, has studied slot machine addiction. He found that slots players became addicted to gambling in less than a third or a fourth of the time it takes to become addicted to other kinds of gambling. For example, if it takes an average of four years to become addicted to sports betting, it only takes an average of a year to become addicted to slots.

This probably has a lot to do with the rapidity with which you can make wagers on a slot machine game. It also probably has much to do with the solitary nature of slot machine gambling. Problem gamblers, or gambling addicts, are unable to make rational choices about when and how to gamble. These gamblers also generate a high percentage of profits for casinos.

How do you avoid becoming addicted to slots? Play slowly. Play with other people. Find other activities to enjoy at the casino, and keep strict limits on how much you’ll lose and how much time you’ll spend gambling. You’ll need to wear a watch because casinos don’t have clocks.

In fact, casinos and slots designers hope to maximize your “time on device”. They achieve this by offering frequent small payouts. You might wager a dollar and win on 35 paylines. You only won 35 cents, so your net loss is 65 cents, but it feels like a small win, so you keep playing.

If you think you’re starting to lose control, seek professional help right away.

Why do professional gamblers avoid slots games?

Professional gamblers only gamble when they have a positive expectation. Slot machines never offer a positive expectation, so pros don’t play them. Professional gamblers prefer to stick with counting cards at blackjack, or gambling on sports, or playing poker. Card and table live dealer games require some skill which is a good incentive for professional gamblers. These games offer players agency in the form of allowing them the space for showcasing their skills to win good payouts.

Most people don’t have the temperament to become professional gamblers. Gambling this way isn’t thrilling. It’s a grind. A lot of times, it’s boring, just like any other job. Some professional gamblers would make more money with a traditional job.

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What are the best online slots? Why do you think they’re the best?

The best online slots are the one you enjoy playing. Try different games at different casinos, and stick with the ones you enjoy the most.

RealTime Gaming slot games excel at creating an assortment of exciting and entertaining themed games like Jackpot Saloon and Trigger Happy. These western-themed slot games offers you extra chances to win in the form of their dynamic in-game mechanics. It’s a clever twist to offer players, and I think most people who try it will like it.

What does “action” mean in this context?

The traditional definition of “action” goes something like this: the act of doing something. In the context of slot machines, this means a couple of things. A player is “in action” when he’s putting money into and playing an electronic gambling machine. Action also refers to the amount of money that a player wagers.  For example, a player on a dollar slot machine making 600 spins per hour (at a dollar a spin) is putting $600 into action per hour.

How do casino’s use action in their operations?

The casino’s slots club tracks your action with your players’ card in order to decide how much you’ve earned in comps and rebates.

What is an annuity?

An annuity is an amount of money that’s paid to someone for the rest of their life. Most annuities come in the form of an annual payment. When you win a huge progressive jackpot like MegaBucks, you are often given the option of accepting your prize as an annuity or as a single payment.

Which is better, the annuity or the lump sum jackpot?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods of receiving your payment. For example, if you take your winnings as a single lump sum, the tax burden can be significantly higher than if you received an annual payment for the rest of your life. Most financial advisors consider the single lump payment the better option, even though the initial tax is greater. Their contention is that you can invest that money and earn more in interest on it than the annuity would be worth.

What are basic slots?

Basic slots are traditional three reel slot machines with a single payline. At one time, basic slots were the only game in town, but changes in technology have resulted in a bewildering array of game features. The payback percentage on basic slots is generally higher than it is on the more complicated games, but they also tend to be a little less exciting. Any extra features, including a progressive jackpot (as opposed to a flat top jackpot), disqualify a game from being considered a basic slot machine. These are also sometimes called “straight slots”.

What does “Bet Max” mean?

On modern slot machines, you’ll find a button that reads “Bet Max”. This button automatically sets your bet at the maximum for that machine. For example, you might be playing a game with 40 paylines, with the option of wagering between a penny and a nickel on each line. The Max Bet on such a game would activate a nickel per line. Every spin would then result in a wager of $2, assuming you play all 40 lines.

Should I always “Bet Max”?

On many games, if you don’t bet the maximum amount, you’re not eligible for the largest jackpot. These games have a smaller jackpot amount for players who bet less than the maximum amount. You should know what kind of game you’re playing before deciding whether or not to “Bet Max”. If you’re penalized for not betting the maximum amount, then yes, you should always “Bet Max”. At the same time, you should always play within your bankroll.

What does “Bet One” mean?

Some slot machine games also have a button that reads “Bet One”. This button  causes you to bet a single unit per spin. In the example game we talked about in the answer to “What does ‘Bet Max’ mean? The “Bet One” button would create a wager of a penny per payline that you choose to activate. If you play all lines on a 40 line game at a penny per line, then you’re putting 40 cents per spin in action.

What are “betting units”?

A betting unit is the same thing as a credit. For example, if you’re playing a quarter slot machine, a betting unit is 25 cents. Payouts are based on betting units—for example, if a game pays off bets at 40 to 1 odds, you’re receiving 40 betting units in winnings. At a quarter apiece, that would be $10. At a dollar apiece, that would be $40, and so on.

What is Big Bertha?

A Big Bertha is a giant slot machine. These were manufactured as novelty items by the Bally Manufacturing Company.

What is a Super Big Bertha?

The original Big Bertha was so popular that the company created a Super Big Bertha, too. This game had eight spinning reels and 20 symbols on each reel, and it cost $150,000 to manufacture just one. The odds of hitting the jackpot on the Big Bertha machines were slim—1 in 15 billion.

Where can I play a Big Bertha or a Super Big Bertha?

Since modern slot machines can create large jackpots using random number generators, the Big Bertha technology is now obsolete, but casinos like Ballys and Circus Circus still have Big Berthas you can play. Since they’re a novelty item, they can attract customers who are interested in betting their picture made with the machine.

Some casinos have “mini” Big Berthas, which only have three reels, but are still oversized. These are also novelty machines designed to attract customers.

What is a bonus in this context?

Modern slot machines usually offer bonus games when certain criteria are met by the machine. These bonus games can be as simple as free spins or wild cards, but they can also constitute an entire miniature game in themselves, as in the case of Wheel of Fortune. (When you activate the bonus game, you get to spin the wheel.) Some slot machines are programmed to only offer their bonuses and bonus games to players who are wagering max credits per spin.

What is a carousel?

A carousel is a group of slot machines, usually offering play of a certain denomination. For example, you might find a carousel of nickel slots in one area, and a carousel of dollar slots in another area. These are also sometimes called “banks” of slot machines.

What is cashback?

When you join a slot machine club at a casino, they use a players’ card to track how much action you put through the machine. You then receive comps and/or rebates of a certain percentage, usually 0.1% to 0.3%, of your total action. These comps/rebates are called cashback.

How do I get cashback?

You should always join the slots club to take advantage of the cashback, because your odds of winning don’t change based on using the players’ card. Some so-called experts will tell you the opposite, but the machines don’t change their programming based on whether or not your player card is inserted.

What are certified slots?

Certified slots are slot machine games with a guaranteed payback percentage of between 98% and 100%. These games are also sometimes called “certified loose slots” or “certified hot slots”.

What does coin in/count out mean?

Coin in refers to the number of units you actually wagered. Coin out refers to the amount of money the machine paid out. It’s almost impossible for a human to actually keep track of coin in, but the players’ card is able to do so. If you watch how many comp points you’ve earned with your players’ club card, you can come close to estimating what your coin in has been in aggregate. We’ve read people say on some sites that winning spins don’t count toward your total when determining comp points on your slot players club card, but that’s a myth. Player points are earned based on the amount of money you put into action; whether or not you’re winning has no effect on the comp points that you earn.

What does coin size mean?

Some machines have a coin size option. Since most modern slot machines are run by computer programs, it’s a simple matter to design a machine where you can vary the denomination you want to play. Many online slot machines have a coin size option. Some games can be played for as little as a penny per spin or as much as five dollars per spin. The amount you decide to play for is the coin size.

What are cold slots?

That one’s easy. Cold slots are the opposite of hot slots.

Not a very helpful answer, huh? Cold slots are the same as tight slots. These are games which don’t pay out very often, and when they do pay out, the average winning amount is low.

Also, some slot machine experts claim that the temperature of the coins put into the machines can affect how hot or cold the game gets. This is a linguistically related concept. It’s also a complete and total myth. The temperature of the coins you insert has nothing to do with your winnings or losses; the random number generator determines that per the parameters of its program. Those parameters don’t include “temperature of coins” as a factor.

How can I avoid cold slots?

We can only answer this question in generalities. In general, lower denomination games have lower payback percentages, which would make those games colder. You can avoid cold slots by playing the highest denomination game you’re comfortable with. Also, in general, venues matter. Airport slots and slot machines in pubs have notoriously low payout percentages. Stick with the slots games in major casinos for the best payout percentages.

What are comps?

Comps are rewards from the casino. They’re used to entice players to visit a specific casino more often. They’re also used to encourage those players to actually play there. Comps are usually given to players in the form of free drinks, food, rooms, travel, and entertainment. The more money you put into action, the bigger the comps you’ll receive from the casino.

Slots player comps are a science for the casino, because they have exact records of how much action you’ve brought them with your players’ card. Table games like roulette or blackjack are less scientific; the dealer usually rates your play at a certain amount, and then they estimate your amount of action per hour.

We know a blackjack player in Kansas City who wagers between $10 and $100 per hand. The last time he was rated by the dealer, she said he was a $10 per hand player. He didn’t feel like he was getting the comps he deserved, but he also didn’t want to draw too much attention to the sizing of his bets. (Blackjack players who are counting cards raise the size of their bets when they have an edge, and they lower the size of their bets when they don’t.)

Online casinos offer players various slot and table game bonuses whenever they sign up and deposit in their accounts. When players avail of any one of these bonuses, they can utilize it to get some advantage when playing their favorite online casino game to win real money. These online comps include free spins, match bonuses, and everything in between.

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What are credits?

Credits are the same thing as betting units. If you’re playing a dollar slot machine, and you insert $100 into the machine, you’re given 100 credits. If you insert the same $100 into a quarter slot machine, you’re given 400 credits. Credits (and betting units) are used to simplify the calculation of payouts, which are usually described as a ratio of the amount won versus a single credit.

What is a denomination?

The denomination refers to the monetary value of each credit on a machine. For example, the denomination of a quarter slots machine is a quarter or 25 cents. The denomination of a dollar slot machine is a dollar, or $1.00. Generally speaking, the higher the denomination, the better the payout percentage is on the game. Casinos make more money from higher denomination games.

What is a five liner?

A five liner is a slot machine with five pay lines. This is the easiest multiple pay line slot machine to understand. You have three reels, and the first three paylines are the three horizontal lines—the main payline in the center, and the lines above and below. The other two paylines are diagonal from left to right and from right to left. Imagine an X on the face of the machine, and that represents the two diagonal paylines.

What are free spins?

A free spin on a slot machine is one that doesn’t require a wager. In traditional brick and mortar casinos, free spins are almost exclusively the result of bonuses or bonus games. In online casinos, free spins are sometimes used as an incentive for players to sign up with an account at a casino. Some online slots games offer free spins with random prizes, again, just to encourage players to visit their sites and eventually sign up for a real money account and play.

What is a fruit machine?

That’s what players in the United Kingdom call slot machines. The phrase refers to how common symbols of fruit, especially cherries, are used in these games.

What does “games per hour” mean?

In this context, a single game is a single spin of the reels. Each spin of the reels is considered a game. An average slot machine player makes 600 spins per hour, which equates to 600 games per hour. Fast players can play as many as 900 spins per hour, while slower players might only play 300 games per hour. Casinos prefer faster players, because the more games you play per hour, the more average winnings the casino expects.

What does it mean to “hammer” a machine?

A slot machine player is said to “hammer” a machine when she plays it for a long period of time. This is usually done in an attempt to win a progressive jackpot. Some progressive jackpots, if they get high enough, represent a positive expectation bet for the player. In cases where a progressive jackpot has gotten that large, it’s not unusual for a team of slots players to hammer an entire carousel of machines with the understanding that they’ll share a single bankroll and split the winnings if they hit the progressive. Admittedly, this is more common with progressive video poker games, because the odds of winning on those games is a known quantity. On a slot machine game, the chances of winning are unknown to the players, although some players can make more-or-less accurate guesses based on their experiences playing a game.

How does the “hit and run” strategy work?

A hit and run slot machine player only plays on a given machine for a certain predetermined number of spins before giving up and moving to another game. The rules for when a player hits and runs vary based on whatever foolhardy gambling system the player is using. We’ve read books which insist that you should leave a game if you make six spins without seeing any wins, but you should quit once you’ve won 40% of your bankroll.

The hit and run strategy doesn’t work, because it doesn’t take into account the mathematical reality that playing slot machines is just one big session. Your overall wins and losses are a function of the long-term mathematical expectation for the games you played. Whether you won or lost on a machine on the previous spin has absolutely no bearing on how you’ll fare on your next spin.

What is a slot machine’s hit frequency?

A slot game’s hit frequency is a number that describes how often a slot machine game pays out some kind of winnings. The higher the hit frequency, the more attractive the game is to the average player. With modern games which feature five, ten, twenty, or even forty paylines, a game can have a high hit frequency and still be very profitable for the casino.

For example, imagine you’re playing a penny machine with 40 paylines. The game has a hit frequency of 50 percent, so half the lines pay out something on every spin, but your total winnings on most of those spins is between 20 cents and 30 cents. Even though the hit frequency is high, you’re still losing an average of 10 to 20 cents per spin.

This subtle psychological trick is used by casinos to increase a player’s average time on machine. The average time spent on a machine is the best predictor of how profitable a particular game is for the casino.

What is a slot machine’s hold percentage?

A slot machine’s hold percentage is the same thing as the house edge. It’s an average, over the long run, of how much of each wager the machine will win. For example, a slot machine game with a 5% hold percentage will win an average of a nickel for every dollar you wager over the long run. The hold percentage is the opposite of a slot machine’s payout percentage. The payout percentage added to the hold percentage always equals 100%.

What is a hopper?

The hopper is the receptacle into which the coins fall when you win a jackpot. Most modern slot machines use a ticket-in/ticket-out system, so hoppers are becoming extinct. They’re still there, but they’re just for show, in the same way that the lever is still there. (The difference is that the lever still works, even though it’s just like pushing the “spin” button.)

What are hot slots?

Hot slots are the opposite of cold slots. They pay out more often, and they pay out larger amounts. Some systems players encourage players to increase the amount they play when a machine gets hot in order to increase their potential winnings. The reality is that hot slots and cold slots are both a real phenomenon, but you can only recognize these patterns in retrospect. You have no way of knowing whether a machine is hot or cold. You also have no way to predict when a hot machine will turn cold and vice-versa. Don’t believe anyone who tells you differently; they’re probably hoping to sell you some kind of bogus system which they guarantee will make you a winning player.

What is a jackpot?

The jackpot is the highest amount you can win on a slot machine. Most slots have a fixed top jackpot, but some have jackpots which grow over time. These are called flat top machines and progressive jackpot machines, respectively.

What are linked progressive jackpots?

Progressive jackpot slot machines take a tiny percentage of every wager and add that to the jackpot every spin. Linked progressive jackpots take a percentage of every wager from multiple machines. These can be linked inside a casino, or they can be wide area progressives, which feature linked games in multiple casinos.

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What are loose slots?

See our answer to the question about “hot slots” for more information. A loose slot machine is like a loose woman; it’s easy. Loose slot machines pay out more money more often. The opposite of a loose slot machine is a tight slot machine. Contrary to what most “slot machine experts” will tell you, it’s impossible to determine if a slot machine is loose or tight by looking at it. The payouts are determined by the random number generator. In the short term, anything can happen, but in the long run, a slot machine will pay out a percentage of bets close to the percentage programmed into the machine.

How do multi-player slot machines work?

These usually consist of a carousel of games with a bonus round that pays out for everyone, regardless of who activates it. Wheel of Fortune themed games are often like this; the players are seated around the wheel, and win a prize based on their individual wagers and their rate of play when the wheel is spun. These kinds of games encourage the same kind of esprit de corp that’s often found at the craps table.

What is a multiplier?

Modern slot machines often feature special symbols which act as multipliers to the jackpot you’ve won. For example, if you’re normally supposed to win 300 to 1 on a given payout, but you have a 2X multiplier appear on your screen, you’ll win 600 to 1 instead. Multiplier symbols and wild symbols are common on today’s slot machine games.

What is a near miss?

A near miss is when you almost hit a winning combination, but you’re missing a symbol or two. Some slot machine system proponents suggest that looking for machines which are on a near miss while they’re at rest are more likely to pay out soon. They often call this the “zig-zag” system, because they look for some kind of zig zag pattern which shows two or three winning symbols in a zig zag pattern on the inactive machine. The reality is that near misses mean nothing. The game’s results are determined by the random number generator, and machines don’t become “due” or “overdue” because of a near miss.

Why are slot machines sometimes called one-armed bandits?

“One-armed” refers to the lever on the side of the machine, of which there is only one. “Bandit” refers to how likely it is to lose your money to the machine.

What is a payback percentage?

The payback percentage is the amount of each wager over the long run that will be returned to the player as winnings. It’s always expressed as a percentage. Think of the payback percentage as the opposite of the slot machine’s hold percentage. The payback percentage is almost always less than 100%, although some casinos have machines with a certified payback percentage of 100%. Those games are there as “loss leaders”, in order to attract people to their casinos. They’re usually boring, so most players don’t stay with such machines for very long.

Most slot machines have payback percentages of between 88% and 96%, but some might go as low as 75%. The payback percentage on higher denomination games is almost always better than that on lower denomination games. Even with a higher payout percentage, slot machines of a higher denomination make the casino more money per hour.

The phrase “payout percentage” means the same thing.

What is a pay table?

The pay table is a chart that shows which combinations result in which winning amounts. On old-fashioned slot machines, the pay table is usually physically present on the machine somewhere. On newer slot machines, the pay table is shown on the screen when you select it. These games are like video games, so you can switch from one screen to another via the machine’s controls.

The pay table is also sometimes called the slot schedule.

What are pokies?

That’s the term Australian gamblers use to refer to slot machines. It’s a shortening of the term “poker machines”. Fruit isn’t the only commonly-used symbol on these games; playing card symbols are also common. That’s where this phrase comes from.

How do progressive slot machines work?

Progressive slot machines feature large jackpots that grow over time. You’ll see a jackpot ticker on top of these, and you can watch the size of the jackpot grow until it gets hit. A tiny percentage of each wager fuels this ever-increasing top prize amount. As a result, many slot machine games with progressive jackpots offer lower hit frequencies and smaller payouts than you’d expect. The odds of winning a progressive jackpot are usually astronomical. In fact, we’ve seen estimates that your chance of winning the MegaBucks progressive jackpot is twice as unlikely as winning the state lottery. Those are long odds indeed.

What are reels and reel stops?

The reels are what make a slot machine a slot machine. These are the loops of metal that spin on the face of the machine. In mechanical slot machine games, the reels are literally made of metal, but on modern slot machine games, they just consist of a video simulation.

The reel stops are where the reels are programmed to stop when the spinning ends. Usually a reel stop corresponds to a symbol, but some reels are programmed to stop on a blank.

What is a random number generator? How do random number generators work?

A random number generator is any machine used to create random numbers. For example, a six-sided die is a simple random number generator. When discussing slot machines, though, a random number generator is the computer inside the machine which determines the outcome of each spin of the reels.

A random number generator does nothing but cycle through thousands of numbers, each of which corresponds to a combination of reel symbols on the front of the machine. When you hit the spin button or pull the lever on a slot machine, the random number generator stop on whichever number it’s on at that instant. The reels are just for show—the outcome has been determined almost instantaneously.

Random number generators pay no attention to previous results. Machines don’t get hot or cold based on previous outcomes. The house edge (or hold percentage) is determined by paying out winnings that are smaller than the odds of achieving them.

What is a scatter symbol?

A scatter symbol is a feature on newer slot machines. These result in payouts no matter where the symbols lands on the screen; you don’t have to line up a series of symbols on pay lines in order to profit. Scatter symbols are one among many features of modern slot machines that create more excitement among players. Once you’ve played a game with a scatter symbol, you’ll probably be disappointed with basic slots for a long time after that.

What are signature slots?

A signature slot machine game is branded with the casino’s name on it. For example, if you’re playing at the Golden Nugget casino, and you come across a slots game called “Golden Nugget”, you’ve found a signature slot.

How do slots clubs work?

The slots club is also sometimes called the players’ club. When you join the casino’s slots club, you receive a card which you insert into the slot machines while you play. This card tracks your action so that the casino can offer you rebates in the forms of food, lodging, entertainment, and travel. Big players are worth a lot of money to the casino, so they want to encourage you to not only play more often, but to play at their casino.

The amounts of these rebates are calculated using a formula, usually between 0.1% and 0.3% of your total action on the machines. You’ll receive regular mailings from the casino, too.

Everyone should join the slots club. There is no downside to being a member. Being a member of the slots club doesn’t affect your chances of winning or losing.

How do slot machine tournaments work?

Slot machine tournaments are competitions in which players compete for prizes by playing slot machines. These events generally offer prizes based on how fast a player plays. The person with the highest number of spins by the end of the tournament is often the winner, although different casinos have different rules for different events.

How do you avoid tight slots?

Tight slots are slot machines which don’t pay out very often, and when they do pay out, they usually only pay out a small amount. There is no sure way to differentiate a tight slot machine from a loose slot machine; they can be identical on the surface but have different settings to their random number generators. A commonly repeated slots myth is that the looser slot machines are placed on the edges of the carousels in order to attract more traffic, but that’s no longer true (if it ever was). You can only use your best judgment when playing slots in order to determine whether or not a game is tight. If you think a game is tight, stop playing and find a new game.

In general, progressive slots are tighter than flat top machines. Also, the higher denomination games are looser than the lower denomination games. Casinos offer looser slot machines than other businesses; avoid playing slot machines at bars and airports. They’re notoriously tight.

What are video slots?

Video slots are the most commonly found modern slot machines. Instead of having physical reels, all of the action takes place on a computer screen or monitor. By default, all Internet slot machine games are video slots.

Even slot machines which have mechanical reels use a random number generator to determine their outcomes, making them only superficially different from video slots.

What is a wild symbol?

When playing cards, a joker is usually a wild card—it can stand in for another needed card in order to create a winning hand. Wild symbols on slot machine games work the same way. Theoretically, wild symbols increase your chances of winning, but this is a superficial increase only. At the end of the day, the random number generator determines the outcome of every spin. Wild symbols—in fact, all of the symbols—are just for show.

How does the zig zag strategy work?

The short answer is that the zig zag strategy does NOT work. The theory upon which it is based is fundamentally flawed.

The premise is that you should look for slot machines which are unoccupied but show a near miss, with winning symbols in a zig zag pattern on the screen. Since these games are “ready to pay out”, your odds of winning are better.

The problem is that the reels are just for show. All modern slot machines determine their results based on the random number generator. The zig zag strategy is just wishful thinking on the part of gamblers.


Don’t get too hung up on the details of slots. They’re actually a pretty straightforward way to gamble.

At the same time, I think that this page should have answered the questions that 99% of the people who have questions about slots should have. It’s a good idea to be an educated gambler, no matter what game you play.

If you’re looking for specific numbers on specific slot machine games in specific locations, a subscription to Strictly Slots magazine is a good idea. If you like playing slot machines in casinos, it’s a good investment.

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