How to Win at Slot Machines

Everyone would like to know how to win at slots, but the truth is that winning at slot machines isn’t any harder than losing at slot machines. You put your money in the machine, spin the reels, and hope for the best. Slot machines are meant to be fun; they’re not intended to provide the player with an income.

In fact, the reality is just the opposite. Slots are there to provide the casino owners with an income. How that works is one of the subjects of this page.

On the other hand, you can minimize your losses and increase your enjoyment of slots games by understanding how they work. You can also learn which slots pay back the most money. In the long run, the house will still have an edge over you, but understanding how much you can expect to lose in a given venue can help you make better bankroll management decisions.

In fact, it might be a good idea to modify you definition of “winning at slots”. Instead of considering yourself a winner if you bring home a big profit, consider yourself a winner any time you played and had a lot of fun.


How Slots Work

All slot machines in modern casinos use a random number generator (an “RNG) to determine the results of each spin. An RNG is a tiny computer that does nothing but constantly generate numbers. When you push the spin button, that microcomputer selects a number which determines the outcome. In fact, this happens before the reels have even stopped spinning.

On modern slot machines, the reels are just there for show. From a practical standpoint, you could put a quarter in a machine, push a button, and have the screen flash: “You lose!” or “You win $10”. The mechanism that determined the outcome would be the same, but who would want to play a game like that, especially if you know that the house has a mathematical edge over the player.

The spinning reels, the sound effects, and the bonus games are all there to make the game more interesting to play. If you don’t like the artwork, the music, or any other aspect of a slots game, don’t bother playing it, because those are the real rewards of playing. The chance of getting lucky and winning a jackpot is a real reward, too, but don’t ignore the other aspects of the game.

The random number generator is programmed to pay back a certain percentage of the money paid into it over a period of time. This period of time is known in gambling math as “the long run”, and it’s a lot longer than most people think. We’re talking about tens of thousands of spins, not dozens or hundreds.

This percentage that’s programmed into these machines is always less than 100%. If a slots game were programmed to pay back more than 100% of the money put into it, it would lose money for the casino.

Casinos aren’t in business to lose money.

The trick is to find slot machines that have the highest payout percentages.


Which Slots Pay Back the Most Money

If every slot machine game in the world had a payback percentage posted on the machine somewhere, it would be easy to determine which slots pay back the most money. You could limit your play to machines with a payback percentage of over 95% for example.

It’s too bad casinos don’t provide that information on specific games, though.

You can find information about specific locations and their payback percentages, though. Some gambling guides and magazines publish this information. For example, The American Casino Guide provides certified information about the payout percentages in various states. Not all states reveal this information, but it’s not a huge leap of logic to expect better payback percentages in states that do reveal this information.

For example, the overall payback percentage for slots in Black Hawk, Colorado is 92.8%. In Central City, Colorado, it’s 92.93%, and in Cripple Creek, it’s 93.66%. Alabama doesn’t release the numbers on their payback percentages.

Which casinos do you think offer the better game?

A couple of guidelines hold true no matter where you play, though. One of those is that payouts are better in large cities with lots of gambling. For example, the payouts in Vegas are higher overall than the payouts in Colorado. And the payouts improve when you play for higher stakes. For example, penny slots in Vegas average around 88% to 91%, but dollars slots average between 93% and 96%. Finally, slot machines at airports usually offer the lowest payouts.

What does that mean for the player? It means that over the long run, if you wager $x on a particular game, you’ll win back $x times the payback percentage for that machine. If you’re playing a dollar slot machine on the Strip in Las Vegas, for example, and the payout percentage is around 93%, then if you place $10,000 in wagers, you’ll win back $9300. You lost $700.

That’s only a long term mathematical expectation, though. In the short run, anything can happen, and that’s what keeps people playing.


How to Maximize Your Winnings and Minimize Your Losses

There are three ways to maximize your winnings and minimize your losses. The first is to always join the slots club, and always use your member card while you play. Slots club members get a percentage of their play returned to them in the form of casino rewards and cash back. This is normally a tiny percentage (think 0.1% or 0.2%), but it adds up, especially if you play a lot.

Don’t buy into the myth that playing with your slots club card lowers your expected return on the game, either. That’s not true. The random number generator in these games has no way of knowing whether or not you’re using your slots club card or not.

The second way to increase your winnings and minimize your losses is to use effective bankroll management techniques. This means limiting the amount of time that you play, limiting the amount of money that you’re willing to lose in any session and in any given gambling trip, and finding other fun things to do with your time besides just playing the slots.

Finally, try to play the machines with the highest payout percentage. Over the long run, if you keep playing, you’ll probably eventually wind up a loser at the slots (unless you hit a huge progressive jackpot), but you’ll lose your money more slowly and get more entertainment value for the money you gambled.