Lately, I’ve noticed a lot of strategy articles about how to win (or at least break even) playing slot machines.
These articles all generally read the same: play max credits, find the “loose” machines, etc. etc.
The truth is, there’s no strategy to playing slots. There are no loose machines. And no, you can’t realistically expect to win (or break even).
Even if you were to win the multi-million dollar jackpot on your first $0.75 spin, if you play that machine long enough, you’ll eventually lose 1-5% of all the money you wagered, and if you play long enough, that will eventually leave you with $0.
Now, as far as all the losing bets you can make in a casino (a losing bet is a bet that is not profitable), the slot machine is just about the best option. The betting denominations are very small, and the pay return is only slightly under breaking even, so with slot machines, your money will last far longer than at other games, like roulette. However, if you’re not careful, you can easily lose thousands of dollars in just one night of playing slots.
So, here’s the real truth behind slot machines. Here’s how they really work.
First, understand that there is no such thing as a “loose” machine. There are no machines that pay out more than any others. There may be a machine that in one hour pays out more than all the machines near it combined, but over the course of a long enough period of time, all the machines pay out equally.
Now, you might think “I should go find that machine that’s loose right now, even if they all pay out the same in the long run,” but trust me, it’s a waste of your time. A machine that appears to be loose is just by chance. In reality, whether or not a machine is going to pay out isn’t decided until the instant the lever is pulled or the button pushed to start the game.
And this is where we get to random number generators (RNG). It’s a computer program part of the electronic slot machines software. When you pull the lever or push the button to start the slot machine game, the random number generator randomly selects a number. This number determines the outcome of the display, and whether or not you are a winner.
The casino decides what kind of pay out they want their set of machines to have, and adjust the RNG to pay out the amount they desire. When you go to the slot machine area, you will usually see a sign somewhere that informs you of the return on their slot machines, expressed a percentage. Usually this number is 95-97%. What this number actually means is that the casino has adjust the RNG on their slot machines to pay out 95-97% of all the money it takes in.
Now, if you only play the slot machine for an hour or so, you could easily have any number of outcomes. You can only play the machine so many times in one hour, and no matter how fast you play, you won’t get enough plays to consistently reach the predetermined payout structure the casino has decided on.
In fact, it’s not even about the individual player. The casino could care less if a few players walk out huge winners (or huge losers). It doesn’t matter, because the casino knows that for every $100 spent in their slot machines, they’re keeping $3-5, depending on how “loose” they’ve set their machines.
If there were a way to consistently beat slot machines and make a consistent profit off of them by finding the right machine and making the right bets (matters of superstition), they simply wouldn’t exist in casinos, because casinos aren’t in the business of losing money.
In the short term, how you do at the slot machine is only a matter of luck. It doesn’t matter what machine you play on, whether you win or lose is a matter of luck, not a matter of finding the right machine.
In the long term however, expecting anything different than losing about $3-5 for every $100 you put into a slot machine is just ridiculous.