There are thousands of slots at casinos and online, with new slot titles being dreamt up all the time. While millions of people enjoy these games, few know how they work behind the scenes. On this page, we explain how slot machines work and the essential playing concepts that can make a difference for your bankroll.
Slots have evolved drastically from the first mechanical three-reel devices. These days, most slots are electronic, showing animated symbols on HD screens. Many have elaborate themes, some tie-in with popular music, TV or movie franchises. Bonus games might vary widely, though the underlying technology based on random number generator (RNG) software is standard for all games.
Below, you’ll find out more about how RNG software works, key factors like return-to-player (RTP) percentages and the many varieties of slots available.
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Also, we share how to take advantage of bonuses and loyalty schemes to get the best bang for your bucks from slot play. If you’re looking for a spot to play slots online, we recommend the list below. Most of the casinos offer games similar to those you find in your local casino.
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New slot machine players are going to find a lot of advice for beating the slots. Have a healthy skepticism when a slots expert tells you they know how to beat the slot machines. Among the games in a casino, video slots (in general) have a high house edge. Besides finding gaming machines with high jackpots and a low house edge, no skill or strategy is required to play slots. That means you can’t expect to increase your odds of winning in most situations.
Read through the advice below to optimize your chances of winning at slots. None of the advice assures winning sessions. Instead, it helps you stretch your bankroll, so you enjoy playing the slots longer. Also, the longer your bankroll lasts, the more chances you’ll have of hitting the big jackpot every slots player wants.
Use a Slots Card
Upon entering a live casino, sign up for a slots card. This provides comps and cashback, which automatically lowers the house edge by a bit. Never play a spin without using your slots card. In an online casino, accept the highest slots bonus and play according to the terms and conditions until you meet the wagering requirement. Once again, this lowers the house edge on online slots.
Make Max Bets
Look at the payout chart on a slot machine to determine how jackpots are paid. On many slot machines, the 5-coin bet pays out a higher percentage on the top fixed jackpot. For instance, a 1-coin bet might pay $200, a 2-coin bet might pay $400, a 3-coin bet might pay $600, and a 4-coin bet might pay $800. You might expect the 5-coin bet to pay $1000, but many slot machines pay out $1200 or $1500 in that case, trying to convince bettors to make the max bet.
If the jackpot increases a bigger percentage with a maximum coin wager, then it makes sense to make the max bet on a slot machine. If the bet size is too high for your tastes, then lower the coin denomination and make a max bet at that level. Of course, if there is no additional jump between the 4-coin and 5-coin bet, then you can wager a single coin and max out the coin denomination to the bet size you like.
Read the RTP Information
If an online casino or land-based casino publishes its return-to-player information, read through the RTP percentages to find the video slots with the best RTPs. Return-to-player or expected return is the percentage of a theoretical $100 you expect to see returned to you. It is a theoretical percentage based on probability, so an RTP of 95% does not assure you’ll be paid $95 for every $100 you put in the machine. You might lose $50 or you might win $150, or you might win a progressive jackpot and go home rich.
The point of the RTP percentage is to give a player an idea of their expected return. If two slot machines sit next to one another and one has an RTP of 93% and the other an RTP of 95% (and both have similar jackpots), then it pays to play the game with the higher percentage. Over time, this leads to you maintaining a higher percentage of your bankroll.
Money Management Techniques
Read about bankroll management techniques. “Money management” or “bankroll management” is a series of steps you take to lock on winnings when good luck happens and limit your losses when a bad streak occurs. These do not assure that you’ll win, but it optimizes your bankroll.
Players should know three core bankroll management methods: percentage betting, win goals, and loss limits. Learn to calculate your bankroll and divide this into percentages. Then bet between 1% and 5% of your bankroll on any given hand, depending on your capacity for risk. This limits the amount of your stake you lose on any given session, keeping you playing for longer throughout your vacation. It is a given that people go to the ATM machine or credit card when they lose their whole bankroll — which means you spend more than you intended. The point of percentage betting is to assure your bankroll last through your whole trip, so you never have to replenish.
What Is a Bankroll?
“Bankroll” is not defined as your entire bank account. It isn’t defined as your discretionary spending budget or the money you have earmarked for entertainment expenses. Instead, it is a part of your discretionary spending cash and entertainment budget which is set aside specifically for gambling. In this case, a bankroll is less than your entertainment budget.
Once you have your bankroll figured, divide this into easy to understand percentage. If you have a bankroll of $1000, then divide this into percentages. These are simple calculations, but you should have an understanding of 1%, 2%, 5%, 10%, and 20% of your bankroll. In the earlier example, 1% would be $10, while 2% would be $20. 5% would be $50, 10% would be $100, and 20% would be $200.
Now that you have these, decide whether to bet 1% to 5% of your bankroll. Most experts suggest betting no more than 1% to 2% in order to maintain your bankroll throughout your casino trip or online slots session.
Setting a Win Goal
Next, set your win goal. This is the amount of winnings you set as your goal for any given slots session. If you have a win goal of 10%, then your win goal would be $100 for any given slot machine sessions. As soon as you hit that goal, you walk away from the slot machine — no matter what. A win goal is a hard-and-fast rule, because it locks in winnings. One of the biggest mistakes players make is losing back their winnings, because they think they’re on a hot streak.
Setting a Loss Limit
Even more dangerous is trying to win back cash you just loss. To protect against this tendency, set a loss limit. Once again, make this your hard-and-fast rule. Typical loss limits can be 5%, 10%, 15%, or 20% — though 20% means you could lose the entire bankroll in 5 slots session. 10% to 15% is a good middle ground. Once you’ve lost that amount, walk away from the slot machine under all circumstances. The slots game is not “due” to pay out, so step away from the machine and clear your mind.
Win goals and loss limits guard against gambler’s fallacy. Gambler’s fallacy is the idea that the law of averages assures or weight the odds in your favor. Slots use random number generators and every spin is entirely separate from the previous spin. Losing the last spin does not make it more likely you’ll win the next spin. The odds stay the same, no matter how many wins or losses in a row you’ve had.
Avoid Progressive Betting
For that reason, avoid progressive betting systems like the Martingale system, D’Alembert system, Fibonacci system, and so on. Betting experts have used computer simulations to track the progressive betting methods against flat betting (same bet each spin). Flat betting beats all of the progressive betting schemes over 1 billion spins.
Progressive betting seems like it’s working, because it leads to a lot of small winning sessions. The problem is that it also has a handful of huge losing sessions which wipe out all the wins — and then some. You can’t beat the house edge with the Martingale system, however it might look to the naked eye. The Fibonacci numbers are incredible, but they are not a magical way to beat the casino.
The reason progressive bets are bad is they increase the size of your bets (in some systems exponentially). If you start with $5 or $10 bets, a streak of bad luck has you betting hundreds of dollars on one spin. That’s busts your bankroll and leads to a “risk of ruin” — meaning you’ll lose your whole bankroll if you hit a bad luck streak. No matter what you read online, flat bets are better.
Take Breaks for Rest and Refreshments
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Play when you are at your best physically and mentally. Don’t play when you’re tired or sleepy. Don’t play when you’re hungry or thirsty. Take frequent rest and restroom breaks. If you get bored, take a break and walk the casino. Play another game to change up the betting pattern.
When you are rested and engaged, you won’t have distractions that might lead to bad decisions. The idea is to have fun, so if anything is causing you to lose focus on the entertainment aspect of the game, walk away and save your bankroll.
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Don’t Go on Tilt
Tilt is a concept in poker where a player makes decisions based on emotional responses instead of solid strategy. It can cost a player a lot of money if they make bets based on anything but rational decisions. While going on tilt is not a concept in slot machine gambling, every game of chance has a personal component.
In short, don’t play when you’re agitated. Take stock of your inner thoughts. If your ego or anger is causing you to make irrational decisions, take a deep breath and calm down. If that doesn’t work, walk away and clear your head. It stinks to lose a series of bets, but what stinks more is to lose a series of bigger bets when you’re trying to make up for lost bankroll.