People love to play slot machines in 2022, according to those who run both live and online casinos.
Slot machines are the most popular casino game in some countries, including the United States. Slot machines are outpacing table games in popularity in the rest of the world.
This naturally leads to the big question for players: “How do you win at slot machines?” It also raises the question, “Are there any systems for beating slot machines?” as well as “How have others beaten the machines?”
It’s all down to chance. There are no strategies like blackjack or video poker that can reduce the house’s mathematical edge. The odds on slot machines remain constant. There is nothing you can do legally to change the outcome, though scammers have occasionally succeeded until they are caught, arrested, and imprisoned.
However, there are methods for getting the most out of the games.
Let’s tackle the big questions in two parts: tips for playing slot machines, systems for playing with their strengths and flaws, and slot machine cheats and scams. Here’s a list of slot tips and slot warnings to help you figure out how to win at slots.
#1 SLOT TIP: THE HIGHER DENOMINATION IS THE FIRST SLOT TIP PAYBACK PERCENTAGES IN SLOTS ARE HIGHER.
It was true when three-reel games dominated slot floors, and it is true now that video slots account for the vast majority of games: Dollar slots pay out more than quarter slots, which pay out more than nickel slots, which pay out more than penny games. Of course, that is not to say that everyone should rush out and play dollar slots.
Aside from payback percentage, there are other factors to consider, such as entertainment value and what you want from a game.
Even in terms of dollars and cents, playing higher-denomination games means placing larger bets and taking on more risk. If you bet $3 on a three-coin dollar slot that pays 95%, your average losses will be higher than if you bet 40 cents on a 40-line 1-cent game that pays 86%.
#2 SLOT TIP: IF YOU PLAY PROGRESSIVE SLOTS, MAKE SURE YOU BET ENOUGH TO WIN THE JACKPOTS.
A percentage of each wager on progressive slot machines is added to the jackpot.
Three-reel slot machines typically have a single progressive jackpot on the top payoff, and to be eligible, you must bet the maximum number of coins.
You can’t win the progressive on a three-coin dollar slot machine if you only bet one or two coins. Instead, landing the top jackpot combination on the pay line results in a fixed-amount payoff.
Progressive jackpots on video slots are typically multi-tiered. As a result, there have been anywhere from two to twelve progressive levels available.
A four-tier progressive with levels labeled mini, minor, major, and grand, or bronze, silver, gold, and platinum, is typical.
Regardless of bet size, all players are eligible for the jackpots in some video slots. You must place a separate bet on others to be eligible for the jackpot.
The progressive jackpots are the main events, and aside from those jackpots, the games usually pay less than other games.
Don’t accept a lower-paying game. Make sure you place the required bets to be eligible for the jackpots. Choose a non-progressive game if you can’t afford those bets.
#3 SLOT TIP: SELECT GAMES ACCORDING TO YOUR GOALS AND PLAYING PERSONALITY.
Are you looking for games that offer the most jackpot opportunities, games that allow you to play for longer periods of time with frequent small wins, or something in between?
Lines can become blurred as game designers experiment with various formats, but there are a few general guidelines to follow.
Three-reel games emphasize their top jackpots more but have a lower hit frequency and more losing spins. They give you the best chance of winning big but also the best chance of losing quickly.
In video slots with pick’em bonuses, you touch the screen to reveal your bonuses by selecting gift boxes, restaurant dishes, alien creatures, or other game icons.
Pick’em bonuses on video slots typically have high hit frequencies with many small wins, giving you more time to play but a lower chance of winning a large jackpot.
In terms of volatility and the chance of a big win, video slots with free spins as their main bonus events usually fall somewhere between three-reel games and pick’em games.
You make no additional bets during free spins and can win anything up to the top jackpot. However, it is also possible to lose all of your free spins.
A zero-bonus offsets the possibility of larger wins than seen in pick’em bonuses.
It’s up to you to determine where you can get the most bang for your buck: jackpot chances, pick’em bonuses with player participation, or the hit-or-miss nature of free spins.
#4 SLOT TIP: ALWAYS PLAY WITHIN YOUR BUDGET AND BE READY TO LOWER YOUR BET OR STOP PLAYING IF YOU REACH A LIMIT.
Most slot machine sessions will result in a loss, and there is nothing you can do to change that.
Sometimes you’ll win at slots, and sometimes you’ll win big. So take advantage of the opportunities that come your way.
However, never bet money you can’t afford to lose, and ensure you play appropriate games for your bankroll.
As a general rule, your gambling bankroll should cover 250 bets in order to have a 90% chance of lasting three hours.
Here’s a breakdown of suggested bankrolls for that 90% chance of three hours without blowing it all in some common scenarios:
You can’t afford to play dollar slots if you walk into a live casino or log into an online casino with $200. If you decide to try them anyway and lose a quick $100, be prepared to either walk away or play penny slots with the rest of your money.
Slot machines do not allow players to make multiple bets in combinations like craps or roulette or to take advantage of constantly changing odds as card counters do in blackjack. Nonetheless, slot machine players have experimented with various play systems for generations.
However, slot machine odds are constant and the same on every spin. The most innovative systems may be entertaining to experiment with, but they will not make you a consistent winner.
#5 SLOT TIP: BEGIN SMALL TO WIN BIG, OR “PRIME THE PUMP”
Bettors who prime the pump anticipate that the wins will not come quickly. They begin with small bets and work their way up, hoping to be betting big when the wins come.
You’re just as likely to win early as you are later, and starting small will cause you to miss out on some winners. The payback percentage will be the same as if you bet the same amount on each spin.
Chuck Flick, a slot player who tested numerous systems, attempted to prime the pump by increasing his bets in a consistent pattern. He had four losing sessions and one winning session in five trials, which is a normal outcome even if you don’t start small.
#6 SLOT TIP: PLAY SLOT MACHINES AT ROW ENDS
According to the theory, machines at the ends of rows are visible to passers-by, and casinos want those other customers to see slot players win.
This is much less important nowadays, with payoffs via bar-coded ticket rather than coins dropped into a tray. The obvious signs of victory have vanished.
In modern casinos, consecutive games of the same type usually have the same payback percentage.
#7 SLOT TIP: SEARCH FOR SLOT MACHINES THAT PAY BIG.
Some players prefer to play games with large payouts because they believe they are hot machines. Others avoid those games, assuming they’ll go cold.
The inverse is also true. Some players believe that cold machines are a waste of time. Others think they’re about to get hot.
All streaks, in reality, are just blips on the radar for machines that produce an average payback percentage over hundreds of thousands of plays.
Machines are never “due” to go hot or cold, and recent paybacks provide no indication of how well a machine will perform for you.
#8 SLOT TIP: LOOK FOR NEAR MISSES
Near misses are games with jackpot symbols on the reels or screen but fall just short of a winning combination.
Scouting can add a little intrigue to choosing a game if you’re in the right frame of mind, but near misses don’t indicate what’s to come.
Near misses do not predict future outcomes.
So it is with slot machines. They can make the games more exciting but can’t change your outcomes or lead you to a winning machine.
#9 SLOT TIP: FOR MORE VARIETY, TRY ONLINE SLOTS.
Major slot machine manufacturers who supply games to live casinos also sell their products online. Online slots from International Game Technology, Scientific Games, Aristocrat Technologies, and other well-known game developers can be found.
However, a new breed of a game designer is emerging that prioritizes the online market. NetEnt, ReelPlay, NextGen, and other developers create games with online players in mind. High Five Gaming has licensed live-play games to large slot manufacturers but is also active in the online market.
Live casino video slots and online slots are very similar. They are all programmed similarly, with random number generator numbers mapped onto reel positions and bonus possibilities.
Large, flashy displays with moving parts are challenging to translate to online gaming.
Aside from that, online slot designers can let their imaginations run wild to create unique bonus events, such as NetEnt’s Cash Noire’s mystery chase through the Crime Zone or ReelPlay’s Cosmic Convoy’s outer-space cluster payoffs that replace pay lines.
If a live casino favorite catches your eye while you’re online, by all means, play it. However, try games from new game developers as well. You might discover some new favorites.
#10 SLOT TIP: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF BONUSES AND PROMOTIONS
Many online casinos provide bonuses simply for signing up to play. There may be restrictions, but you may occasionally see a small bonus without depositing funds and larger bonuses if you do.
Before you can cash out, you must first use the bonus to play. A casino would be foolish to give you free money without requiring you to try the product.
However, you can use the bonus money to play games you already enjoy or try out new ones before spending your money.
Signing up for an account at most online casinos automatically enrolls you in a player rewards program. Once you’ve become an active player, keep an eye on your inbox for special offers like free spins or bonus credits.
Apply the same caution to online programs as physical player reward cards. Don’t bet more just to get more rewards or bet more than your normal bankroll. Play at your usual level of comfort, but then reap the benefits.
Sign-up bonuses are available to online players, and they help boost your overall return. Unfortunately, not every casino provides the same bonuses. It is worthwhile to shop around for the best deals.
#11 SLOT TIP: SEARCH FOR GAME DEMOS TO DEMONSTRATE HOW A GAME WORKS.
For the first time, you come across a new game. While the game is not in use, the theme appears appealing, and the big bonus shown on the “attract” screen appears enjoyable.
What are you going to do? In a live casino, you’ll almost certainly decide whether to try the game and risk your money and time. It’s rare for players who will pull out their phones to see what they can learn about the game.
However, whether they’re playing on their computer, phone, or tablet, online players have access to a wealth of information.
You will usually get multiple results if you type the game’s name and “slot machine” into your search engine. When you click “videos,” you’ll usually be able to see the game in action.
Some videos are manufacturer demos that show the reels, symbols, themes, and how various bonus rounds work. Some are videos created by players who use their phones to record game sessions.
The player videos can show you the game’s peaks and valleys, losing streaks, and lucrative bonuses.
A search for the “Fruit Shop Megaways slot machine” yielded dozens of video results of varying lengths. Some are from overseas markets where the game debuted prior to its legal release in the United States.
Aside from video results, some sites specialize in reviewing new games. Some include the payback percentages that game designers hope to achieve. Returns on slot games are higher online than in live casinos, but keep in mind that it’s common for operators to offer a range of paybacks, so the percentages you see in reviews may not match what’s available in your area.
Regardless, there’s no rush when you play online in the privacy of your own home. Before you decide to play, you can spend a few minutes watching a game demo.
#12 SLOT TIP: BE AWARE THAT YOU ARE PLAYING FOR REAL MONEY.
This applies to both live and online casinos, but it is especially important online, where it is easy to confuse playing for money with playing slot games in free “social” casinos.
Until the early 1990s, and still in a few places today, players dropped coins into slots to activate games for each spin.
This changed when bill validators and credit meters were added to live casinos’ slots. Instead of actively dropping money into slots, players used paper money to purchase credits. It became easier to think of bets as credits rather than cash.
Online slots required advance deposits and credits to be played from the beginning.
It’s a convenient system, and few players prefer to return to dropping coins.
Nonetheless, it creates a psychological barrier between you and your money. It’s easy to conflate pay-to-play, where credits are money, and social play, where credits are just credits.
It’s more difficult to convince yourself to protect your bankroll if you start thinking, “Well, they’re only credits,” or even “They’re already paid for.” When playing for money, remember that those credits represent money, and that overbetting has a real cost.
SLOT SUGGESTIONS: THE DON’TS String theory
People will go outside the law to game the system in any business where large sums of money are exchanged.
Slots in live casinos have been more vulnerable to scams than slots in online casinos because cheats can work on physical devices.
Cheating the slots is illegal in jurisdictions that have licensed casinos. Cheating licensed casinos is a felony that can result in lengthy prison sentences.
Nonetheless, here are a few scams that players have attempted.
#13 SLOT TIP: STRING THEORY
Cheaters used to work a scam in which they tied a string to a coin when all slots were three-reel games with coin slots.
They’d drop the coin into the slot, trip the mechanism that gave them credit to play, and then pull the coin out with the string.
One woman in Nevada was caught using a coin on a brightly colored piece of yarn, which was easily visible from a distance. Others were more subtle, but those caught were prosecuted.
To make this cheat impossible, manufacturers created more secure coin acceptance devices. Most slots now only accept paper currency or tickets and no longer have slot heads.
#14 SLOT TIP: SLUG IT OUT
As long as slot machines accepted coins, fake coins, or slugs, were a problem for casinos.
Some were simply rounded pieces of metal with no design. Others were more elaborate, with counterfeiters in the eastern United States stamping slot tokens that resembled those used in New Jersey.
Cheaters had an incentive as long as the metal and manufacturing costs were significantly lower than the value of a genuine slot coin.
To combat the problem, coin recognition software became increasingly sophisticated.
#15 SLOT TIP: MAGNETIC FORCE
In the 1960s and 1970s, some slot machines were vulnerable to ordinary magnets.
Cheaters could use magnets to make the reels float freely rather than stop on a spin. The con artists remove the magnet when the reels align in a winning combination.
Top-bottom devices, which were used until the 1980s, were more sophisticated. The top was a bent metal rod, and the bottom was a wire strand.
The wire would be inserted into the coin slot until it made contact with a metal contact, after which the top would be jammed into the coin slot. The combination completed a circuit, causing a coin dispenser to activate and free coins to pour into the slot tray.
Protection had to be built into the games to shield vital parts from magnets and make it impossible to hit contacts and create an electrical circuit.
#16 SLOT TIP: INSIDE JOB
This con was perpetrated on “Big Bertha” slots in the 1990s. Big Bertha slots are larger and wider than regular slots.
A group of people was arrested in Nevada after crowding around a Big Bertha. The machine’s front was opened, a woman climbed inside, and the machine was mostly shut. She then tainted the results.
With team members in the way, everything appeared normal to passers-by, but security was alert enough to stop the cheating.
#17 SLOT TIP: CHEAT BY CHIP
A software engineer for the Nevada Gaming Commission programmed chips that worked normally in slot machines, except that those in the know could use a cheat code.
The machine would pay out when the cheats inserted specific numbers of coins in a specific order.
Of course, the engineer was arrested.
To conclude with a more general tip, it is critical that you thoroughly understand how slot machines work. That way, you’ll know what to expect and how to tailor your game style to the features of a specific slot machine.
#18 SLOT TIP: BET THE MAXIMUM AUTOMATICALLY
For generations, players were told that placing the highest bets resulted in the highest payback percentages.
That was true for most old three-reel slots but not for video or online slots.
Maximum bets had the highest payback percentages because of incentives built into the pay tables.
The top jackpot usually increases disproportionately if you bet the maximum number of coins.
That is not true for nearly all online and video slots. Paytable returns are proportionate, which means that the average payback percentage is the same whether you bet one coin per line or the maximum.
Cover all the pay lines on video slots and online, but bet at your own pace and don’t worry about betting the maximum.