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Reason #1 I like Bovada:

Play for free
with no hassles

Most online casinos annoy the hell out of me. They insult you with popup windows and spam, and do everything they can to separate you from your money. Even if you want to just play with fake money for free, they make you register for an account so they can pester you by email trying to get you to deposit real money.

On the whole Internet, I found exactly one online casino that's different: Bovada. You can play their games for free, with absolutely no hassles. And that's the main reason why I promote them exclusively.

Here's what I mean by no hassles:

  • Completely free. It's not one of those "Buy 1 get 1 free" kind of deals, it's absolutely free. You can click over and start playing with fake money right away, with no cash out of pocket. Here, go ahead and try it.
  • No registration required. Most casinos let you play for free, but there's a catch: They make you register an account first. That's not just a hassle: after you do it you can expect them to badger you by email trying to get you to deposit real money. But Bovada lets you play right away with no registration required. One click and you're in. Honest. Here, try it.
  • Plays right in your browser. If you'd rather not download the casino software to your hard disk, you don't have to. The games play right in your web browser. Nice.
  • Works on Macs. The play-in-browser games are MacOS compatible! Before Bovada, Mac users were pretty much out of luck for gambling online. Not any more.
  • No popups. I'll never understand why companies think it's a good idea to annoy their visitors, but that's standard practice at most online casinos. Bovada is one of the rare exceptions -- no popups, no popouts, no browser hijacking, just the website with no B.S.

All in all, I think Bovada is the best bet for U.S. players.

Visit Bovada


Gambling problem?
  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.
Play these
free slots now

Gambling problem?
  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

All about Slot Machines

How they work, Common myths, and Strategies

by Michael Bluejay | ©2002-18

Last update: March, 2018.

Play this slot machine with play money or real money at Bovada

No popups, no download, no registration, no B.S., just the game. One click and you're in.

Of all the things I cover on VegasClick, my slot machine coverage is far and away the most popular.  So let's get to it.  Here's what I've got for you:

On this page:
On other pages:
  • How to play slot machines
  • Slot returns.  How much they pay back.
  • The Randomness Principle.  Slots don't continually get looser and tighter as they're played.  They don't have to.
  • How they work. Explains the randomness principle, and runs through the math to show how a game returns a particular payback percentage.
  • Slot Machine Myths
  • Slot Machine B.S.  Wrong info that's published elsewhere.
  • Strategies. Tips for increasing your chances of winning, and saving money.
  • Slot Jackpots.  Odds of hitting the jackpot, progressive jackpots, and other jackpot topics.
  • Skill-Based Slots.  The scoop on the new games in which your results aren't entirely determined by chance.
  • Slot Machine malfunctions. How and why slot machines screw up, causing players to think they've won the jackpot when they really haven't.
  • Slot Machine Simulator.  I programmed an exact replica of the Blazing 7s slot (odds-wise).  Click it to play thousands of spins in one second and see how you do.

How much does it cost?

It depends on the machine, but you can play for as little as a penny per spin, or as much as $5000.  I can't find any good figures for how much people typically play, but from observation and informal polling, it seems to be in the neighborhood of 50-75¢ per spin.

You'll spin 300 to 800 times per hour depending on how fast you go.  Which means:

    • At 1¢ per spin, you'd be putting $3.00 - 8.00/hr. into the machines.  You'll probably get back in the neighborhood of $2.64 - 7.04/hr, for a net loss of $0.36 - 0.96/hr.
    • At $1 per spin, you'd be putting $300 - 800/hr. into the machines.  You'll probably get back in the neighborhood of $276 - 736/hr, for a net loss of $24 - 64/hr.

How much can you win?

The top jackpot on most slot machines is around 1000 times the amount you bet.  So, if you bet a penny per spin, the most you can win on most machines is around $10.00.  If you bet a dollar a spin you could hit for $1000.

Some machines pay a little more, but the higher the jackpot, the harder it is to hit.  And some machines pay a lot more, like Megamillions whose top prize is at least $10 million, and which someone once hit for $39.7M.  Of course, since Megamillions has the highest jackpot, it also has the longest odds.

See more on my page about slot machine jackpots.

How much should I expect to lose?

You probably didn't actually ask this question, did you?  Most people don't; they just want to know how much they can win.  But if you did ask, then good on you!  The answer is that in an hour you'll lose in the neighborhood of 50 times the amount you bet on each spin, on average.  If you bet $1 per spin, plan to lose $50 per hour.

My calculator will give you a more accurate estimate of your average loss, as well as the average loss of other casino games.  As you can see, slots suck away your money way faster than the others.

Average Loss Calculator
Game Rounds Per Hour Bet per round House Edge Average Loss for
hour(s)
of play
Slots

$ 
Video Poker

$ 
Roulette

$ 
Baccarat

$ 
Craps

$ 
Blackjack

$ 
Play online casino games with fake money!  It's better than losing real money.


Why are slots such a bad bet?

It's bad odds, compounded by the fact that you can play the machines so quickly.  Blackjack is played at around 100 rounds per hour, but you can easily spin 800 times an hour on a machine.  Play with the calculator above and you can easily see how speed of play jacks up the losses.


How popular are slot machines?

In the 1980's slot machines surpassed table games like craps and blackjack as the most popular game in the casino.  Slots and video poker now account for more than 70% of the casino's total take. 
(Even so, many Vegas casinos are surprisingly unprofitable.)

On the other hand, the number of slot machines is declining, because millennials aren't very interested in gambling.  (That goes for table games, too.)  As older gamblers pass on, they're not getting replaced by as many younger ones.

Number of slot machines

Vegas Strip
Locals Casinos
Peak (1999)
61,000 machines
55,000 machines
Feb. 2018
38,000 machines
45,000 machines

Figures likely include video poker.  (LVRJ)


Why are slots so popular if they're such a bad bet?

  1. Big jackpots.  Put $5 on a blackjack table and you'll win $7.50 at most.  But put $3 on a typical slot machine and you could win $1000 or more.  And with some progressive jackpots, it could be millions.
  2. They're easy.  There are no complicated rules to learn.  Just press the Spin button.  That's it.
  3. They're fast.  There's no waiting for the other players to finish their hands, or the dealer to shuffle the cards.  As soon as one round is over, you can spin again immediately.
  4. They're entertaining.  Video slots have an array of animated graphics, sounds, music, a storyline, and bonus rounds.
  5. There's a huge variety.  Blackjack is blackjack.  But there are thousands of different slot machine themes.
  6. Players don't know how bad the odds are.  Most slot players have no clue that they'd lose far less at other games.  Part of my mission is to pull the shroud off that mystery so players can graduate to other games and lose less money.


How can I limit my losses?

  1. Play other games.  Games like video poker, blackjack, craps, and roulette have much better odds.  Here's my crash course in table games.
  2. Play for small stakes.  There's no rule that you have to play multiple lines and multiple credits.  My wife and I generally play a single penny at a time, even though we can afford much more, because we have just as much fun that way.
  3. Play with fake money. Bovada lets you play all their slot machines with play money, and you don't have to register an account to play.

If you like slots because of the chance of winning a big jackpot, then here are two alternatives:

  1. Play video poker.  You still have a shot at a jackpot, but the odds are a lot better, as long as learn proper strategy.
  2. Double your bets on table games.  You can keep doubling your bet when you win on games like craps or roulette.  And your odds of getting a jackpot-sized win when doing so are a lot better than hitting a slot jackpot.

What determines whether I win or lose?

On traditional slot machines, the results of each spin are completely random.  They're not influenced by anything else, not whether the machine's been recently running hot or cold, not how long it's been since a jackpot hit, not whether a player's card is inserted, etc.  There's more about this in my article about how slot machines are random.

There are now some games where the result is partially or completely based on skill.  The law recently changed to allow those, and they started appearing in Vegas in 2017.  Here's my article on skill-based slots.


How fast are slot machines played?

Slots are typically played at around 300-800 spins per hour (sph).  In 2011 I surreptitiously watched some players playing video slots to figure playing speed.  A slow player played at 300 sph (6-min. sample).  A fast player played 780 sph (4.3-min. sample).  An extremely fast player played at 862 sph (5.5-min. sample).

These figures are important for figuring your average hourly loss.  You calculate that with sph x $ bet per spin x house edge of machine.  My Average Loss Calculator (above) lets you choose various playing speeds.



Play slots online

I suggest you play something other than slots because the slot odds are so bad.  You could also play online with fake money, because then it doesn't matter if you lose.  A good casino for free-play is Bovada, since it requires no download and no registration—one click and you're in.  You can play with real money too, though I hope you won't (or at least won't bet more than you can comfortably afford to lose).


Play these
free slots now

Gambling problem?
  1. Call the 800-522-4700 hotline or get online help
  2. See these horror stories.
  3. Know that Parkinson's drugs encourage gambling.

All my slot machine articles

  • Slot machine basics.  How much it costs to play, how much you can win, expected loss, why they're a bad bet, why they're popular, how you can limit your losses, speed of play
  • How to play slot machines
  • Slot returns.  How much they pay back.
  • The Randomness Principle.  Slots don't continually get looser and tighter as they're played.  They don't have to.
  • How they work. Explains the randomness principle, and runs through the math to show how a game returns a particular payback percentage.
  • Slot Machine Myths
  • Slot Machine B.S.  Wrong info that's published elsewhere.
  • Strategies. Tips for increasing your chances of winning, and saving money.
  • Slot Jackpots.  Odds of hitting the jackpot, progressive jackpots, and other jackpot topics.
  • Skill-Based Slots.  The scoop on the new games in which your results aren't entirely determined by chance.
  • Slot Machine malfunctions. How and why slot machines screw up, causing players to think they've won the jackpot when they really haven't.
  • Slot Machine Simulator.  I programmed an exact replica of the Blazing 7s slot (odds-wise).  Click it to play thousands of spins in one second and see how you do.