Slot Machine Jackpots
In general, the higher the jackpot, the harder it is to hit. Exactly as you should expect. The lowest odds I've found are 1 in 46,656 (for a 2500-coin jackpot on a flavor of Double Diamond), and the longest are 1 in 49,836,032, for Megabucks, which has a multi-million-dollar top prize.
A common mistake is to reason that if a bunch of machines all cost $0.75 to play, you might as well choose the one with the biggest jackpot, because that will be the best deal for your $0.75. This misses a few important things:
- The bigger the jackpot, the harder it is to actually hit.
- Among flat-tops (machines without a meter which keeps going up),
the overall odds are generally similar no matter how high the
- The higher the jackpot, the more likely you'll lose in the
short-term. It takes a lot of play to fund those extra-big
- The machines with the huge jackpots like Wheel of Fortune and
Megabucks have lousy odds. Not just for getting the
jackpot, but for the small pays, too. Yes, they cost the
same amount to play as regular machines, but they definitely suck
your money away faster.
To have the best chance of winning in the short term, choose the machines with the smallest jackpots.
It's rare than any article elsewhere will actually tell you the actual odds of hitting a slot jackpot (because the writers have no idea), but let me lift the veil off that mystery right now. Here are the odds of hitting the top jackpot on various machines.
|Jackpot odds revealed!|
|Red White & Blue||2400 coins||1 in 262,144||Wizard of Odds|
||2500 coins||1 in 46,656||Par sheets obtained by Canadian researchers (PDF)|
|Blazing 7's||5000 coins
||1 in 93, 312
||Bally's par sheet (PDF)
|Phantom of the Opera||5000 coins|| 1 in 114,131
1 in 155,345
|Par sheets obtained by Canadian researchers (PDF)|
|Double Strike||5000 coins
||1 in 500,000
||Wizard of Odds (estimate)|
|Money Storm||10,000 to 50,000
||1 in 2,188,411
Par sheets obtained by Canadian researchers (PDF)
|Lucky Larry's Lobstermania||10,000 to 50,000||1 in 8,107,500|
|Megabucks|| $8 to $33 million
|1 in 49,836,032||John
Robison in Casino City Times
|Note that there
are often different versions of machines with the same
name, so the numbers above might not apply to every flavor
of the named machine. What you should take from this
is that as the jackpot goes up, so does the difficulty in
actually hitting it.
Incidentally, Megabucks easily has the biggest jackpot of any
progressive slot in the world, often hitting at around $12
million, but hitting as high as $33 million.
To my knowledge, no manufacturer, land casino, or online casino publishes the jackpot odds of any of their slots. Years ago, a now-defunct online casino (Casino.net) published some of theirs. Here's what they were, along with the progressive jackpot amounts for the $0.25 and $1.00 machines at the time I created the table.
|Jack in the Box||
The jackpot never gets more likely to hit
Every spin on a slot machine is random, so it doesn't matter how long it's been since the last jackpot hit. The jackpot never gets more likely to hit. If the odds of hitting a jackpot on one spin are 1 in 250,000, then they're always 1 in 250,000, whether the last jackpot hit last year or five minutes ago. No slot machine is ever "due" to hit. That's the way randomness works. The odds of getting heads on a coin flip are always 1 in 2, no matter what you got on previous flips. If you just flipped ten heads in a row, then you're just as likely to get heads yet again as you are to get tails. If you're not convinced about this then see our article about exposing the gambler's fallacy. Many people think that they can get an edge by playing a machine that hasn't paid out big in a while, thinking it's "due", but it's not. Slot machines are never "due".
On most slots the amount of the top jackpot is fixed, but some slots have a meter that shows the jackpot amount getting progressively higher. Those are called progressive machines (as opposed to "flat-top" machines). A portion of the money played in those machines helps push the jackpot ever higher. The more it's played, the higher it goes. If it doesn't get any play, the jackpot amount doesn't budge.
Progressive machines are often linked together so that play on any of the linked machines feeds the jackpot. And of course, any of those linked games can win the jackpot. There might be as few as a single bank of machines linked together in a single casino, but there are also machines that are linked through the entire state of Nevada, like Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune. If you walk from one casino to another, you'll see that the jackpot for Megabucks is the same. Play on any Megabucks machine in the whole state makes the meter go higher. That's one reason they can afford to make the jackpot so big.
The other reason is that the statewide progressive machines have lousy odds. A huge portion of each dollar played goes to fuel the jackpot, so a lot less is returned in the form of small pays. Pioneering analysis by the Wizard of Odds showed that for each dollar played on Megabucks, about 10¢ goes to feed the meter, 11¢ goes to profit, and only 78¢ is returned to players in the form of non-jackpot payouts. Ouch.
A to Z Las Vegas has a good list of current statewide progressive jackpot amounts, along with the date, amount, and location of the last hit.
How much of the payback comes from the jackpot?
Most of the return on a typical slot comes from the small pays, not from the jackpot. In fact, the jackpot usually comprises less than 2% of the total payback. The exception are the huge progressive slots like Megabucks, where the jackpot is a huge part of the total return. Here's what portion of the total payback is comprised of the jackpot:
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).
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.