Slot Machine Strategies
Last update: October 2018Let's be clear: no strategy will make you a consistent winner. These tips can increase your chances of winning, and help you save money you'd otherwise lose, but the odds are still against you. Anyone who tells you that their strategies will help you win big is simply telling you what you want to hear.
But since you want to win (because you're here), let me mention that your odds of winning are way better if you play just about any other game besides slots. I hope my Average Loss Calculator is an eye-opener:
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|Play online casino games with fake money! It's better than losing real money.|
To get started with other games, see my crash course in table games or my primer on video poker.
But if you've got your heart set on slots, then here are your strategies.
Bet the minimum amount that's still fun for you.
The more you bet, the more you'll lose. It's that simple. Bet as small as you can and still have fun. Most casinos will still serve you free drinks even if you bet only a penny at a time.
Play the highest denomination machine you can afford.
Higher-denomination machines usually pay better. The trick here is to not bet more just because you're playing a bigger machine. If you were playing 10 lines, 5 credits on a 1¢ machine (50¢/spin), instead play 2 lines, 5 credits on a 5¢ machine (50¢/spin).
Choose electro-mechanical machines over video slots
Jackpots come far more frequently on old-school slots vs. video slots. With full-time play, an electromechanical slot hits its jackpot once every few weeks on average, while it takes literally years on a video slot. And the more likely you are to hit the jackpot, the more likely you are to walk away a winner.
On electro-mechanical slots, choose the machines with the smallest jackpots
The smaller the jackpot, the easier it is to win, increasing your chances of walking away a winner. This doesn't work with video slots, because the jackpot odds are almost always incredibly long, and unrelated to the jackpot size.
Limit play on progressives with huge jackpots.
On the machines with huge progressive jackpots, a huge portion of each bet goes to feed the meter. For example, on Megabucks, a whopping 10¢ of every $1 goes to pushing the meter higher. Excluding the jackpot, Megabucks returns only about 78% on average. If you must play a big progressive (because you want a shot at a huge jackpot), play a two-coin machine instead of a three-coin machine, and look for a $0.05 or $0.25 machine instead of a $1.00 machine.
Use a slot card.
Get a free slot card from the Player's Club desk (every casino has one) and use it. While the cashback rewards for slot points are usually insignificant, playing on a slot card means that the casino may give you free meals and will usually mail you offers for free or deeply discounted rooms, and that can save you a bit of money.
Contrary to popular myth, using a slot card has zero effect on whether you win. The card system is completely separate from the RNG that chooses where the reels stop. I've won several jackpots with my slot card in.
Play in the less stingy casinos.
The best slot odds, hands-down, are found in the online casinos. Land casinos, by contrast, have a huge overhead (payments on the building, excessive utilities, a large staff), so they can't afford to give you good odds on their slots. Online casinos have much smaller margins and their slots pay more generously. Bovada seems to return about 97% according to the data I've seen, though this includes bonus money and cash back rewards. Video Slots pays about 96% before incentives (which would probably make the true return closer to 97%), but they don't take U.S. players. However, the easy access of online casinos makes it easy to bet more than you would otherwise, so even with better odds, you could wind up losing more. Set loss limits and stick to them! You can also play with fake money so you don't risk losing.
In Vegas, off-strip casinos generally have the best paybacks, downtown is in the middle, and the Strip is the worst. ("Off-strip" means any casino that's not on the Strip or downtown.)
Nationwide, Reno NV is usually on the top of the list for the best paybacks in the U.S. Most of the rest of the country has pretty lousy slot odds. If you're in one of those areas, then either play online or graduate to a better game.
Avoid celebrity & licensed slots
Slots based on a celebrity, movie, or TV show have to pay licensing fees, so they pay out a couple of percentage points less than generic slots. (source)
Don't play on boats.
Cruise ships and ferries have the worst odds in the world. That's because there's no competition. What, are you gonna walk from the ship over to the next ship and play there? The boats know they have a captive audience, and the set their odds accordingly. The worst roulette odds I ever saw in my life were on a ferry between England and the Netherlands. I imagine the slots were similarly set.
Play machines which are advertised as paying back a specific high percentage.
If you can find machines that are listed as paying a specific high percentage, then choose those. This will almost never happen in a land casino, because casinos don't like to divulge that info, but it happens sometimes. For example:
- The Hollywood Casino in Mississippi reportedly had twelve 98% machines in 2016. (They didn't return my call to verify whether they still do. Can any reader please verify and send me a picture?)
- Stratosphere and Riviera had specially-labeled 98% dollar slots, but that's a thing of the past.
- The last time I was in Reno, years ago, Fitzgeralds there had a section of about 50 dollar slots whose average payback was 97.4%.
If you know of other casinos which list the payback of any
machines, please send me a picture!
However, ignore a sign on a bank that says "Up to xx% payback." The "up to" means that one of the machines pays that much, and the rest are crap. Also ignore claims such as "Loosest Slots" or "High Payback" which are meaningless since they're not specific.
Some online casinos list the paybacks of their machines, such as Video Slots. Unfortunately, they don't take U.S. players.
"Hit & run" doesn't work
Popular strategies say to move onto another machine after a set, short period of time, or after getting some nice payouts (under the assumption that after paying generously, the machine will tighten up). These methods are useless, because every spin is random. Previous results have no bearing on future results.
$10,000 challenge for system sellers
It galls me that some people prey on the gullible by selling "winning slot machine strategies" on the Internet. It ought to be obvious that if someone really knew a way to consistently beat slot machines then they wouldn't need to sell that information for $19.95 (or whatever). Unfortunately, some people are still duped.
For years I've offered a $10,000 to any system-seller who could prove that their system actually does what they say it does. I hope to show that those systems are worthless, because no system-seller has ever dared to take me up on the challenge.
Anyone claiming their for-sale system can beat slot machines is invited to put their money with their mouth is with this challenge.
If you can truly beat slot machines this should be an easy win for you.
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I will meet anyone in Vegas to execute this challenge.
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. There's a companion page on Par sheets.
- 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.
- List of good Bovada slots. I spent a full day surveying Bovada's voluminous offerings and extracted only the few with nice, modern graphics and mobile-compatibility.