Slot machines – FAQ

The following quiz may clear up some of the confusion that faces a prospective slot-machine player when deciding on where and what machines to play:

1) Can you win playing a slot machine?
Yes. Slot machines are set to pay back a certain percentage. In New Jersey, by law, slot machines must pay back 83 per cent of the money played. In Nevada, it’s 75 per cent. In the UK, the machines are required to payout between 72 per cent and 98 per cent. The more competition in a local area, the higher the payout percentage generally is. But even at 72 per cent, a player can hit a lucky streak and go home a winner. Sure, most players may not win anything, but there are plenty who do win if they
know the secret.

The key to beating the slot machines is to quit while you’re ahead. Money management is sometimes an overused term in the gamblers’ world, but it applies here. Set a reasonable win goal. If you have a budget of £100, don’t try to double your money. The chance of that happening is remote. Quit when you are £25 ahead. Go to a film. Get a meal. Or simply watch the other players. And when you get home, you can say you beat the casino.

2) How many coins should I play? Won’t my money last longer if I play one coin at a time?
Yes, your money will last longer, but by playing only one coin, you’re either giving up the chance of hitting the big jackpot, which usually pays a bonus for playing the maximum amount of coins, or you’re not activating all the lines on a multi-line machine, therefore excluding yourself from the chance to hit more frequent jackpots.

Always play maximum coin, or in the case of multi-line video, play enough to activate all the play lines. If you can’t afford the £1 machines, drop down to SOp machines. But whatever you do don’t miss out on the chance to win the big or frequent prizes.

3) How can you tell which machines payout more than the others?
Checking the payout of the casinos in the areas you plan to visit gives you a head start. These are sometimes publi hed in newspapers or gambling publications. It is unclear what the reporting requirements will be in the UK, but in the absence of such data simply choose a casino that makes you feel comfortable or part of the family.

It gets a little more difficult when you get to the casino. You can’t tell which machines pay more than others ju t by looking at them. It takes study and intuition.

First decide upon your gaming budget. To play £1 machines, you should have at least a couple of hundred pounds. If you’ve got less than £50, head for the cheaper reel-spinners or the cheaper multi-line video games.

Then take a walk around. Check out the action. Try the three-pull rule: put the maximum number of coins in the machine three times. If you hit a small jackpot, keep playing. If you don’t get anything back, move on. You’ll know when you’re comfortable and things are flowing.

Play the machines at the end of the aisles that are near other banks of slot machines. Sources say that slot executives place higher-paying slot machines in locations that are visible to other players so that they will lure players to other, lower-paying slot machines.

Avoid slot machines surrounding the table games. Table players may get up to stretch and drop a few coins in a nearby machine. Casino executives don’t want those table players to get lucky and continue to play slot machines instead of table games, so they put the tightest machines around the tables.
Likewise, avoid machines near food outlets where people wait in line. Since these players merely drop a few spare coins into the machines with no expectations of winning, there’s no reason for the casino to put loose machines in those prime locations.

If you’re still confused, ask a slot attendant which machine pays out more than the others. They work the slot floor all day long. Maybe they’ll steer you to a machine that they see payout more than others. If they help in this manner, don’t forget them. Slip them a few pounds, and you’ve found a friend for life.

4) Can the casino change the payout on a machine whenever it wants?
The answer is a qualified “yes”. When a casino buys a slot machine, it will tell the slot manufacturer to deliver it already programmed to pay back a certain percentage. Unless there is a major change in the slot marketing policy of a casino, the percentage will not change.

If a casino does decide to change the payout percentage (and when they do this, it’s usually done to increase the payout, rather than decrease it), it is done over a period of several weeks so the change will be gradual. This is not a common occurrence, because a change in percentage requires the purchase of a new game chip and a considerable number of technical alterations and rearrangements, all clearly in the presence of regulatory officials, who verify the new payout percentage.

5) Is it better to play a machine with a progressive jackpot or one that has lower payouts?
It depends upon your objective. If you want to go for the life-changing jackpot – something that will allow you to tell your boss where he can put your job – a slot machine with a big progressive jackpot will give you a thrill. The chances of hitting that jackpot are quite remote, to say the least, but it will no doubt be exciting to dream about it.

If you want to have a chance of taking home a little more money than you arrived with, you might want to concentrate on the machines that offer lower, but more frequent, payouts. The way to determine which machines fall into this category is to read the display. Check for multiple payout combinations and you’re probably aiming in the right direction.

6) What is a random number generator?
The random number generator (RNG) is the heart of the slot machine for the player’s purposes. It is a software program written into the computer chip that constantly cycles through the numbers entered into the computer program at the factory. Each number corresponds to a reel result, and there is duplication for the lower-paying combinations; ie, more numbers will be assigned to each of the low-paying and non-paying combinations, and only a few to high-paying combinations. In this manner, programmers use the laws of probability to achieve the theoretical payout percentage desired by the casino.

7) Aren’t slot clubs just a way for the casino to make sure you don’t win too much money?
Slot clubs have very little to do with winning or losing. The card readers attached to nearly every modern slot machine allow casino management to compile data on the players. It tells them how much the customers play, what denomination, how many coins per pull they deposit and, yes, how much they win or lose. How much a player wins is not the issue here, however. Casinos know that statistically they will win a set percentage from each player over the long run … and they mean the L-o-n-g r-u-n. A player could beat a casino every day for a year, and it wouldn’t change how the casino treats that person.

A slot club determines how many freebies (rooms, meals, shows, cash back) a casino can give individual players as a reward for their loyalty. It only makes sense to register for the slot club in a casino before you play so you qualify for its rewards.

8) Why do casinos sometimes shut down a machine for a while after it has hit a big jackpot?
Today’s slot machines are electronic wonders, with safeguards built into them to prevent tampering. But slot cheats are only one step behind even the most advanced slots technology, so when large (or even smaller, hand-paid) jackpots are hit, the casino will want to examine the machine to make certain the jackpot was hit honestly, and not through some type of malfunction or player tampering. So not only do the regulatory agencies generally require it, but the casino also wants to verify the jackpot to protect itself against fraud.

9) Most progressive slot systems (Megabucks, Quartermania, Pokermania) payout their jackpots
over a 20-year period. What happens if the casino goes out of business during that time? What are the payout percentages for these systems?
In the case of Megabucks, Wheel of Fortune, MegaJackpots, Thrillions and other multi-casino linked systems, the manufacturer and supplier of the jackpot network maintains a trust system. Let’s say a player hits a £1 million jackpot. The slot manufacturer and the system’s participating casinos will deposit an amount of money in a bank annuity account that will spin off £1 million over a 20-year period. The amount of money they deposit depends on the prevailing interest rate, but the player is
guaranteed to receive the whole £1 million over the course of 20 years. Even if all the casinos, and the slot manufacturer, went bankrupt during that period (not a very likely possibility), the jackpot winner would still receive the prize.

Participating casinos in a linked-slot system get together to decide on the payout percentage. In Nevada, for instance, the payout percentage for Megabucks is typically 87-88 per cent. When the jackpot is hit, the percentage will soar to the upper 90s or more. But averaged out for the entire year, Megabucks pays less than the typical £1 machine (89.4 per cent vs 95.7 per cent). Generally, the same is true of all the progressive linked systems.

Some linked systems, by the way, pay the entire jackpot in one hit. Most of the IGT MegaJackpots quarter and nickel progressives, such as Beverly Hillbillies, and Bally’s Thrillions progressives,
such as Betty Boop, are just a couple of examples of such systems.

10) How can you tell when a machine is due to payout?
A word that should not be in any slot player’s vocabulary is “due”. No machine is ever “due”. The RNG constantly cycles and conceivably could payout two top awards in the space of two pulls, and then not pay another for years.

The only way to even get an idea about individual machines is to “scout” them over an extended period of time. Keep mental (or even written) notes about which machines you and other players seem to win on again and again. Those machines that payout consistently will be the ones on which to concentrate
your play. No, it’s not an exact science, but even a little information can go a long way