People often ask me: “Should I play slot machines? Can I beat them?”
I’ll start off by admitting that I’ve not met many people in my life who’ve made consistent profits at slot machines, although I have met a few “lucky players”. Personally, I think it would be very difficult to make any sort of ongoing regular living playing the slots, but it’s not impossible. Anything is possible right? Some people would argue that you can’t make a regular living out of ANY casino game. But some popular gaming authors may say differently I think. Maybe they’re just “lucky”, that’s certainly possible.
Re my own playing of slot games, I can say this: I play slot machines occasionally myself, normally when I’m bored with blackjack or have a bit of gambling profit to speculate with. I don’t bet huge sums on slot machines, and I really play them just for the enjoyment. Occasionally I’ll get a good win from a machine or two (I got $565 from a 5c Heart of Gold slot yesterday, for example), and other times I’ll lose. That’s the thing with slot machines: they’re random, and anything can happen. I pay my money, and I take my chances. Sometimes I’m happy afterwards, and sometimes I’m not. Easy come, easy go. Hang on tightly, let go lightly. I’m a gambler after all.
Re the mathematics / odds of slot games, I can say this: The average slot machine, depending on where you play (geographic area, casino, and whether or not that casino is online or offline) will have a payout percentage from about 85% to 95%. In some jurisdictions that may be lower. In some it will be higher. Assuming that the overall average slot machine house edge is somewhere in the vicinity of 10%, then I’d suggest that’s a very high house edge to overcome. It’s 4 times higher than single zero roulette, about 20 times higher than 6-deck blackjack, about 8 times higher than when playing Baccarat, and roughly equivalent to a bad version of Carribean Stud Poker. But like any game, it’s not impossible to win in the SHORT TERM. People do win, and often. You’re very unlikely to win in the LONG TERM however (again, from my own personal experience).
I liken this approach / thought / idea to playing the National Lottery (or Lotto, or whatever they call it in your own country): the odds are MILLIONS TO ONE that there will be a Division One winner on any draw, but people do win – small prizes, and big ones. Those people lucky enough to win the big jackpots have likely not spent the same amount as their prize money on participating to date. If that’s the case, then you could say that they “Beat the Lottery” – they’ve got more money back than they invested.
It’s true that there are a lot of tickets sold for every Lottery draw – but they’re not all sold to one person. In most Lotto draws, millions of people participate, and in turn they build the jackpot for the winner. This is not that far different from a progressive slot machine jackpot like MegaJackpots or QuarterMania or NickelMania and the like. Millions of people play the linked progressive slot machines in their favourite casino, and many of them do lose. But one day one lucky player comes along, puts their money into the machine, and hits the jackpot. Like our Lotto player, that person has “Beat the Slots” – they’ve got more money back than they invested. And even a small jackpot of a few thousand dollars will allow many recreational players to “Beat the Slots” at any given point in time.
So is it possible to beat the slots? Sure. But not everyone can. And the odds are against you. The longer you play slots, the more you pay. Simple mathematics tells us that. And if mathematics isn’t enough to convince you, the expressions on the faces of people leaving a casino who’ve been playing slots for hours should say it all.
I include slots on this blog because I do think that they have a place in casinos, and because I do think they represent an occasional chance for players to win. Where players can get the edge in the SHORT TERM on these slot machines is through the application of bonus / match play funds that many (online) casinos offer to new players. If you’re playing with the casino’s money, you’ve got a better chance to win – after all, each spin is really half your money, and half theirs. Of course, there are no guarantees – you can get good runs or bad during your play time.
The average online casino wants you to win with their bonuses, because otherwise why would you go back to them and continue playing? All casinos (and online casinos especially) like regular customers who come to see them often. They know that anything can happen in the short term, but that in the long term they will win from the majority of players because of the house edge on each game. They’re gamblers too, but their strategy is sound: and if it wasn’t, there wouldn’t be so many casinos in operation. And most casinos are built and expand upon the profits they make primarily from slot machines.
So, when you see slot machines featured on this blog, I’m mentioning them for your general interest, and for the appeal of players who like to play slot machines for entertainment. Can you make money? Maybe – you might be one of the lucky ones who hits the jackpot! But in reality, I can’t tell you – I can’t predict what any given slot machine, online or offline, might do at any time.
You might lose – the odds ARE against you long term (unless you’re on a match play or similar bonus promotion). You might win – small prizes or big ones. I’d certainly not recommend putting BIG bets (i.e. $2 a spin or more) through a slot machine on a regular basis. Keep your limits low (25c a spin or similar), keep your bankroll to $100 or less in a session (or whatever you are comfortable with), and play slots for entertainment. If you get a profit, great. But don’t expect it every time.
Whatever you decide, I wish you luck. Let me know of your good and bad experiences by dropping me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.