By Al Moe. Casino Gambling Expert
Al W. Moe was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and introduced to the casinos of Nevada at the age of eleven. At the time he had never seen such an amazing array of sights, sounds, and exciting games. His excitement over gambling hasn't changed since that first introduction, but his knowledge of the games certainly has. Read more
Playing slot machines is the most popular form of casino gambling in the world, and knowing how to win at the slots can be one of the most important things a gambler ever learns. Although today's slot machines have little in common with the original Liberty Bell made by Charles Fey in 1896, their shape, size and popularity certainly do.
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The machines featured three spinning reels with ten symbols on each. The probability of winning on the old machines is easy to compute. They offered 1000 combinations and paid out 750 total prizes, so the house won 250 units for every 1000 spins (on average, of course). Without cheating the machines by using slugs or drilling the machine cabinet to insert wires and stop the reels, the machines could not be beaten on a regular basis.
Slot Machine Popularity
When Nevada's casinos were in full swing as the only state with legalized gambling (starting in 1931), small casinos like Harold's Club in Reno had just a few slots. Soon, however, slot machines went through innovative changes such as the addition of higher jackpots by adding a fourth reel or joining two slots or two sets of reels. This improved their popularity slightly, but the odds or "return" on the slots rarely rose above 85 percent with the player still losing at least 15 percent of their hard-earned dollars.
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In the 1980's, slot machines entered the computer age with the addition of a random number generator. A RNG is a computational device designed to generate a series or sequence of numbers or symbols that lack any pattern, thus rendering them random.
The first patent for such a device was granted in 1984 to Inge Telnaes. He sold the patent to slot manufacturer IGT. which allowed new video slots to offer enormously larger jackpots. Instead of a physical reel machine with a limited number of symbols or "stops" on each reel, the video slots can offer as many as hundreds of symbols or stops on each reel which can make the odds of hitting the largest jackpot over 100 million to one.
This provides more excitement and more payoff types for the player. However, it is now impossible to determine the odds of hitting that jackpot since there is no way to know the number of stops on each video "virtual" reel.
Beating the Slots
Because any form of gambling is governed by chance, there are no guarantees in any quest for success inside the casinos. However, there are several things you can do to improve your own chance of winning at slot machines. The first thing to remember is that each slot machine has its own list of payoffs and rules.
Read the payoffs chart and what it takes to
win. Most newer slots have a "menu" or "Game info" button that will list the attributes necessary to win. Don't skip this step! Read the information and make sure you meet the requirements for winning.
The bigest mistake made by slot players is not having the maximum number of coins played. The maximum jackpot can not be won if you do not have the maximum number of coins played. Unfortunately, not everyone has an unlimited bankroll. So, always make sure you can play the bonus screen or get a good payoff for however many credits you are playing. If you are not sure, ask a slot attendant to help you decipher the payoffs!
The next most common mistake players make is thinking that a machine is "due" to hit. Sorry, this is false. Especially on multi-coin, multi-line machines, this idea may cost you a small fortune. Play only while you are having fun. The next spin may be a payoff, but the next 20 spins may not!
In case you didn't know it, slot machine manufacturers use psychology to set the winning combination percentages. That's why manufacturers like Konami come up with multi-linked games with bonus screens. And, they know that players need enough tiny payouts to get plenty of instant gratification, and enough higher payoffs to keep them interested. Nobody wants to play a machine that has just big jackpots, because it is too long in-between payoffs. This concept can be better appreciated if you understand how a slot's payouts are often set.
For example, a popular slot machine might have 12 possible payouts ranging from 1 to 1, up to 2,000 to 1. Let's say it is a dollar machine and requires three coins to hit the $2,000 payout. That payout might only occur every 250,000 spins. By contrast, the 1 to 1 payout comes every eight plays. That keeps you interested, but not excited.
Other small payouts might range from once every 20 plays to once every 500 pays. However, a nice 80 to 1 payout may be set to payoff more often. It may hit every 200 plays (on average, of course). That's often enough to be very exciting, but just small enough to keep the player from walking away and trying another machine, unless you understand this idea.
Because of this, some players take advantage of the frequency of mid-range payoffs and move to a new machine after hitting one. This works for them because the medium jackpots hit regularly enough to to enjoy, and when they do get an 80-1 or similar payoff, they know it won't hit again for a while and move on to another machine. Overall, you will still have the same chance of hitting the top jackpot, as long as you are playing the maximum number of coins - regardless of how often you move about.
While some slot machines offer a payback table as high as 98 percent, most are closer to 90 percent. This percentage is similar to video poker machines, although perfect play of some video poker machines can actually give the player a small edge over the casino, especially when player's club comps are added in.