7 Slot Machine Strategies that Work (And 7 That Don’t)
Everyone wants to win money when they’re playing slot machines. After all, that’s the whole point!
But when you’re playing a game that is meant to be entirely random, how can you find real strategies that work?
Here we break down the tips and tricks, including what works and what doesn’t work.
Please remember, there are no foolproof ways to win money. If you play slot machines long enough, you are guaranteed to loose. That is simply how the math of the game breaks down.
There is a lot of garbage information out there claiming to have the secret to crack the code of slot machines. Sadly, it’s mostly nonsense. So lets start by dispelling those myths.
7 Slot Machine Strategies That Don’t Work
These are some of the worst slot machine strategies that we found. These don’t work, even though they can sometimes be an entertaining way to play.
1- Trying to find loose slots (at land based casinos)
Some slot machine games have higher payback percentages than others. Yet, that’s not the only thing that determines winners. Volatility and hit ratios are also important.
It’s possible to have a slot machine with a higher hit ratio and a lower payback percentage.
And it is impossible to tell the loose slots from the tight ones. The clues that the so-called experts advise you to look for are bogus, at land based casinos at least.
This includes playing the machines at the ends of the rows. A long time ago, this myth was written about and took hold in the mind of gamblers. The claim is that casino managers put loose machines in the back to attract more customers.
Any modern casino manager will tell you that this is not the case, and probably never was.
In online casinos the situation is different. There are regulations that force many online slots providers to publish official RTP data. That’s one of the biggest advantages of playing real money slots online. You can check out our list of loosest online slots to find out more.
2- Always bet max coin
In some cases, the maximum jackpot can only be won if you play for the maximum number of coins. This isn’t always the case, even though some slot machine “gurus” advise you to always bet max coins.
There are games that the jackpot doesn’t change based on the number of coins. So that means you just loose money faster.
The one exception to this is video poker. On all video poker games, if you bet fewer than 5 coins, the top payout is reduced significantly.
3- Play higher denomination games
In general, higher denomination games have a higher payback percentage. This doesn’t mean your probability of winning is better.
Usually, it means you will lose your money faster.
Here’s an example:
You have a dollar slot machine with a 96% payback percentage. To calculate your expected loss per hour, you multiply 1 dollar times the number of spins per hour by the house edge (4%, which is 100 minus 96%).
An average slot machine player will make 600 spins per hour at $1 per spin, or $600 per hour. 4% of that is $24 per hour in average losses.
Switch to a quarter machine with a payback percentage of 92% and you have a significant difference in payback.
Now you’re looking at 600 spins at a quarter per spin, or $150 per hour in action. You’ll lose an average of 8% of that over time, which is $12 per hour.
While the payback percentage on the higher denomination machine is much higher, you’ll still lose more per hour playing the higher denomination game.
4- Setting a win goal and a loss limit
Setting a win goal and a loss limit isn’t a bad idea, but it doesn’t improve your probability of winning. I first read about this strategy in a book called John Patrick’s Slots.
The idea is that you start with a session bankroll — $100, for example. You set a goal to win a percentage of that bankroll. If you make a 20% goal, your aiming to win $20.
You might also set a loss limit of 20%, which is also $20.
You’d sit down at the slot machine game and play until you were down to $80 or up to $120 then quit.
After that, you could move on to another machine or call it a night.
The problem is that having these arbitrary starting and stopping points does nothing to change your odds of winning or losing.
You should think of your time on slot machines as being a slice of one much longer session that lasts over your entire career playing these games.
5- The zig zag method
The zig zag method involves finding slot machine games where the symbols are stopped and a winning combination is ALMOST lined up, but not quite. Since you can view the symbols on the reels above and below the main pay-line across the center of the machine, it’s easy to see how a near miss would form a kind of zig zag pattern on the machine.
This was never indicative that a game was about to pay out, even when the machines were mechanical in nature.
Now that they’re all powered by computer programs called random number generators, this is even truer.
6- Cheating at slot machines
Some people think that cheating at slot machines is an effective strategy for winning.
It’s an effective strategy for going to prison, though. Cheating at gambling is a felony in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Sure, you can read entertaining stories about clever slots cheaters. But most of them end with the main character serving time.
That’s not winning.
7- Keeping your slots club card out of the machine
The players’ club at the casino tracks your play with a card that you insert in the machine before starting to play. This has nothing to do with whether the game pays out or not.
ALL slot machine games are programmed to have an edge over the player.
That edge is ALWAYS much higher than the 0.3% or whatever that the casino is paying back in rebates and comps.
The casino wants to incentivize you to play more. That’s why they offer these freebies.
It has nothing to do with whether you win or lose. Because in the long run, you’re guaranteed to lose anyway.
Anyway, enough about slot machine strategies that don’t work – let’s talk about some slot machine strategies that DO work.
7 Slot Machine Strategies that Do Work
The painful truth is that slot machines are mathematically designed so players can’t beat them.
Think about it this way. Suppose a slot machine has 1,000 possible outcomes on a spin. Now imagine if you bet a unit on each spin and got every possible outcome, you’d win 920 units. That game would have a payback percentage of 92%.
You could win in the short run because of variance. But in the long run, you’ll eventually lose.
Still, here are some strategies for winning that might help you out.
1- Treat slot machines as you would the lottery
Most people who play the lottery don’t buy 600 lottery tickets per hour – even if they’re playing the scratch and win tickets.
If you treat slot machines the same way, you’d make far fewer spins and loose less money in the long run.
When I play slot machines, I put $5 or $20 into the highest denomination machine I can find. I’ve even put a $100 bill into a $100 machine once.
I then get a spin, or at most 4 or 5 spins. I always spin a really low number. Then, win or lose, I walk away quickly.
Playing higher denomination machines and making a minimal number of spins, puts the variance to work for you. If you win big and walk away right then, you at least have the possibility of being a lifetime winner.
Of course to stay a winner, you have to resolve to never play again. Otherwise, the house edge will eat away at your bankroll.
You’ve probably heard someone say that compound interest is the most powerful force in the universe. Think of the house edge in casino games as being like compound interest on steroids.
2- Switch to video poker
Video poker looks a lot like a slot machine game, but it has some distinct advantages.
The first of these is that the odds of getting specific combinations are a known quantity. You have no way of knowing the probability of getting 3 cherries on a pay-line, but you do know (or can find out) that you have a roughly 1 in 40,000 chance of getting a royal flush on a Jacks.
Since we know the odds of getting specific hands and the payouts for those hands, we can play a game where we know what the house edge is. It’s impossible to estimate the house edge for slot machines, because we can never know the probability of getting certain combinations.
The best thing about video poker machines is this: with the right games and the right pay tables (or situations) you can face a game where you have the edge instead of the house.
That’s an entire different blog post, though.
3- Don’t play slot machines at all
I’m a big fan of the 1982 Star Trek movie, The Wrath of Khan. In it, we learn about a training scenario called the ‘Kobayashi Maru’, which is a no-win scenario. It’s a test of character to see how a command trainee deals with failure.
Kirk doesn’t believe in the no-win scenario, so he re-programs the simulation to make it possible to win.
I’ve already recommended that you don’t cheat on slot machines. And that would include hacking their random number generator program. The only way to beat a no-win scenario is to not play at all.
Go find other games where you can win. Poker is a good choice. Video poker is too. Blackjack might even be the game that’s the most fun to beat. Counting cards is easier than you think.
4- Find “banking” slot machines
Some slot machine games bank a certain percentage of the action that goes through them. And some combinations release the amount that’s banked.
Players can leave money “in the bank” on such machines.
If you can spot those, you will find yourself in a positive expectation situation and win some money.
The problem is that these games are increasingly hard to find.
5- Always use your player’s club card
Using your player’s club card won’t make you a winner, but you will get a percentage of your action back in the form of rebates and comps.
The only disadvantage to using a player’s club card is that the casino will advertise to you.
They also organize your rewards into tiers. You get bigger rewards the more you gamble. It can be tempting to gamble more to get to the next level, even though you’re not getting enough in rewards to make such a move profitable.
6- Find progressive jackpots that are way higher than their usual average jackpot when hit
The size of the payouts is one of the factors that determines a slot machine game’s payback percentage. The higher the payouts, the better the payback percentage.
Slot machines with progressive jackpot have no upper limit, so you could (theoretically) wind up in a situation where the expectation for the game is positive.
The probability of hitting the jackpot doesn’t change. But the expected value is based on the probability of hitting the jackpot multiplied by the size of that jackpot.
7- Just have fun and stay within your budget
The one strategy for winning at slot machines is the easiest one – play whichever game you want, choose how much you want to spend, and have fun. Don’t worry too much about winning or losing.
As long as you understand that you’re trading money for entertainment, you’ll be a winner without any “slot machine strategies” necessary.