28 Apr

How to Find the Most Profitable Slot Machines

How to Find the Most Profitable Slot Machines - Learn how to pick a winning slot machine

Slot machines are the bread and butter of every casino, from the luxury resorts of Las Vegas Blvd, to the brick wall gaming centres of small town Ontario, and within the myriad virtual casinos of cyberspace. They beckon to players with their incessant chimes, promising boundless wealth for someone who heeds the call.


How to Pick a Winning Slot Machine

In theory, every slot machine is a winning machine. Eventually, they will all spew wealth from their digitized bellies. In this section, we’ll discuss a series of methods used by today’s players to find the most profitable slots – the ones supposedly primed to deliver a win – and the catalystic knowledge behind those choices.
  1. Understanding How Slots Work: Learn how modern technology has made it all too easy to define a game’s return, regardless of symbology or features.
  2. Myths and Superstitions: Do machines really get hot and cold? Does timing matter? Is a machine ever due for a win?
  3. Deciphering the RTP: Discover how to find a slot machine’s theoretical return to player, and what it means for your game.
  4. Value in Volatility: An exploration of variance in slot machines and how it directly impacts the short-term ratio of cost-to-profitability.
  5. Strategic Betting: Learn to employ an efficient betting system that corresponds to your game selection.
DisclaimerNot all forms of gambling are legal in all provinces of Canada. The legal age to gamble also varies by province. Breaking the law is a serious matter. The information provided on this website is meant for educational purposes only, and we will not be held liable for any irresponsible / illegal activity on your part. Know the gambling laws in your province and follow them. The following pages provide more information on Canadian gambling laws:

1. Understanding How Slots Work

Slot machines are unlike most other casino games. Their payout ratio is not based on mathematical equality – at least, not anymore. In the old days, a mechanical slot machine was made up of rolling drums. Each drum contained a specific number of symbols. If you multiplied the numbers of symbols per reel together, you knew the likelihood of striking the jackpot.

For example, a slot machine with 5 reels and 12 symbols on each reel should be able to land on (12*12*12*12*12) 248,832 possible combinations. If five jackpot symbols award a jackpot prize, and there’s one jackpot symbol per reel, there should be a 1 in 248,832 chance of striking that jackpot. It’s basic math. It couldn’t be any simpler! But times have changed.

Today’s machines do not work that way. They are entirely digital, whether you’re playing at a log-in or walk-in casino. As players, we rarely know how many symbols populate each reel, but I assure you there’s far more than 12, and many of them are repeats of the lowest-paying variety. It really doesn’t matter how many there are, because the win rate is determined not by symbolic probabilities, but by a numeric algorithm.

Modern slot machines are programmed to display results on an RNG system. An RNG, or random number generator, is constantly spinning through digits of a long, unpredictable algorithm. Every nanosecond the numbers are changing. The moment you press the Spin button, they come to a stop, telling the machine what symbols to place in each position.

In this way, games are entirely random and unpredictable. You might see no jackpot win for months at a time, or two jackpots hit back to back. Even the casinos and the game’s manufacturers cannot predict the results.

2. Slot Gaming Myths and Superstitions

Some players seem to think they have a sixth sense when it comes to slot machines. I’ve witnessed, on more than one occasion, a player entering a casino, scanning the machines, then bee-lining it to the one they believe to be ‘hot’. They insert money, press the button, and within a few spins, cash out for a lofty pay day.

Miracle or dumb luck? Who knows. Some say the machines put off an aura that only they can see. Others will actually touch the machines as they walk the aisles, choosing one that is physically warm to the touch. Maybe some people really do have a gift? It’s never brought me any luck, but my uncle swears by it, and I assure you he’s got more luck than any single person has a right to. Maybe you’ve either got it, or you don’t?

A similar belief states that, eventually, every slot machine becomes ‘due for a win’. If a game is losing, losing, losing, stripping away every coin that goes in it without giving anything back, it makes sense that it will have to turn around. Eventually, it must pay out enough money to meet its RTP (defined below). But is there any accurate way to time out the regurgitation of wealth? No, there is not.

These are theories known as the Hot Hand and Gambler’s Fallacy, and they’ve left many a man (and woman) without a proverbial pot in which to relive themselves.

3. Deciphering Slot Machine RTP

As we learned above, today’s slot machines are built to spin out results based on an RNG algorithm. While this does make a game truly random and unpredictable, it does not mean that a game’s payouts are uncontrolled. That aspect is unflappably regulated by the game’s pre-programmed payout percentage. It’s a numeric percentage known throughout the gambling world as the “theoretical return to player”, or RTP for short.

If you’re not familiar with RTP, perhaps you’ll recognize the term “house edge”? We all know the house edge is the casino’s advantage over the player. If a game has a houseedge of 5%, then we know the casino is probably going to win 5% of all the money we bet on that game. The opposite of that figure is the RTP. So if the house edge is 5%, the player’s expected return, or RTP, is 95%. The casino expects you to lose 5% of your wagers, and you can expect to retain 95%. Either way you look at it, the casino is getting $95 of every $100 you bet on that game. Theoretically, and over the long term, that is.

If you scroll through the information pay table of a slot machine, most of them will tell you what the game’s RTP is. Not all of them, mind you, but most. It’s usually found on the last page, or at the bottom of a single scrolling page. Simply put, the higher the RTP, the better.

Online vs Land-Based Slot RTPs

Land-based casinos tend to have far lower RTPs than their online cousins. The average slot machine RTP in terrestrial casinos can be anywhere from 85%-92%. At an online casino, the average RTP is 96.2%. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that virtual online slot machines pay out better than land-based ones.

4. Is there Value in Volatility?

A slot machine’s volatility, or variance – the two words seem to be interchangeable – can greatly impact a player’s experience. It won’t impact the game’s RTP; only the amount of time and money one should expect to spend on a game, compared to the amount of winnings per spin.

There are three levels of variance: Low, Medium and High.

The lower the variance, the more often you can expect to spin out a winning combination. However, the more often you win, the lower each payout is going to be on average. In contrast, a high volatility game will have less frequent wins, but pay larger amounts on average when they occur. Falling in the middle are medium variance machines, which are considered the most balanced.

How will this impact the game for players? Let’s review…

  • Low Variance: High rate of win frequency; low payouts. Most of the winning combinations will pay an amount equal to or lower than the amount bet.
  • Medium Variance: Medium rate of wins, complemented by mid-sized payouts per win.
  • High Variance: Low rate of win frequency, but a higher average payout per win. Though few and far between, most wins will be larger, if not significantly larger, than the amount bet per play.

Please remember that a game’s volatility does not change its RTP. The overall payout percentage remains the same, regardless of volatility. The reason we must account for volatility in game selection is because not everyone can afford to play high variance slots.

A high volatility is better built to accommodate a large bankroll; one that is capable of outlasting the longer swings between winning spins. A player with a smaller bankroll will find the more frequent payouts of low volatility games to keep them going longer.

5. Strategic Betting Systems for Slot Machines

There are many who will tell you there is no strategy for slot machines. That’s only partly true. You can’t alter the odds per play by making proper in-game decisions, as you would in blackjack. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make smart choices to better your chance of cashing out at the cage.

If the above lessons have taught you anything, it should be, first and foremost, that higher RTP slot machines are the best choice. And, as we’ve already discussed, online slot machines average far greater RTPs than the cabinet variety. Thus, it stands to reason that online slot machines are more profitable overall. Here are some additional tips that will teach you how to find the most profitable slot machines.

Be Aware of RTP Ranges

Read the game info carefully. If it features an ‘RTP range’ (e.g. 94.20% – 97.21%), as opposed to a static RTP (e.g. 96.37%), the correct strategy is to bet whatever amount is necessary to activate the highest RTP. If your bankroll can’t afford to bet that high, this isn’t the machine for you.

Larger Bets Don’t Always Mean Higher RTP

Do not assume that a game with a higher bet size has a higher RTP. Always check the pay table info. Last year, I did my own research into Las Vegas Strip casinos to determine the average RTPs of slot machines by bet size, and here’s what I found.

Slots by Coin Size Average RTP
Penny Slots 90.82%
Nickel Slots 91.88%
Quarter Slots 89.98%
Dollar Slots 92.63%

It’s no surprise that dollar slots pay the best, but those quarter slots are the worst! Suffice it to say, if you’re going to increase your bet size beyond cheap penny/nickel slots, don’t half-ass it. If you’re the type to buy a mid-priced kitchen appliance – mid-range price, mid-range quality – casinos have your number! That strategy won’t fly here.

Progressive Slot Machines

Progressive slots are famous for fluctuating odds; not necessarily in the base game, but in terms of paying their biggest prize. The pay table will often state that increasing the bet size will increase the probability of triggering either the jackpot, or the feature wherein the jackpot can be won, as is the case with Microgaming’s Mega Moolah progressive. Then again, the fractional increase in probabilities is so minuscule, betting more may not be worth it. Since the overall odds of triggering a jackpot are going to be in the millions-to-one range, make sure the game’s overall RTP is worth playing in the first place.

Further Reading…

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