Slot machines are the single most popular form of gambling in any casino. Gambling industry estimates show that casinos can make anywhere from 75% to 90% of their overall profits from slots. It’s no wonder you’ll find so many different varieties of slot machines in both land-based and online casinos. They are the bread and butter of any gaming house.
As popular as slot machines are, though, it’s surprising how little most players know about them. Many people play using so-called systems based on false information, superstitions, and the idea of hot and cold running luck.
The truth is that there is no such thing as a system that will help you consistently beat slot machines. They are based on random number generators, with each spin being completely independent from the last, and designed to pay a set percentage of wagers back to the players while keeping a fixed percentage for the house.
That being said, this doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to get more out of your time playing the slots, and even increase your chances of hitting a nicely sized payout. There are many common mistakes that plenty of slot machine players make which cause their bankrolls to run out much faster than they should. Following are some of the most often seen slot machine mistakes that you should avoid if you want to keep your cash in your pocket as long as possible.
Playing Without Researching The RTP
Every slot machine has a built-in, long-term return to player (RTP) rate. The RTP is the percentage of wagers made on the machine that will be paid back to players over the long term. For example, if a slot machine has an RTP of 95% that machine would be expected to pay back £95 for every £100 wagered over its lifetime. Of course, over shorter periods of time, players will experience many different levels of both wins and losses.
What many players don’t realise is that RTP information for many slot machines is publically available. All you have to do is look for it. In most cases, all you need to do is go to Google and put in the name of the slot you want to play along with the letters “RTP”.
Most video slot machines that you will find in today’s online casinos will have an RTP of somewhere between 92% and 96%. A few might even go as high as 98% – 99%. There are some, however, that have a return to player percentage in the low eighties. Obviously, if you want to play for as long as you can with the money you have, on land or online, you should be looking for slots with the highest RTP rate you can find.
Neglecting To Read The Game Rules
The basic concept behind slot machines is very simple. Today, however, there are hundreds — if not thousands — of variations on that basic concept. Every slot machine nowadays has a payout table and an explanation of how the game works. If you’re not reading the rules on a slot before you start playing, you’re making a huge mistake that could cost you a considerable amount of money.
Making sure to read all the rules is especially important on slot machines that offer progressive jackpots or allow you to choose how many pay lines you’d like to bet on. In many cases, if you want to play for a progressive jackpot, you are only eligible to win the jackpot if you’re playing the maximum number of pay lines. Slots with special jackpots may also have variable RTP rates depending on the value of the current jackpot.
Machines that let you choose the number of pay lines you’d like to wager on will often have some kind of restriction on the prizes you can win if you don’t play all of the lines. Many machines will not allow you to win the top prize or trigger some bonus features if you’re playing less than all of the possible pay lines.
To make it short and simple, if you’re just jumping into a game without reading the rules, you could be throwing money into a machine hoping to win something that you have absolutely no chance of winning.
Playing Only Progressive Jackpot Slots
Especially in land-based casinos, many people are attracted to those big flashing numbers alluding to the chance of winning life-changing amounts of money on a single lucky spin of the reels. Online and off, many people don’t stop to think about how things change when playing a progressive jackpot slot as opposed to a regular slot machine.
The thing about progressive jackpots is that the money for those huge payouts doesn’t appear out of thin air. First, the casino has to seed the jackpot with something to get it started. This could be anywhere from a few thousand dollars to a few million dollars. Then, as people play the slots tied to the jackpot, money is skimmed off of every spin and added to the prize. The end result is a much lower return to player rate when compared to standard, non-progressive slots.
Generally, as the progressive jackpot gets higher, the RTP of the slots that feed it gets higher as well. For those playing when the jackpot is just getting started, though, the RTP rate can dip into the low to mid eighties. When you compare this to a standard slot machine with an RTP of 95% or more, you’re giving up a considerable amount of expected return.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t play progressive slots at all, but you should keep in mind that you have a minuscule chance of actually winning the top prize. In the meantime, as you continue to play, you’re giving up a lot of expected value on your wagers that will, in all likelihood, go toward paying a huge sum to someone else.
With a standard, non-progressive slot machine the top prize might be much smaller, but you have a much higher chance of winning it yourself. Your expected return on your wagers is also much higher as you play, helping to keep your bankroll alive longer. If you want to sit down and play a long session on the slots, your money will last longer, and you’ll have a much better chance of walking away with a big prize if you play standard machines without a progressive jackpot.
Failing To Understand The Effect Of Volatility
All slot machines have a certain payout frequency, often referred to as their volatility. High volatility slots tend to pay out less often but will pay out more significant amounts on winning spins. Low volatility slots pay out more often, but the prizes are usually much smaller. Medium volatility slots, as you might have guessed, sit somewhere in the middle.
Unfortunately, whereas RTP information for many modern slot machines is readily available to players, volatility information is not published by most slot designers. This means that in the vast majority of cases the only way to determine a slot’s volatility is to play for a while and rely on your own judgement and experience.
Looking at the pay table for different slots and comparing them can also give you some clues as to which has the higher or lower volatility. The two biggest things you should look for are the amount paid for hitting the maximum number (five of a kind, for example) of the top paying symbol, and the total number of winning combinations that are available.
When looking at different slots that you are considering playing, those with higher maximum payouts are often higher volatility. Then, if you have one slot that will pay out when you match three or more of five different symbols, and another that pays out on seven different symbols, the one that pays on seven symbols is usually going to be lower volatility. With 7 types of symbols, you’re likely to see more wins.
It’s important to understand all of this because, much like the return to player rate, the volatility of a slot machine will have a significant effect on your bankroll and how you’ll need to manage it. With the same bankroll, playing the same stakes, you’ll get very different results on high and low volatility slots.
With a high volatility slot machine, even if you’re playing for low stakes, you could play a considerable number of spins without seeing any wins at all. This means you’ll need to have a bankroll big enough to ride out some fairly erratic highs and lows. To make up for this, however, you have a chance of winning some pretty big prizes when you do spin a winner. The thing is, with a lower ratio of wins to spins, you could end up running out of money before you hit those big wins to replenish your roll.
On a low volatility slot machine, you will win more often, but the resulting payouts will usually be small. Still, because the wins are coming along more often, those low payouts will keep your bankroll healthy longer, and often allow you to continue playing for more extended periods of time.
Which type of machine to play will depend on your own preferences and gambling style. Some players want to know there’s the possibility of a huge return on their wager. Others just want to be able to play for as long as they can, even if the top prize might be a bit lower. The important thing is just that you know how to identify the different types of machines so you can actually make that choice.
Failing To Read Or Understand Bonus Terms
With online casinos, slot machines are often a very big part of the deposit bonuses that are offered to both new and regular players. The great majority of bonuses have specific wagering requirements that must be met, and slot machines are often the only games where 100% of wagers made count towards those requirements.
The terms that must be met in order to claim bonuses can vary greatly from one casino to another. One should never assume that any bonus works the same as another, even if you’re talking about two bonuses within the same casino. Always make sure to read the terms and conditions for each individual bonus that you’d like to claim.
Welcome bonuses from most casinos look very generous, but they often have strict wagering requirements that must be met before you can actually claim your bonus. For example, it’s not uncommon to see an offer for a 100% bonus on your first deposit that comes with a 40x or 50x wagering requirement. On top of that, some are also limited by time, and others state a maximum amount that you are allowed to play on any individual wager while trying to meet the requirement.
Let’s say we deposit €200 at a casino with a 100% bonus and a 30x wagering requirement. With our deposit and the bonus amount, we end up with €400. In order to unlock the bonus, we’d need to make wagers worth €12,000. First, wagering that amount of money, it’s likely that our account is going to hit €0 before we hit that €12,000 wagered. But then if the casino limits the maximum wager to something like €1.00, that means we’d need to make 12,000 spins on the slots to get there — minimum. Now, if this wagering requirement must be met within a certain amount of time, we need to know that we can realistically play enough to make that many spins within the time limit.
When you’re playing to release a bonus, it becomes even more important to do your research regarding return to player rates and volatility. You’ll significantly increase your chances of meeting all requirements by seeking out slot machines with a combination of the highest possible RTP and the lowest possible volatility. You need to maximise the number of spins, and therefore wagers, that you can make with the money in your account.
Overall, if you’re planning to take advantage of a welcome bonus on a new casino, you should take the time to gather information and make a plan before you deposit anything. Read the bonus terms to be sure you understand what you’ll need to do to cash in on your bonus. Look over the slots offered at the casino and decide which will provide the best RTP and volatility for what you’re trying to do. Then, calculate how many spins you’d need to make based on different deposit amounts and deposit an amount that will allow you to meet any time limits. Also please take a look at our Low Wagering Bonuses page.
Some Final Thoughts
In the end, slot machines are games of pure chance that don’t require any skill — which is probably what makes them so popular. There’s nothing you can do to predict when a big win is coming, but the thrill of those big wins keeps us all coming back for more.
The key to getting the most out of slot machines is understanding how they work and what you can do to get the most out of them. By learning about slots in general, and the machines you like to play in particular, you’ll learn how to maximise your play time and give yourself the best possible chances for being there when one of those really big wins finally hits.