Think of a casino, any casino, and one image invariably comes to mind – jingling-jangling slot machine games! Nothing epitomises the amazing appeal of Las Vegas, Atlantic City, Monte Carlo, Macau, or Sun City quite like the inimitable slot machine game. Their simplicity is what makes them so incredibly attractive to players. No specific skills, tactics, or strategies are required to hustle the casinos and mint it in style with slots games. These are basically spin and win attractions. If lady luck is on your side, and your bets are placed just right, you stand to win attractive payouts on slot machine games.
And yet, so many folks walk away from land-based casinos having lost money on slot machine games. What is it that casinos aren't telling us? Why do slots consistently deliver for casinos, and not for players? Today, we will tackle all of these topics in detail. There are no easy answers to the questions, suffice it to say it's all about selections. Since slots games are governed by chance, the best we can hope for is a little good fortune, or is it? As it turns out, there is a lot more to slots games than meets the eye. In order to turn these little spinners into winners, it's important to understand a few things about slots games.
Slots have RTPs
Any decent post about how to beat slots at a casino will invariably discuss the importance of RTPs. Believe it or not, RTPs are the single-most important element to consider when picking slots games to play. The abbreviation stands for Return to Player. It is a theoretical concept that provides you with an idea of what to expect if you play that slot machine game for a long, long period of time. The operative words here are ‘long-term’. We're talking at least 1 million spins on a slot machine game in order for you to come close to the theoretical RTP that is provided. Granted, it's unlikely that you will enjoy 1 million spins + on any slot machine game during a quick outing to a land-based casino.
In practical terms, an RTP is really easy to understand. It's the payback percentage that you can expect when you play that slot machine game for real money. Let's assume you have slot ABC and slot XYZ as options available to you. The first slot, ABC has an RTP of 92%. The second slot, XYZ has an RTP of 95%. These numbers give you a pretty good indication of where you should deposit your money. Given a budget of £500, a 92% RTP will pay back 92% x 500 = £460 during your session of play. That same budget of £500 will have a theoretical return to player of £475 when you play the slot machine game with a 95% RTP.
Can you trust RTPs? In theory, yes. The RTP concept is theoretical because it is tested by independent agencies such as Technical Systems Testing (TST), iTech Labs, or eCOGRA Safe & Fair for credibility, fairness, and transparency. It is necessary to evaluate the authenticity of RTPs as provided by software developers and online casinos. Recall that this theoretical concept holds true for millions of spins. We could liken it to a coin toss with heads or tails outcomes. Sure, you could land heads 10 times in a row in the short term, but in the long term you are likely to have a 50-50 split between heads and tails – those are the only outcomes that are possible.
With slot machine games, there are countless potential outcomes that can result, and most of them are not winning combinations. Always pick a slot machine game with the highest possible RTP. At least you will not disadvantage yourself this way, since you are playing a slot machine game with the highest possible returns. You can always find the RTP of a slot machine game by navigating to the ‘info’, ‘paytable’, or ‘rules’ section of the slot machine game in question. It takes a little doing, but it's always better (if possible) to find information on the RTPs before you play slots games. Land-based casinos don't make it easy for players to find RTPs on slot machine games. In fact, you are unlikely to find the RTP of land-based slots games, despite your best efforts.
So, if you happen to be in Atlantic City, or Las Vegas, many land-based slots actually have online slots equivalents. You can easily find the RTPs of online slot machine games. At land-based casinos, a.k.a. bricks and mortar casinos, the slots game developers create the payout percentages based on a variety of factors. They have low RTP, mid-range RTP, and high-range RTP options for slots games. The casino itself can choose between low, mid-range, high-range RTPs. So, the same slot machine game can have a different RTP, depending on the land-based casino in question. However, you are likely to find a range, from low to high that will guide you in terms of how to select RTPs. We recommend picking slot machine games with the highest range (the payout on the top end should be the highest). This is in stark contrast to online casino slots RTPs where the slots developer typically offers a single slot RTP across the board.
We realise that this is an incredibly challenging undertaking at a land-based casino. That's why we present you with a few broad rules that you can use to make your decisions easier. Consider the following average RTPs on slot machine games:
- Penny slots – average RTP ranges between 88% – 90%.
- 0.05 slot machine games – average RTP ranges between 91% – 94%
- 0.25 slot machine games – average RTP ranges between 93% – 95%
- 1.00 slot machine games – average RTP ranges between 94% – 96%
- 5.00 slot machine games – average RTP ranges between 95% – 97%
Given the average figures we have presented above, it is clear that the penny slots offer the lowest average RTPs at land-based casinos. This is to be expected. Since the majority of players are choosing penny slots games, that's where the casino is generating a lot of its money. In order to entice players to spend more money on expensive slot machine games, the RTP must be much higher. Imagine if these figures were reversed, and the penny slots offered an average RTP of 95% – 97%, and 5.00 slot machine games offered an average RTP of 88% – 90%? Nobody would play the expensive slots – because they're almost guaranteed losers. It is worth emphasising once again that the RTPs are theoretical concepts. In the short-term, you can win a fortune, or lose it all. It's all about Lady Luck!
CAVEAT: If you happen to read a sign in a land-based casino that says, ‘Pays up to 98%’, don't believe it as holy writ. It may be true that one of the slots may pay up to 98%, or perhaps even a few, but certainly not all of them. Clever phrases are often used to beguile, or at least bedazzle players with marketing gobbledygook. Don't buy into all the hype – stick to the facts.
Slots have Variance
Variance is somewhat of an abstract concept to comprehend, but it's a real phenomenon. The higher the variance – volatility about the mean – the greater the payouts when they infrequently occur. The lower the variance, the lower the payouts when they frequently occur. Variance is easily illustrated when you play a slot machine game in demo mode. You can see how often you form winning combinations, and how big those winning combinations are. Sometimes, you can go long spells with no substantial wins at all, and then boom – a big win comes your way. In this case, you'd probably be playing a medium-high or high variance slot machine game. Conversely, you may find yourself playing a fun-filled slot machine game with lots of incremental wins on a regular basis. The best way to test this out is not with real money – it's with demo play gaming options at an online casino. The more frequently you win smaller prizes, the more likely it is that you're playing a low variance machine game.
Variance is used synonymously with volatility. Let's approach this from a different angle. Suppose you enjoyed psychology and assessing the behaviour of people. You would find slot volatility to be quite the topic to pursue. With volatility, you are evaluating the behaviour of the slot machine game. The more you play the slot machine game, the better you understand the volatility. Low volatility slots are associated with low risk. That means you probably get to enjoy longer sessions of play, with less likelihood of losing your entire bankroll in double-quick time. The reason for this is that you would win incremental amounts on a regular basis, padding your bankroll as it is gradually being depleted. Now, consider high volatility slots which are associated with high-risk. With these slots games, you can win massive amounts, but it's feast or famine. Are you the type of player who is prepared to put it all on the line in the hopes of a big win?
It is somewhat of a skill to correctly assess the volatility of a slot machine game. Not everybody can do it, but if you spend enough time playing a slot in demo mode, you will get pretty close to understanding its volatility. There are other ways to assist volatility, notably the paytable. You can see how much the biggest wins are, and sometimes you will even see a volatility scale which tells you that this is a low volatility, medium volatility, or high volatility slot machine game. Again, we encourage you to practice online slots games in demo mode to understand how-to gauge volatility before you play at land-based casinos.
Slots have Features
Features make slot machine games attractive to play. The more features, the more appealing video slots are. But when it comes to features, there is always a sacrifice. As the in-game experience is enhanced, players may be required to make sacrifices in terms of payout probabilities. The simpler a slots game is, the higher the RTP can be, all things being equal. If we assess slot machine games on the basis of complexity, in terms of pick’em features, bonus rounds, free play, wheel of fortune rounds, progressive jackpots, and so forth, it can safely be said that the more features there are, the lower the RTP. Consider one of the most popular progressive jackpot games of all time – Mega Moolah. It's a feature-filled slot machine game with a mega-money progressive jackpot. But the RTP of Mega Moolah is among the lowest out there!
What's the number? – A lowly 88.12%. But, Mega Moolah is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the biggest online slot jackpot ever paid out. In 2015, a lucky player from England won over €17 million with Mega Moolah slot game.
Fast Facts – How to Beat Slots at a Casino
- If you want to beat slots at a casino, don't fall for all the gobbledygook. There is no magic tapping, rubbing, or routine that is going to help you beat slot machine games when you go to Las Vegas. Forget about trying to understand the inner mechanics of a computerised slot machine game – there is no mental acuity or power of reasoning – it's based on Lady Luck alone.
- When you see the symbols on a slot machine game spinning, that is largely done for show. In fact, the RNGs generate an incredible number of potential combinations of symbols every second. The moment you depress the spin button, a fixed result has been calculated at that very split-second that the button was pushed. The spinning reels are just there for show.
- New slot machine games are designed to reel players in. They are expensive to buy, and casinos are eager to reap a return on these types of games. For that reason, there may be promotional offers designed to attract players to these games. For instance, the payback percentages of new slots may be higher than those of existing slots for this very reason. Casinos want to recoup their losses (outlay) as quickly as possible, so they are prepared to offer enticements to players to try out new games. If you're unsure which new games are available, ask casino support staff.
- If you really want to get an unbiased opinion of how good or bad a specific slot machine game is, read player reviews, read software developer reviews, and try the games in demo-play mode if available. This type of information will give you an unbiased perspective of the slot machine game in question. You may not even have to play the game for real money if you don't like what you find in the reviews.
- Everything always boils down to your bankroll. That's a truism that nobody can escape. If you can boost your bankroll when playing real money slots games, you're already one step ahead. Many land-based casinos will offer players comps, or discounts, or free chips for playing at the casino. Use these to your advantage when you play real money slots games. Anything that can make your bankroll stretch a little further gives you an additional opportunity to hit a winning combination on the reels.
Now that you know how to beat slots at a casino, you can confidently begin practising these tactics and strategies with free slots games. Test your knowledge of RTPs, variance, features, wagering amounts, and other slots-specific criteria. When you are confident that you've picked the right slot machine games to play, deposit, spin and go for a win!