Breaking the Myth: The Truth about Slot Machines

By: John Grochowski

Have you heard the one about the hot slots being placed at the ends of rows? How about the one about slot machines being more likely to pay off when casinos are crowded? Or the one about the game that went into makeup mode with the cold streak right after a jackpot?

If you’ve spent much time around the slots and slot players, you’ve probably heard those claims. They’re not strictly true even though widely believed. Let’s try to sort out myth from fact.

Live casinos place the hot slots at the ends of rows

There may have been some validity to this a few decades ago. The theory was that machines on the ends are widely visible to passers-by and that seeing other players win will encourage others to give the slots a try.

In the mid-1990s, a couple of slot directors told me this was so widely believed by players that hot slots at the ends of rows didn’t really encourage play on games that were off the aisle.

Today, with payoffs on credit meters and ticket printers rather than by coins immediately dropping into a tray, on reel slot and video slots alike, the point is moot. It’s not immediately apparent whether an end machine is paying off or not. Without that attention-grabbing aspect, it’s pointless to automatically place high payers on the ends.

The Answer Is:
FALSE

After a jackpot is paid, the machine must go cold in a makeup time in order to hit its payback percentage

This applies to reel slots, video slots and online slots alike. Results are random, with all outcomes possible on every spin. Cold streaks and hot streaks are both natural outgrowths of the odds of the games, but the machine doesn’t have to go cold after a big win.

Slot games hit their targeted payback percentages over millions of plays. Casino operators and game manufacturers know there will be jackpots paid, and those jackpots are taken into account as part of the normal game results.

Casinos can afford to be patient. Over a very long time, any big jackpot will fade into statistical insignificance, a drop in the ocean of outcomes, and the percentages will hold up.

The Answer Is:
FALSE

Your choices determine how much you win in pick’em bonus rounds

Some players believe the opposite of this claim, think that bonuses are set in stone before they begin touching icons in pick’em rounds. However, in games such as Jackpot Party, where you choose among dancing gift boxes on a grid, you get the bonuses that are hidden by the boxes you choose.

At the end of a Jackpot Party bonus, all the gifts are unwrapped and you see all the bonuses you could have had. All of those rewards were really available to you. A random number generator sets the possibilities on the gift grid. Your choices then make the difference.

The Answer Is:
TRUE

Betting maximum coins increases your payback percentage

On slots with three mechanical reels that take bets of only up to three coins at a time and have a single payline, there’s almost always a jump in the top jackpot if you bet the max. A jackpot that pays 500 coins for a one-coin bet or 1,000 for a two-coin bet might jump to 2,500 for a three-coin bet. That jump leads to a higher payback percentage with a max-coins bet.

It’s a different story on video slots and online slots. Most have five reels, 20, 30, 40 or more paylines, and many, many more possible combinations than three-reel slots. That disproportionate jackpot jump for a max coins bet is rare. Bet enough to cover all the paylines, but betting one coin per line usually will bring the same payback percentage as covering more.

The Answer Is:
Mostly False

Reel slots should be trusted more than video or online slots. After all, programmers can do anything with a computer

Reel slots are computerized, too, using a virtual reel and random number generator to determine outcomes.

Licensed and certified reel, video and online slots all are as random as humans can program a computer to be. There’s a house edge built into the odds, just as there is in all casino games, but there’s nothing in the programming that favors one style of slot over another.

The Answer Is:
FALSE
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