6 Tips to Win at Slots
By : John Grochowski
I’ve been writing about casinos and casino games for roughly a quarter of a century, and answering questions from readers throughout that time, one question I receive over and over again can be boiled down to a few words: “How can I win on the slots?”
The answer has remained the same as the questions have gone from letter on paper to email to Facebook messages and the games have evolved from three-reel mechanical to video slots to online slots:
There is nothing you can do to change a slot machine’s payback percentage. On slots, the odds are the same on every spin, and those odds favor the house. If that was the end of the story, no one would ever play slots. But it’s not. We also get a great deal of entertainment value out of today’s games, with their animation and bonus events.
More important, you can win sometimes, and anyone who plays often will occasionally have a big win. That doesn’t mean a win that will change your life, but one that could change your week or month. One of the greatest holiday seasons my wife and I ever had came after I won a $1,000 jackpot and we shopped for Christmas gifts using $100 bills from the windfall instead of running up credit card bills.
While you can’t change the odds of the game and win in the long run, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of getting what you want out of the games:
Take Advantage Of Sign Up Bonuses
Online casinos are particularly strong plays here. Many offer bonuses for signing up and buying credits. Sometimes there’s even a registration bonus that boosts your bankroll even if you don’t immediately buy credits.
Typically, you can’t cash out until you’ve wagered the money at least once, but let’s say you typically limit yourself to wagering $100 in a day. You buy in for $100 and you get a bonus. It might be $10, it might be $25 and at a generous online casino it might even be $200.
Next, you play your usual amount. If you win, terrific! If you lose, limit your losses to the planned $100.
Now you have the amount of the bonus to apply to the next gaming session. You have extra chances to get that big win.
Live casinos usually don’t give sign up bonuses for their players clubs other than perhaps a hat, key ring or a 2-for-1 buffet deal.
However, if you use a players club card while you play, the casino will track how much you wager and give a portion of it back as free play. The portion is not large – about a quarter of a percent is typical, though some give more and some less.
Over time, that adds up. When using free play you should consider it part of your normal day’s budget and not as a meaningless extra. If you typically budget $100 for the day and have $25 in free play, then make your budget $75 in cash plus the extra. That way, you get $100 worth of chances to chase your jackpot while risking only $75.
Consider Comps Part of Your Return
In addition to free play, casino players clubs offer free meals, show tickets, room comps and other perks based on your play.
When considering your return for the day, count those comps. If you’ve risked $100, lost $20, cashed out $80 and also used a $20 restaurant comp, you haven’t lost $20. You’ve broken even. You just paid for the meal at the games instead of out of your wallet.
Choose Games That Best Fit Your Goals
If what you want out of a slot machine is an hour or two of entertainment, then games that feature pick’em bonuses are designed to extend play.
In pick’em bonuses, you’re presented with a screen of choices such as gift boxes, aliens or anything that comes to the game designer’s imagination. You make the selections to collect bonuses. The process takes time during which you’re not making additional bets, and extends play.
Big jackpots are few and far between on such games, but you have a chance to play for a long time without adding more credits too often.
On the other hand, if you want to chase a big payoff, then look for three-reel games or games with progressive jackpots. Sometimes you’ll burn through your bankroll a lot faster than on pick’em games, but the rare big win makes it all worthwhile.
Understand That Bigger Bets Usually Bring Bigger Payoffs
As an American, I’ll put this in U.S. terms, but it is applicable in any currency. Typically, a game that uses a dollar as a basic betting unit pays back a higher percentage than 25-cent games, and 25-cent games pay a higher percentage than 1-cent games.
That doesn’t mean you should increase your wagers and risk more money. Bigger bets bring bigger risk, and even with higher payback percentages, you average bigger losses if you bet a dollar than if you bet 25 cents.
But if you’re considering equivalent wagers such as 300 credits on a multiline 1-cent game vs. three credits on a one-line, three-reel dollar game, understand that the dollar game is likely to yield a higher percentage.
Above All, Play For Fun
Losing sessions on the slots are part of life for any player. But if you choose games that you find fun and entertaining to play, the losses feel more like the price of entertainment. Then when the winning sessions come, they’re that much sweeter.