What are the odds of winning on a slot machine? That’s a question many gamblers have when heading to their local casinos. Most slot players long to win big, perhaps even scoring one of those massive multi-million dollar jackpots – everyone can dream.

Slots certainly come with a house edge, but players around the world regularly book some winning sessions and even win some nice jackpots in the process. Slots are a form of entertainment, but for those to win, there are some major considerations to remember when it comes to the odds involved with slot play – whether in a live or online environment.

Keep reading to learn all about the odds of winning when playing slots and some key concepts to remember.

Significance of Understanding Slot Machine Odds

As a “house-backed” game, it’s important to realize that playing slots is pure gambling. There are no traditional strategic advantages that players can utilize to tip the odds in their favor as found in a few other games.

For example, poker players can utilize skills to play against other players in a casino rather than playing the casino itself. Savvy players can gain an edge over some of the other players at the table. Blackjack is a game that the casino that also traditionally has an edge, albeit a small one if a player finds favorable rules and utilizes perfect basic strategy. However, players who can successfully use a card-counting strategy can tip some of those odds in their favor and win in the long run.

This just isn’t possible when playing slots. The house will always have the edge and it’s important to realize that. Budget your gambling bankroll accordingly and realize that any cash for slot play should be seen as entertainment money.

In short, the average slot machine comes with a house edge of anywhere from 4% to more than 10%, according to CalculateMyChances.com. But as the site notes: “Slots are easy to play. All that's required of you is to pull the lever or press a button. The chances of winning money on slots vary depending on the type of machine you play on.”

Here are a few things to remember about the odds of winning at slots:

  • Penny slots are the most popular games but come with the longest odds most of the time – often with a double-digit advantage for the casino.

  • On the other hand, higher-stakes slots have the best odds – often below a 5% house edge. But those odds are still in the casino’s favor, so don’t chase higher stakes for that reason alone. This can mean going beyond your bankroll.

  • Online casinos tend to offer players the best odds of winning at all levels with a higher return to player (RTP) generally overall.

  • Platforms like Jackpot Party and QuickHitSlots.com allow players to experience the fun of slot play without wagering any real money and can be a nice alternative to real-money gaming.

Slot Machine Basics

Since their invention in the late 1800s, slot machines have remained a unique part of the gaming industry. While modern technology has made betting using wagering devices much simpler, the slot machine was the first device that allowed a player to make a bet, see the game play out, and then pay out any winnings without needing a person.

Early machines did this all without the advantage of modern technology. Those games made use of mechanical reels and inner workings to determine winning spins and payout winners. A player simply pulled a lever to activate the reels. These would then come to a stop and the player watched how the symbols lined up in certain combinations on the paylines. Winning combinations would then deliver a payout for the lucky player.

Today’s games make use of computer technology and software to determine the result of a casino spin. The game’s random number generator (RNG) determines the result as soon as a player hits the spin button. Slots are now divided into three main categories:

  • Classic slots – These are the traditional games that make use of mechanical inner workings to accept bets, spin the reels, and pay out winners. Most used coins and the term “slot machine” derives from the original “slot” used to insert a coin.

  • Video slots – These are modern slots that no longer feature mechanical reels and instead make use of computer technology with all the action playing out on a video screen. Many of today’s video slots feature high-definition screens, advanced sound systems, and unique bonus games, themes, and narratives.

  • Progressive slots – These are also modern slots but allow slot fans to play for mega jackpots that often make news headlines. These payouts can reach millions of dollars and deliver some real life-changing money. These also tend to be played at higher stakes with players to meet a certain stakes threshold to qualify for these progressive jackpots.

The Role of RTP (Return to Player)

Just because the house always has an edge, doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things players shouldn’t keep in mind to better their chances of a winning night at the casino. A little knowledge about the games and knowing what you’re up against might help offer the best chance at a winning session.

A critical part of that is theReturn to Player (RTP). This term is related to the percentage of dollars wagered in a slot or casino that is paid back to players. For example, over the long run, a certain slot machine may pay back 92 cents out of every dollar that is wagered into that type of machine. This equated to a 92% RTP, which is actually a nice RTP for a clot in a live casino.

A game’s RTP can offer a look at your likelihood of getting some of your money back or booking a winning session. Games with higher RTPs return more money to players. Some online slots pay back even more to players, with RTPs often at 95% or more. An RTP can also be applied to:

  • Individual casinos

  • Individual types of machines

  • A broad area or region

  • Differing levels of stakes wagered

Games with higher stakes tend to have higher RTPs. So how does a person find out about RTPs? Many slot manufacturers list the RTPs of their games right on their websites. Some gaming commissions also make this type of information available for individual casinos as well. Many websites are also available that can help players determine the RTP of individual games.

A little research can go a long way to giving you a chance at winning. Have a few games in mind that you’re considering checking out? A quick search online will often help you find the RTP for that game. It’s worth giving it a shot to become a more educated player while also helping to find some better RTP alternatives for that next trip to the casino or when playing online.

Understanding the House Edge

As noted, slots come with a pretty large house edge. These aren’t games in which a player can tip the edge in their favor. Casinos generally aren’t in the business of losing money and designing casino games so that they win in the long run – that’s how the casinos make a profit, build fancy hotels, pay employees, etc.

However, some players do win, and some even score jackpots. If players never won, most wouldn’t bother visiting a casino at all. But the chance of winning and having some fun keeps players coming back.

Because of this, slots should be seen as entertainment. Don’t count on walking away a winner. Budget your funds accordingly and don’t wager money that you can’t afford to lose. You know the house has an edge on those slots before even taking that first spin. Consider a night out just a fun excursion with friends that may include the possibility of some winnings.

Those who don’t want to give up the house edge may not want to wager any real money at all. In that case, some free-play options are worth checking out. These offer the fun of spinning the reels without spending a single cent.

Dispelling Common Slot Machine Myths

Building on the idea that casinos have an advantage when it comes to slot play, there are a few myths that need to be dispelled when it comes to playing slots. First, as noted, you can’t turn the tables on the casinos and the house will always have an edge. This is just a fact to embrace and the RNG alone is what determines wins and losses. A few other myths of slot play include:

  • Hot & cold slots – Only the RNG determines whether a spin is a winner or a loser. Some slots may pay out back to back while at the same time going long periods without making any major payouts. The RNG alone delivers completely random payouts and not the whims of a machine.

  • Time matters – Some people believe slots pay out better at certain times of the day or on certain days of the week. This is also a fallacy and players don’t need to consult their watches, calendars, or mobile phones when trying to determine when to play. All payouts are random.

  • That’s my lucky machine – No it’s not. Many people think they have a “lucky” machine because the player may have won at a certain machine a couple of times. But this is all random and this winning player just happened to be in the right place at the right time. At other times, and probably eventually for this winner, the same machine may go a long time without rewarding any major payouts.

  • Slow turnarounds – Some may believe that once a machine has paid out a substantial amount the machine is programmed to go on a dry spell. The RNG still applies and the same machine could award another nice jackpot quickly or take a bit to pay out again. Remember, it’s all random.

There are no doubt other myths or beliefs players might have regarding slot payouts, but it’s important to remember that the odds are in the casino's favor and all payouts are random. That lucky rabbit foot may add some fun or nice mental vibes, but ultimately, everything is up to the random number generator.

Calculating Slot Machine Odds

Whether you’re a math genius or simply spinning some reels on a slot, having a general idea about the odds and probability of winning might offer some insight into the likelihood of winning. A simple examination of the general math involved offers a look at your chances. The Cullen College of Engineering at the University of Houston took a look at how the odds of a slot are calculated and how a casino grabs an edge.

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“Indeed, a patent granted to the Norwegian mathematician Inge Telnaes in 1984 transformed the gambling industry,” the study notes. “Prior to Telnaes' invention, slot machines were essentially mechanical devices. Besides being difficult to tune and maintain, mechanical slot machines suffered from an essential problem: Let's look at a machine with three reels, each with 12 symbols, with one of those 12 symbols being a cherry.

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“The likelihood of getting three cherries, and winning the jackpot, is 1 in 1,728. If the casino wants to make money, the jackpot payout should be, say $1,700 on a $1 bet. That does not seem attractive by today's standards. However, the only way to increase the payout is to decrease the chances of hitting a jackpot.”

This points to how the casino has an edge in payouts and further reduces the player’s chances of winning when adding jackpot payouts as well.

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“Adding another reel is a possibility,” the college adds. “For instance, adding a fourth reel in the previous example would get us to a jackpot of about $20,000. But people do not like machines with more reels — they intuitively, and rightfully, feel that extra reels diminish their chance of winning. Another possibility is to put more symbols on each reel. But the astronomical jackpots you see in casinos today would then require truly enormous machines.”

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Video slots now allow for even more reels and winning combinations, so the idea of adding extra reels may be a bit dated. However, the study is a great example of how casinos make their profits on slots and gain an advantage over players. As in most casino games, the house doesn’t pay out the true odds of a winning spin. Slots have now become the biggest drivers of casino revenue.

Those who want to check out the odds of winning based on their play and tendencies may want to use a slot calculator. These can calculate various variables to determine your odds of winning. Some of the data these calculators take into account include:

  • Bet per spin

  • Pace of play

  • Return to player

  • Bankroll

  • Volatility

Those looking to see their odds of winning on a certain slot can easily input all this information. For a nice user-friendly slot calculator, click here.

Strategies to Improve Your Odds

Now that you have an idea about the odds involved with playing slots, what can a player do to make for a more entertaining night out and help at least bring a better chance of winning? The first critical thing is to make sure you have the right bankroll to match the stakes you’d like to play.

Don’t wager above your head and see your bankroll spent too quickly. Higher-stakes slots may pay out at better odds, but it doesn’t matter if you don’t have any bankroll left to play. See more on responsible gaming below, but these ideas are also important to make your cash last longer. Here are a few other concepts to keep in mind.

  • Take regular breaks – This helps divide some of those sessions up and helps avoid draining your funds quickly.

  • Don’t be in a rush – Spinning too quickly, such as using autoplay, can drain your bankroll quickly as well. The slots aren’t going anywhere so chat with friends, grab a beverage, and enjoy the ambiance a bit.

  • Know when to fold’em – Just as Kenny Rogers sang in the classic poker song “The Gambler,” it’s important to know when enough is enough. Don’t throw good money after bad – and don’t go to the ATM. Live to fight another day.

  • Pick the right machines – Do some research and find a few machines with better RTPs. Stay on those machines for better odds at winning.

  • Play for free – Don't want to lose any money? Enjoy some of the fun, bonus games, cool graphics, and interesting themes by taking advantage of free-to-play slot platforms like Jackpot Party and QuickHitSlots.com for a chance at some fun with no real money on the line at all.

  • Pay attention to volatility – The concept of volatility can also make a difference when it comes to the odds of winning a slot. Slots with a low volatility pay out more often, but these may be smaller. Those who enjoy regular payouts and plenty of action may want to play these games. Higher volatility slots pay out larger sums but less often. These games often include progressive slots as well, paying out larger amounts but often requiring players to wager more per spin to qualify for these larger payouts.

The odds will never be in your favor when hitting the slots, but having a few strategies in mind may give you a better chance at winning. Make note of these concepts to make your bankroll last longer and hopefully rack up a few bucks.

Responsible Gambling Practices

As noted, playing slots responsibly is a major key when heading to a casino or when playing online. Here are a few signs that someone may have a problem with gambling:

  • Wagering money you can’t afford to lose.

  • Chasing losses with other bets.

  • Not being able to concentrate when not gambling.

  • A preoccupation with gambling and loss of interest in other hobbies or family.

  • Hiding the amount of money you’re betting or denying you have a problem.

  • Fractured relationships.

  • Stealing money to keep betting.

The good news is that there is help available. Many state gaming commissions also offer free counseling and services for those who think they might have a problem. Many countries and states also have problem gambling groups that can also help. There are many resources available for those who need some help and it’s worth checking them out.

Realistic Expectations and Enjoyment

As noted, the odds will be against you whether playing slots in a live casino or for real money online. It’s important to have reasonable expectations when playing. The house always has an edge and there’s nothing players can do to change that.

Therefore, think of slot play as a form of entertainment. Don’t expect to hit that seven-figure jackpot or even book a winning session every time you hit a casino. Instead, enjoy some of what the outing has to offer:

  1. Spending some time with friends.

  2. Enjoying some nice meals and drinks.

  3. Some quick relaxing fun when playing online (not to mention the savings of having to travel to a casino destination).

  4. Taking in other interesting activities and events while on a vacation, such as a day at the spa.

Another important thing to remember is not to give away a nice win back to the casinos. Hit a nice score? Put a big chunk of that in your pocket or the hotel safe and don’t get it back out to wager. Take a good win and enjoy some of that cash – those wins are too good to pass up.

When considering winnings, it’s also key to have limited expectations. Too often players are out seeking that giant score but perhaps have more modest goals. Instead of hoping for a 1,000% return, instead, shoot for a 10-25% win. When you reach that, try taking a break and enjoying those extra bucks in your pocket.

Step-by-Step Guide to Understanding Slot Machine Odds

Ready for a trip to the casino for some slot play or looking to play online, here are a few quick tips to remember.

  1. Set a bankroll and don’t go over it.

  2. Realize that the casino always has an edge.

  3. Players can’t tip the odds in their favor.

  4. Consider slots solely a form of entertainment.

  5. Set some winnings aside as you play.

  6. Research RTPs so that you’ll have the best odds of winning.

  7. Practice responsible gaming and don’t go to the ATM.

  8. Play slowly to make your bankroll last longer.

  9. Don’t play above your means even if higher-stakes games have better odds.

  10. Consider free-to-play options like Jackpot Party and QuickHitSlots.com

Slot machines can be a fun way to pass some time with a shot at some winnings along the way. Have fun but be smart and don’t overdo it.

Conclusion

Many gamblers love the idea of dropping a few bucks in a slot machine and seeing those reels spin. It can be a great way to spend some time with friends, and today’s slot manufacturers have designed games for almost every taste of interest.

However, unlike games like poker or counting cards in blackjack, the odds are always in the casino’s favor. There are some critical things players can do to make the experience more enjoyable and bring a better chance to win. Return to player (RTP) is a crucial figure that shows your chances of winning.

A machine's volatility also plays a role in how often some credits will hit your player bank. Take your time, make that bankroll last, gamble responsibly, and have modest expectations. A day at the casino or online for some slots can be a lot of fun.

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Sean Chaffin
Sean Chaffin

Sean Chaffin is a longtime freelance writer, editor, and former high school journalism teacher. He has covered the poker and gaming industry for many years.

Follow him on Twitter at @PokerTraditions.