• Slot jackpots are a result of the game’s random number generator (RNG) and gameplay.

  • Players face extremely long odds in finding some of the game’s biggest payouts.

  • Casinos have a hefty house edge when it comes to slot machines.

  • There are two kinds of jackpots – progressive and fixed.

  • Higher RTP (return to player) benefits players.

  • Many modern games offer more than one way to trigger a jackpot.

While many slot players may think luck, time of day, and other notions may have something to do with scoring big on a slot machine, the truth is that jackpots are typically triggered by a combination of a game’s Random Number Generators (RNG) and specific game mechanics.

Most players would love to hit a massive jackpot and would also love to have a bit of control in making that happen. Seeing one of those six-, seven-, or eight-figure jackpots could be life-changing and bring up visions of new homes, cars, fancy clothes, fine cuisine, and expensive vacations. Those fantasies are part of the fun that comes with playing slots.

However, there’s not a lot players can do to make one of those extremely long-odds paydays head their way. The truth is that modern slots’ RNGs determine the results of a spin at random and there is not much you can do to overcome that – not using lucky charms, not playing at a certain time of day, not rubbing a part of the game cabinet for good luck, not looking for “hot” machines, and not trying to find just the “right” machine.

Chasing that jackpot can still be fun, however. Keep reading to learn more about what triggers a jackpot on today’s modern slots.

1 – The Role of Random Number Generators (RNG)

In the old days, before high-tech computer technology was involved in slot machine play, the result of a spin was determined by the mechanical reels and inner workings of the machine itself. The age of computers changed that.

Today’s slots make use of intricate software and technology that keeps all outcomes as close to random as possible by today’s technological standards. Even when a player isn’t on a machine, the RNG is still working, running millions of possible outcomes. Simply put, the RNG is the brains of the slot’s operations to produce random results. How exactly does this work?

“Inside the slot machine is a microprocessor similar to the one in your home computer. Instead of running Word or Excel, it runs a special program, the RNG, that generates numbers to correspond to the symbols on the reel of the slot machine,” notes.

“You might say that the RNG is in perpetual motion. As long as the machine has power, it is constantly selecting random numbers every millisecond. The RNG generates a value between 0 and 4 billion (approximately), which is then translated into a specific set of numbers to correspond to the symbols on the reels. The outcome of each spin is determined by the number selected by the RNG. This number is chosen when you hit the spin button or deposit a coin.”

The RNG ensures a game’s fairness and unpredictability. Players don’t have to be worried about a game being rigged or trying to “time” a machine that might be “ready” to pay out.

And while there isn’t any way to make sure you win a jackpot, players can manage their bankrolls and select games that are at least more likely to deliver winning sessions. Knowing how the outcomes are determined on a slot should ease reservations about how machines pay out and make the playing experience more enjoyable.

2 – Different Ways Jackpots are Triggered

Jackpots can be found in various ways and most players would be pleased to see any of them show up. How a game pays out a jackpot varies by the gameplay and other features. Here are three of the main ways that jackpots show up:

  • Specific symbol alignments – This is the most common way to be awarded a jackpot. Finding certain symbol combinations can award varying payouts. Finding the most rare symbol combinations can trigger the largest jackpot payouts. On Cirque Du Soleil Amaluna, revealing 11 or more Amaluna jackpot scatter symbols can register some of the progressive payouts.

  • Random triggers on any spin – Some games also feature completely random jackpot payouts. These can be of various sizes and may be handed out when a certain symbol appears on the reels or when a player accomplishes a certain accomplishment. For example, on Dancing Drums Prosperity, finding the Red Envelope bonus can randomly bring players a nice jackpot of up to 3,888 credits.

  • Bonus games or minigames – These have become some of the most popular features in today’s slot games. From bonus wheels to pick’em games to free spins, players love these extras that bring some different dynamics to the traditional slot gameplay. Some of these bonus games can also lead to jackpots as well. For example, in Epic Monopoly II, players who find three or more scatter symbols will trigger the bonus wheel feature. When making that spin, players can win several prizes, including a jackpot worth 500x the wager.

Most games now offer multiple ways to win some of that big money. 

3 – Progressive vs. Fixed Jackpots

Most slots offer players two different types of jackpots:

  • Progressive jackpots – The progressive jackpot pool continues to grow as more players drop money in the machines. These can pay out millions of dollars and most usually feature smaller payouts that can still be large, but not the biggest jackpots.

  • Fixed jackpots – Other games not featuring progressive payouts may feature predetermined payouts that pay out when finding certain combinations on the machine. There can be several tiers of these payouts and they often include fixed dollar amounts or predetermined multipliers that base the fixed jackpot on the number of credits a player has wagered.

Choosing which type of game depends on a player’s own choices as well as the player’s bankroll.

4 – Key Factors Influencing Jackpot Wins

While players can’t make a jackpot just happen, there are a few things to keep in mind that may at least give you a better chance to hit one of these bigger payouts, including:

  • Return to Player (RTP) – This is the percentage of money wagering in a casino or grouping of slot machines (such as penny slots or high-limit slots) that a casino pays back out to players. For example, a property or slot machine paying out 91 cents of every dollar wagered has an RTP of 91%. 

  • Slot volatility (also known as variance) – Volatility is associated with the risk-to-reward factors of playing slots. A game with high volatility pays out less often but rewards higher payouts when the game does register a payout. A low-volatility game may reward payouts more often while also rewarding in smaller amounts because of that.

When it comes to this first concept, games with a higher RTP offer players a better chance of winning a jackpot because the casino or slot is paying more money back out to players. A good RTP for live casinos can be 90% or more, while online casinos may see these percentages rise as high as 98-99%. Additionally, here’s a look at how slot volatility affects the slot experience.

High volatility

Low volatility

Payout and jackpot frequency

Less frequent

More regular payouts

Amount paid out

High payouts, including potential progressive jackpots.

Mostly lower


Higher limits generally

Generally lower


Larger bankroll because often higher stakes

Lower bankrolls because payouts are regular

Take your pick and enjoy our incredible slots below:

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5 – Debunking Slot Machine Myths

Through the years, slot players have embraced some interesting beliefs about their favorite games and how they affect winning. Most of these are myths, and here’s a quick look at a few of them:

  • Slots can be “hot “ and “cold.”

  • Casinos control payouts and rig games against players.

  • Some times of day or week are better for winning.

  • Certain machines are “ready” to pay out.

  • Playing the “max” allows more chances to win.

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All of these notions are false. Payouts are solely based on the game’s RNG – whether playing in a live casino or online. Casinos don’t manipulate games to work against players, they just merely configure an overall RTP. Disavowing some of these slot machine myths will help players understand some key aspects of winnings at slots.

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6 – Suggestions for Optimizing Jackpot Slots Play

While players can’t directly affect which symbols show up, there are some strategies to keep in mind to hopefully book some winning sessions over the long hall, including:

  • Play within your bankroll, and don’t feel you have to bet higher limits.

  • Take your time – making your money last longer can be beneficial.

  • Set a budget and stick to it – avoid visiting the ATMs.

  • Take breaks, especially if you experience a losing session.

  • Play free online slots to learn how to play or simply to have some fun without spending a dime.

Take some practical steps when targeting jackpots and also stay within certain limits, making sure your gambling budget doesn’t explode in the first hour.

7 – Maintaining Realistic Expectations and Responsible Gaming

Thinking you’re going to walk into a casino and score a massive progressive jackpot isn’t realistic. But having some hopes of a winning session isn’t out of the realm of possibility, even though casinos have a hefty house edge.

Short-term wins are indeed possible as long as players are willing to get up and cash out with some profits. Here are a few ideas to remember when it comes to realistic expectations and responsible gambling:

  • Don’t wager money that is needed for other bills or necessities.

  • Don’t chase losses.

  • Accept small wins. Looking for massive jackpots can come with considerable losses.

  • Recognize if you have a problem with staying in control and seek help if needed.

  • Understand that the casinos do indeed have an advantage, and overcoming that can come with some long odds.

8 – Conclusion

Winning a jackpot attracts many players to slot machines. Whether a major progressive payout or a fixed jackpot, these can pay out significant sums—sometimes even life-changing amounts. But casinos have a high house edge, and winning those massive jackpot sums is extremely rare.

Playing smart and making considerations for RTP, volatility, bankroll management, and responsible gaming practices are critical in enjoying these games and having a shot at the jackpot.

9 – Frequently Asked Questions

How are jackpots paid out on a slot machine?

Whether in a live casino or playing online, the random number generator (RNG) controls the result of every spin of the reels. Nothing a player does will change that.

Are some slots “hot” and “cold” when handing out payouts or jackpots?

The RNG solely controls payouts and these types of beliefs as well as others, such as certain times of day being better for winning, are myths.

Can casinos rig the slots?

No, casinos simply determine how much overall to pay back to players. The house simply takes a percentage of the overall amount wagered on the machines. This is called RTP (return to player) and is the percentage of money wagered that is returned to players.

How can players benefit from knowing a game or casino’s RTP?

A higher RTP means more money is being paid back to players. So the higher the percentage, the better chance of finding some winnings. However, it’s important to note casinos still have a big house edge.

Why would someone want to play free-to-play online slots?

These games offer plenty of fun as well as a way to learn about gameplay and determine which games interest you. There are numerous game and theme options, and players don’t have to worry about risking any money.

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.