Slot machine secrets casinos don't want you to know

  • Bonus rounds are one of the best features that many slot machines have, and they offer free spins and sometimes even a jackpot.
  • You can maximize your winnings by using casino rewards programs, playing at lower denominations, and using bonuses.
  • Some slot machines even tell you when a jackpot is near, giving you the best chance at winning big money.
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Slot machines are the most popular game in any casino or online, and there’s just so much to love about them. They’re easy to play, they’re exciting and they've made lots of people millionaires over the years.

That said, did you know there are ways to win more frequently? Or perhaps reduce the amount you spend while playing? I’m going to be the slave and do all the hard work for you, by searching through some great secrets for playing slot machines.

I’m sure casinos would prefer to keep these trade secrets under wraps, but hey, let’s share with each other, right? If you already knew some of these, well done! It probably means you are a very good slot machine player. If not, get practicing and watch your winnings climb higher and higher.

All Jackpots After a Certain Amount

Did you know that some slot machines will pay out larger jackpots after a certain amount has been paid out from the machine? This might sound like it’s too good to be true, but it’s actually fact.

On average, around 80-98% of the money that is put into a slot machine needs to be given back to players as winnings. However, the real percentage changes from state to state. That means that the casino has less than 20% profit on that machine.

However, there are multiple denominations for slot machines, which means there are multiple sizes for machines. For example, a quarter machine would accept dollars, meaning it would need to payout like an 25 cent machine.

What many of you may not know is that once a quarter slot machine has paid out around $192 it will pay out in dollars. That means instead of a jackpot of 400 quarters (which would be quite heavy), it will give out a lighter prize, possibly even a non-quantity prize, like “Lucky” written on a piece of paper.

So next time you lose and feel like walking away, stay a little longer, as the prize could be just around the corner... in dollar form.

Loose Slots in Specific Areas of a Casino

Have you ever wondered why casinos don’t have slot machines facing the doors? It’s because they’d be smashed to pieces as soon as someone lost on one!

Jokes aside, there is method behind the madness when it comes to where a casino puts their loose slots. As a general rule, most casinos have their loose slots either:

  • By the door entries
  • Near the most popular games
  • In the middle of aisles

The reason why casinos do this is because they want people who are new, or who have a friend playing a different game, to have a quick spin on the slots.

If someone was to go straight for the tight slots, they likely wouldn’t win anything and would be annoyed/frustrated/angry that they lost. Instead, by letting them win (or at least not lose) on a loose slot, there’s a greater chance they’ll play again, or for longer.

This theory doesn't mean that all slots within these areas will payout more or payout more frequently. What it does mean though, is that you are more likely to find a 'loose' slot here rather than in less populated areas.

Another thing worth noting is that casinos tend to have their highest paying progressive slot machines online, rather than on their casino floor. This allows them to payout without being publicly seen, unlike if it were on the casino floor, where hundreds of people would see the progressive jackpot being won.

Bonus Rounds Are Your Friend

Almost all slot machines nowadays come with unique features and bonus rounds that enhance your playing experience, and more importantly, increase your chances of winning big money.

One of the best features that many slot machines have is the ‘pick me up’ feature, typically found in their logo or some other symbol that appears quite frequently.

When you get three of these symbols, you’ll be taken to another screen where you will have the opportunity to pick from the remaining symbols. Each one will reveal a cash amount, with one being a jackpot amount. Typically you have to pick three in order to get the jackpot, but this can vary from game to game.

These kinds of slots cost no more to play than a ‘normal’ slot machine, but give you the chance of winning big money. The picture below shows the bonus round on the Phantom Of The Opera slot machine.

Some machines will also show a wheel similar to what is found at a golf tournament when they have a hole in one competition. Just like the golf wheel, the slot machine version will spin around and stop on a cash prize, which you then win.

Free Spins are yet another bonus feature that many slot machines have. These are just like playing a normal spin, except the casino pays for it. Sometimes these free spins come with a multiplier, which is definitely a bonus (no pun intended). A multiplier simply means that whatever you win from your free spins, the amount is then multiplied by a number (e.g. X3, X5 etc.)

Re-spins are becoming more common now, especially with the rise of penny slots. These allow you to re-spin just one or two reels, which gives you a better chance of winning, although you will have to pay extra per re-spin. For example, the re-spin may cost you double the amount of the original spin.

Progressive slots are always fun to play as the jackpot can reach unbelievable amounts. Some jackpots have reached over $3million before! Although your chances of winning are pretty slim, it only takes one win to scoop the lot. Plus, several lucky winners hit smaller portions of the jackpot on a regular basis and walk away very happy indeed.

You will usually find that progressive slots look a bit different to standard ones. They might have flashing lights or bright colors to attract you in, or even a screen showing you how close the jackpot is to capping. Speaking of which…

You Can Tell How Close a Progressive Jackpot Is

Ever watched the women’s shoe size in Hitch and marvel at the obsession of counting down the seconds until Jimmy Tarlington makes his move? One woman even comments on how she knows the exact second it will happen. While she seems a little obsessed, her ability isn’t too dissimilar to what can be done with progressive jackpots.

Now, you likely aren’t going to be able to tell the second that a progressive jackpot is going to be won, unless of course you have a timer implanted in your brain. But what you can do is roughly guess when a jackpot is going to be won, and at its highest.

Most slot machines that have progressive jackpots will show you two things:

  • The amount it was just before the casino opened.
  • The hour the casino reset.

For example, let’s say the slot machine reset at 10am, and you joined at 7pm. That means the machine has been running for 11 hours. Most slot machines will need to pay around 80% of their earnings back to players, and a jackpotResets at 3am every day. So let’s assume 80% of the earnings is $1,000, and the reset amount is $5,000. That means the jackpot reaches $6,000.

We know that the machine has been running for 11 hours, which means the jackpot is $555.55 an hour ($6,000/$10.8).

This means that the later in the day you play, the more likely the jackpot is going to be won, and the bigger it will be. In our example, just eight hours after we last saw the machine (at 9pm), it would have reached its limit of $3,000 ($5,000 – $2,000).

It’s worth pointing out that progressives aren’t seeded at a specific time of the day/night, this varies from casino to casino, and sometimes from machine to machine.

However, the earlier the seed is, the more it will reset for. Going back to our example, had the seed been at midday, it may only have reset to $3,500 rather than $5,000. In this situation the latest in the day you played, the less likelihood there would be of winning the max jackpot amount.

Play at Lower Denominations

Playing at lower denominations is wiser than playing at higher denominations. Let me explain.

Casinos don’t make huge profits from people playing at quarter machines. In fact, they have to pay out a fairly large percentage of their money back to quarter players. This is why when a quarter machine pays out, it seems like it pays out far more often, and for higher amounts.

Dollar machines, on the hand, take more money per spin, and therefore can afford to pay out less. This doesn’t mean they pay out less frequently though!

However, there is a catch. Dollar machines pay out a far larger amount when they win, which is what most people play for.

So, my advice to you would be to play at quarter machines, but feed them dollar bills. Not only will the casino think you are a small stake player (and pay you accordingly), but you’ll avoid having to carry around tons of change. Winning combinations will be paid out in dollar amounts, which could potentially lead to you walking away while the machine is ‘on fire’.

It’s a win-win situation really; you get to play on dollar machines without having to suffer fewer wins, and the casino thinks you’re a small stake player.

Casino Rewards Cards Can Be Very Beneficial

Nearly all casinos have a rewards card. These are normally free, and can save you huge amounts of money. Basically, they work like this:

You insert your card into the slot machine when you sit down to play. When you finish playing, you take the card. Whatever you won before you inserted the card, is TAXED ON THAT AMOUNT!

Let’s say you won $100 prior to putting the card in, and then lost $50 when playing, leaving you with a final balance of $50. Without using the rewards card, you would get nothing from the machine, due to losing more than you won.

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However, if you used the rewards card, you would get the full $100 paid out, but taxed on that amount. Tax rates vary between states, but typically range from 0% (which is what you want) up to 10%. So providing your state has a low tax rate, you could save a bunch of money by using the rewards cards.

Of course the more you play, the more points you earn, which can then be exchanged for money off buffets, shops, and free play on slot machines.

There’s not much more to say about rewards cards other than sign up for them! 

Newer Slots Have Worse Odds

Newer slots generally have worse odds compared to older ones, purely because they need to make their money back.

Think about it like this: if you were releasing a product onto the market, would you sell it at a loss for the first few weeks so that people got used to it, or would you sell it at a price that made you a profit?

Obviously, the latter.

Casinos are much the same. Sure, they might do some sort of promotion to get people playing the slot initially, but eventually they want to make a profit. And the way they are going to do that is by making you lose more frequently or in larger quantities, at least until they’ve made their money back.

Older slots, assuming they are still popular, will likely make the casino more money. This is because they know how often it pays out, and how much it pays out for. They can then use trade secrets like “when does a jackpot get bigger” to help increase the pot even further.

My advice would be to stay away from brand new slot machines, and instead opt for those that have been around for six months or more. There will be plenty of new ones to try when the novelty has worn off!

Of course, this doesn’t mean that the older slot machines will be easier to win than the newer ones. It just means the casino has reached their goal of making back what they spent developing it.

You Get More Playing Time Online

It’s a fact; you get way more playing time on a slot machine online than you do live at a casino. I don’t want to turn this into a debate about whether online casinos are better than land based casinos, or vice versa, but the numbers speak for themselves.

In most cases you get around 200 spins per hour online, compared to just 100 live at a casino.

Given the law of large numbers, the more spins you get, the closer you are going to get to the expected value of that slot machine. This means that over a long period of time, you are more likely to see the true results of a slot machine live at a casino, compared to having 50% more spins online.

It’s worth noting here that this doesn’t mean you are going to win more money online, because the expected value is likely to be higher on a slot machine live at a casino. But you have more opportunities to win—or lose—online.

Slot Machines Have a Life Expectancy

A slot machine typically has a life expectancy of around four years before they either get moved to a different location or replaced entirely.

I mentioned earlier in the article how you can kind of tell when a progressive jackpot is going to be won, and this links in perfectly with the life expectancy of a slot machine.

Remember how I said the machine resets every 3am and it runs for 16 hours before it closes at 9pm? Well, let’s fast forward to that fourth year and imagine it’s now been five years since it was released. That means the machine has been running for 18 hours before it closes, meaning the jackpot will be reached much sooner (at around 2pm).

Casinos are business, and they want to make as much money as possible, as quickly as possible. Because of this, they aren’t going to wait around for people to slowly win small amounts of money on an old machine when they can replace it with a new one that will make them more money, more quickly.

Knowing this should hopefully help you determine when a jackpot is going to be won. Again, it likely won’t be the main jackpot, but more so the secondary and tertiary ones.

Finding Sheet Poker Machines

“Sheet poker” is where you can see other people’s lips moving as they yell “HEARTS!” at the top of their voice, hoping to hit a big jackpot on a bank of slot machines.

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I’m sure we’ve all seen it before; someone starts shouting out what card or symbol is coming up next on the slot machine, and suddenly everyone around them is winning. But as soon as they get up to leave, the machines go back to eating everyone’s money.

It turns out there is actually some truth to sheet poker. Essentially what is happening is that the person shouting instructions has worked out most of the symbols on the reels of the slot machines, merely by playing them regularly. They essentially become a memory game, where you learn where everything is.

Sheets for most slot machines sell online for around $5. So if if helps you decide whether it is worthwhile or not.

People Really Do Win Big Money on Slot Machines

I think it’s fair to say that most people who play slot machines hope to win big money. The majority of us are only dreaming, but that dream can in fact become a reality.

Take for example, Cynthia Jay-Brennan, a former cocktail waitress who won $34.9million on a Megabucks slot machine. She donated a considerable amount of her winnings to charities, started her own charity called The Cynthia Jen-Brennan Foundation, and bought a new house for her and her husband. She even set up a scholarship fund at the University of Las Vegas.

There are countless stories like this, and although they seem few and far between, the chances of winning a life changing amount of money are actually pretty high. This is because of how the works.

Basically, the odds of winning the jackpot on Megabucks is stated as being 1 in 16.7million. Whilst this is technically correct, it gives people the impression that it will take 16.7million goes to get a win.

However, it’s not like buying lottery tickets, where you have the same chance of winning with ticket one as you do with ticket ten million. Instead, each spin of a Megabucks slot machine is a completely new draw, with the same chance of winning as the previous one—and the next one.

To put it into context, if there were a hundred people waiting to play the slot machine, and each of those hundred people had their own golden envelope containing the winning combination, would you think it unlikely for all one hundred people to win the jackpot?

Probably. But that’s exactly what would happen if a hundred people all spun the Megabucks slot machine around the same time.

There will typically be at least one Megabucks slot machine in most casinos dotted around the city. You can learn a whole load more about the Megabucks slot machine here, including videos of big winners.

Does Hitting the Jackpot on One Machine Mean Another One is About to be Won Elsewhere?

You might think this to be true, but it’s actually extremely rare.

Megabucks is linked across the state it is played in. For example, if you are playing in Las Vegas, the jackpot will include all other Megabucks slot machines in Las Vegas. Some states even link to other states.

What happens is that when someone hits the jackpot, 15 of the symbols on the reels change, and a new jackpot is formed.

It’s important to note that only 15 of the symbols change. This means that the odds of winning the jackpot haven’t actually changed, it’s just the actual jackpot amount. Technically, the person who follows the initial winner could have the exact same symbols that they had, which would result in another jackpot being awarded.

However, there have been numerous stories of people winning almost immediately after someone else, suggesting that it is possible to trigger a second jackpot within a short space of time.

Play the Slots Before They Become Popular

Everyone wants to play the slot that everyone else is playing. Why? Because everyone else is playing it! There’s method behind the madness of course; it’s likely they’ve had some success on it previously.

But the trouble with playing a popular slot is that whichever one you play, you’re likely going to pay more to play, plus the odds are stacked against you. And let’s not forget the physical danger of getting elbowed in the face by the fat chap with the greasy hair who keeps spluttering his beer all over you.

By playing a slot before it becomes popular, you lock in the same odds, and typically lower costs thanks to the rewards card. Yeah yeah, I know Fatty McBeerFace locks in the same odds, but his costs are through the roof!

Don’t get me wrong, popular slots do payout more frequently, if only to justify the amount of people playing on them. But you are also competing against a lot more people. If Fatty McBeerFace is spending $100 and you’re spending $50, he’s only needing to win once every 50/150 (if we assume his odds have gone against him) to make back his money and continue profiting, whereas you’re going to need to win twice.

You Might as Well Play the Ones with Jackpots You Can’t Afford

I recently read a great quote which basically said: "You might as well play the slot machines with the progressive jackpots you can’t afford, because by the time it gets to a level you can afford, it’ll already have been won."

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At the start of every week, I like to visit the local casino and play a few hands of blackjack. I tend to start on a progressive jackpot for blackjack dealers, which typically starts at $25,000. Now I certainly can’t afford that jackpot. Even if I turned my entire £500 bankroll into the dealer jackpot, it would only increase my share by a mere 0.02%, and I would have 200x more ways to win.

However, if I were to visit the casino the following Friday, and the jackpot had climbed to $35,000, but has now been increased by just $2,000 from my previous visit, it would now be more worthwhile attempting to crack. Granted, I would still only have a 0.24% chance of winning compared to the 0.02% the previous week, but the difference is substantial enough to warrant an attempt - especially considering I now have the same chances as the thousands of others who visited throughout the week.

Ultimately, this approach won’t work for the megabuck style machines, simply because by the time they’re an affordable amount, they’re highly likely to have gone already. Instead, it’s probably more beneficial targeting the smaller progressive jackpots that reset every few minutes.

Are Casinos Allowed to Limit How Much You Win?

Believe it or not, casinos are allowed to limit the amount you can win on a slot machine. And by a certain percentage.

Each state decides how much a slot machine can be limited by. The lowest is set at 75%, which means regardless how much you feed into the machine, it will only pay out 25c on the dollar. Any returns above this amount are paid out in a jackpot.

This is why you will often see slot machines in these states with massive progressive jackpots, because people are unable to win regularly. Whenever anyone does hit the jackpot, they literally could win hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

Should I Cash Out When I Are A Profit?

Absolutely! This is a trap many of us fall into - carrying on and playing with profits, only to end up starting from scratch or, worse, being left with losses.

Sure, it can be tempting to carry on playing, especially when you think "I can make this much more!" Unfortunately it doesn't always work out this way, and nine times out of ten, you're going to end up losing everything and then some.

Next time you're in profit, cash out and either call it a day or reinvest your winnings for a shot at an even bigger bankroll.

Make Use of Casino Buffet Discounts

Many casinos will give you discounts to eat at their buffets based upon how much you play / how many rewards cards you have. This can save you a ton of money, especially if you plan on going all inclusive.

Personally I don't eat a lot so paying the breakfast buffet price of $8 including tip seems a bit steep. But if if you can get that down to $2 or $3 each then that's great. If you're on a trip with friends or family, the savings mount up considerably.

Play Slots During the Day - Not at Night!

Generally speaking, you're more likely to be preyed upon at night. Alcohol impairs your judgement, and you're clearly not at your most alert.

Casinos know that most people visit during the evening / night, so they cater for this. They don't care if you win or lose, they just want you to part with as much of your money as possible. If that means tricking you into thinking a slot machine is looser during the night, so be it.

Personally I only ever play during the day. Yes I might get slightly bored, but the chances of something bad happening are greatly reduced.

Never Leave a Hot Slot

Okay, so maybe don’t litter. But if you see a slot that has been paying out consistently whilst you’ve been walking past, make sure you bum it as soon as possible. Literally.

Just like how a progressive jackpot resets at crazy hours in the morning, so does a “hot slot.” However, with a hot slot, the adjustor who balances the machine will come along and reset it whenever the casino shuts. This could be anywhere from 2am - 10am, depending on how long the casino is open for.

The problem with a hot slot is that when the adjustor resets it, it will more than likely seed at a much higher amount than it was on when you last saw it. Remember how they seed? Here’s a quick recap:

  • A quarter machine seeds at 8am, having paid out heavily the night before 
  • It seeds at $100

Let’s say when you last saw it, the quarter counter was at 200, and you remember it cost $25 a time. That means since you last saw it at 11pm yesterday, it has paid out 80 quarters (at $25 a time), costing the machine $2,000 and taking the total quarter counter to 280 and the balance to $1,000.

At 8am this morning, the quarter counter resets to 0, seeding at $1,000. So for the first 175 quarters (at $25 a time), the machine will only be paying out what people put in. At 200 quarters, it will begin to pay out profits.

Compare that to if you sat on the machine at midnight last night, and continued playing until 8am. At 200 quarters, the machine would start going into the red.

Of course the harder part here is remembering which machine it is. A good way to remember is to see how many coins are in the tray, multiply that by the value per coin, and write it down. That way, you know whether or not it’s in profit when you return.

The Best Time to Play Slots is During the Day!

You’re more likely to be offered free drink during the evening / night, and let’s face it, drunk people are more inclined to gamble, regardless of how stupid the bet is.

Casinos are well aware of this and capitalize massively. It’s not unusual for them to subtly (and sometimes not so subtlety) water down your drinks, encouraging you to spend more money. Think about how much sense that new bet makes when you're sober the following day.

On a side note, never drive/drunk/anything other than sober to/from/around a casino. Blackjack, roulette, and slot machines are pointless if you kick the bucket because of a drunk driving accident or similar. Please stay safe.

Avoid “Looser” Slots

Denise Coelho, Administrator of the Arizona Department of Gaming, states that „All of the machines inside the casino are very tight. Nobody gets a better machine.“

So there you have it. The person at either side of you playing the same game shouldn't be winning every spin, whilst you get zeros. If this is happening, it's either a) a progressively hot slot or b) a very cold streak.

If it's the former, the slot will seed when the casino closes. If it's the latter, it will turn luckily. There's no telling when this will be, but rest assured that every machine has the same odds.

Learn How to Use a Time Machine

Just kidding. That’s impossible. But knowing when a slot machine was produced is useful in determining when the jackpot will be paid out.

As we’ve already discussed, slot machines can payout more frequently, thereby justifying the amount of people playing on them. And let’s not forget the sheer amount of players that will be contributing to the jackpot itself.

Brand new machines don’t have this. Sure, a couple of them might have been placed around the casino, but more times than not the majority of new releases are locked away in a back room that even Hermione Granger couldn’t figure out how to enter.

Assuming there aren’t thousands of people queuing to play the new release, the only two options are that it’s not worth playing, or it has already paid out one, if not both jackpots.

Avoid Stickering Slots

If a slot machine is covered in gummy bear stickers, snow white princess stickers, or even worse, Sharpie Ppen-me stick figures, avoid it like the plague.

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Children - and lets face it, most adults - LOVE sticking stuff onto things. Whether its glitter (the devil's exfoliant), slime, sticky notes or pens, kids adore covering everything in sight. And casinos know this.

They'll often let school groups come in to "appreciate" the slots.

Don't play them. Unless you enjoy sharing your machine with rudolph the red nosed reindeer and his eighty legged friend, or have a strange inclination to marrying stranger after sweaty stranger, you should give decorating slots a wide berth.

Wrapping It All Up

So there you have it. Twenty one ways to improve your slot game. I'm willing to bet a year's supply of lemon heads that you had no idea about even half of these tricks, but now you've got them all under your belt, it's time to head down to the local casino and put them into practice.

Maybe leave the lemon heads at home though. They're bloody horrible.

Do you know any slot machine secrets? Maybe something we've missed? Let us know in the comment section below!

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