Slot machines, for all of their glitz and glamour, are casino games with no real ‘winning strategy’. Unlike games such as poker and blackjack in which a proper application of a skill can increase your chances, slot machines are negative equity games. To put it in simpler terms, the probability of winning over the long term by playing slot machines isn’t great. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at probability as it relates to the one-armed bandit, particularly when it comes to making the most of your bankroll.
Achieving Consistent Returns with Slots
Having a winning night at the slot bank certainly isn’t impossible. The machines are controlled by random number generators that deliver random results on each and every spin. On any given day, you may be able to rake in some serious cash if you find favor with the RNG. However, this isn’t statistically probable. Short-term anomalies are the special sauce that makes slot machines so much fun. Sure, winning over the long-term is unlikely, but a jackpot in the next few spins is still a looming possibility. While small differences do exist, just keep in mind that, on average, slots make casinos money each and every month. In other words, players lose.
Playing Against the Edge
Now that we’ve established the presence of a house edge, the issue of why people play may spring to mind. The simple answer is that the thrill of the gamble is worth it to most people, even if they know or suspect that it’s a negative equity game. With a large sample size, players lose money. However, among that group, there are a collection of players who walked away with more money than they started with. Trying to join that group of players is what slot machines are all about.
Determining the House Edge
It’s often impossible to determine the exact house advantage on any particular machine. Instead, players must rely on publicly-available information, such as the regulated pay-out ranges in most states. In Nevada, for example, the gaming board states that slots must have a return to player of 73 percent, while Mississippi demands an 80 percent return. Generally, small denomination machines are much closer to this threshold than larger denomination machines. For that reason, it’s normally better to skip the penny and nickel slots if your bankroll allows.
There are plenty of myths dreamed up by slots players to make the house edge seem less insurmountable. Hot and cold cycles simply don’t exist. The random number generator is truly random, regardless of popular opinion to the contrary. Think of slots like flipping a coin. If you flip the coin 10 times and the first nine land on heads, what will the tenth flip land on? The odds are still 50/50, regardless of previous outcomes. Slots are exactly the same in that sense.