Slots - Slot Strategies
You're welcome! In an 8/5 game, the jackpot would have to reach 37,704 coins to reach 100%, assuming you have to play 20 coins to win it. Assuming only 8 coins, the meter would have to reach 15,082 coins. On a 7/5 machine and 20 coins required the meter would have to reach, 46,956 coins. These figures assume you are playing the proper strategy for these pay tables with a per coin payoff for a royal flush of 800. As the jackpot grows some strategy adjustments are called for to more aggressively try for the royal. These adjustments were not calculated in this answer. It doesn't make any difference what the coinage is.
Scott from Leawood, USA
Each frame in these video slots is weighted equally. Any given line is equally likely to produce any given combination. Thus, the return is the same regardless of the number of coins played.
Bryan from Palmdale, USA
Thanks for the kind words. I have barely heard of teams of slot players doing this. However, this is very common with progressive video poker players. There are teams of these professional players who routinely check the meters and when they find one high enough they call their teammates in an attempt to monopolize the machines until somebody hits the jackpot.
The problem with slots is that it is not clear to the player what the odds are of hitting the jackpot so it is not obvious what the jackpot size has to reach for the machine to become profitable. Plus, it probably rarely happens that a meter gets high enough to overcome the house edge.
Calvin from Long Beach, USA
If the odds against something are 4 to 1 then there are 4 chances it won't happen and one chance that it will. So, in this example, the probability would be 1/5. It doesn't matter what the probability is, if the events are independent then the past does not matter.
Gene from Laguna, USA
None of these factors matter. Walk away when you're not having fun any longer.
Ken from Naperville, Illinois
For variable-state slots, you have to know what the positive point is for that model of machine. For example, on the Piggy Bankin' slot machine, I think it becomes positive when there are about 40 credits in the bank. At that point the player is supposed to play one coin at a time until the bank is hit. The book Robbing the One-Armed Bandits by Charles Lund (1999) covers specific positive points for various machines, however many of the machines covered in that book are now hard to find.
As for how to determine when a progressive jackpot is unusually high, you'll either have to observe it over a long period of time or find someone who has done the same. For example, SlotCharts.com keeps data on progressive slots at online casinos. But even when a progressive slot is unusually high, it's impossible to know at what point it becomes high enough to be a positive-expectation game without knowing how the probabilities on the machine are programmed. In my section Deconstructing Megabucks I attempt to figure out when the jackpot is large enough to have a player advantage.
Update: Since this question was published, SlotCharts.com is blocked to U.S. traffic.
Thanks. This is a good question and I wish I had a firm answer. The exact answer depends on the theoretical return of both machines, and nobody ever reveals this information. Yes, you do get a better return in general on dollar machines than quarters, but you are giving up the max-coin bonus. I think the house edge will do down about 2% making the jump from quarters to dollars. However, without reel weightings, I can't tell you the cost of not playing max coins. My general advice is to find a slot machine without a max-coin incentive and then bet one coin at a time.
Gil from Saint Petersburg
You’re right, the mathematical answer is that it doesn’t matter. I would choose the machine either randomly or based on environmental factors. My highest priority is that if there were any smokers in the vicinity I would sit as far from them as possible. Otherwise I would distance myself from any loud noises, including other players. If the machines were crowded I would pick an aisle machine, giving me a little more elbow room and one less neighbor.
Lori from Allentown, USA
I believe that most online slots have a fixed return, regardless of the coinage. This is unlike slots in real casinos, which return more the greater the coinage. What you should do depends on your priorities. If you want playing longevity then you should play as little as possible per spin. If you want hope for a big win then you should play as much as possible per spin. However the house edge is likely the same either way.
Darin from Iroquois, Canada
No. If your goal is a small win then you should be playing low volatility, high hit frequency games. I can’t suggest any particular games but look for ones with comparatively small jackpots. These will also help you to play longer.
David from Peachland, North Carolina
I’ve been asked about these North Carolina slot machines so many times I’m tempted to fly there just to see them for myself. Yes, if they did give the probability of each symbol for each reel then an optimal strategy and a return could be fairly easily calculated. However I have never actually seen such a table and have never worked out the odds.
The odds are exactly the same on a one line, 10 line, and n-line video poker machine. When you get a trash hand in 100-play you can expect to get about 36% of your original bet back. In 10-play it is still 36% but there is more volatility. In 1 play it is still 36% but you can get lucky and get a high paying hand on the draw. In other words you are more likely to hit it big on the draw in single play, but at the expense of lots more non-paying hands.
For purposes of determining the game outcome the slot machine does not consider how many lines you bet or how much per line. The only thing that matters is the exact nanosecond you pressed the spin button. Random numbers drawn at exactly that time will determine the outcome, since the machine is picking numbers even when you’re not playing.
1st place: $1,000,000
2nd place: $150,000
3rd-6th place: $25,000
7th-8th place: $20,000
9th-50th place: $5,000
The cost is $25,000, and the tournament is limited to 50 players. It is easy to see the expected win is $30,000. However, it is a huge long-shot. What would be the required bankroll for entry to be a sound bet under the Kelly Criterion?
The Kelly Approximation is the advantage divided by the variance. The possible outcomes are a win of 39, 5, 0, -0.2, and -0.8 times the bet amount. The advantage is (1/50)×39 + (1/50)×5 + (4/50)×0 + (2/50)× -0.2 + (42/50)×-0.8 = 0.2.
The variance is Expected(win2) - (Expected(win))2 = (1/50)×392 + (1/50)×52 + (4/50)×02 + (2/50)× -0.22 + (42/50)×-0.82 − 0.22 = 31.4192
So, the approximate optimal Kelly bet is 0.2/31.492 = 0.0063655 times the bankroll. For a full entry of $25,000, the required bankroll would have to be 25,000/0.0063655 = $3,927,400.
However, for large bets like this, I think it is worth the time to find the exact optimal Kelly bet. Next, find the bet size b, which maximizes the expected log of the bankroll after the tournament, as follows.
Log of bankroll after tournament = (1/50)*log(1+39×b) + (1/50)*log(1+5×b) + (4/50)*log(1) + (2/50)*log(1-0.2×b) + (42/50)*log(1-0.8×b)
There is no easy way to solve for b. Personally, I recommend the "Goal Seek" feature in Excel. The answer will come out to 0.0083418. So, the exact Kelly bet should be 0.0083418 times your bankroll. To justify the $25,000 entry fee, your bankroll should be $25,000/0.0083418 = $2,996,937.
1. Does this take into account the unknown house edge on the slot machines?
2. What would be the playing strategy for the best overall return? Could you just sit back and not gamble, and hope that the other 49 players all end up behind, while you break even and take the grand prize of $1,000,000?
Gray C. from Silicon Valley, CA
Slot tournaments are always held on dedicated tournament machines. Usually these machines don’t accept bets, so your balance will either stay even or go up, after each play. So it doesn’t make any difference what the return is; the more you play, the more you can expect your balance to go up. Even if you had to play conventional slot machines, I would still bet as fast as possible, stopping only if I got a jackpot large enough to likely win the tournament. The reason is that it is very unlikely that 49 out of 49 players would be negative.
Interestingly, there was once a slot tournament at Caesars Palace where they gave a prize to the person who finished last. However, they didn’t announce this rule until the award ceremony. If you somehow knew of such a rule, indeed, it might be best to not bet.
Scott from Albuquerque
I would play once on a $5 three-reel single-line game. Win or lose, walk away after one spin.