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Last Updated: March 29, 2017

Deconstructing Lion's Share


Lion's Share was a three-reel progressive slot machine found at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Given how old the machine is, and the high rate of turnover in the gaming business, nobody seems to know for sure the history of the game. However, I think it can be said it is the oldest slot machine in the MGM and the jackpot has not been hit in many years. By today's standards, it is very out of date, with mechanical reels, blurry graphics, and any cash-out requiring a hand pay.

After the original publication of this article, the jackpot was hit on Aug. 24, 2014 for $2.4 million. The rest of this article is unchanged from it's original publication, before the jackpot was hit.

Here are some of the rumors about Lion's Share.

  • It has been on the floor since the casino opening in 1993. — I'm not sure if it was there on day one, but based on the look of it, if it wasn't, it dates back to near the beginning.
  • Whoever hits the jackpot will get to keep the machine. — I've never seen anything official that says this, but I don't doubt it. The machine is clunky and old and I think the MGM won't want it any more after it hits. The value of an old slot machine like Lion's Share is about $500 at best, so I don't see why the MGM would want to keep it.
  • The MGM can't get rid of it until the progressive hits. — There is a lot of truth to this. Some player must win the accumulated money in the progressive, as it is considered player money. The Nevada Gaming Control Board wouldn't let the MGM just keep it. However, they would be allowed to let them move the money to another game, if their proposal of how to do it is accepted by Gaming.
  • The jackpot has never been hit — I've heard both this and it was hit twice in the early years but never hit again. I don't know which is true. A change in the EPROM chip could make it more difficult to hit.
  • The jackpot started at one million dollars — I can't confirm this either, but assume it to be true below.

Sometimes it is rumored in player circles the game may have a player advantage since the progressive has been growing for 20 years. That is where I come in. This page details my analysis of the game to determine how good of a bet it is.


The game is a $1 3-coin game. The following is the pay table.

Lion's Share Pay Table

Win 1 Coins 2 Coins 3 Coins
Three Lions — On Payline $25,000 $50,000 Jackpot
Three Lions — Off Payline $500 $1,000 $10,000
Three sevens $100 $200 $300
Three 3-bar $50 $100 $150
Three 2-bar $20 $40 $60
Three 1-bar $10 $20 $30
Any three bar $5 $10 $15
Any two lions $5 $10 $15
Any one lion $2 $4 $6

The lion is wild in any position on the reel. Three positions are visible.

As of May 28, 2014, the jackpot was at $2,378,882.


Wizard Data Only

I started playing this game on Jan 14, 2014. Between my own play and 153 spins seen on YouTube videos I have recorded how often each reel lands on each symbol. The following table shows my results.

Lion's Share Reel Survey

Symbol Reel 1 Reel 2 Reel 3
Lion -- on payline 15 10 10
Lion -- off payline 38 36 21
Seven 91 70 81
3-bar 202 295 81
2-bar 469 716 102
1-bar 914 265 860
Blank 777 1,114 1,351
Total 2,506 2,506 2,506

Based on the pay table and observed results, the following table show the probability and return of each event. The return column is the product of the win, probability, and (1/3). The reason for dividing by 3 is the bet amount of $3. In other words, the return column is relative to a $3 bet.

Lion's Share Return Table — Wizard Data Only

Win Pays Probability Return
Three Lions -- On Payline $2,378,882 0.0000000953 0.075579
Three Lions -- Off Payline $10,000 0.0000047070 0.015690
Three sevens $300 0.0001140740 0.011407
Three 3-bar $150 0.0006140249 0.030701
Three 2-bar $60 0.0033567039 0.067134
Three 1-bar $30 0.0170215402 0.170215
Any three bar $15 0.1267797886 0.633899
Any two lions $15 0.0003959927 0.001980
Any one lion $6 0.0367851279 0.073570
Total 0.1850720544 1.080176

So, based on this small sample size, the game returns 108.1% of money bet. With one or two coins bet, the return drops to 99.4%. Based on the small sample size, I would consider these results rough.

Wizard, AxiomOfChoice and SmokaLott Data Combined

On March 2, 2012, somebody named SmokaLott posted at Vegas Message Board that he played Lion's Share 10,000 times and got a lion on the center payline 33 times on reel 1, 42 on reel 2, and 34 on reel 3.

In early February, 2014, forum member AxiomOfChoice sent me his data on payline lions. In 1,896 spins he got the lion on the center payline 5 times on reel 1, 4 on reel 2, and 6 on reel 3. Looking at center payline lions only, here is the combined data.

Center Payline Lions

Player Reel 1 Reel 2 Reel 3 Spins Lions per 100 Spins
Wiz 15 10 10 2,506 1.40
AxiomOfChoice 5 4 6 1,896 0.79
Smokalot 33 42 34 10,000 1.09
Total 53 56 50 14,402 1.10

Combining this data, here is the center payline lion probability on each reel.

  • Reel 1: 0.0036800
  • Reel 2: 0.0038883
  • Reel 3: 0.0034717

Assuming these probabilities, and otherwise using the data from my spins for the other symbols, the return table looks as follows.

Lion's Share Return Table — Combined Data

Win Pays Probability Return
Three Lions -- On Payline $2,378,882 0.0000000525 0.041647
Three Lions -- Off Payline $10,000 0.0000041103 0.013701
Three sevens $300 0.0001090687 0.010907
Three 3-bar $150 0.0005989446 0.029947
Three 2-bar $60 0.0033113213 0.066226
Three 1-bar $30 0.0168744217 0.168744
Any three bar $15 0.1266965675 0.633483
Any two lions $15 0.0003578085 0.001789
Any one lion $6 0.0349819170 0.069964
Total 0.1829342121 1.036408

The lower right cell shows a total return of 103.6%, based on three coins bet. With one or two coins bet the return drops to 98.4%.

Based on this combined data, the probability of hitting the jackpot is about 1 in 19.0 million. It is my understanding the jackpot started at one million dollars. If that is the case, and assuming everybody bets $3 at a time, the game would have been played about 60 million times. In this many spins, the expected number of jackpots is 2.9. The probability of never hitting a jackpot in 60 million spins is about 5.4%. I should remind my readers that each spin is independent, so the odds of hitting the jackpot are the same as it was for every other spin.

AxiomOfChoice is a good member on my forum, so I have no compunction about using his data.

As a scientific kind of guy, I hate to use data from somebody I've never heard of from a two-year-old forum post as the basis of my analysis of a game. However, The SmokaLot data looks reasonable to me, and his results are similar to the combined results of AxiomOfChoice and I.

I would like to return to gather more data, or hire somebody else to do it, but since a recent wave of publicity in the media it has been getting difficult getting on the machine. I would also hate to hog it for hours with a line waiting. For this reason, I am also publishing my results both ways, with my data only as well as the combined results of me, AxiomOfChoice, and SmokaLott.

Miscellaneous pieces of information about Lion's Share.

  • Based on the "combined data," the probability shown of the jackpot equates to a probability of 1 in 19,040,226.
  • The meter goes up by 0.75% of money bet.
  • Based on an Internet post, the jackpot was at $2,229,097 on March 19, 2011. This suggests a rate of increase of $167 per day.
  • For the lowest-level player, slot play earns free play and comps both at a rate of 0.33% of money bet.

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Written by: Michael Shackleford

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