Slots, without doubt, are played by more casino visitors than any other game and account for the majority of a casino's winnings. They are simple to use, inexpensive to maintain, and require little attention or player skill.
A slot machine returns between 85 and 100 percent, depending on the game, location and usage. The average house advantage is calculated to be about nine percent.
General Slot Tips
Recognize the symbols that constitute a jackpot on your machine. All machines are different. Las Vegas attendants say winners routinely walk away from winning machines without waiting for the rest of the payout from slot attendants. The largest jackpots are all paid by attendants.
Always play the maximum bet. If a machine will take a bet of five quarters, place the five-quarter bet. This gives you the best odds of winning long-term if you get a good hand, plus progressive jackpots are based on the player playing the maximum amount of coins.
Slots are the easiest and most popular game to play in the casino. Insert a coin, pull the handle, then reach into your billfold for more money. Unfortunately, that's what normally happens when the house has such an enormous built-in edge against you. So popular are today's slots that they now constitute 70 percent of all casino action.
The quarter machines alone take in more in profit for the casino ($2.6 billion in Nevada) than blackjack, baccarat, craps, roulette, keno and the sports books combined.
Are there any sure-fire ways to win at slots? Absolutely. Here's three: 1) Get a casino gambling license and operate your own slot business; 2) Invest in the solid companies that manufacture slot machines; 3) Buy an antique slot machine and sell it when the demand increases.
More Slot Tips
1) The only true skill to playing slots is machine identification. Example: progressive machines offer the opportunity to compare and shop around for the best value. One 25-cent "slot machine carousel" can have a progressive jackpot of $2,600, and another bank of machines -- exactly the same and standing side by side -- $1,900. You should always be looking for the best slot opportunities possible.
2) Casinos will advertise machines that have a 98.5 or even 100-percent payback. Sounds great, right? But there's a downside. If you look closely at the advertisement, it will probably say "on select machines." Furthermore, it probably won't be posted on the machine itself, and it will generally be limited to a single bank of machines in the casino. Now it becomes your responsibility to find them. Easiest way: Ask a slot employee, and if he or she doesn't know, have one of them ask a supervisor.
3) Casinos give away millions of dollars in comps each year, and as a slot player, you deserve your share. How? Casinos now offer you the ability to "comp yourself" by using one of their player's club slot cards.
It's generally based on the number of coins you cycle through a machine, so you might as well get credit for all those quarters you're inserting. Shop casinos for comp value and find out what you're worth to them. You always want to treat "comps" as a form of profit, but you never want to gamble just to receive them. It's much better to play a 98-percent payback machine and increase your winning opportunities than play machines with a poor return that cycle more of your coins. Remember, you're there to stay in action and possibly win, not lose your bankroll for a free buffet.
4) If you can't afford to play the maximum amount of coins, you shouldn't be playing that denomination of machine. If dollar slots are too rich for your blood, drop down to a quarter machine. It's always better value to play five quarters versus one dollar or five nickels instead of one quarter.
5) Can't decide which type of slot machine to play? If you're going to choose between video poker and slots, play video poker. Even poor play on a video poker machine will have a better payback than most slot machines.
6) Before you walk away from a machine, don't forget to press the cash-out button. Millions are lost each year by gamblers forgetting their winnings (stored credits).
7) Read all the posted material on a slot machine. It is your responsibility to fully understand all printed information concerning the number of coins to insert, lines needed to be lit, prizes or awards. In most cases, when someone calls a slot attendant over and complains the machine "just ripped me off," that individual generally didn't read the pay schedule correctly.
8) Avoid machines that use video representations of symbols. With these slots, there is absolutely no way to figure out what the payoff percentage of that machine is.
9) Most casinos will hold a slot for you while you go to the restroom, take a short break or even go on a buffet run. Just ask a slot supervisor to reserve your machine and give a specific time when you'll return.
10) Don't chain yourself to a cold machine, even if it's your favorite. Why? Because the longer you stay on any slot, the more time the machine's built-in mathematical advantage has to work you over. This is how casinos build megaresorts, time always working on their side and a mathematical edge on each and every slot.
11) Even though you're only playing slots, you still need to set a loss limit on your bankroll for both your trip and each individual gaming session. Divvy up your bankroll per playing session, discipline yourself and stick to it.
12) When searching for high payback machines, ask a few employees where the local players find the best slot value. Simply put, locals don't play dog machines.
13) Leave both your credit and bank teller cards at home so you will not be tempted with the easy convenience of getting cash. Only bet what you can afford to lose.
Finally, there's no doubt that all slot machines consistently pay. They pay the casino's rent, the light bills and all the employees' salaries. They also pay millions of dollars in profits to casino owners and stockholders. You the player just happen to be on the low end of the food chain.
How Slots Work
Imagine three wheels of fortune, each with 17 stops on it. Set them all in motion and hope each lands on the same prize at the same time.
If there's only one jackpot per wheel, the odds are 17 X 17 X 17, or 4912 to 1, of hitting it simultaneously. That's how the original slot machines worked.
Today's slot machines work on the same principle but are much more sophisticated. Gone are the mechanical reels that spun until they ran out of inertia. Today's slots are computer driven so everything -- the jackpots, sound effects and even the reels themselves -- are controlled by microprocessors.
Computer chips also heralded greater combinations of symbols, higher odds and therefore larger jackpots.
Most recently, some of the newest slot machines have eliminated wheels altogether, and instead give players a video version of spinning wheels on a TV screen!
More about this when we examine Multi-Game Machines.
Because slot machines are pure games of chance, there is no "strategy" to learn. But before you play there are a few things you should know about what are commonly called one-arm-bandits.
Most slot machines come in nickel, quarter and dollar denominations.
There are a few penny, dime and 50-cent slots around, and for those with plenty of pull, there are machines that take tokens as large as $500.
Choose a machine that will allow you to play for awhile; if you have only $10 to spend play a nickel or quarter machine -- your bankroll may not last long on a $1 machine.
In addition to coins, many machines accept paper currency, from $1 bills up to $100. By using paper money, players donšt need to put coins into a machine. Instead they play off "credits."
This is the amount of money (number of coins) you've accumulated in the machine. For example, if you insert a $20 bill into a $1 slot machine, it will register 20 credits.
If you put the same $20 into a five-cent machine, it will register 400 credits ($20 is 400 nickels). On most machines, winnings are accumulated as credits; on others the winnings are dumped into the coin tray.
When you leave a machine, make sure you collect your accumulated credits by pushing the "cash out" or "collect" button.
It's always important to know what you are playing for and what it takes to win. Study the machine's pay chart, which tells you what the various payoffs are, and how many coins you must play in order to hit big jackpot payoff.
When playing a multiple coin machine, always play the maximum number of coins. Also check to see what the reel symbols mean. Some machines have "wild" symbols that substitute for every other symbol, while others have "double" or "triple" symbols that multiply the payoff when combined with winning symbols.
Slot machines are often linked to a common progressive jackpot that increases with the amount of play until it hits, then reverts to a starting amount and begins its cycle again.
A "carousel" is a group of slot machines that share a progressive jackpot.
Which Machine to Play
Certain machines have become popular with players -- Double Diamonds, Wild Cherry and Red, White & Blue, to name a few. But you should decide whether you like the look and sounds of a machine, the method of play and the frequency of jackpots.
In any case, the key to winning is quitting while you're ahead. Even though a slot machine seems to be paying off, the longer you play the better chance it will take your money -- it is programmed to do so.
Remember, if you can leave with more money that you started with, even if it's only 25 percent more, you've won.
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