So, are the casino slot machines really random? This question keeps coming up, even in the minds of experienced players. The new players certainly have doubts about the functioning of slot machines and even extensive reading/consulting on the subject is not able to clarify everything for them. The official answer to this question, which is also the theoretical answer, is simple and short – yes, slot machines are random and the outcome of every spin is decided by a software called “Random Number Generator (RNG).” Once you understand this concept of RNG, you are expected to have understood everything. A casino would certainly like you to believe that slot machines are all random and can pay out that dream jackpot at any time. The reality is different, very different actually. I do not say that you should totally discount the concept of RNG, but in practice, the RNG plays only a small role in how much money will be left in your pocket at the end of a session at the casino. It will be of immense help for you to learn the concepts of payout ratio (set by the casino), type of the slot game, jackpot or no-jackpot, part of a group of slots or stand-alone, day of the week, time of the day, the number of players in the casino and how many are playing on slot machines, and of course, your own plan, if you have one. Make no mistake, winning on slot machines requires you to be a genius, not just lucky, and that too on a regular basis. There’s nothing random about that.
Random Number Generator
Let’s get this one out of the way first. On a video slot having five reels (columns) and four rows, you will see a total of 20 squares containing symbols (one symbol in each square) on the screen after any spin. Another slot game may have five reels but only three rows so that the total number of squares and symbols will be 15 instead of 20. Each symbol appears in one of the 15 or 20 squares, and the placement of the symbols in each square is decided by this invisible power called RNG. Some symbols can appear more than once and when the same symbol appears more than once in a particular pattern, called a “line”, you win something. If there are no symbols appearing more than once on a line, you lose your bet on that spin. You will read more on the RNG later, but let us first understand the concept of winning lines.
What Are Win Lines
Win lines which are also called “ways”, are the set patterns on a slot game to decide winning or losing spins. Please have a look at the above picture that shows the win lines on a typical 5-Line slot game. When a symbol repeats three times on a winning line, usually from left to right, it will be a winning spin. However, depending on the design of the game, a symbol can pay even when it appears once or twice also on a played line. “Played Line” is an important concept here. Even when a slot game has a total of five lines, the player may have the option of playing one, two, three, four, or all five lines. If you are playing only one line, say line number 1, a winning combination on that line will pay but if the winning combination appears on any of the other four lines, it will not pay. Nowadays, I see slot machines having 3, 5, 9, 20, 25, 50, 100, and an even higher number of lines. Slots having more number of lines will also have a higher bet requirement. On a slot with 25 lines and 1 cent denomination, each spin will cost 25 cents whereas a 50 line slot will require you to bet 50 cents if you wish to play all the lines.
So What Does The RNG Do?
The RNG decides the placement of symbols in the squares in such a way that each spin will result in a win or loss for the player. A win can be small or big depending on how many symbols repeat on how many played lines. There are millions of possible combinations, some of which will result in a total loss for the player while the others will result in small or big wins. The RNG decides the outcome of the spin immediately when you hit the ‘Spin’ button. But the game will show you some animation of symbols scrolling up or down for a while before displaying the final combination of symbols for that spin. This animation is shown for your entertainment only, and stopping the animation in the middle does not alter the outcome of the spin. Remember, the RNG has already decided the final combination of symbols for that spin when you hit the spin button. Now you can stop the animation before it concludes but you cannot change the outcome of the spin.
Modern slot machine games also incorporate free spins and bonus games for a richer gaming experience. Typically, the winnings are higher when you get free spins or a bonus game. If you have never played on a casino slot machine before, you may like to watch this YouTube video of a real live recording of a casino slot game: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVTcGkOGbTE
RNG Guarantees A Profit For The Casino
So now we know that the RNG decides the outcome of each spin but does it decide it on a random basis? Can we expect a casino to leave its business to chance? The fact is that the RNG, in reality, is not so random. The most important function of the RNG, other than giving the false impression of a random game, is to ensure a cosy profit for the casino. While deciding on which particular symbol combinations to serve as a result of each spin, the RNG keeps the winnings of the players, called payouts, within the limit set by the casino. Typically, in regulated casino jurisdictions, slot machine payouts can be anywhere between 80 and 95%. That is, out of the total amount of bets played by the players on a long term basis, 80 to 95% will be returned as winnings while the remaining 5 to 20% will be retained as the casino’s profit. In unregulated casino jurisdictions such as Goa (India), slot payouts can be criminally low, even lower than 50%.
Slots vs Table Games
Each casino game leaves a profit, called the “edge”, for the casino. The edge on a “loose” slot game will be at least 5% and on a tight slot game, it can be even higher than 20%. Compare this to table games: Blackjack, when played according to Basic Strategy, reduces the casino edge to less than 0.5%. Moreover, in table games, the casino takes an actual risk. I will give a real-life example from Macau: In April 2017, Wynn Palace Macau lost a total of $ 10 million due to their losses in the game of Baccarat. Normally they should have made a profit of $ 50 million in that month, but a junket operator brought some expert Baccarat players who cleaned the casino out, legally of course. Such a thing will never happen with slot machines because the RNG, a software, will never allow winnings over the limit set by the casino. The point of playing slot games is the entertainment factor and the “easy” jackpots that the games promise. Otherwise, like Kevin Spacy said in the movie “21”, “slots are for losers.”
Slot “Advantage Play”
Now that we have understood how “random” slot machine games are, let us see if there is a way to beat them. Like I said before, slot machines leave a guaranteed profit for casino owners, and a certain percentage of the total bets are left for the players as winnings. By using this concept of “advantage play”, some smart players can win more than the others and hence can take home a profit. Advantage play is a vague concept and each experienced player will have their own version of it. In general, it means that you are playing to win and not to lose.
My general & simplistic idea of advantage play is to stop playing when you are ahead. Print your payout ticket and run to the cashier’s cage. Then leave the casino for the day. To elaborate, let us assume that you put $ 100 in a slot machine. After a while, you get a free spin bonus and at the end of the bonus, your credit balance is over $ 200. You have already doubled your money. After that, you may try up to three backup spins and if there is no other winning, it is time to leave that slot machine. You may feel like trying another slot machine in another part of the casino. Say you win $ 50 there too and now your money has grown from $ 100 to $ 250. At that point in time, it will be a smart move to cash in your money and go home.
Specifics of Slot Advantage Play
Contrary to what you may read in the FAQ sections of official casino websites, winning on slot machines is not just random but is also impacted by the following factors:
Day of the Week – Weekends Are Better!
Slot machines pay better during weekends but it is true only for the smart players. As you will know, more visitors come to casinos during weekends and hence slot machines have more money in the system to payout. In percentage terms, the number will be the same as set by the casino but in terms of the total amount of money to be paid out, weekends are the best time to play slot machines. Just don’t forget to quit when you are winning. If you keep playing and do not stop, you will end up losing everything.
Time Of The Day
The time of the day matters too. On a weekend, the evening time before 9:00 pm is the best time to win on slots. The reason is the same as I said in the previous paragraph. More players who keep playing because they are enjoying the games. They never stop until all their money is gone. But a smart player will quit at the right time and will have a happy ending for the day.
Play When A Slot Is Likely To Payout
You can know this for some types of slot machines. There are slot machines that pay progressive jackpots before the maximum jackpot amount is reached. You might have seen slot machines that promise a “Major” jackpot win before the progressive amount reaches $ 10,000. Now if you spot such a machine where the progressive has already reached $ 9800, playing a few hundred dollars on that machine may get you that $ 10,000 jackpot. This system will work only in an honest casino located in a regulated casino jurisdiction. A fraud casino will not let you win that jackpot no matter what, so choose your casino carefully.
Some smart players hangout around slot machines observing other players or losers. When a loser has put a lot of money in a slot machine and then leaves without winning anything, the smart player will start playing on that machine at the right bet level to maximize his winnings.
Do Not Play When The Casino Is Deserted
Chances of winning on slot machines are higher when a large number of people are playing on slot machines. If you are the only one around pressing that spin button repeatedly, your dream of winning big will remain just a dream.
Choosing The Right Slot Machines
Choosing which slot machine to play also impacts the outcome of the play. Slot games that incorporate a jackpot pay less on a line hit because the game has to save money for that big jackpot. Big wins happen rarely. If your bankroll is small, it is better not to chase big jackpots. Try to get a large number of small wins and build your capital. Also, playing the slot machines that more of the other people are playing may help. But again, you should see the cost aspect, as to whether the other people are chasing a big jackpot because that may not be the smart thing to do.
Linked Or Stand-Alone Machines
Some of the slot machines are attached to a group of slots linked by a common jackpot system while some other slot machines are stand-alone types with or without jackpots. Linked slot machines are good if your target is to win line hits and small jackpots. Stand-alone machines offer good opportunities for winning big line hits and jackpots and cost comparatively less to play. This is just a general view and there may be exceptions. Observe what you have available and then make an informed decision.
Play All The Lines
If a slot machine has 25 or 50 lines, you should play all the 25 or 50 lines. You can vary the bet per line as per your capacity, but you must play all the lines. This helps in maximizing winnings to a great extent. If a slot game offers a jackpot option for an extra bet, that option can be ignored if the extra bet is too high. Otherwise, you may play that extra bet along with all the lines.
Go With A Plan
Whether you are playing table games or slots, you should never go to a casino without a plan. You need to know how much money you want to risk, how much time you want to spend in the casino, and when you want to leave. Your exit strategy should also have a target in terms of winning. Say, if your money has doubled, it will be a good time to leave. If you are having a good time or not also matters because a bored player is not likely to win much. You need to be happy in there, not sad or frustrated. If there is anything in there that annoys you, go find another slot, table or another casino. And always remember the golden rule: Never Risk The Money That You Cannot Afford To Lose!