Understanding Slot Machine Odds

Understanding Slot Machine Odds

Back in the old school days when slot machines had one 1 Payline, 3 Reels, and 10 Symbols on each reel, you could calculate the odds of hitting the jackpot on a given slot machine on nothing more than a napkin. Yes, those days are gone, as we gave them up for all the conveniences that today’s technology brings us. Sometimes I wonder if we traded up…or down.

Understanding a slot machine’s hit frequency and payback percentage are the most important odds to figure to Understand Slot Machine Odds… which is nothing more than a giant math equation. For those of you like me; however, math equations aren’t the easiest thing to calculate… so for you I will try to break it down to a simple perspective… as I too will learn from what results of my research.

It is important to note that to ascertain the specific odds of winning on today’s slot machines is impossible. Now that random number generators are the power behind a slot machine, figuring the odds is much more complicated than the multiplication on a napkin approach.


Let’s start with the old school way to Understand Slot Machine Odds… figuring your odds of winning on a given slot machine back in the old days meant dividing the total number of symbols by one. Let’s say a slot machine has 3 Reels; each with 10 Symbols… the odd of a particular symbol appearing is 9 to 1; 9 losing symbols and 1 winning symbol. To figure the odds on hitting a jackpot win on this same slot machine, which is 3 particular symbols on the payline, you multiply your chances of the 1 winning symbol on the payline 3 times by itself. So… if you have a 1/10 chance of one winning symbol on the payline, the odds of 3 winning symbols on the payline is 1/1000, or 999 to 1.

That said, you cannot use simple multiplication to figure slot machine odds anymore because of the random number generators. With so many of today’s slot machines containing so many more symbols, reels, and winning combinations the mathematical equations are far beyond a normal player’s reach. So you can’t just look at a slot machine to figure the odds of winning with it. However, a slot machine’s hit frequency and payback percentage is still important to understand.

Modern slot machine

Let’s say on a modern slot machine, a 1st symbol might appear one out of every 20 spins, a 2nd symbol might appear 1 out of every 10 spins, and 3rd symbol might appear 1 out of every 50 spins… but wait! Determining how many times a symbol is set to appear is not impossible if you have access to the slot machine’s PAR sheet, but most of us do not have that kind of access, and the PAR sheet is what sets these specifications in the random number generator.

An informed estimate of the ratio of losses to wins on a given slot machine calculates the hit frequency of a slot machine. As the number of wins increase in the ratio, the hit frequency of that slot machine also increases. Due to the multiple ways to win on modern slot machines, to calculate a slot machine’s hit frequency ranges anywhere between a mathematical average and guessing.

You could play a machine 100 times, and track the results… this is not unreasonable… so the best way to do this is the cheapest way you can… play pennies! Find yourself a penny slot machine; (note this can be done with online slot machines as well as on casino floors, in a brick and mortar casino), and pull the lever 100 times. Record every win, big or small. Now work out the ratio the hard way!

A good hit frequency can only be determined by how much you are looking to win and what kind of slot machine you are playing, but it is widely considered that any machine that pays out less than 10 percent is a bad machine.

Slot machines today are often designed to pay out a lot of small winnings, giving it the appearance and overall feeling that it is a loose machine… at a hit frequency of 50 percent. However, if the wins are only small amounts each time…you might consider moving on to another machine. On the flip side of the coin, if you are playing a slot machine that only pays 9 or 10 times out of 100 spins, but those 9 or 10 wins happen to be tons of credits, you could easily be tempted to stay on the machine and push your luck to win a big jackpot.

A slot machine’s return is a reference to the percentage of money paid out by a given machine compared to the amount of money you put into that same machine. Playing slots in a tournament to keep track of these numbers will help you form a strategy based on which slot machines to play at a given casino. Click Here For More information on good tournaments to play.

Some basic math is required for you to calculate the return on a slot machine… don’t worry it is easy enough… if you put $100 in a given slot machine and at the end you have won $90 of it back, you have a 90 percent return from that machine. Sure, the casino kept $10 of your money, but if that $100 let you play for an entire hour, you have just paid $10 for an hours’ worth of entertainment… which is cheaper than going to the movies… and that’s before the popcorn and soda!

Most casual players don’t really need to keep track of slot machine returns; casinos report their slot machine returns to the regulating local government in their jurisdiction, and the details along with other figures are generally available to the public. Subscribing to a casino player magazine or some form of publication where these numbers are published will help you keep track of machine returns.

Try not to let yourself get too hung up on the slot machine’s payback percentage, as they are essentially numbers that are made up… theoretical numbers that guess about how much a particular machine will pay back to a player over time.

The problem with payback percentages is that they are calculated from a pool of infinite spins. For the most part, these numbers come from the game developers and manufacturers, who program a machine to return a theoretical amount to a customer. So if a game developer advertises a slot’s payback is 95 percent, all it means is that over an infinite amount of time the slot machine will payout $0.95 for every $1 that is put into it.

In closing, you are in good company if you are more confused now than when you started reading this article. Although slot machines in and of themselves are very straightforward gambling devices… random numbers triggered by you, the player. However, modern technology obscures the actual machine probabilities, emphasizing the design and features; especially HD graphics and sound effects to immerse you, the player into the game experience.

Remembering that just because a machine is advertised to pay back 90 percent does not by any means mean that you will always get back $90 out of every $100 you put into that machine. However, understanding slot machine odds and hit frequency can help you make a better informed choice when it comes to choosing a casino to join.

I hope this article has helped you to better understanding slot machine odds and what they mean to you.
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Understanding Slot Machine Odds

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