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Slot Machine Myths

Author: Sylvia Garcia

We’ve all heard them. ‘Machines don’t pay out after a big jackpot.’ ‘If a machine has gone awhile without paying out it is due to hit.’ But how true are these myths? Because most people don’t understand how slot machines work, whole sets of beliefs have been created over when to play a machine or when to avoid it. Unfortunately, there is little truth to these beliefs. So let’s dissect some of the most pervasive slot myths.

1. You should switch machines after a huge jackpot hit because the machine won’t be due to hit again for a long time. From a money management standpoint, it makes sense to quit playing after a large hit and walk away. But the machine is not “due” to turn cold. In fact, the odds against the same jackpot hitting on the next pull are the same as they were before you hit.

2. You should seek out a machine that has gone a long time without paying out because it is due to hit. For the record, slot machines are never “due” to hit. Playing through a long losing streak will most likely result in a longer losing streak. Keep in mind that slot machines are programmed with random-number generators that govern winning combinations. You can never predict when a machine is ready to hit.

3. Casinos place “hot” machines in strategic places like aisles where they are highly visible. This belief is so widespread that end machines get a great deal of play regardless of how they pay out. It is true that machines in the same casino can be programmed with different payout percentages. It’s also true that casinos want other customers to see winners. But slot placement is more complex than just placing the hot ones at the ends of aisles.

4. The payback percentage is lowered when the crowds are bigger and demand is greater. It’s not as easy as most people think to change a machine’s programming. Changing the programmed payback percentage requires opening the machine and replacing a computer chip. That’s not something that is easily done.

Now here are a few truths:
Payout percentages have gone up since casinos figured it is actually more profitable to hold five percent of a dollar than eight percent of a quarter or 10 percent of a nickel. In most of the US, slot players can count on about a 93% payout percentage, though payouts in Nevada tend to run higher. Las Vegas casinos usually offer the highest average payouts of all – better than 95 percent. But keep in mind that these are long-term averages that will hold up over a sample of 100,000 to 300,000 pulls.

In the short-term, anything can happen. It’s not unusual to go 50 or more pulls without a single payout on a reel-spinning slot, though payouts are more frequent on video slots. And it’s also not unusual for a machine to pay back 150 percent or more for several dozen pulls. But in the long run, the programmed payout percentages will perpetually hold up.