A slot machine jackpot is the top prize that’s offered on a particular machine. On traditional slots, one of the symbols is considered the most important. These games have three reels, so when three of whatever that given symbol line up, the jackpot amount is triggered.
Of course, most modern slot machines have five reels, but the principle is the same. The difference comes from the ability to offer larger jackpots. Modern slots aren’t limited by the physical size of the reels, so they can have a theoretically unlimited number of symbols, with theoretically infinitesimal chances of hitting the jackpot.
The lower the odds of winning the jackpot are, the larger the prize pool tends to be. Slots jackpots can be categorized into two types—flat top and progressives.
Flat Top Machines
A flat top slot machine has a fixed jackpot size for the top prize. Suppose you were designing a simple slot machine program for a computer. You decide to go with a simple three reel game with five symbols on each reel. The odds of getting three matching symbols for the jackpot can be expressed as 1/5 X 1/5 X 1/5, or 1/125. If you paid out a jackpot of 125 to 1, you’d have a more-or-less break even game.
But slot machines aren’t designed to break even. They’re designed to generate a profit. So you might scale that jackpot size down to a 100 to 1 payout. That’s a decent payout—who doesn’t want to win $100 on a $1 bet? But it also guarantees that over time, the casino makes a profit.
Of course, with five different symbols, the game would have five different ways to win at 100 to 1, but you could increase the size of the top jackpot by decreasing the size of the other jackpots. You might designate one symbol to only pay 2 to 1 when it gets hit, and another symbol to pay 5 to 1 when it hits, and another to pay 10 to 1 when it hits, and so on.
The extra profit from those smaller payouts could be used to increase the size of that top jackpot. The math isn’t that hard on a simple machine like this. Of course, with modern slots, designers can program the likelihood of getting specific symbols. You might have a game with 30 different symbols, some of which are programmed to come up as often as 10% of the time, while other symbols might be programmed to only turn up 1% of the time.
The math grows slightly more complex, but it’s still a simple matter to create a slot machine that guarantees the casino a profit while still offering frequent enough jackpots to entice players.
Progressive jackpots don’t have a fixed amount. They start at a fixed amount, but then every spin of the reels makes the jackpot grow larger until someone wins. The games designate a certain percentage of each wager as “fuel” for the ever-growing progressive jackpot. This usually results in lower payout percentages until the jackpot is actually hit. The larger the jackpot, the less likely you are to win it.
You’ll find three different kinds of progressive jackpots. The first kind is an individual game with a progressive jackpot. Only wagers on this specific machine grow the jackpot. The second kind is a networked jackpot within a casino. Usually this is a bank of eight or sixteen slots that all share the same jackpot. This kind of jackpot grows a lot faster than the first kind, for obvious reasons.
The third kind of progressive jackpot is the one where multiple machines in multiple locations are networked and share a jackpot. MegaMillions is the best example of this kind of jackpot. The odds of winning the progressive on a machine like this are astronomical. As I write this, it’s been almost a year since the last time someone hit the MegaMillions jackpot in Nevada. But when it does hit, the prize amount is astronomical—often as high as $10 million, and sometimes as high as $20 or $30 million.
Online Slot Machine Jackpots
You can find Internet versions of all these kinds of jackpots. My favorite kind of Internet slot to play has a progressive jackpot. After all, who doesn’t want an opportunity to completely change his lifestyle with the spin of the reels?
Some good progressive jackpot games to check out online include games like Shopping Spree, IRIS 300, and Crazy Dragon from Realtime Gaming. I’m also fond of some of Betsoft’s progressive games, including Tycoons, Jackpot Jamba, and The Glam Life.
Slot machine jackpots are what make the slots worth playing. As long as you remember that the casino and the designers have designed these games in order to guarantee themselves a profit, you’ll be able to make sensible and rational decisions about how much of your entertainment budget to risk playing them.