The amount of misinformation you’ll find on the Internet (and in most gambling books) about playing slots is enormous. If slot machine myths were water, we’d all drown in it. Debunking slot myths is one of my favorite activities, so this was a fun page to write.
The main thing to remember about slot machines is that they’re entirely random. Once you understand that fully, you won’t be fooled by any of the scams and system-sellers on the Internet. Here’s an example of the text you might find on a website selling “slots secrets”:
“Can you keep a SECRET? – If every slot machine player knew these hush-hush ‘insider’ secrets… every casino in the world would be forced out of business!”
That’s an excerpt from the sales pitch from “Bill Stone, Professional Slot Machine Player”. Once you’ve read through these myths debunked, you’ll understand that there’s no such thing as a professional slot machine player, period. Slots have a negative expectation, so anyone who plays long enough eventually loses all their money.
Myth #1 – Slot machines become due when they haven’t hit a jackpot in a long time.
This seems like it would make sense, but it’s not the case. Slot machines aren’t programmed to pay out on a particular schedule. Modern slot machines use a random number generator, which is just a fancy name for a computer that generates thousands of numbers per second. Each number corresponds to a combination of reel symbols. When you press spin, the computer stops on a number, and that determines your results.
This random number generator has no knowledge of how long it’s been since you’ve won a jackpot. Your chances of winning don’t increase no matter how long it’s been since someone hit a jackpot. The reverse is also true. Games don’t get hot and start hitting more often.
You will, however, find patterns that spring up. But they will only occur in retrospect. You can’t predict when a winning or losing streak will begin or end. But it’s human nature to look for and find patterns in the random. These patterns don’t provide you with any opportunities to take advantage of, because they’re just as random as anything else on a slot machine game.
Myth #2 – You’re more likely to win if you pull the lever instead of pressing the spin button.
Wouldn ‘t it be nice if this were true? The reality is that the random number generator doesn’t know whether you pressed the button or pulled the lever. So you cannot get any kind of edge over the casino by changing whether you press the button or pull the lever.
On the other hand, the number of spins you make per hour affects your expected loss per hour. Pulling the lever can slow down your play, which can indirectly cause you to lose less money per hour. This doesn’t increase your chances of winning; it just increases the amount of time you can play with whatever size bankroll you have.
Slot machine players, on average, play about 600 spins per hour. Slower players can play as slowly as 300 spins per hour, which means they’ll put half as much money into play during the same time period as other players. Theoretically, you’ll lose half as much money per session this way, everything else being equal. If pulling the lever helps you achieve that, then great—go for it.
Myth #3 – The temperature of the coins affects the payout percentage.
This myth is just silly. How would this affect the outcome? Nonetheless, you’ll find plenty of so-called gambling experts who will claim that if you use warm coins, you’ll be more likely to win. I guess the premise is that the warm coins will result in a “hot” machine, but surely no one is fool enough to fall for that, are they?
Myth #4 – When you play affects your chances of winning.
Some “experts” claim that slots pay out more (or less) during conventions, or that they pay out more (or less) in the mornings as opposed to the evening. If you could figure out when the machines paid out more, you could limit your play to those times, and guarantee yourself consistent winnings.
Unfortunately for the player, this is just more nonsense. The games use the same random number generator regardless of when you’re playing. This program has no idea whether or not a convention in town. Nor does it have any clue whether it’s morning, noon, or night. You put your money in, and you take your chances, and that’s that—regardless of what time it is.
Myth #5 – You’re less likely to win if you have your players’ card inserted.
You can almost see the logic in this. A players’ club card results in the casino giving you back a certain amount of your action in the form of rebates, free meals, free travel, etc. But it’s programmed at such a small percentage that it has no real effect on the amount that you lose. Usually, a players’ card only pays back at 1/10 of a percentage point, or maybe 2/10 or 3/10, at most.
But we have to go back to our old friend the random number generator again. This is just a computer program that generates thousands of numbers per second. It doesn’t even really have anything to do with how often you win; the paytable determines that. You’re just as likely to win when playing with your players’ card as when playing without it.
In fact, I recommend you always play with your players’ club card inserted.
Myth #6 – Where the machine is located affects your chances of winning.
Still, more experts claim that the loosest games are located at the ends of the carousels in order to attract more players. This might have been true at one time, but there is no credible evidence that this is true anymore.
Myth #7 – Casinos Change the Odds Instantly
Licensed brick-and-mortar casinos must follow state laws which dictate when casinos can change the house edge on a machine. In Las Vegas, a casino cannot change the pay schedule on a slot machine while it is in operation. Also, the casino cannot change the pay schedule for 4 minutes before or after the machine has been played.
Gaming Control Boards have “gaming control agents” who make spot inspections of the casinos, often walking the floor in plain clothes. Casinos which do not comply face stiff fines and the possible loss of their gaming license. A gaming license is effectively a license to print money, so whatever reward could be gained from flipping a switch and changing the odds is not worth the risk of losing a casino gaming license.
Native American casinos are the same way. Though their Class II slot machines work a little differently, tribal casinos sign gaming compacts with the state authorities, so gaming control agents also patrol the reservation casinos, too.
Myth #8 – Slots Club Cards Change the Odds
Using a slots club card does not change your odds. A myth has grown up where one player will tell another that the slots card lowers your chances of winning. Knowing what you know from the previous misconception, you now understand that is hogwash.
Myth #9 – Player Cards Mean Casinos Report Winnings to the IRS
Casinos report all wins over $1,200 to the IRS, regardless of whether you win or lose. They like to do this to help offset their tax numbers each year. If you play a lot of slot machines in a year’s time, you’re likely to have net losses. If you play once or twice and get a jackpot exceeding $1,200, then you probably want to report those earnings. Slots cards have nothing to do with reported earnings, though.
Myth #10 – Machines near Doors Have Better Odds
It’s often said that gaming machines near the exits and in heavy traffic areas tend to have better odds. The idea is that people see gamblers winning more jackpots, so it’s a form of advertisement. Every insider suggests this isn’t the case, while the managers of casinos laugh at the notion. Such placement isn’t needed to entice gamblers to play. Casinos move machines around the gaming floor all the time, to see which combinations work best, so the loose or tight machines tend to be at various locations at any given time.
Myth #11 – Cycle of Payoffs
Let’s say you walked away from a slot machine and someone else walks up and wins the jackpot. It is highly unlikely you would have won the jackpot, had you stayed. Modern electronic slot machines use computer chips called “random number generators” or RNGs to determine the outcome of a spin. An RNG creates thousands of spin results per second. Anytime someone hits the spin button, the latest spin result is shown on the screen.
Myth #12 – Winning the Jackpot
Every single split second produces a new result, so you would have had to hit the spin button at the exact same instant as that person who played after you. The odds are maybe 5000-to-1 you would have won the same jackpot–probably far less since that assumes you both would have hit spin in the same second.
Myth #13 – The Time of Day Makes a Difference
Another legend among slots players is the time of day is a factor in the looseness or tightness of slots. As the story goes, during the slow times of the day, the odds on machines are better. When it gets busy, the casino tightens the odds. Under this assumption, casinos want to lure players to gamble by offering better odds at low-volume times. That isn’t true. If they did this, casinos would advertise the fact.
Myth #14 – Systems Exist to Beat the Slots
No one has a system to beat the slot machines. If they win, it’s because they got lucky. The casino has a license to operate games with a house edge. The house edge is a built-in advantage the casino has. While it doesn’t dictate that you will lose on any given spin, it assures that, the more you play, the more likely you’ll lose. Here’s why.
The house edge and results will not match perfectly. But the more spins are played, the more likely the house edge will look like the results. No system of modifying bets or trying to divine the reel symbol placement is going to change that. Only if you used illegal cheats could you affect the odds, and this site doesn’t advocate cheating. If you believe in mathematics, then the math says that no system will beat the house edge.
What all of this misinformation has in common is that it’s designed to prey on your hope that you can find a way to get money for nothing. The reality is that casino gambling is a multi-billion dollar industry. The casinos don’t make money by having easily exploitable ways to win at slot machines. Common sense should tell you that.