Slot Machine Gameplay
It isn’t much of a secret that slot machines can be some of the worst bets in the casino. Even when you find a slot machine that offers decent returns it may not provide the fun that you want when you visit a casino.
Traditionally, the higher the denomination the lower the house edge on a slot machine. Unfortunately, the casino floor is littered with slot machines in the smallest denomination. It can feel as though all of the slot machines on the casino floor are penny slot machines. They’re not, but it can feel that way. It makes sense that there are so many penny slot machines on the casino floor. These games feature the newest themes along with the technological bells & whistles that many slot machine players are looking for.
Between the large house edge, popularity and floor coverage penny slot machines are the games where the casinos make the most money.
For comparison sake, here’s a look at how much casinos won from different games in March 2016. This isn’t an apples to apples comparison as different games have different amounts wagered (hat tip to @DavidPurdum for organizing the information) but it’s good for a comparison. The info is only meant to give an idea of how much more money casinos win from penny slot machines than any other game in a casino.
Penny slots: $266.9M (this doesn’t include any other denomination)
Penny slot machines may be the most fun but they also offer the worst returns of all slot machines. Here’s a look at how much casinos won from different denomination slot machines in 2015 according to Nevada Gaming Control (via UNLV Gaming).
1 cent – 10.11%
5 cent – 5.69%
25 cent – 6.26%
$1 – 5.61%
As you can see not only do casinos win a much larger percentage from penny slot machines than other denominations but they win a boatload of money every month from those games. Theoretically, if you move from penny slot machines to nickel slot machines you’ll play a game that the casino will generally lose less than penny slots (good luck finding nickel slot machines). Such as the case with all jackpot type games, the longer you play a slot machine the better your chance of getting a big win.
There isn’t much strategy involved when playing slot machines since the games and results are random. The games are operated by a Random Number Generator so there’s no way to use a particular strategy to gain an advantage when playing slots like there is when you play blackjack or video poker. The latter two games can both be affected by correct and incorrect plays.
That said, despite the ability to use strategy to gain an edge when playing slot machines there are a few ways that you can maximize your gameplay.
1. Choose A Favorable Location
According to Strictly Slots 23rd annual Loosest Slots Report, you’ll find better slot machine returns in certain areas in Las Vegas. Last year slot machines at locals casinos in Las Vegas (Palace Station, South Point, Palms, etc.) returned 94.54% to players. That was good for second in the country behind Reno, Nevada. The Boulder Strip (Sam’s Town, Boulder Station, etc.) offered the third best slot machine returns in the country and Nevada by returning 94.44%.
Downtown Las Vegas traditionally offers the 3rd best slot machine returns in Las Vegas. The Vegas Strip is usually the worst for slot machine players. If you’re looking for the best returns from slot machines your best bet is away from the tourists in Las Vegas.
2. Play Max Bet When Possible
The bonuses offered with a maximum bet in a slot machine will often be substantial enough to lower the house edge. Many times with slot machines of all denomination you need to play the max bet in order to qualify for a bonus. Don’t play above your means but if it’s possible this will give you the best advantage in a penny slot machine.
Maximum bet with higher limit slot machines doesn’t always mean that you’re risking more money than a lower denomination. For example, the max bet in 25 cent Top Dollar is only 75 cents. Some penny slot machines can start their minimum wager anywhere from 50 to 75 cents with a maximum wager over $5! Make sure you check the rules of the games before you start playing.
3. Play The Highest Denomination You Can Afford
As I just mentioned penny slot machines aren’t always the cheapest slot machines in a casino. There are some slot machines, like Top Dollar, that offer a less expensive max bet with better returns than penny slot machines.
Since the casinos win less money and the house advantage is lower playing higher denominations may allow you to play longer since the game returns more money. The more you play, the better the chance of hitting a jackpot.
4. Look At Older Or Simple Slot Machines
If you’re looking for the slot machines with the best odds, head for the older or simple looking slot machines. Many of the older and one line slot machines are only available in higher limits. Your odds are sometimes better playing one of the old reel slot machines than the newest penny slots with big name themes regardless of denomination.
5. Limit Your Budget On Penny Slots
If you’re like me and you need the bright lights and loud noises of penny slot machines it’s wise to limit your budget. I usually limit myself to a $20 bill in one of these games. It limits the liability but gives me a taste of the new games that I crave.
6. Always Use A Players Club Card
There’s a myth that players club cards have an effect on gameplay. That isn’t true. Slot machines (of all denominations) usually make the most money for the casino and they reward you that way. Additionally, machine gameplay is more accurately tracked than table games so there shouldn’t be any inaccuracy when you play. Just make sure that the machine accepts your card before your first spin.
[Editor’s note : There are specific circumstances where you should logically not use your players card. This topic is a bit multi-variable and might possibly be the focus of a future article on TravelZork.]