Making the mosts of slots
Winning strategies don’t exist in online slots. There’s no way to learn the perfect play like in Blackjack, and there’s no pseudo-useful betting strategies like the Martingale system in Roulette. But, that doesn’t mean that all mobile slot machines are created equal.
Find out how to make the most of your hard-earned money in this section. We’ll take you through when you should bet the max and how different kinds of bonuses could pay out different amounts. Optimise your slot games to your preferred play style, and you’ll find slots are much more favourable!
WARNING: There will be a lot of talk about numbers (and even some maths!) below. Enter with caution, especially if you’re a numberphobe…
For this blog, we’ll be using US currency when talking about slots – the most commonly used currency worldwide when it comes to slot machines.
Maximize your slot payout
It’s not often that skill comes into play with online slots but skill-based slots are becoming a more regular thing nowadays. With most slots, however, the randomness means there isn’t much you can do to affect the outcome. So, how can you maximise slot payouts?
In this blog, we’ll focus on three ways that you can maximise your return from slots:
- Betting maximum possible coins
- Scouting progressive slots
- Playing machines with banked bonuses
Importantly, maximising your returns isn’t about long-term profit on slot machines. This isn’t Blackjack or Poker where the skill element has some strength. The strategies below are more to do with giving yourself the best chance at big wins but accepting those losing sessions are part of slot machines too.
Should you bet maximum coins on video slots?
For this blog, we’ll focus on the situation for video slots. But, just so you’re aware:
The bottom line for mechanical-reel slots is:
- It doesn’t matter how much you bet, as it makes no difference to the payback amount
- You should probably find a different game if you can’t bet max coins on a mechanical reel progressive slot!
But what about video slots?
Video slots are different. As discussed in our last blog, the paybacks you get work in proportion to the number of coins you bet per payline.
In casino slots, you’ll often find the standard card symbols on the reels as well as character symbols too, very generic throughout the world of slots. Video slots also often have several bonus events and although simplified, usually have lots of different ways to win as well, in comparison to a usual three-reel slot you’d find on a casino floor. Often, just a couple of matched symbols in a row can give you a payout.
As an example, a game with 20 paylines and five coin max bet per line would mean a total bet of 100 coins.
In casinos, slot games usually have much bigger max bets. You’ll often find 20 coins per line on a 20-line game or 10 coins per line on a 40-line game (a total of 400 coins). The pay table on these slots works in proportion from the top to the bottom, so just because you’re betting the maximum number of coins it doesn’t increase the percentage of your payback. This is the usual when it comes to video slots.
Be eligible to win
As discussed above, there isn’t an incentive to bet the maximum coins per line as it doesn’t affect the overall payout. It could, though, be to your advantage to be betting on every single payline. This is because certain slot machines require the bonus symbols to land on an active payline to make you eligible for free spins or other bonus rounds.
Let’s take a look at a specific example:
- You bet a single coin which activates the middle payline only
- You’ll play the bonus event if three bonus symbols land on the middle line, as this is the line that is active
- But if the reels land on another line which you haven’t activated, you don’t get to play the bonus event
You always want to make sure you maximise your bonus events in a slot game as you build your credits up here without making extra bets. It’s best to check that you’ll be eligible for the bonus events offered, this usually just means you need to make sure you’re betting across all the paylines so that they’re all active in case of a bonus event opportunity. Some of the newer slot games no longer have the options to play fewer paylines that possible to trigger the bonus event, so with these slots you won’t have a problem.
It’s impossible to overcome the house edge entirely. Wagering the maximum amount of coins and covering all the paylines make sure you are getting the highest possible percentage of payback, but still house edge remains.
All slot games hold odds that are set so that the house is the one making the money. This will come as no surprise and is the same for online casinos or live casinos. Of course, players will try and turn the natural house edge around.
Scouting progressives is a common way of giving yourself the best opportunity. There are two major ways of doing this:
- Scouting top jackpots to find the ones that are bigger than usual
- Scouting the ‘must hit by’ slots which let you know that jackpots have to be hit by certain amounts
Of course, neither of these methods works perfectly for several reasons:
- Scouting takes a lot of time, especially with live slots
- Players don’t always get the necessary information you know if a jackpot is big enough to give them an edge
- A lot of slots are completely random and jackpot size doesn’t affect win likeliness anyway
- With linked progressives, there’s always the chance someone else is using your method!
Playing progressives when the jackpot is high does certainly increase your payback percentages, though. You won’t overcome the house edge all of the time, but missing the low jackpot times you’ll always be look at the higher than average pay tables.
So, how does all this really work?
All progressive slots begin their jackpots with a base amount and then the jackpot builds with bets from that point onwards. Someone who scouts progressives won’t play the slot when the jackpot is at, or near, the minimum level.
The idea is that scouting these and charting their performance can give you the average size of the jackpot when it hits, giving you more of an idea of when a progressive slot will pay out. By keeping a record, in a file on a computer or even a real-life notepad, it’s possible to keep track of progressive jackpots and the slots that have these.
Obviously, you won’t always be there when a jackpot hits, so there are several things to think about:
- Anyone serious about scouting progressives must frequently visit to check jackpot levels
- A serious scout would even ask about slots that have hit since a previous visit, to a slot attendant or supervisor, or even a regular casino-goer
- Certain casinos have a photo gallery of recent jackpot winners
- Sometimes, if you can’t get the information through any of the above steps, you would have to make an estimate based on previous visits
- The more data collected, the better it is
For example, if most jackpots are achieved and recorded at $7,888 or more (mostly over $8,000), someone who has been scouting would not play a slot until the jackpot reached at least $8,000. Of course, this doesn’t guarantee a profit but it gives a much higher payback percentage than starting to play when the jackpot is at, say, $5,000.
A lot to take on board, but for a serious slot player this is the way to go.
Jackpot effect on payback percentage
It’s impossible for a player to know a slot game’s targeted payback percentage and you also won’t know how much the top jackpot contributes to return overall.
Let’s say we have a $1 slot that returns 92% when the jackpot is at the bottom-end value of $5,000. For the 92%, we can imagine that 87% comes from smaller wins and the other 5% from the jackpot. For every $100,000 that is bet, you’d get back $87,000 from small payouts and then $5,000 from the jackpot. This is a total of $92,000.
If the scout doesn’t start playing this slot until the big payoff is $8,000 then the payback structure is slightly different. With this, per $100,000 that’s wagered gets back $87,000 and pays $8,000 from the jackpot for a total of $95,000.
This turns the payback percentage into 95%, rather than the 92% we saw if the slot hadn’t been scouted.
We did warn you there’d be a lot of maths! However, hopefully the above shows that this can be simplified.
Scouting ‘Must win by’ games
There are some slot machines, particularly video slots, that tell you the jackpot must be awarded by a specific level. For example, the Mystical Fortunes slot where the top box has graphics plus a further two progressives, ‘Minor’ and ‘Major’. Below Minor, the jackpot amount are in big yellow letters and it states that the jackpot ‘Must Award by $50,000’, below Major it says the jackpot ‘Must Award by $500’. As these are mystery jackpots (as discussed in our previous Slot Compendium blog), they’re separate from the main game.
You can only collect the jackpot once your bet raises the total to an amount selected by a random number generator. As a hypothetical, we’ll say the base jackpot is $200 and has to be awarded by $500. The random number generator would select somewhere between those two values and if the correct percentage of your bet manages to push the jackpot to that total then it’s yours to win. The jackpot payoff isn’t directed by symbols so the outcome of individual spins don’t affect it. You’ll find out if and when you’ve won the jackpot by being told by the slot machine itself.
If the jackpot amount is close to the ‘must win’ amount then you’ll have a better chance of winning, of course. But all the amounts have an equal chance of being selected by the random number generator between the base and high amount. Usually, the amounts are in 1-cent increments meaning that between $200 and $201 there are 100 possibilities. In the above example, there’s a $300 difference which means the random number generator has 30,000 possible totals to choose from for the jackpot.
In simple terms, this means that if your first bet is the one that increases the jackpot from $200 to $200.01, there is a one in 30,000 chance that you’re the jackpot winner. But, if your bet increases the jackpot amount to $201.01, 100 amounts have already passed, meaning your chance has improved to 1 in 29,000. Your chances increase as this goes on, up to the winning jackpot amount.
- You get a higher payback percentage by betting maximum coins on mechanical reel slots
- If there’s a huge leap in the top jackpot, this is the best incentive for betting the max on three-reel games
- You don’t have lower average losses by betting the max for the higher payback percentages
- Betting the max on video slots doesn’t necessarily increase the payback percentage
- You should always try to cover all paylines on video slots, particularly if the bonuses require symbols to land on an active payline to be triggered
- If you wait to play progressives until the jackpots are higher, you’ll have higher payback percentages
- Playing for a bigger jackpot doesn’t necessarily mean a bigger profit opportunity, the house usually still has an edge
- With ‘must win by’ progressive slots, you’re more likely to win by waiting for the jackpot to be as close as possible to the designated maximum amount
We hope you’ve learned a thing or two about how you can make the most of slots! Why not use your new-found knowledge on our range of slots at LadyLucks?