Slot Machine Strategy

by Charles Bogart

There are as many slot machine "strategy" guides on the market as there are guides debunking slot strategy. In the twisted world of slot machine advice, there are many who will line up to sell you their book, advising that YOU can WIN all sort of ludicrous amount of money by a few "simple" methods. I'd suggest that anyone who promises you easy money for little work has his eye on your wallet - and you should stay far away.

But don't take my word for it - gain an understanding of how slot machines work and then see exactly why so-called slot machine "strategies" are bound to fail.

What is a random number generator?

Often abbreviated as RNG in writing related to gaming, a random number generator is any of a family of computer programs or physical devices designed to generate a sequence of numbers or symbols that lack any pattern at all, and therefore appear random. Without getting too clinical, this is accomplished usually through the use of algorithms - complex mathematical equations designed to solve specific problems.

Algorithms are used in everyday life - if you use Gmail, you've noticed that advertisements appear to the right of your email box which seem eerily close to details from your outbox. This is accomplished using algorithms, and other examples are everywhere, from bank ATMs to complicated financial predictions.

Slot Machine StrategyThis randomness is important to online gaming in that it closely imitates true randomness in life. Imagine a coin flip which was not totally governed by randomness - it might be possible to notice a pattern in the appearance of heads or tails and this pattern could be exploited. True coin flips have no pattern and are therefore safe from this kind of manipulation.

Basically, the random number generator inside of a slot machine works like this: a slot machine containing an RNG-based computer system will constantly come up with random series of numbers. These numbers correspond to the "reels" in the machine, dictating where the reels "stop" and also what number or symbol the reels will show. Even when not being played, the slot machine is crunching numbers - this means that when a player pulls the "arm" of the machine (or presses the button, depending on the type of machine) nothing is truly accomplished.

Random Number GeneratorThe player is only indicating to the machine that it is time to display some random numbers, meaning the pull of the arm is truly just for show. This method also ensures that each random number generation (each "pull of the arm") is different from the one before it, and the one after it has nothing to do with the pull before, etc. Each pull is truly random and independent, like the spinning of the roulette wheel. This does not mean that machines are all the same - the machine's payout is highly flexible depending on the rules of the machine, the pay of the user, and many other factors.

Why bet sizing doesn't work

This last feature of slot machines run by RNG - that the player's impact on the game is minimal due to the randomness of the computer - pretty much debunks all slot machine "strategy". The size of your bet, regardless of how well you've strategized and planned your bet sizes, has no impact on the RNG system. The computer has no idea who you are, the size of your bet in comparison to the size of your previous bets, or any information about you as a player at all. Each play on a slot machine is independent from other plays, thus any strategy involving the breakdown of play over any number of pulls is probably bunk.

Why "finding the best slots" doesn't work

Money Management Strategy - Bet SizingThe same principle applies to "strategists" who line up to tell you how to pick "the best slots" or "the loose slots". Part of the recreational appeal of a slot machine is its randomness - if there were machines on the market that did nothing but sit on the casino floor and spit out jackpots you can bet they wouldn't be kept a secret. The lines would stretch for blocks, and the industry would quickly take care of the problem.

Strategy guides will suggest you go to certain areas of the casino floor (usually the less desirable areas by the bathroom or other inconvenient necessities) where floor bosses and whoever else have hidden the loose machines. Again, I don't doubt that casino employees would do anything in their power to keep players on "tight" machines (if they existed), but I do doubt that some machines pay out more often than others. It is mathematically impossible to find a "loose" slot - it simply will not happen.

Why play charting doesn't work

Use common sense - this is the moral of the article, really. Does it make sense that you could beat a random system? Slot machines are won by luck and luck alone.

Unfortunately, some systems sound so effective - especially the "play charting" strategy. Who doesn't believe in managing their money by charting their play? The basic premise of these strategies is to keep a record of your wins and losses.

This is not a bad idea, in fact I would suggest all casino gamers worried about their bank roll do this or something similar. However, the strategists always take it a step further, and suggest that you can track certain machines and figure out which ones to play based on your chart.

Does this remind you a little of the old "hot slots" argument? It should - it is the same argument. You must remember that random numbers can't be charted into any particular pattern. If you win more money or more often at certain machines, it is because you happened to press buttons at just the right times more often during one stretch of play.

That which seems to occur in a pattern is easily revealed as truly random - track the number of time you win on a machine and see if there's a pattern of ups and down. Not only will you be wasting your money, you will have forgotten the point of playing a slot machine - fun.

Slot machine strategies that work

All is not lost. You will not find a secret to beating the slots, this is simply impossible. However, there are behaviors and "strategies" that will make your time with slots more enjoyable, and perhaps more intangibly profitable.

First of all, never play slots drunk. Listen up, we're all adults, and we all understand the difference between a social drink and drunkenness. Any gambling plus excessive use of alcohol is a bad idea - you think shopping for groceries when you're hungry is bad, try betting your livelihood after five or six scotches. This is a simple guideline that may help you more than any strategy to beat an RNG.

Secondly, join the slot club, join the casino club, join in any program where you can get any kind of reward. If you're planning on playing slots it just doesn't make sense to not join a casino's promotional system. The casino wants to reward you for using their machines, and I'd say you earned whatever you win through the club simply by warming their seats. Admittedly, sometimes the swag you get is pretty cheesy, but once you get to the level of free food, free shows, free rooms, or straight up cash - you'll know by then this was a good decision.

There are similar systems for online players as well - bonuses, bonus spins, etc. Take advantage of the casino in any way you can. Comps and club winnings account for tens of millions of dollars every year, you should earn your share.

Learn to play video poker. True, video poker isn't the same game as slots. But it's really similar. You put money in, you win money. You even use your slots club card in the machine. The biggest difference is that video poker is a game of skill AND chance, not just a game of chance, and you can use a video poker strategy to improve the odds. Most video poker machines offer a much better payout percentage than a slot machine too.

Finally, true money management skills can really improve your slot gaming experience. You won't win any more than you would otherwise, but you just might recognize a bad pattern and decide its time to quit for the day - or maybe you'll realize how far up you are against the house and end a day in the black for once. The basic strategy involves setting a budget for yourself, keeping track of how much you spend (using the dreaded pen and notepad!), and sticking to the budget you made after reviewing the notes you've taken. It sounds like quite a burden, but if this method keeps you from losing the down payment on your new home, the work will be worth it.

The important thing to remember about slot play, if you forget everything else I've told you, is that these machines are truly random. Keep the power of randomness in mind, remember that you're here to play slots and have fun, and always keep track of your play. No matter how wealthy you are, there is no excuse for sloppy slot machine play. Unless you like making the House richer.

Slot Machine Strategy Sites

Some of the best websites and web pages about slot machine betting strategies:

  1. How to Read a Slot Machine from About.com - One valid slot machine strategy is to know what you're playing and how to play it. It won't give you an advantage, but the game is more fun when you know what's going on.
  2. Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling Excerpt - Andrew Brisman on slot machine strategy and smarts. Good, reputable advice.
  3. Slot Machine Systems - An exhaustive look at various betting systems applied to slot machines and why they don't work.
  4. Slot Machines Explained by The Wizard of Odds - Michael Shackleford's explanation of how slot machines work will probably convince you that there is no real "strategy".

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