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You don’t need any special skills to play a slot machine. All you do is select the spin button and wait for results.
Every month, the Mississippi Gaming Commission publishes statistical reports that tell us, among other things, how much slot machines are paying back to players. In March, for example, non-progressive slots payed 91.16 percent in penny denominations, 93.72 on nickels, 92.41 percent on quarters and 96.81 percent on dollars. The 2018 American Casino Guide provides casino-goers with money-saving, detailed information that can be helpful for both seasoned casino veterans, as well as first-time casino visitors. Anyone who is looking to learn more about gambling, or simply planning a gambling-related vacation, will find the book to be extremely helpful.
But this isn’t to say that you can’t do certain things to improve your chances of winning in slots. One of the easiest ways to boost your odds is by playing slot machines with high payback percentages.
Much like any other casino game, winning back more money gives you better odds of beating the casino.
Find out as I cover different methods of finding payback for popular slot machines in both land-based and online casinos. But first, I’m going to discuss exactly what payback is for those who know little about this concept.
What Is Payback Percentage and Return to Player?
Two terms that you’ll often see in the slots world include payback percentages and return to player.
Payback percentages and return to player (RTP) are the same thing, and they refer to how much money a slot machine pays over the long term.
Here’s an example.
- A slot machine has 94% RTP
- You bet $100 on this game
- 100 x 0.94 = $94
- This slot machine will theoretically pay you $94 for every $100 wagered
I stress the word “theoretically,” because slot machines don’t hit their intended payback percentage in the short run. Instead, these are volatile games that only realize their RTP after hundreds of thousands or even millions of spins.
You might think that this diminishes the value of finding RTP. But if you continually play slot machines with high payback, then you’ll have the best chance to win money.
Finding Payback for Popular Land-Based Slot Machines
The land-based casino industry features plenty of famous slot machines, including IGT’s Ellen, Aristocrat’s Game of Thrones, Bally’s Hot Shot, IGT’s Megabucks, and IGT’s Wheel of Fortune.
Given how these machines take millions of dollars in collective bets every day, you’d think that it would be easy to find RTP for each one. But the truth is that it’s really hard to get info on land-based slot machines.Note:
One problem is that casinos can order different payback for the same game. If IGT offers 10 different RTP options for their Ellen slot machine, then many casinos will to choose differently from each other.
Another problem is that there’s just not much information out there on land-based slot machine payback. You can google different terms again and again and still not find RTP for the most popular slots.
But as impossible as finding brick-and-mortar slots payback may seem, there are a few different avenues you can take.
Look at State Gaming Reports
One of the most reliable ways to find RTP data on slot machines is by looking at reports from gaming jurisdictions.
These records contain general information on what payback you can expect from different casinos. You may even get lucky and find payback percentages on the popular games.
This 2017 report from the Nevada Gaming Control Board shows the state’s average win from various coin denominations, as well as Megabucks.
- Penny Slots = 90.17% payback (9.83% house take)
- Nickel Slots = 94.54% payback (5.46% house take)
- Quarter Slots = 93.06% payback (6.94% house take)
- Dollar Slots = 93.94% payback (6.06% house take)
- $5 Slots = 94.16% payback (5.82% house take)
- $25 Slots = 95.03% payback (4.97% house take)
- $100 Slots = 93.21% payback (6.79% house take)
- Megabucks = 87.93% payback (12.07% house take)
Megabucks is arguably the world’s most famous slot machine. This game has paid out many of the biggest slots jackpots in history, including the largest one at $39.7 million.
This is why the Megabucks slot machine is the only one that regularly appears on the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s monthly/annual reports.
The data above shows that Megabucks only paid back 87.93% throughout 2017. This game doesn’t even match payback from Vegas penny slot machines (90.17%), which are notorious for being tight.
But it’s worth adding that the 87.93% payback refers to what Megabucks starts at after IGT seeds the initial jackpot.
Given that this is a progressive game, the jackpot grows with every bet. And Megabucks’ payback can be much higher than the 87.93% listed value.
Many famous slot machines with big progressive jackpots start around 88% payback, including Wheel of Fortune. You can then use the jackpot size to make an educated guess on how high the RTP has grown.
Be sure to look at your state’s gaming report to see what you can dig up on slot machine payback.
Odds are that you won’t find data on specific games, like with Megabucks in Nevada’s report. But you’ll at least get an idea of the casinos and coin denominations that are paying well.
Make General RTP Assumptions About Coin Denominations
Generally speaking, slot machines with higher coin denominations pay more money.
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Of course, the statistics don’t always show this. A good example can be seen in the 2017 Nevada report discussed above, where everything from nickel to $100 slots are relatively even.
But also keep in mind that the $25 slot machines had the highest payback (95.03%). As for the $100 slots only paying 93.21%, this can be chalked up to a smaller sample size.
Only a small percentage of gamblers can actually afford to bet $100 per spin. This means that the $100 slot machines’ statistics will be more volatile than other denominations.
We can look at payback for coin denominations at Connecticut’s Foxwoods for evidence of this.
- Penny Slots = 89.88% payback (10.12% house take)
- Nickel Slots = 90.58% payback (9.42% house take)
- Quarter Slots = 91.95% payback (8.05% house take)
- Dollar Slots = 93.45% payback (6.55% house take)
- $5 Slots = 94.08% payback (5.92% house take)
- $25 Slots = 96.16% payback (4.84% house take)
- $100 Slots = 96.76% payback (3.24% house take)
You can see here that payback progressively increases when moving from penny to $100 slots. The biggest separation is seen when moving from the $5 slots (94.08% RTP) to $100 games (96.76%).
Making generalizations about slots payback percentages based on games’ coin size isn’t a guaranteed plan. But it’s a solid method to use when you don’t have any other information.
Be careful when seeking out higher-denomination slots just for the payback, though. You’re still going to lose more money on high-denomination slots overall, even with the increased RTP.
Here’s a comparison using the Foxwoods’ data to illustrate this point.
- I play a penny slot machine with 89.88% payback
- I make 100 spins on this game, which has a $0.50 minimum bet
- 0.50 x 100 x 0.1012 house edge = $5.06 in losses
- I play a $5 slot machine with 94.08% payback
- I play 100 spins on this game, which has a $5 minimum bet
- 5 x 100 x 0.0592 house edge = $29.60 in losses
If you really want to play the higher-denomination games, then by all means, do so. But don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’ll win more money this way.
Look at Overall Slots Payback for Casinos
You won’t have much luck finding RTP for individual slot machines, but you can at least develop a composite average by looking at overall payback among casinos.
State gaming reports, like the ones discussed before, are good for doing this. Here’s an example from Ohio that shows the average 2017 slots RTP for their casinos.
- JACK Cleveland = 92.34% payback (7.66% house take)
- Hollywood Columbus = 92.17% payback (7.83% house take)
- JACK Cincinnati = 91.56% payback (8.44% house take)
- Miami Valley = 91.24% payback (8.76% house take)
- Hollywood Toledo = 90.95% payback (8.95% house take)
- Belterra Park = 91.08% payback (9.92% house take)
- Hard Rock Rocksino = 91.06% payback (8.94% house take)
- Scioto Downs = 90.96% payback (9.04% house take)
- JACK Thistledown = 90.87% payback (9.13% house take)
- Dayton Raceway = 90.47% payback (9.53% house take)
- Hollywood Mahoning Valley = 90.09% payback (9.91% house take)
These figures show what you can expect in terms of all slot machines at these casinos.
The best deal was offered at JACK Cleveland, where players earned an average of 92.34% payback. The lowest overall RTP is seen at Hollywood Mahoning Valley, where players faced 90.09% payback on average.
Of course, there are no guarantees when you go off of composite averages. You can sit down to a random slot machine at JACK Cleveland that pays less than games at Hollywood Mahoning.
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But the key is that you at least have a better chance by choosing casinos with superior payback.
Google Different Slots Payback/RTP Terms
One final way that you can look for land-based payback percentages is simply by googling terms. You can choose specific terms such as “Ellen slot RTP” or “IGT Wheel of Fortune RTP.”
I’ve spent a good deal of time searching for various terms regarding land-based slot machine payback. Unfortunately, most of these efforts have turned up little-to-no information.
If your initial searches don’t produce anything worthwhile, you can always switch things up. For example, google “Hot Shot slot payback” instead of “Hot Shot slot RTP.”
But again, information is scarce on payback for individual slots. The best you’ll normally do is finding general info like state gaming reports and articles.
Finding Payback for Popular Online Slot Machines
Looking for online slots RTP is a much easier task compared to doing the same for land-based machines. The main reason why is due to the nature of how the internet slots industry works.
Online gaming providers produce games and normally offer a uniform payback percentage across all casinos. This differs from the land-based industry, where the casinos have options in terms of RTP.
The end result is that the same slot machine you find at one online casino has identical payback in another casino.
On another note, you can expect higher RTP from online slots. The reason why is because internet casinos can run these games cheaper due to less overhead costs.
They don’t have to pay for big slot machine cabinets or people to maintain the games. Instead, everything runs through internet software.
Now I’m going to look at a few different ways that you can find RTP for online slot machines.
Search for Individual Games and Their Payback Percentage
If you already have a specific online slot in mind, then you can quickly find payback by searching for it. Here’s an example:
- You want to know payback for NetEnt’s Blood Suckers
- You google “Blood Suckers slot RTP”
- A number of available results show that it offers 98.0% payback
The good news is that you don’t even need to select one of the search results in most cases. You can instead read the description snippets under each link to spot the payback percentage.
In the case of my search for Blood Suckers’ RTP, I only had to scroll down to the second result’s description to find the answer. Of course, you should start clicking website links if you don’t find what you’re looking for in the descriptions.
Looking at the individual games works great if you already have favorite slots and want to know their RTP.
Look at an Online Slot Machine’s Help Screen
Much like land-based slot machines, older online slots fail to list their RTP. But most of the new online slot machines do offer this information.
All you need to do is visit an internet slot machine’s help screen to check for the payback. Here’s an example.
- I’m playing Thunderkick’s Esqueleto Explosivo
- I select the help screen
- I scroll down and quickly see that this game offers 96.0% RTP
Sometimes you’ll play games that have multiple pages on the help screen. In this case, all you need to do is keep scrolling until you find the payback percentage.
You’ll notice that certain online slots makers always put the RTP in the help screens of their newer games. Examples include NetEnt, Quickspin, and Thunderkick.
Google Individual Online Slots Makers
What I’ve discussed so far works well for finding payback percentages on popular online slot machines. But if you like a certain slots maker’s style, then you can look for RTP on all of their games.
This is nice because it gives you a complete list of a specific provider’s slot machines. You can then use this info to choose the highest-paying games.
Here’s an example on finding RTP for RealTime Gaming (RTP) slots.
- I google “RTG slots payback”
- I select multiple websites
- These sites collectively offer RTP on many RealTime slots
Sometimes the info you need will be dispersed throughout several search results. Other times you’ll find a neat list that covers every slot machine.
Don’t Forget About Slots Volatility
I covered the importance of payback percentages earlier. But it’s also important to consider how volatility affects your returns.
Volatility refers to how much your short-term results will fluctuate when playing slot machines. This means that you might not win much money in the short term even if a game has good RTP.
High-volatility slot machines have more unpredictable results than low-volatility games. If you’re trying to stretch out a small bankroll, then you want to avoid games with high volatility.
Some online slots developers actually give a volatility rating for their slot machines. Pragmatic Play is one example, and they use between one and five lightning bolts to indicate volatility.
But the vast majority of internet slot machines still don’t offer this information. That means you need to look at the jackpot size and the pay table to make a rough guess on a game’s volatility.
Generally speaking, volatile slot machines have big jackpots and few small payouts. Therefore, you want to look for the opposite of this to make your bankroll last longer.
How Progressive Jackpots Affect Payback
Several of the most popular online slot machines are linked to huge progressive jackpots. These include Microgaming’s Mega Moolah, NetEnt’s Mega Fortune, Playtech’s Jackpot Giant, and Random Logic’s Millionaire Genie.
These games are just like Megabucks and Wheel of Fortune in how they start with low payback. But the RTP steadily grows as more players pour money into these games.For Example
Mega Moolah starts off with 88.12% payback. This figure quickly grows as the Mega Moolah jackpot adds millions of dollars in value.
Unfortunately, calculating exactly how much a progressive jackpot affects RTP is next to impossible. The reason why is because slots games don’t list the exact odds behind every payout.
This is different from video poker, where we can always figure out payback percentages based on the odds of getting certain hands.
Nevertheless, you can make educated guesses based on where a jackpot value begins up to its current point. If Mega Fortune is seeded at $500,000 and grows to $5 million, you know that RTP has also increased by a significant amount.
Of course, the odds are very slim that you’ll win the progressive jackpot. This means that you’ll be dealing with the base payback figures.
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If you’re not comfortable dealing with between 88% and 90% payback, then I suggest choosing popular online slots that don’t have big progressive jackpots. These games will pay back money on a more consistent basis.
But if you like to dream big, then, by all means, play the bigger progressive slot machines. Just wait until the jackpot grows, though, so that you theoretically get higher expected value from your wagers.
Always Read the Help Screen to Ensure You Earn Max Payback
One more point I’d like to stress is how you should always check out the help screen to learn all the rules.
I already discussed how this is a good way to figure out a game’s RTP. But the help screen also explains the different stipulations behind earning max payback.For Example
You may have to use all of the pay lines or bet a certain coin size to qualify for the highest RTP. Furthermore, the progressive jackpot and/or bonus features may only be available for max bettors.
The aforementioned Game of Thrones slot machine requires a 100-credit wager to trigger the Fire & Blood bonus. If you don’t have a chance to unlock this bonus, then you’re not playing for the highest payback.
The last thing you want to do is play a slot machine under the guise that you’re earning a certain payback percentage, only to find out that you’re not. Check out a game’s help screen and learn the rules before you start betting real money.
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Finding payback percentages is far easier with online slots thanks to all of the available information.
You can find this info either by googling popular games or even the slots providers themselves. The latter is great for when you like a certain slots maker and want to know which of their games offer the best RTP.
In contrast, land-based slot machines offer very little payback info. Megabucks is one of the few popular slots with an actual payback figure listed online.
This leaves you having to sift through state gaming reports and making guesses based on coin denominations and progressive jackpot sizes. It’s not an exact science, but this at least gives you some clue.
In summary, use the methods that I’ve covered here to find payback percentages for popular slot machines. Consistently doing so ensures that you’ll win more money back as you continue playing slots.