Can you beat the odds in slots?

  By – Last updated 26 Aug 2019

In this guide, we help you understand what the odds in online slots are and what they mean for you as a player. Being informed about slots can influence your strategy in a number of ways and find the game that’s best for you.

Odds can seem a daunting subject to get into, but a few key points can teach you how to win at slots.

What are the odds in online slots?

In general, odds describe the payoff in relation to your stake. In table games, you bet on a fixed outcome against a number of other possible outcomes. On a roulette wheel, for example, you are aware of all the other possible numbers the ball can land on when you bet on a number.

In European roulette, there are 37 numbers against the one number you bet on, thus your odds are 37-1 (37 to one). A casino then lowers the odds further by keeping a percentage of your wager to itself, lowering the odds to 35-1.

The percentage of your wager that a casino keeps to itself for every game is called the house edge .

Theoretically, you can imagine slots working in the same way. Each reel has a number of possible symbols and stops, sometimes including blank stops between two symbols. Each symbol and stop then leads to a number of possible combinations.

The easiest example of a slot with fixed odds is a slot that has:

  • 3 reels
  • 10 symbols
  • no blank stops

In that case, you have 1.000 possible combinations – 3 x 10.

Video slots have no fixed number of symbols on the reels, however. While there is a set number of symbols in a game, you don’t know how often they can possibly appear on one reel, since a digital slot does not have the same limitations as a physical one. Video slots do not only have more reels than physical slots (usually five), they can also display the various symbols on a reel hundreds of times, leading to billions of possible combinations.

In addition to this, online slots come with different numbers of paylines. The number of paylines also affect the number of possible combinations. This means the more paylines a slot has, the more combinations the different symbols can appear in.

Is there a way to find out about the odds of a slot?

Casinos, both offline and online, as well as game manufacturers, do not always have to disclose this information. Even for offline machines with a fixed number of symbols per reel, the calculation of your odds can be mathematically complex. You also require a slot’s paytable and the number of paylines, only then can you test every possible combination.

If a casino or game provider is licensed by the UK Gambling Commission however, they are legally required to make the odds of their products public knowledge. Thus the best online casinos for UK players are those that make that information readily available.

In that case you can contact your casino or game provider for the information directly. Game providers then list a number of different probabilities:

  • The probability of hitting any win
  • The probability of hitting a feature (where applicable)
  • The RTP (Return to Player) percentage
  • The odds of hitting the max win

Of course this doesn’t tell you the odds of a particular symbol combination appearing. As we have mentioned, this would be increasingly difficult due to the large number of possible combinations overall.

Why is the RTP important?

In online slots, everything is governed by the random number generator. It ensures the odds are the same for everyone. It generates billions of possible winning combinations. With this element of randomness, wins and the timing with which they occur can’t be predicted.

Meanwhile, the RTP is your way of knowing how high the house edge on a game is. Most modern online slots have RTP percentages between 80 and 97%, there are also higher and lower RTP percentages on the spectrum. Due to legislation in different part of the world, the RTP of a slot likely won’t be lower than 75%. Most payback percentages are in the high nineties, as no slot game developer wants to be left behind by the competition these days.

This way, the house edge on slots is often higher than table games. When thinking about odds, you also have to keep in mind that slots, more so than table games, rely on randomness and luck rather than player strategies, as there is no human opponent to gauge.

The RTP presents the average payback amount across all players of a slot. It tells you that you will on average win back 96% or 95% or whatever the return to player figure is, but it doesn’t tell you when. Your loss is likely another player’s gain. This means one player can win more than he wagered in a single round, while someone else loses. The random number generator creates a balance of such instances that leads to an average of 97% for players overall.

Still, the RTP tells you how rewarding it is to play a certain slot. After all, a slot with an RTP of 80% will pay out to any player less often than a slot with an RTP of 96%.

Additionally, there are different RTP figures for the base game of a slot and its bonus game.

They tell you that your odds of winning are almost always better once you have reached the bonus game.

There are also online slots such as Barcrest’s Ooh Aah Dracula that reward risk with a higher RTP. This particular slot has a mode in which you bet the maximum amount for five rounds at an increased RTP rate. Generally however, due to the random number generator the chances of winning at an online slot should stay the same unless there is an explicit, optional mode like this built into a slot.

Progressive jackpot slots also have different odds, which are expressed through the RTP.

In these slots, the RTP in the base game is comparatively low – often around 80%. The low RTP ensures that the progressive jackpot is sufficiently fed. Winning chances in the base game are lower overall so that the person who overcomes these low odds can win big. Often this is quite a hurdle however – many jackpot slots in fact have several jackpots attacjed to them, each with their own odds of winning.

What does volatility tell me about the odds?

Volatility, also called variance, is another important facet to getting a general idea of your odds at a slot.

The volatility describes the risk associated with a slot. Slots with low volatility have a low risk. They pay out regularly, but the amount you receive is low. High volatility slots can leave you hanging for a long time, but in return the wins that you do achieve will be all the better.

You can imagine that jackpot slots thus have a higher volatility than regular slots, for example. Low volatility slots allow you to play longer, as you will be able to keep your losses smaller thanks to more frequent wins.

If you want to know your odds at winning, look at a slot’s volatility and its RTP. Any good slot review should give you this information. Alternatively, you can test a slot to develop a feeling of the volatility yourself. How long does it take you to hit a win? How high are such wins? Does it take a long time to hit a bonus feature? How frequent and high are wins in such a feature?

The answers to all of these questions will tell you if a slot has low, middle or high volatility. Generally, the more bonus features a slot has and the better wins such a feature promises, for example by frequently offering multipliers, the higher the volatility of a slot will be overall.

Can I develop strategies to beat the odds?

Unfortunately, you can never actually beat the odds. This is because the results you receive are completely random, calculated from a large number of possible outcomes. Some states are also programmed into slots, such as the odds of maximum wins or jackpots being really low.

The longer you play, the closer you get to an average. Wins will be followed by losses, so that even the biggest win is brought down to the average eventually.

There are however a few things you can do. Not to beat the odds, but to ensure the best possible outcome for yourself.

Know your limits

This advice is always very important in online casino gaming. Since you can’t beat the odds, there is no use in chasing your losses.

Set yourself fixed win and loss limits instead. Additionally, decide on a wagering amount that works for your budget and how long you would like to play for. Once you have won the amount you wanted to win or lost your budget for the session, stop playing.

You can set such limits yourself in any slot machine that adheres to responsible gaming regulations. Once you have hit a big win, for example through a bonus game, walk away. The odds have been in your favour for the day, and it’s more likely that going forward, the random number generator will try to even out that win. This behaviour may not hit your gaming session specifically, as the calculations of the RNG are random, but they might, so it’s best to turn away while you still have a profit.

Study the behaviour of a slot

Before you commit to a slot, you should get a feel for how it plays. By playing you can get a feeling for a slot’s volatility and find out what wins are possible in a bonus game.

If you want to, you can do so by playing a demo of the slot of your choice first. Try all the different settings and the wagering options you will be able to afford in the real game. It costs you nothing and it will tell you if a slot is both lucrative and fun.

It is also a good idea to study paylines. Some slots have ten paylines, some 25, and that can marjedly change the behaviour of the slot and how often in pays. In addition to that, slots such as 243 ways to win slots pay by offering wholly new combinations. Whether your slot is a cascading slot that replaces symbols, pays both ways or one way, all of this is going to make a difference.

Try to determine when and what a slot pays out

If the slot you are playing is more likely to pay out during a bonus game, you need to factor in how difficult it is to reach the bonus game in the first place. Perhaps a slot with base game bonuses is the better option for you. It could be, depending on the volatility of such a slot.

Also, do check how much symbols pay using the slot paytable. If you see a certain symbol with a good value appear on the slot more often, your odds of a decent are good. Likewise, they are worse if a slot is full of low-paying symbols but the symbols you really want are elusive.

Symbol values are different from slot to slot, so it’s worth to consult the paytable while you are testing things out.

When it comes to jackpots, some gamblers swear by a particular method. They watch a slot over a longer period of time to determine when the jackpot is hit on average. There are websites that help you track jackpot behaviour by telling you when it was last hit and how high it was at that point in time. Then they start playing either when the time coincides with when it was last hit or when the jackpot surpasses that average.

Do keep in mind that just because this may heighten the odds of finding the time near which the jackpot will pay out, that doesn’t mean you will be the lucky winner. You will still need to stick to your limits to ensure you haven’t spent large amounts of money for nothing, especially if the jackpot is a slightly smaller one.

How to beat the odds at slots

In summary, there is no way to beat the odds. You may be able to get a lucky break in a session and win early, or make a small profit. Overall, slots operate at fixed odds the player can’t influence. The following is true for every slot:

  • Wins and losses on average occur due to the set RTP percentage, but the outcome for each individual player is random
  • A casino always has a house edge and automatically retains some of each of your wagers
  • Due to a large number of variables, you can’t calculate the odds for yourself
  • Studying a slot’s features such as bonus games, symbol value and paylines can give you an idea as to the odds

It’s the uncertainty that makes slots and gambling in general so exciting – you may win unexpectedly, at any moment. The random number generator ensures that the same is true for every player. To create an average, players balance each other out. Some win and some lose. In games that are not dependent on skill, this is only natural. That’s why the most important aspect of gambling, particularly at slots, is to have fun.

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