Slots odds, payouts and variance

If you've don't any research into slots at all you'll know that winning is based on luck and chance. When it comes to the odds offered on these games they vary depending on type of slot you're playing as well as the payout percentage offered and the machine's variance.

Here we'll take discuss the inners workings of a slot machine in order to gain an understanding of how slots function, which will also dispel the myths that slots can be either hot or cold. We will then take a look at the factors affecting slots odds and your chances of winning.

How slot machines work

Modern slot machines are governed by a Random Number Generator or RNG, a complex computer program that determines where the reels will come to a standstill and which symbols will be displayed.

A random number is assigned to a position on the reel after you press the spin button, after which the reel spins with the number assigned to a particular symbol and stops at the designated stop making the result truly random as the computer draws from hundreds of thousands of possible outcomes to deliver results in a truly random manner, independent of the outcomes of the previous or subsequent spins.

For this reason, although it may seem like a slot is "hot" or "cold" for longer periods, this is purely the variance of the game, the slot itself has no knowledge of each spins results.

These results are thoroughly tested by independent auditors to ensure that each slot's RNG is working correctly and delivering fair results. Slots at both land based and online casinos are subject to this scrutiny for licensing and regulation purposes, so if you're playing at a reputable casino, you are assured of complete peace of mind in this area.

Payout Percentages

Slots odds and payout percentages are often confused so let's clarify that now...

The payout percentage of a slot refers to the monetary value that the game payout out to players in comparison to the value of the wagers played on it. So if a slot has a 97% payout rate, this will mean that for every $/€/£ 100 wagered on it, $/€/£ 97 will be returned to players in the form of wins.

It is important to note that this percentage is calculated over the long term and does not necessarily mean that you will always get $/€/£ 97 back for every $/€/£ 100 you spend. If that was the case slots would be a sucker's game and really boring!

The reality is that the payout percentage will usually have little to no influence on your individual game in any perceivable way. The slot's hold percentage is the amount that the casino makes off of the slot and this is calculated by applying a very simple equation where you subtract the payout percentage from 100. In our example above the casino would have a 3% edge.

When it comes to denominations, slots with higher denominations generally offer a higher payout percentage. This often means that it is advisable to play 1 coin per line on a dollar game than to play 10 coins per line on a 10 cent machine.

However, the challenge in determining slots payout rates for specific machines comes in due to the fact that this information is not always made public, although some slots manufacturers will publish their theoretical Return to Player on the machine, but this is still more an exception to the rule.

Slot Variance

When it comes to slots a machine's variance will have far more influence on your game than the payout percentage. Slot variance refers to the risk inherent in the game and will dictate how it behaves. Low variance slots offer small, more frequent wins but rarely any significant jackpot wins, while high variance slots offer longer stretches of play with few to no wins, but much high jackpot wins when they do hit.

Determining your odds when playing a slot will to some extent depend on your definition of winning. If any combination that awards you a win, no matter how small is a win, then low variance slots offer greater odds of winning. However if you define a win as only a large amount, then your odds are higher when playing high variance slots like progressives.

Strategies for Winning at slots

There is no magic strategy or system that will ensure that you win at slots and your "strategy" for winning will depend on your personal preferences. If you have a small bankroll and want to get more game play and more frequent, albeit smaller wins, the low variance games are the way to go.

If you have a large bankroll and want to go for big wins, then you'll be able to play high variance slots and ride out the long periods between wins.

At the end of the day though, it all comes down to luck, so have fun and enjoy the games but don't think that there is anything that you can do to influence their outcomes.