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10 Things I Wish I’d Known about Slots Before I Started

guy sitting at slots
The good thing about slot machines is that you don’t need to know much get started. All you have to do is insert your funds and begin spinning the reels.

But what many new players don’t realize is that slot machines are more involved than this.

Specifically, there are ways to tell how much these games will pay back and how frequently they’ll pay. These are just a couple of the concepts that I didn’t understand in the beginning.

Let’s go over 10 things that every new player should know to avoid the same mistakes that I made early on.

1 – The Term “Penny Slots” Should Be Taken Lightly

Many beginners are attracted to penny slot machines because the name implies that you’ll be playing for pennies.

This is a good quality to any low roller who simply wants to relax without stressing over their bankroll. I was certainly one player who was attracted to penny slot machines in the beginning.

I thought that I’d only be risking one cent per spin while learning these games. But much to my surprise, the $20 that I inserted vanished within a few moments.

What happened?

The biggest problem is that penny slot machines normally require you to play fixed pay lines. If a penny slot has 50 lines, then you need to bet a minimum of $0.50 per spin.

The good thing about this is that you get 50 chances to win on each spin. But the downside is that your money disappears quicker during a losing streak.

This isn’t to say that you should avoid penny slot machines. But you’ll want to look at the rules beforehand to see how many pay lines you must use on each spin.

2 – Volatility Affects How Often You Win

Another thing that would’ve been helpful to me, in the beginning, is to understand how volatility works in slot machines.

Volatility is often used in the stock market to describe short term risk with investments. This term is also commonly used in slot machines to address how frequently you can expect to win.

The more volatile the machine, the less frequently you’ll win. And this is a problem to low rollers who are counting on frequent payouts to sustain their bankroll.

What’s difficult about slots volatility is that games don’t give any indication on this aspect. But you can come up with a rough guideline based on the following factors:

  • Size of the progressive jackpot – Small or no progressive jackpots indicate low volatility.
  • Number of large payouts (over 100 coins) – Fewer means lower volatility.
  • Number of small payouts (under 25 coins) – More means less volatility.
  • Bonuses & special symbols – Fewer features indicate low volatility.

Figuring out volatility isn’t an exact science. But you can at least come up with a reasonable guess by using these factors to judge.

I highly recommend doing this research if you have a small bankroll and want to play slots for a while. After all, you don’t want to wind up on a high volatility game when trying to stretch your bankroll.

3 – Big Jackpot Games Offer Fewer Wins

Some slots players get the most thrills out of chasing a huge progressive jackpot. And what’s exciting is that certain games offer jackpots worth millions of dollars.

But there are two downsides to playing big progressive slot machines:

1. Volatility is high.
2. Base payback is low.

We discussed volatility in depth above. And larger progressive games pay less frequently because they need make up for the huge jackpot that casinos/manufacturers seed.

Payback refers to how much a slot machine will pay over the long term. Here’s an example:

  • A slot machine’s payback is 95%.
  • You bet $100 on the game.
  • We multiply $100 by 0.95 to get payback.
  • You’ll theoretically win back $95.

Games with large progressive jackpots usually offer payback in the same range as normal games. However, this also accounts for the big jackpot that’s available.

A good example of this is Microgaming’s Mega Moolah. This slot only offers 88.1% payback, but the payout percentage grows along with the jackpot.

Mega Moolah has paid as much as $20 million (£13.2m) in the past. At this point, Mega Moolah could be offering theoretical payback worth over 100%.

Of course, the catch is that you’re probably not going to win the multimillion-dollar jackpot. Everybody who doesn’t win is merely dealing with a slot machine that offers 88.1% payback, which is terrible.

4 – It’s Easy to Research Online Slots Payback

I started playing online slots with little knowledge of payback percentages and how to research them. This means that I wasn’t always giving myself the best chance to win with the top paying games.

If only I’d known how easy it is to find internet slots payback. The reason why this is easy is because online gaming providers offer uniform payout percentages across every casino they supply.

This differs from land-based slot machines because casinos can order different payback for the same game.
How do you search for online slots payback?

Here’s an example

1.You want to find payback for Realtime Gaming (RTG) slots.

2.You Google or Bing “Realtime Gaming slots payback.”

3.You can choose several results on the first page.

4.One or more of these results should list payback for all/most RTG slots.

Once you know the payback for a certain provider’s games, you can visit any casino that they supply and play their best games.

5 – You Need to Sign up for the Slots Club to Get Rewards

One of the biggest mistakes that I made involves playing slot machines at several brick-and-mortar casinos without signing up for the slots club. This is a huge mistake because you need a slots club card before you’re eligible to receive comps.

It wasn’t until I was playing one day and saw somebody inserting their card into a machine that I asked and found out about the slots club.

Joining is simple because all you need to do is stop by the player’s desk and fill out an application. You can also visit a casino’s website to see if they offer a way to sign up online.

Once you have a card, insert it into any video poker or slot machine that you play. The card tracks how many loyalty points you accumulate during sessions.

These points can be redeemed for a number of benefits like cashback, free meals, merchandise, and free hotel rooms. Of course, you need to play a lot of slots in order to get the best rewards.

After all, most slots clubs only comp you on 0.3% of your total bets. This means that you’d only earn $3 worth of points after betting $1,000.

Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth joining the slots club if you plan on playing a lot and want to accumulate free rewards.

6 – Find Online Slots Bonuses with Lower Wagering Requirements

Online casinos offer welcome bonuses as a way to entice players to sign up and deposit money. And I was certainly interested after seeing an offer for a 100% bonus worth up to $1,000.

I figured that the casino wouldn’t just hand me the money, because one could just cash it out right away. But I also didn’t think to read the terms and conditions on what’s needed to earn the bonus.

The wagering requirements on my first online slots bonus were 60x the bonus. This meant that I had to wager $12,000 just to unlock a $200 reward.

The main problem is that most online casinos offer a better deal on wagering requirements than this. The industry norm is 40x the bonus, or 20x the bonus plus deposit amount.

I could’ve cut the wagering requirements by one third at another casino by knowing this beforehand.

What’s even better is if you can find a bonus that only requires you to wager 30x or 35x the bonus amount. At 30x, you only need to wager half of what I did to unlock a bonus.

In summary, be sure to read terms and conditions behind a bonus before you deposit at any internet casino.

7 – Game Rules Are Really Important

Earlier we covered how I once played a penny slot machine without realizing that it had fixed pay lines. These are the types of things that can often be cleared up by reading the game rules.

Most 5 reel slot machines offer a special screen where you can read the rules and see the pay table. This is important because it allows you to see if there are any special betting or jackpot requirements.

For example, a slot machine may require that you make a special side bet in order to qualify for a progressive jackpot. In other cases, you may just need to know that the game forces you to use all 30 pay lines.

The rules screen is also helpful with regard to learning how bonus rounds and special symbols work. Here are a few examples of special icons that are found in slot machines:

  • Expanding wild – Expands to cover an entire reel.
  • Random wild – Can appear randomly after a spin is over.
  • Scatter symbol – Can trigger wins without being in a specific pay line.
  • Sticky wild – Remains onscreen for more than one spin.

Experienced players usually have a good understanding of special symbols and how to play bonus rounds. Nevertheless, both beginning and experienced players should check out the rules screen any time they try new games.

This is a good policy because you don’t want to play a slot machine under the assumption that you’re qualified for a jackpot or bonus when you’re really not.

It’s also good to know how many symbols you need to get special payouts and bonuses. This makes slots more exciting when you need one more symbol in a certain payout and are eagerly waiting in anticipation.

8 – Slots Results Are Completely Random

Like many new slots players, I had a lot of preconceived notions about how these games work. And perhaps the biggest myth that I fell for is that machines can run hot and cold.

This launched me into a casino-wide odyssey to try numerous games and see if they were hot or cold. If I didn’t win a payout within the first 15 spins, I picked up and moved to another machine.

I wasn’t causing any harm to my bankroll in theory, but this also wasted a lot of time with no payoff. Another problem is that this forces you to learn the rules for a new game far too often.

Worst of all, you could be playing slot machines with low payback as you’re going around the casino and trying multiple games.

The reality is that hot and cold streaks are simply the result of odds.

All slot machines are volatile to a degree because they need to make up for larger payouts at the top. And this means that slots have one of the lowest payout rates in the casino.

Slot machines usually offer prizes around 10% to 15% of the time. For comparison, consider that even-money roulette bets pay 48.64% of the time.

This discrepancy in payout frequency when compared to other casino games is why slots feel so streaky.

Another thing worth mentioning here is that slot machine results are based on a random number generator (RNG). This is a program that cycles through countless number combinations to determine the results of your spin.

Given that RNGs can cycle through hundreds of thousands of number combinations within a single second, you have no way of telling what your next spin result will be.

9 – Nobody Can Steal Your Jackpot

Another myth that I wish I’d busted before playing slot machines is the idea that somebody can steal your jackpot.

This caused me to sit and play the same game for hours on the assumption that I was improving my chances of winning the jackpot. After all, I didn’t want to get up and let somebody take my machine and possibly win the top prize I’d been working so hard for.

The idea that somebody can steal your jackpot is based on the concept of slots payout cycles, where specific prizes are set to pay after X amount of spins. Here’s an example:

  • The odds on a slots jackpot are 1 in 200,000.
  • Those subscribing to the payout cycle theory believe that the jackpot will pay at exactly 200,000 spins.
  • They want to get as much volume as possible on this machine so they have a better chance of getting the jackpot at the end of its payout cycle.

This seems logical in theory. But the problem is that odds are only guidelines when it comes to slots payouts.

Maybe the jackpot will pay after 100,000 spins, or perhaps it’ll pay after 300,000 spins. The truth is that you never know exactly when the odds will be true because there’s also a short term luck factor involved.

Going back to the original point, nobody can “steal” a jackpot after you get up from a slot machine.

First off, it’s unlikely that you and the other player will push the spin button at the exact fraction of a second needed to trigger the jackpot. Secondly, you never truly know when the jackpot is going to pay out, so there’s no reason to stay on the same game forever.

10 – Bankroll Management Is Really Helpful

Bankroll management won’t help you overcome the odds with slot machines. But this will help you get an idea on how long your bankroll will last.

The first thing that I recommend doing is breaking your bankroll down into units. This is nice because it allows you to deal with simple numbers rather dollars and cents.

Your unit size can be whatever you want. But I recommend choosing the normal average bet size you make.

Here’s an example of how to break your bankroll down into units:

  • My bankroll is worth $750.
  • My unit size is $0.25.
  • This gives me 3,000 units.

The next step is to determine how long you can expect your bankroll to last based on the number of units. This means that you’ll need to know how many units you’ll lose on average.

Volatility will play a role in this matter. But it’s hard to come up with a concrete answer because each slot machine differs from the next.

Generally speaking, the average player will lose 250 units per hour on a low volatility machine, and 350 units per hour on a high volatility machine.

We’ll cut this down the middle and assume that you lose 300 units per hour. In our example above where you have 3,000 units, you can expect to last for 10 hours before your bankroll runs out.


Slot machines aren’t the most complicated games in the casino with regard to rules and strategy. And some players have plenty of fun playing these games without any in-depth knowledge.

But I personally would’ve liked to have known the 10 things we covered above before starting on my slots journey.

If you’re a new player, I highly suggest that you learn from my mistakes and expand your slots knowledge before playing. This helps you find the higher paying games and improve your overall gaming experience.