Why Do Slot Machines Stop Paying?

Slot Player next to Slot Machine Games

Cold streaks are a fact of gaming. If you play any casino game long enough, you’re eventually going to hit a downswing.

However, slot machines are more predisposed to losing streaks than any other casino game. Things can be going really well for you on a slot. Then, all of the sudden, the machine will just quit paying.

Why is it that slot machines seemingly stop paying out of nowhere? As you’ll see below, multiple factors cause you to experience more cold streaks with slots.

Slots Are Extremely Volatile Games

Volatility refers to how likely short-term results are to line up with a statistical average. Low volatility indicates that the results will be more consistent. High volatility, in contrast, leads to wild results in the short run.

Slot machines are the most volatile games in the casino. Their payouts rarely ever line up with the stated return to player (RTP).

As you may know, RTP refers to how much a slot will theoretically pay out. If a game has 96% RTP, then it’ll pay $96 for every $100 wagered over time.

“Over time” is the key phrase here because you have no idea how much a slot will pay in a given session. Even if it features 96% RTP, it could deliver 40% RTP or 200% payback for a single session.

This extreme volatility leads to unpredictable results. You might trigger a bonus round worth 1,000x your stake at one point. Later on, you could spin the reels 10 times and fail to win anything.

Hit Rates Are Usually Low

A hit rate refers to how frequently a casino game offers any type of payout. The baccarat banker bet, for example, offers one of gaming’s highest hit rates at 50.68%. This figure means that you win over half of banker wagers in baccarat.

The average slot doesn’t offer a hit rate worth anywhere near this amount. In fact, many slot machines feature hit rates that are 30% or lower.

In such cases, you’ll only win something on approximately three out of 10 spins. It’s no wonder why you’ll feel that slots suddenly quit paying at this rate.

You can find slot machines that feature hit rates of 35% or higher. Even these figures, though, don’t make it feel like you’re winning at an incredibly high rate.

You’re Eventually Going to Run Into Cold Streaks

High volatility and low hit rates combine for low win frequency. Based on the statistics, you’re going to suffer many losing streaks with slot machines.

Sometimes, these losing streaks only happen for a few spins here or there. Other times, you’ll win very little over the course of an entire session.

Slot machines offer much larger payouts relative to your stake than the average casino game. As a result, they can’t pay out as frequently as other games.

Even when they do pay often, the wins may not even equal your original stake (a.k.a. losses disguised as wins or “LDWs”). These LDWs can silently eat away at your bankroll and cause you to lose more money. This is yet another factor that makes it seem like slots magically quit paying at times.

Slot Machines Move at a Fast Rate

You don’t have to put much effort into playing slot machines. Instead, you just need to hit the “spin” button and let the game do the rest.

The fact that you only need to select spin over and over means you can play slots very quickly. Depending upon the game, you may spin the reels 500 times or more per hour.

These quick rounds create more chances for winning and losing streaks. Given how many rounds you’re playing per hour, you’ll naturally experience more downswings.

You May Feel Like Slots Are Rigged

The combination of more losing streaks and fast play can lead to you quickly losing money. At times, you might feel like slot machines are completely rigged.

You wouldn’t be the first one to feel this way. Many gamblers are paranoid that casinos change payout percentages at the drop of a hat.

The reality, though, is that the RTP doesn’t change. Casinos don’t need to mess with payout percentages because they already have a long-term advantage.

The factors described before are what makes it seem like the casinos are manipulating results. The rigged feeling comes from a combination of the low hit rate and high volatility.

You’re not going to win as frequently with slots as with games like baccarat or blackjack. Furthermore, the volatility only makes the results seem even crazier.

Luckily, slot machines aren’t rigged beyond the house edge that they already give casinos. Instead, the unpredictability is why they stop paying suddenly.

How to Win More Consistently With Slot Machines

You can never be too sure on how much you’ll win or lose during a slots session. However, you can take the following steps to make your winnings seem a little more consistent.

Choose Less Volatile Games

As explained before, volatility is the big factor that makes slots results so wild. All slot machines are volatile to a fairly high degree.

Some games, though, are less volatile than others. They make payouts at a more consistent pace and, thus, allow you to better sustain your bankroll.

Some developers put volatility ratings in the info screen. For example, a slot machine might feature an 8/10 rating, putting it in the medium-to-high category.

In such instances, you can simply refer to the info screen and see what kind of volatility you’re dealing with. Anything at 6/10 or lower is pretty mild as far as slots go.

Pick Slots With High RTP

RTP may not have a big impact on your short-term winnings. However, it does at least have some bearing on how consistently you’ll win.

Here’s an example to explain:

  • Two slots both feature an identical 7/10 rating.
  • One of these games offers 97% RTP while the other offers 94% RTP.
  • The game with 97% RTP is going to provide slightly more consistent payouts.

Aside from short-term winnings, it’s a good idea to choose a high-paying slot anyways. When consistently playing games with high RTP, you stand to be a more successful slots player.

Use Smaller Stake Sizes

Stake sizes don’t have a bearing on the win rate. Nevertheless, a lower stake allows you to play longer and get more out of your bankroll.

Many slots allow you to wager as little as $0.10 or $0.20 per spin. Such bet sizes allow you to place 100 wagers for $100 and $200, respectively.

You might consider risking higher stakes with a larger bankroll. However, you should always keep in mind that your funds will last longer, and you’ll get more entertainment with smaller bets.

Don’t Use Bonus Buy

Bonus buy is an option that’s available with some online slots. It allows you to automatically trigger the bonus by spending a multiple of your stake.

Here’s an example on how this option works:

  • You’re betting $0.50 per spin.
  • Bonus buy costs 100x your stake.
  • You’ll need to spend $50 to launch the bonus.

This option is nice for when you don’t want to wait for the bonus round naturally. However, it also calls on you to risk a lot of money at once.

Assuming you don’t win much during the future, then you’ll lose a sizable portion of your bankroll. If consistent winnings are your goal, then bonus buy is a bad idea.

Cash In on Rewards and Bonuses

VIP rewards and slots bonuses can help boost your winnings. Therefore, you should take advantage of these opportunities when they’re available.

Land-based casinos offer a wide variety of comps, such as meals, drinks, cashback, and hotel stays. Online casinos provide cashback along with other perks like free spins and deposit bonuses.

In any case, you want to qualify for these rewards when they’re available. This way, you don’t have to rely entirely on winnings to make money with slots.


If there’s a reason why it feels like slot machines suddenly stop paying, it’s because they often do. However, slots aren’t pre-programmed to automatically quit paying.

Volatility and low hit rates are the key culprits behind why slots suddenly stop making payouts. Many games are highly volatile and can quit paying at any point.

Of course, you must deal with these scenarios if you want to play for the big prizes that slot machines offer. The best way to handle these losing streaks is to realize why they happen. This way, you won’t be shocked when you aren’t getting any payouts all of the sudden.

Petko Stoyanov
Get in touch with Petko
About Petko Stoyanov
My name is Petko Stoyanov, and I've been a gambling writer for more than ten years. I guess that was the natural path for me since I've loved soccer and card games for as long as I can remember! I have a long and fairly successful history with English Premier League betting and online poker, but I follow many other sports. I watch all big European soccer leagues, basketball, football, and tennis regularly, and I keep an eye on snooker, volleyball, and major UFC events.