9 Things You Need to Know About Penny Slots

By Michael Stevens in Casino & Gaming on July 4, 2019

11

Minute Read

Penny slot machines are the most-popular games in the casino. Gaming reports from prominent jurisdictions, like Nevada, show that penny slots pull in the most revenue.

One thing that makes these games so attractive is the simple word “penny.” Many players see this word and immediately envision being able to gamble for cheap.

These slots are certainly cheap on a per-bet basis. However, they can be much more expensive than many players realize.

This is just one of the misconceptions that people have about these slot machines. I’m going to cover more of the biggest fallacies surrounding penny slots.

1 – You Only Have to Spend a Penny to Play

Despite what the name suggests, most penny slot machines don’t cost just $0.01 to play. They instead require upwards of a dollar or more.

The word penny only refers to how much you need to bet on each line. These games often have a number of fixed paylines, meaning you have to play every available line.

Such slots aren’t so expensive when dealing with a 10 or 20-line game. However, some machines have between 100 and 300 lines.

Mad Hatter Penny Slot With Intersecting Paylines From Challenge Flash Casino

Betting $1 to $3 per spin isn’t what most people have in mind. But that’s exactly what they have to spend in some cases.

Megabucks, an extremely popular slot machine in Las Vegas, requires one to play 300 fixed lines at $0.01 apiece. Considering that it also only offers 88% payback, Megabucks can be quite costly to play.

When many gamblers think of penny slots, they envision having the option to only wager $0.01 per round. But the average penny game requires much more.

These slot machines can be costly because casinos have to make their profits. Land-based venues especially need a large amount of revenue to counteract their overhead costs, including physical machines, staff members, and utilities.

They’ll have a much tougher time covering bills if they allow everybody to wager one penny per spin. Gambling venues want to make sure that players give them enough action to make it worth running a casino.

2 – Penny Slots Are Great for Low Rollers

You can see from the first point that slot machines aren’t exactly cheap. Your bet sizes will often range from $0.25 to $1 per spin based on the fixed lines.

This betting range isn’t so bad when compared to table games like baccarat and blackjack, which often require minimum bets of at least $10 in land-based casinos. But what makes penny slots costly is the fast play rate.

Most people play slot machines at a speed of between 500 and 600 spins per hour. This rate is about five to six times how quickly quickly a baccarat, blackjack, or roulette game moves.

A quarter bet suddenly doesn’t seem so cheap when you must make it hundreds of times every hour. Add in that some slot machines have a high house advantage, and you’re dealing with a more-expensive game.

Here’s an example to illustrate this point:
  • You’re playing a slot with a $1 minimum bet.
  • You spin the reels 600 times per hour.
  • 600 x 1 = $600 in total bets
  • The house edge on this game is 8%.
  • 600 x 0.08 = $48 in losses per hour

Many low rollers think that slot machines are the perfect games for them. But they don’t realize that these games have the potential to quickly take their money.

This problem only becomes exacerbated when adding in the high volatility of slot machines. Given the wide variation of payouts in any given slot, these games can’t pay out as frequently as other casino offerings.

Here’s a very simple pay table to illustrate this point:
  • 3 Jets = 50,000 coins
  • 3 airplanes = 5,000 coins
  • 3 hot-air balloons = 500 coins
  • 3 jetpacks = 100 coins
  • 3 birds = 10 coins

Casinos need to compensate for how this game is offering 50,000 coins as a top prize. After all, they can’t any money on a slot that pays frequently and has big jackpots.

Therefore, slot machines pay less often than almost every other casino game. This high volatility means that you won’t earn as many small wins to help sustain your bankroll.

Of course, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t ever play penny slots as a low roller. But don’t expect your money to last far longer than when dealing with table games that have a fairly cheap minimum wager.

3 – You Can’t Win Much with Penny Slot Machines

Some people think that penny slots are good for cheap thrills, but they don’t offer very large payouts. The same crowd believes that only those who make big bets have a chance at winning big.

These players aren’t completely wrong in this belief. After all, making larger bets gives you a chance to win bigger payouts.

Here’s an example:
  • A game’s top non-jackpot prize is 10,000x your line bet.
  • This payout is worth the following based on your line wager size:
  • $1 bet = $10,000 prize
  • $0.50 bet = $5,000
  • $0.25 = $2,500
  • $0.10 = $1,000
  • $0.01 = $100

The above scenario illustrates how your payouts increase proportionately based on how much you’re betting. But some slot machines offer huge progressive jackpots that let you qualify for a fairly small wager.

The Megabucks game mentioned earlier has paid out a record $39.7 million jackpot. Mega Moolah, an online penny slot, has delivered a prize worth over $20 million.

The chances of you earning a windfall like this are slim. But you can see that penny slot machines do pay well in comparison to other games.

4 – Online Casinos Don’t Have “Penny Slots”

Penny slot machines are commonly thought to be something that’s only available at land-based casinos. After all, many gambling establishments heavily push penny games.

But online casinos also have penny slots — they’re just not called as such. The reason why is because internet casinos typically offer very flexible betting options.

A common setup involves a game where players can adjust their bet per line from $0.01 to $1. Choosing a one cent bet size means that you’re essentially playing a penny slot.

The great thing about flexible betting options is that you can tailor the game to your bankroll. Only have $20? Then you can find plenty of slots that have 20 or fewer fixed lines and wager a penny per line.

In some cases, you don’t even have to play all the lines. You can set your wagering options to one payline and a one cent coin size. This scenario isn’t what many beginning gamblers envision when they hear the term penny slots.

I’m not a big fan of only using a handful of lines. After all, the volatility of slot machines makes it very difficult to pick up wins in each round with so few chances.

But the reasoning behind playing a few lines when you don’t have a very large bankroll makes sense. Virtually anybody can enjoy slots for just one cent or a nickel per round.

5 – These Games Don’t Offer Many Comps

Comps are one of the best things about gambling. You can pick up these reward by playing a variety of casino games.

Penny slot machines are among the most-notable games that offer comps. But many players mistakenly believe that these slots don’t offer many rewards.

The reason why is because the game’s name makes it seem like you won’t be comped very well. This idea would certainly be true if you were only wagering one penny per spin.

But you also have to consider your total bet size and the quick play rate. Based on these two factors, penny slot machines can qualify for just as much, if not more, rewards than other casino games.

Here’s an example to explain:
  • You bet $5,000 total on a penny slot.
  • The comp rate is 0.1%.
  • 5,000 x 0.001 = $5 in rewards

You can see that you’re not getting much value in terms of comps. However, this scenario is typical of any casino game.

Gambling establishments don’t just hand back all the money they make off gamblers. They instead offer a small percentage based on how much people are betting.

Penny slots, like any other game, won’t give you access to the penthouse suite and private jet transportation. You need to bet like a high roller in order to get the best comps.

But even as an average gambler, you’ll earn a fair amount of rewards based on your play. Penny slots see you bet enough to get decent rewards over time.

6 – Penny Slots Are Cheaper Than Table Games like Blackjack & Roulette

One reason why casual gamblers choose penny slot machines over table games is because they expect a low-risk gaming session. They think that slots will be so much cheaper than sitting down to a blackjack or roulette table.

They’re technically right on a per-bet basis. Land-based casinos usually require you to wager anywhere from $10 to $25 per round/hand.

Online casinos let you play baccarat, blackjack, craps, and roulette for as cheap as $1 per turn. But even in these cases, penny slots seem like the less-risky alternative to table games.

This rule isn’t universal, though, because penny slots can also be expensive. Again, you have to consider how quickly these games move.

Unlike a blackjack or baccarat hand, a slots spin is done within seconds. Earlier I mentioned how the average player spins the reels around 600 times per hour.

This fast rate means that penny slot machines are close to the same cost as table games per hour.

Here’s an example:
  • You make 600 bets an hour on a penny slot worth $1 apiece.
  • 600 x 1 = $600 total wagered
  • The house edge is 5%.
  • 600 x 0.05 = $30 in theoretical losses with slots
  • You make 60 wagers an hour at a blackjack table worth $10 apiece.
  • 60 x 10 = $600 total wagered
  • The house edge on this game is 2%.
  • 600 x 0.02 = $12 in theoretical losses with blackjack

You can, of course, visit online casinos to truly play for $0.01 or less. But the trade-off is that playing one cent on one line doesn’t give you a chance to win big.

You can, of course, do things to slow down how quickly you’re playing, like take breaks and browse your smartphone every so often. But slots are the most fun when you can play them at a consistent rate.

7 – Penny Slot Machines Don’t Pay

Another misconception behind penny slots is that nobody wins. Those who believe this aren’t totally off-base when considering how the average session goes.

Many players will put between $20 and $100 into a machine and quickly see the money vanish. Reasons why include the fast play rate, high house edge, and volatility.

These three factors combine to drain your money pretty quickly in most cases. But they don’t stop penny slot machines from paying out in the long run.

They’re just like any other casino game in that they have a house advantage. A slot machine with a 5% house edge technically gives you around the same chance to win as American roulette (5.26% house advantage).

The lack of consistent payouts is what makes it seem like you don’t have a great chance to win. You’ll earn less-frequent prizes on penny slot machines, which means that your money has a tendency to disappear quicker.

But you also have the potential to win large payouts that can more than make up for previous losses. If you play penny slots long enough, you’re going to be paid almost as often with these games as many other options in the casino.

8 – These Games Are Designed to Trick Players

Perhaps the craziest misconception about penny slot machines is they’re designed to fool gamblers. This idea comes from players who get mad after quickly seeing their $20 vanish.

They expect to get more entertainment out of their money, given that they’re playing penny games. But they leave the casino disappointed upon seeing that their funds didn’t last as long.

Older Women Gambling At Slot Machines With Uneasy Looks On Their Face

The same gamblers would do well to learn how slot machines work. All results are based on a random number generator (RNG), which is a program that produces random results.

The RNG cycles through countless payout combinations to determine outcomes. This process ensures that you can’t manipulate slots results in anyway.

Again, other factors like a high house edge, volatility, and quick play rate also combine to eat away at your bankroll. The end result is that penny slots have the potential to take your money quicker than many other games.

However, just because you lose in a session doesn’t mean that machines are tricking you. The results are legitimate — it’s just that a combination of other factors create plenty of unpredictability in your short-term winnings.

9 – You Can Play for a While with $20

I’ve mentioned the sum $20 several times in this post. The reason being is that my first experience with penny slots involved inserting $20 into a game and losing it all in minutes.

I couldn’t believe that something called a penny slot could take my money so quickly. I was severely disappointed and didn’t play these games for a while afterward.

But then I began learning more about penny slot machines and realized that they all work differently. Your $20 won’t last for the same amount of time on one game as it will another.

Everything starts with understanding fixed paylines. Most of these games don’t actually cost a penny to play; they instead require at least a quarter or more based on the number of fixed lines.

Like always, you also have to consider the volatility involved. Earning less-frequent wins means that your bankroll will continue diminishing until you hit a large payout.

Of course, nothing is stopping you from playing a slot machine with $20 or less. You can actually enjoy many online slots fairly cheaply with this amount.

Here’s an example on how many total bets you could have with an internet game:
  • You have a $15 bankroll.
  • You play a penny online slot that allows for adjustable lines and coin size.
  • You play one cent on 10 lines ($0.10 total bet).
  • 15 / 0.1 = 150 total bets

Given the unpredictability of slot machines, it’s difficult to say how long these 150 betting units will last. However, this is a fair number of wagers for such a small bankroll.

Conclusion

Penny slot machines aren’t quite what the name makes them out to be. As long as you understand the misconceptions behind penny slots, then you can enjoy these games without ever being disappointed.

The first thing to realize is that these slots normally cost more than one cent to play. Many penny slot machines have fixed lines that must all be played.

Oftentimes, you must bet between $0.25 and $0.50 to use every line — sometimes more. Factoring in the high rate of play and volatility, penny slots can get expensive pretty fast.

If you’re a low roller, then you shouldn’t expect a small bankroll to last an extremely long time. Slots have high volatility, which means that they pay out in short bursts, rather than frequently.

Of course, you can still enjoy penny slots relatively cheaply in online casinos. Some internet slots let you adjust your coin size and lines, which means you can technically wager as little as $0.01 per spin.

The main takeaway is that you shouldn’t expect to play penny slot machines for drastically less than other common casino games. You’ll likely be playing a number of fixed lines at a high rate.

You should, therefore, mentally prepare yourself for a lot of losing sessions. The bright side, though, is that you’ll eventually hit some big payouts and bonus wins to counteract some or all of your previous losses.

Michael Stevens

Michael Stevens has been researching and writing topics involving the gambling industry for well over a decade now and is considered an expert on all things casino and sports betting. Michael has been writing for GamblingSites.org since early 2016.

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