Are You Still Making These Slots Mistakes?

by Jeff Harris
on April 17, 2018

One nice thing about slot machines is that you don’t have to put much thought into playing them. All you need to do is use the spin button and watch the reels determine your fate.

But some players mistake this simple play with the idea that there’s no strategy involved. And this leads to a number of mistakes that cost players in the long run.

These blunders range from playing games with low payback to failing to read the rules. And the sad part is that people can easily avoid these gaffes just by being aware of them.

Keep reading to make sure that you’re not making the following slots mistakes.

Mistake #1: Playing without Reading the Help Screen

Some slots players can’t resist diving right into a new game. And I can’t blame them, because sometimes you just want to play a new slot right away.

But you should always check out the paytable/help screen before you try any new slot machine, because the help section can contain info that’s vital to the game.

You may need to bet a certain number of paylines or coin size to trigger the jackpot and/or special bonuses. You might also learn how to play the bonus rounds if they require specific instructions.

Obviously, nobody wants to miss out on these while playing a slot machine, which is why you need to look at the paytable to see the rules.

Another benefit is that you can see how much each symbol pays. While this isn’t crucial to winning in slots, it’s nice to know what type of wins you can look forward to.

The truth is that it doesn’t take much work to look at a slot’s help screen. That said, I highly recommend you spend a minute or two looking over this information.

Mistake #2: Getting Fooled by Penny Slot Machines

Penny slot machines are aptly named in order to convince players that they’re cheap games. But the term penny slots merely refers to the fact that you can play each line for a penny.

This doesn’t, however, mean that you only have to bet a penny per spin. Instead, these games can be quite expensive at land-based casinos.

Most penny slot machines require you to play a specific number of lines on each turn. I’ve seen penny slots in brick-and-mortar casinos that force you to play 300 lines. Add this up and you’re facing $3 per spin.

I myself was fooled by these games in the beginning. I put $20 into a machine and wondered where my money went so quickly.

Assuming you play with $20 like I used to, you could lose all your funds on a $3 penny slot in 7 spins.

I’m not saying that you should avoid penny slot machines. Instead, just be aware that these games aren’t as cheap as the name implies.

It’s still fun to have anywhere from 50-300 active paylines on each spin. And this means that you have a higher chance of netting more payouts every turn.

If the idea of spending between $0.50 and $3 per spin turns you off, then keep in mind that online casinos have really cheap penny slots.

Most internet slot machines allow you to adjust both the number of paylines and coin size. This means that you can theoretically play some games for just one cent per spin.

Other online slots require that you play a fixed number of paylines, such as 25 or 30. But this is still cheaper than land-based penny slot machines.

If you’re wondering why land-based casinos charge more for their penny slots, the answer is that they have more overhead costs to worry about. This includes having an actual brick-and-mortar location, purchasing slot machine cabinets, and hiring employees for maintenance.

The end result is that casinos don’t make much money of players who are only playing 1-5 lines at one penny apiece. This is why they must fix the number of lines at anywhere between 50 and 300.

Mistake #3: Failing to Research RTP Before Playing Online Slots

Payback, or return to player (a.k.a. RTP), is an important slots concept that refers to how much money games pay over the long term. Here’s an example.

  • A slot machine has 95% RTP
  • You bet $100 on this game
  • You’ll theoretically win back $95

The higher a slot machine’s payback, the better your chances of winning. It pays to do your research when it comes to RTP.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to research payback for land-based slot machines, because casinos can order different RTP for the same game. This means that the Megabucks machines at Las Vegas’ Excalibur casino could offer different payback than the one at MGM Grand.

Online slots’ RTP, on the other hand, is easier to research. In some cases, you can just look at an online slot machine’s help screen and see what RTP it offers.

Even when this isn’t the case, you can google the online slots provider and see what their games pay, because an online slot company will offer this same payback across all casinos.

Here are the simple steps for how to google RTP for different slot machines from RealTime Gaming (RTP).

  • Search for “RealTime Gaming slots RTP”
  • Select one or more of the results
  • I found the top 5 RTP games in the second result

You can see that this process is simple and doesn’t require much work. Nevertheless, many players fail to research payback for online slots.

You might as well put the few minutes of research in to see what kind of RTP you’re facing. After all, you don’t want to play a slot machine with 93% payback when the industry average is 96%.

Mistake #4: Playing Too Much on High Denomination Slot Machines

As I mentioned above, it’s harder to find RTP for land-based slot machines. The most-reliable method you have for doing so includes looking at the coin denominations.

Generally speaking, the higher the denomination, the higher the payback. Here are rough guidelines on what RTP you can expect from each denomination.

  • Penny slots = 85% – 88%
  • Quarter slots = 89% – 91%
  • Dollar slots = 92% – 94%
  • $5 slots and up = 95% and up

Obviously, the higher coin denominations look more attractive from a payback perspective. But you still stand to lose more money with these games, because the higher payback doesn’t counteract larger wagers. Here’s an example to explain this.

  • I play a $5 slot machine with 95% payback
  • I make 500 spins
  • 5 x 500 x 0.05 house edge = $125
  • I play a $0.25 slot machine with 90% payback
  • I make 500 spins
  • 0.25 x 500 x 0.10 house edge = $12.50

If you like taking on more risk for a larger reward, then you’ll enjoy high coin denomination machines. But don’t play these games under the impression that you’re going to win more money.

As a number of examples show, you only stand to lose more because you’re making bigger bets.

Mistake #5: Only Relying on RTP for Bankroll Management Purposes

RTP is important for finding games that pay well. But you shouldn’t use payback as the only determinant for choosing games and managing your bankroll.

The problem with RTP is that it doesn’t have much short-term value. Payback figures are the average of many people playing for months.

And while playing slot machines with high payback does increase your chances of winning, it doesn’t mean that you can stretch a smaller bankroll further.

You also have to consider other factors, including the jackpot size, number of small payouts, and volatility, which refers to how much short-term results fluctuate.

All 3 of these aspects are related, because the jackpot size and small payouts help determine volatility.

High volatility means that you’ll win less frequently but have a chance to win bigger payouts. Low volatility refers to winning more often but not having a chance at huge prizes.

Outside of a few online slots developers, most games don’t give you a volatility rating. Instead, you have to determine this by looking at how large the jackpot is and the number of small payouts.

Here’s an example of what you’ll see with a low volatility game.

  • Progressive jackpot seeded at $1,000
  • Small payouts of 1 coin, 5 coins, 10 coins, and 20 coins

Perhaps you’re mainly focused on winning a big progressive jackpot. And in this case, you can play these games regardless of your bankroll size.

But if your goal is to stretch your bankroll further, then you want to choose slot machines with low volatility.

On average, a slots player will lose between 250 and 350 credits per hour. Low volatility games keep you at the smaller end of this range and allow for more play.

Again, RTP is a very important concept in slots. But don’t forget to look at the number of small payouts and jackpot size when doing bankroll management calculations.

Mistake #6: Playing Slot Machines Under a Sign that Reads “Up to 99% Payback”

Land-based casinos know that many players value RTP. And they use this to their advantage by putting up signs that read, “Up to 99% (or 98%) Payback” over a bank of machines.

The obvious idea is to attract players who are seeking high payback to these games. But don’t be fooled by the signs, because odds are that you won’t choose the correct machine.

Only one slot machine in the entire bank has to pay 99%, or whatever is advertised. This means that the other games could pay much lower.

Traditionally, the best way to figure out slot machine payback in brick-and-mortar casinos is by looking for high-denomination games (see mistake #4).

Don’t, however, rely on payback signs that you see hanging in casinos. Odds are high that you’re not going to play a game anywhere close to 99% payback.

If you want the best RTP this badly, then I suggest playing games from specific online slots developers. Net Entertainment (NetEnt) has a reputation for offering some of the top payback in online gambling.

Here are their best-paying slot machines.

  • 1. Mega Joker – 99% RTP (10-coin bet)
  • 2. Jackpot 6000 – 98.86% RTP (w/ Super Meter play)
  • 3. Blood Suckers – 98.0% RTP
  • 4. Kings of Chicago – 97.8% RTP
  • 5. Devil’s Delight – 97.6% RTP

The good thing about this is that we don’t have to rely on a big sign that could allude to any one of 20 slot machines. Instead, you can easily look up this information online.

Mistake #7: Ignoring Bankroll Management

It’s standard for slots players to begin spinning the reels without any regard for bankroll management (BRM). And this is fine if you’re just looking for little entertainment with less than $100.

But if you’re bringing hundreds or even thousands of dollars to the casino, then you need a better plan.

You especially want to pay attention to BRM for the sake of not losing money that’s needed in other areas. After all, paying your bills is far more important than gambling.

This makes the first order of business figuring out how much money you can allocate towards playing slot machines each week/month.

You can do so by adding up your monthly expenses, including utilities, rent/house payment, entertainment, groceries, and desired monthly spending money.

Once you have this figure, the next step is to decide what’s left over for playing slots. Here’s an example.

  • You have $2,500 in monthly expenses
  • You make $3,000 in monthly income after taxes
  • This gives you the option to play slots with up to $500 every month

After figuring out how much you can safely bet on slot machines, you may also want to know how long your bankroll will stretch.

Earlier I mentioned that the average player loses between 250 and 350 units based on a game’s volatility. But you can always opt for a more precise measure with some math.

Here’s an example of figuring out how long my bankroll will last.

  • I normally play slots with 95% payback
  • I bet $1 per spin
  • I perform 600 spins an hour
  • 1 x 600 x 0.05 = $30 in theoretical losses an hour
  • My bankroll is worth $500
  • 500 / 30 = 16.67 hours

Slots bankroll management doesn’t always work out this nicely, because slot machines are more volatile than the average casino game. But these figures give you a rough idea on how slots BRM math can be performed.

Mistake #8: Falling for the Myth That Casinos Are out to Get You

The obvious reason why land-based and online casinos offer slot machines is to make money. But conspiracy theorists make up a number of myths on how casinos are out to rob players blind.

Here are the biggest slots myths regarding how casinos are trying to scam you.

  • Casinos flip a switch to raise or lower collective slots RTP
  • Slots payback is lowered during the evening, when there are more players
  • You get lower payback when using a player’s club card
  • Casinos put higher-paying slots near the entrance to create the illusion that everybody is winning
  • Casinos hide the best-paying slots in low-traffic areas

The truth is that legal regulations and the desire to keep a good reputation stop casinos from engaging in these myths. Gambling jurisdictions make casinos fill out paperwork and gain approval before they’re allowed to change payback on any game.

Gambling establishments already make a steady profit on slot machines based on the house edge. It would be foolish of them to risk their entire business and reputation just to make a few more dollars.

Don’t fall for the idea that casinos change payback on a whim and engage in other shady tactics to get your money.

This is actually counterproductive to casinos, because they make the most money off long-term customers. Their customer base would quickly decrease if they tried to win players’ money as quickly as possible.

After all, nobody will return to the casino if they always lose in a short amount of time.

Mistake #9: Playing Slots Without Researching the Casinos

One more mistake that you want to avoid involves playing slot machines at casinos that you know nothing about.

This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try out different casinos. But I’d advise you to spend 5-10 minutes of research before playing at a new land-based or online casino.

Regarding brick-and-mortar casinos, you want to play slots somewhere that has a decent rewards program, friendly staff members, and a good overall atmosphere.

With online casinos, you should look for sites that offer good bonuses, low wagering requirements, plenty of slots, and a good reputation.

The latter is especially important if you’re playing at offshore casinos that aren’t licensed by a prominent jurisdiction. Some of the less-heralded jurisdictions include Antigua, Costa Rica, and Curacao.

This isn’t to say that casinos licensed in these places are automatically sketchy. But you definitely want to research these gambling sites to make sure that they’re legitimate.

The overall goal is to find online and brick-and-mortar casinos that are likely to be good so you’re not just taking shots in the dark.

You may ultimately find that a casino with good reviews doesn’t live up to standards. But it’s better to try these places than randomly choosing casinos that may be terrible.

Conclusion

Avoiding slot machine mistakes isn’t hard with a little effort. In fact, you can avoid many of these problems just by knowing a few things about slots in general.

This includes understanding penny slot machines, ignoring myths, reading help screens, and ignoring vague casino signs about 98 to 99% payback.

Other factors require some research, such as looking up slots’ RTP, calculating your bankroll needs, and reading casino reviews. But the good news is that none of this takes too much time.

If you love playing slot machines, then I urge you to spend the small amount of time required to boost your chances of winning. Not only will you win more this way, but you’ll also extend your play and better handle your bankroll.

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