7 Reasons You’re Losing at Slots and How to Fix It

Losing in slots is far from uncommon. In fact, gamblers lose way more money on slot machines than anything else in the casino.

The main reason why slots take the most money from players is because they’re more popular than any other casino game. However, popularity isn’t the only reason why slot machines drain bankrolls so quickly.

If you lose money with these games, don’t feel bad. You’re among millions of gamblers who count slots as their Achilles heel.

But then again, you don’t have to be exactly like these other players. All you need to do is identify the main reasons why you’re losing in slots and fix the problems.

I’m going to discuss seven likely reasons why you’re losing and what you can do to change things around.

1 – Choosing Low-Paying Slots Games

Return to player (RTP) determines how much a slot machine is programmed to pay back in the long run. Higher RTP means that you have a better chance of winning.

As important as this concept is, though, many gamblers completely overlook RTP. Even if they know what this term stands for, they may still ignore payback and simply choose games based on the themes, graphics, and features.

You should definitely pick slot machines that you find entertaining. After all, the entire point of playing slots is to get the most entertainment possible.

But you should at least be mindful of payout percentages and what they mean for your bankroll. Below, you can see a comparison between two slots and how much you’d theoretically win playing each one.

  • Slot A offers 95% RTP (5% house edge)
  • You bet $1,000 on this game
  • 1,000 x 0.95 = $950 in theoretical winnings with Slot A
  • Slot B offers 90% RTP (10% house edge)
  • You bet $1,000 on this game
  • 1,000 x 0.90 = $900 in theoretical winnings with Slot B

RTP isn’t the only determinant in how you’ll fare with a particular slot machine (see volatility). However, you should obviously still consider games that give you the best chance to win.

2 – Playing at Too Fast of a Rate

Slots move faster than any other casino game. These machines allow players to perform 500 or more spins per hour.

This setup makes for constant action and stimulation. However, it also puts your bankroll against the house edge more often.

You might look at a $10 blackjack table, for example, and see an expensive game. But what’s not accounted for is that the average land-based blackjack table only sees 60-90 hand per hour.

Betting $1 per spin on a slot machine doesn’t seem so expensive compared to a $10 minimum blackjack wager. This thought goes out the window, though, when you’re performing 600 to 700 spins an hour.

You also have to figure that slot machines have a higher house edge than most other games. This fast play rate combined with a larger house advantage can lead to serious losses.

Here’s a comparison between a land-based blackjack table and slot machine regarding losses:

  • You bet $1 per spin on a slot machine
  • You bet $1 per spin on a slot machine
  • You perform 600 spins in an hour
  • The game has a 7% house edge
  • 600 x 1 x 0.07 = $42 in theoretical slots losses
  • You bet $10 per hand at a blackjack table
  • You play 60 hands in an hour
  • The blackjack game has a 1.5% house edge
  • 60 x 10 x 0.015 = $9 in theoretical losses

3 – Chasing Comps

Many gamblers see comps as one of the most rewarding parts of playing slots. After all, who doesn’t love getting a free meal after a long session?

You’re certainly in the right to pick up these rewards whenever you play slot machines. But you should never get so caught up in comps that you start playing longer just to earn them.

Gambling comps aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, your theoretical losses will be much greater than the rewards are worth.

Here’s an example:

  • You bet $2,000 on a slot machine
  • The comp rate is 0.1%
  • 2,000 x 0.001 = $2 in rewards
  • The game’s house edge is 5%
  • 2,000 x 0.05 = $100 in theoretical losses
  • 100 / 2 = 50
  • The theoretical losses are 50x higher than the comps

You can see above that you’re only getting a 0.1% comp rate, which is common in both land-based and online casinos.

I’d like to see gambling establishments raise the rate to better reflect the high house advantage with most slots. 0.2% or 0.3% seems more reasonable when considering that slot machines have a big house edge.

Actually, these rates used to be common in casinos up until the 2000s. Unfortunately, gambling venues are much stingier with rewards.

That said, you should never extend a session just to upgrade to a free hotel room or lobster dinner. You’re better off paying for these items outright, rather than playing to earn them.

4 – Playing Too Much in Land-Based Casinos

One big reason to play slot machines in a land-based casino is the atmosphere. You can enjoy the sights and sounds of the casino while you’re spinning the reels.

Brick-and-mortar venues are also great for when you want to play slot machines with your buddies. Your group can spin the reels for a few hours, then go get a meal afterward.

The biggest problem with playing in land-based casinos, though, is that slot machines carry a bigger house edge on average. You’re normally dealing with between a 5% and 12% house advantage at brick-and-mortar establishments.

The size of the casino’s advantage often depends upon the coin denomination. Penny and nickel slots don’t pay as much on average as quarter, dollar, and $5 games.

Of course, you shouldn’t be forced to spend $1 or $5 every round just to enjoy better RTP. Unfortunately, this is the reality of land-based casinos.

5 – Playing Highly Volatile Slots

Volatility is the measure of how results are disbursed in relation to a statistical average. A highly volatile casino game will see results vary wildly from the stated RTP, while a low-volatility game will have evener results.

Slot machines definitely fall into the high-volatility category. They feature some of the most uneven results possible. You may find yourself winning lots of big payouts in one session, only to quickly lose all of your money the next time at the casino.

The reason for the high volatility of slot machines is due to their pay tables.

They offer large prizes at the top, which creates an uneven pay structure.

Given the jackpots, these games must be programmed to pay out less often to make up for large prizes. Therefore, you’re not going to win as much with a slot machine as you would with baccarat.

You have to be perfectly fine with the fact that you’re going to experience long dry spells with slots. But even when you’re comfortable with this fact, you may still become frustrated after losing again and again.

6 – Falling Into the Slots Trance

Slot machines are sometimes referred to as the “crack cocaine of gambling” by mainstream media outlets. This description goes a little too far, but it does describe their addictive qualities.

Slots can actually put certain players into a trance where they forget their surroundings and only think about what happens on the reels. Research confirms that problem gamblers describe being in a trance-like state when spinning the reels.

Everything from the entertaining animations to vibrant sounds keep players glued to these games. Gamblers get so engrossed in the entertainment aspect that they don’t think about how much money they’re betting or the amount of time that’s gone by.

Losses disguised as wins (LDWs) are another factor that keeps players engaged with slot machines. An LDW refers to a payout that’s smaller than their bet size.

For example, anybody can logically see that a $0.50 prize doesn’t equal a $1 bet. But slot machines have a way of deceiving players into subconsciously believing that they’re winning.

Payouts — large or small — are accompanied by triumphant sound effects and flashing lights. Combining these theatrics with the fast play rate, a gambler can quickly lose track of when they’re actually winning and losing.

Slots developers have gotten pretty good at knowing what elements keep people playing slot machines. Unfortunately, some gamblers haven’t caught on to their game.

7 – Ignoring Bankroll Management

Bankroll management (BRM) refers to developing a money management strategy for your gambling sessions. BRM is especially helpful with slot machines when considering everything we’ve covered so far.

A good plan helps you factor in the quick play rate and high volatility of slot machines. You can therefore budget appropriately and avoid betting more money than you originally planned.

The sad thing, though, is that far too many slots players ignore the concept of bankroll management. They simply spin the reels as quickly as possible and don’t want to worry about how to best handle their funds.

This strategy is perfectly fine for anybody who’s got a lot of money and doesn’t care how much they lose on slots. But it doesn’t typically go over well for the average person.

How Can You Fix Your Slots Issues?

You can’t magically make slot machines pay more money or have less volatility, but you can take steps to minimize your losses and make your slots sessions memorable rather than miserable.

Each problem described above has a solution that can minimize losses. Here are some key strategies that will help extend your bankroll and give you more entertainment out of slot machines.

Research Slots RTP

Due to how volatile slot machines are, you can’t expect most of them to reach their stated RTP in a given session. But if you’re somebody who plays a lot of slots, then you want to consistently choose games with high payback.

Doing so ensures that you have a stronger chance of winning in the long term. The only question becomes how you go about researching RTP.

This matter is actually easy with online slots because there’s a lot of information available on payout percentages. You can often find the RTP for a given slot, or even a list of the highest-paying games.

If you’re playing Rival Gaming’s Dr. Magoo, for example, you can simply Google “Dr. Magoo RTP.” You’ll quickly find that it offers 97.0% RTP.

Not every online slot features publicly available payback.

However, you’ll find this information for the vast majority of internet slots.

The same can’t be said of land-based games. Casinos can order different payout percentages, which means that developers don’t offer uniform RTP for each game.

As mentioned before, your only tool is to look at the coin denomination and make a guess. $5 and $25 slots pay the highest, often delivering between 95% and 98% RTP.

Dollar, quarter, and nickel slots usually pay between 94% and 96% RTP. Penny slots machines are the worst, normally only offering from 88% to 91% payback.

If you’re in the mood to bet more per spin, you might as well go with the higher coin denominations due to the better RTP.

Play Online Slots More

I just described how you’ll have an easier time finding payout percentages for internet slots, but this isn’t the only reason why you want to play these games more often.

Online slots generally, offer higher payback on average and feature lower stakes. The average internet slot offers around 95% RTP, regardless of whether you’re betting a penny or dollar on each line.

Some games, such as Mega Joker and Ugga Bugga, deliver over 99% RTP. This payback puts these games up there with baccarat, blackjack, and French roulette in terms of your odds of winning.

You still have to factor in the quicker play rates and volatility, but you can at least expect a higher chance of winning per spin when picking online slots over their land-based counterparts.

Don’t Chase Comps

Slots comps can be misleading and feel like they’re worth more than they really are. Sure, it’s nice to earn a free steak dinner or cashback.

But these rewards suddenly don’t seem so great when considering that your theoretical losses can be 50x higher than what they’re worth.

In the end, you want to play slot machines normally and let the rewards come as they may be. You should never make a concentrated effort to play slots just to keep picking up more rewards.

Understand Volatility

Volatility is one of the most underrated concepts when it comes to slot machines. Many players either don’t know about it or completely dismiss it when picking games.

But you should never ignore volatility; it plays a big role in your immediate winnings. Moreover, slots with low volatility will see you earn more payouts on average.

Low-volatility slots typically feature smaller jackpots and fewer bonus features. While these aspects may be turnoffs, you also have to consider that such games can afford to pay more frequently.

They don’t have to hold back wins in anticipation of somebody hitting a huge jackpot or earning lots of bonus money. Instead, these slots feature a more consistent payout structure due to the smaller chances of somebody winning big.

You may still find it more exciting to play slots with huge jackpots and/or multiple features, but just be aware that you probably won’t win as frequently with these games.

Set Up Your Bankroll

Bankroll management isn’t the most exciting thing, but it definitely pays off in the long run. Having a detailed plan for your slots funds helps you avoid betting too much money and enjoy more sessions.

You may think that BRM is a long process and be put off the matter. However, you can actually come up with a good bankroll plan in a matter of minutes.

The first step is to set aside how much money you can afford to lose.

Any money set aside should not be needed to pay bills and other expenses.

The next matter is to figure out how much you’ll theoretically lose per hour. Losses depend upon multiple factors, including your play rate, volatility, and RTP.

But if you’re playing at a reasonable speed and don’t hit any huge payouts, then you can often expect to lose between 200 and 300 bets per hour.

The final step is to consider how much you’re going to be risking on average. If you typically bet $0.25 per spin, then this would be your variable.

Here’s an example on putting all this information together to formulate a bankroll management plan:

  • You have a $1,000 bankroll
  • You bet $0.25 per spin
  • 1,000 / 0.25 = 4,000 total bets
  • You lose 200 bets per hour
  • 4,000 / 200 = 20
  • Your bankroll will theoretically last for 20 hours

This example only provides a theoretical guess on how long your bankroll will last. Plus, you could either win big or lose at an accelerated rate.

But knowing this info at least gives you an idea of how long you can expect to play slots with a certain amount of money.

Set Your Phone Alarm to Break Your Concentration

Even when you know about the trances that slots players can fall into, it’s still difficult to avoid this zone 100% of the time. That said, you should take precautions to ensure you don’t become too engrossed in a game.

An easy way to do this is by setting your phone alarm for scheduled breaks. You can input multiple alarms in your smartphone, which will go off at different intervals and break your concentration.

You’d be hard-pressed to ignore a shrill alarm sound while you’re playing slots. Once you shut off the alarm, you can get up and move around the casino to take a break.

This process will not only clear your mind but also make sure that you’re not mindlessly staring at the reels and ignoring everything else in the casino.

Conclusion

Losing with slot machines is rarely attributed to just one reason. Instead, you can see where multiple problems can weigh into the matter.

First off, many players fail to properly research RTP, but this research can easily be performed with online slots, which offer publicly available payout percentages.

Land-based casinos don’t have RTP figures for individual games. However, you can make vague assumptions based on the coin denomination size.

Keep in mind that land-based slot machines aren’t the best in terms of payback anyway. They have higher house edges and can cause greater losses.

A fast play rate can also lead to larger losses. Most players spin the reels somewhere between 500 and 700 times per hour.

This speed gets costly, even when you’re only betting $1 per spin or less. You should take a few breaks to slow your play rate and get your mind off the machines for a while.

You also want to avoid chasing comps. These rewards are nice bonuses on top of your play, but they’re not worth quite what they seem.

Always remember to account for slots volatility.

Slot machines are among the most volatile games in the casino, which means you must be prepared to suffer wild swings. You can play games with smaller jackpots and fewer bonus features to reduce volatility in most cases.

You should also consider adopting a bankroll management plan. BRM will help you remain responsible while playing slots and avoid gambling too much in any single session.

Unfortunately, you can’t force slot machines to change with regard to payback or volatility, but you can follow the tips listed here to minimize your losses until you hopefully hit a jackpot or two.

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.