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Odds of Winning Online Slots

Any question about the odds of winning and losing at mobile slots (including mobile apps) is not just about chance, or the preset variables built into games, or an expected payout frequency. The lynch pin for the whole question of slots odds actually is how the games are programmed for operating on pure chance over time.

Slot Superstitions

Let’s call a spade a spade, shall we? Many punters have a bunch of notions about slot ‘machines’ that are so wrong that they could get called out easily for superstition with those beliefs. There is no ‘ghost in the machine’ that may help anybody win!

First of all, slot machines are now virtual, since they run on computer code that is displayed as screen as graphics. Can the payout rates of online slot games get adjusted by their makers or by the casinos offering them? Well, yes. But ideally those current theoretical odds should be posted publicly in the form of a updated percentage at all times.

Yet just knowing payout rates (called the ‘return to player’ percentage, as we discuss below) does not mean that their results (based upon the expected probability) will perform with perfect consistency over time. Neither does it mean that the probability will get increasingly more favorable following a series of loses or minor line matches.

No Hot & Cold Slots

Imagine playing a slot for some time and then hitting a pretty good jackpot, the kind that might just make you call it a night wearing a big smile. But you play one more spin by mistake — and you win again that very next spin! You might be saying, ‘oh, that never could happen.’ But, we must say, you would be wrong.

The reason for that is twofold: firstly, each spin holds the game’s total odds within it regardless of past spins, and secondly, different kinds of jackpots can be built into the design and rules of a slot.

Rational Jackpots

A progressive jackpot, for instance, might be hit at any time without preconditions or a specific type of bet; a traditional jackpot may entail a sequence of stepped wins from the main game into a bonus round, and require a large bet in order to deliver a top payout.

We think that it’s reasonable (and more fun!) to play a traditional jackpot slot with better odds but smaller payouts, rather than sit through seemingly endless spins when hoping for a giant progressive payday.

Therefore, when you sit down to play a slot, as it were, is not important. But how you spin the slot (mainly your betting habits) is all important, since it’s one of the only aspects you can control and fully understand.

How Slots Actually Work

So, what creates our direct experience of chance and randomness as we spin the slot over and over, and see its patterns? In a nutshell, the answer is the interaction between a random number (pure chance) and the rules of the game. The game’s rules include:

  • Number of reels
  • Number of symbols
  • Number of paylines
  • Amount of bonuses
  • Type of jackpots
  • Gameplay timing

Now, probably you’re wondering how a game gets its needed random number. Believe it or not, computers and software can trigger this random number; and we would bet that computers can do this better (more fairly) than the relatively clumsy cogs and gears of a slot ‘machine’.

Random Number Generators

Now you know that a computer can force itself to disobey its standard ongoing goal of precision and predictability, in order to produce a new result (a basic numeral) that even it cannot predict. Don’t ask how it does this. But, we assume that how it’s done is perfectly logical, scientific, consistent, and yet probably just over our heads.

Really the way it’s done is programming, computer code, which consists of formulae and mathematics, known as algorithms. But let’s get down to earth about this. Each game studio has come up with its own program to produce random numbers, logically called a Random Number Generator.

These RNGs are proprietary. That means that the oldest game companies (think IGT, Microgaming, Barcrest, Random Logic) have the oldest RNGs in continuous use. That means that they have been observed over the longest time to confirm the theory that they indeed are producing random numbers. In the end, it’s that simple.

The Spin Cycle

Okay, the game has its random numbers. How does it put them to use exactly? You can think of each spin as a mix, a cocktail, containing some basic ingredients including the following list. Most importantly: this mix is automatically set into motion each time you dial in a bet and spin the slot, and it resets for the next spin.

  • RNG on demand
  • gameplay motifs (simple to complex)
  • number of reels (each needing a random outcome)
  • number of symbols on reels
  • game rules
  • bonuses built in
  • side-games
  • preset payout rate

As you can see, with that many variables, there will be plenty of variations in how slot games from different companies work, aside from their RNGs. When the spin button is clicked, however, each game will follow the same basic protocol of triggering the RNG, then plugging that random number into each chance event of the game (the position of each of its 3-5 reels). The game’s design, including its pay lines, symbols and bonuses, determines how often this series of events wins and for how much.

You can think of a game’s estimated returns, or literally its profitability, as the total effect of the points above interacting over time and in the shadow of pure chance. Let’s look closer into the main slots odds of winning consideration.

Return to Player (RTP)

‘Return to Player’ is the name given to the approximated amount, subtracted from 100% wagered, that the game will give back to players over time. For example, most mainstream feature slots from the big game studios have an RTP in the neighborhood of 95% to 97%. The missing fraction (5% to 3%, in this basic example) is the house edge.

Just an Average

Now, just because a player may understand that there is an RTP of 96%, one cannot count upon that exact rate of return, or return on investment (ROI), over the course of their arbitrary run spinning the game. The RTP value is a theoretical number, a projected statistic about how much the game will pay out but over an indefinite but very long period of time.

If RTP was something dependable for each person’s discreet, unique session of spinning the reels, then who could complain? The tiny % of losses on bets will buy the chance to hit a life-changing jackpot, or take home a small fortune, or just break even — but all the while providing some laughs.

Finer Points About Slots Payouts

Congratulations on getting this far, and acquiring a basic understanding (free of the silly old beliefs!) of what’s going on with slot machine odds in a basic sense. It’s time to ask a few more in-depth questions, which would most likely be in the minds of players who aim to win. 

Odds for Progressives 

Although it may not be possible to know beforehand what the precise odds are for the progressive (or growing) portion of your chosen slot’s payouts, you should know a few things about this type of jackpot game. For the most part, the special compounding jackpot will obey the same principles in terms of randomness and RTP. But progressive slots generally have worse odds than standard fixed jackpot slots.

Basically, you have to make a decision. If you want the best chances of a respectable win (yet not necessarily a million pounds or more) and better odds overall then avoid progressive slot titles. Part of your bet will be snatched out to build up the progressive — so if you’re not interested in going out on a limb for that mega jackpot then why choose a progressive jackpot slot?

More Reels & Paylines

You should realise that there is a relationship between more complexity, on the one hand, and worse odds of winning, on the other hand. In other words, you have less chance of winning a nice payout on slots with the maximum number of reels, complicated themes with too many symbols and the most paylines or ‘ways to win’. The simple reason is that all those extra details water down the probabilities of hitting matches.

What you want is to choose a slot that is not too elementary (there are slots with 3 reels and one payline, after all) and not too fussy and busy (we have seen games with too many rows of symbols to count!). Go for a traditional slot with whatever artistic theme you like as long as it has 5 reels at most, and up to a maximum of 20 paylines, as a rule of thumb.

Slots Strategy

One of the most fundamental pieces of advice for slot enthusiasts is a bit counterintuitive, but you’ll just have to accept it as fact: your online slots odds can improve in response to higher bets.

The reason is that higher bets involve more of the available paylines. With more of the game in play, it affects the amount of chance and risk determined by the game’s particular balance amongst its finite number of random elements (reels, symbols, bonuses). Gameplay aspects such as the pace of spins, whether autospin is engaged and so forth also will have influence upon the practical odds that involve our own behavior.

Before we go into a few key strategies in more depth, here’s a handy list of 5 tips for improving your slots game playing:

  1. try simpler slot titles (they have better odds)
  2. for entertainment, look for high RTP
  3. for jackpots, look for larger payouts
  4. slots with too many features can pay less
  5. avoid progressive jackpot slots

Key Idea: Volatility

You’ll probably start shopping around for your next slot to play with more patience and thoroughness, right? Well, that very likely will mean that you read reviews or the game specs at casinos. You will come across the word volatility, as in a ‘high volatility’ slot. It means risk and risky.

But that’s not all there is to it. The idea is not that a high volatility slot is just risky, but more precisely that it hits matches less frequently. But nevertheless when it does hit the win is bigger (as long as the bet was healthy!). Anyway, if you come across a slot described as low volatility, then you can expect to have more fun with smaller winning events or bonus rounds; just don’t expect a massive win so much.


It may be a casino-industry foible that the terms volatility and variance mean just about the same thing. However, when we say variance it captures the extra meaning of risk we just explained above: it’s like the texture of the odds. The odds of winning can be smooth (low variance, less risk, reduced volatility) or rough (high variance, more risk, higher volatility). We hope that helps you understand this useful concept.

Winning Betting

One form of success at spinning slots is often overlooked or underappreciated, and it is disciplined, shrewd betting habits. If most of the experience of playing slots is beyond control, and furthermore tilted in favor of the casino, then you might be wondering how a player can eek out an edge and win.

The answer is devising one’s own way to bet cleverly, such that:

  • Long sequences of losses at the same bet are avoided.

You may want to decrease your bet after many flop spins, then increase when spins get rosier, as opposed to letting your bankroll dwindle rapidly.

  • Any win (even a smaller one) is not immediately lost.

You could try scaling back and resetting your bet range after little wins so can enjoy your fatter bankroll for a little while!

  • Bets increase in step with gains from ongoing wins.

The basic idea is to earn your higher stakes periods with cash you have won instead of your base funds.

  • The bet is decreased in response to losses.

As we mentioned above, don’t let losses go unchecked by some discipline to protect your balance.

  • The bet is pumped up prior to bonus rounds or a winning match.

At least recognising the signs and setups of winning moments, perhaps the appearance of wilds and scatters, will allow you to go all in.

As you can see, some of those contradict each other. Ultimately, let’s admit that there is no way to know when to increase or decrease the bet in anticipation of a miracle spin — recalling that each spin is random and in no way tied to past spins.

There will be some measure of knowledgeability about a given slot game, which does inform a player’s bets. But although we hesitate to say it, intuition and a gut feeling may be the best way to describe the main wagering guidance a player can have.

Slots Odds Wrap Up & Review

So, what have we learned about the odds of winning at online and mobile slots? Well, you can remember easily that playing slots effectively is not about choosing a good or lucky time to spin. Rather, it’s about choosing the right slot with good odds. It’s how you spin that is most important, starting with getting on a profitable game title.

Lastly, although slots are mostly out of our control (although they should be fair), there are a few ways to make sure we don’t forfeit a good win. We’re talking about productive betting techniques so preserve your playing cash. On the whole, it’s a great idea to spin slower, which gives you more time to learn the game’s quirks, enjoy its effects and theme, perhaps even chat with your slots buddies while you’re at it!