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Is It Possible To Beat Slot Machines?
Slot machines are the biggest temptation on any casino online. First of all, they take up a disproportionate amount of space. That's because they are the casino's single biggest money-maker, at least in terms of their gaming offerings. They also have the most attractive and elaborate graphics and cabinets, the biggest jackpots, and offer players the best comps in return for their wagers.
The price of all this is the inflated house edge. Slots have an average house edge of around 8%, and it can range up to 15%. That is considerably higher than the most favorable games in the casino, which have a house edge of less than 1%. Because of this, informed gamblers who play to come out ahead usually walk right by all those slot machines without a second thought.
Most slot machines have a negative expected value, and there are no strategy tricks or technical glitches you can exploit to change that. However, what if certain slot machines were designed in such a way that the theoretical return to player actually runs into the positive, or at least gets close enough to the negative to make the expected return in comps a net gain?
Do These Legendary Machines Exist?
The good news is that such machines do exist. The bad news, they're relatively few and far between, and some can be very hard to identify and exploit without inside information.
The first thing to understand is the basic principle by which slots can end up having a favorable expected return to the player. You can then start trying to find machines that operate in this way.
Every slot machine, even the favorable ones, is usually in a state where the theoretical return to the player is unfavorable. If the slot machine's expected rate of return to the player is 90%, and you put $100,000 through it in this state, you can reasonably expect to wind up with somewhere around $90,000 in the end. This is just as true of the beatable machines as it is of any other.
The trick with beatable machines is that they enter into a temporary favorable state where that house edge is reduced to next to nothing, or even flips over to the player's advantage. So you need to identify machines that enter that state, and know when to hop onto the seat (and when to hop off).
Beatable slots are those that are either required to pay out their jackpots before they reach a certain amount, have a visible indicator showing when they are going into a bonus round, or are linked in a series and have a predictable way of granting bonuses to one particular machine.
Beatable Fixed Progressive Slots
The simplest way to gain an advantage at slots is to look for fixed progressives that are about to pop. Some machines with a progressive bonus advertise the amount by which they must pay off. The way this is usually handled is that the odds of hitting the progressive are slowly increased with each spin as the jackpot climbs toward the guaranteed amount. This increases to 99% just before the amount is reached, and 100% as soon as a wager tips it over to the guaranteed threshold. As these odds climb, so do the player's theoretical expected return.
Of course, the simplest and most self-evident method is also the one that is most heavily exploited by other players. There are even teams of bonus hunters who comb casinos looking for progressives that are within a certain range of popping, then take up as many seats in that network as possible.
Beatable Mystery Progressive Slots
Many slots also have a “mystery jackpot” amount by which they are guaranteed to pay out. They work the same way that the fixed progressives do, with the odds of hitting the jackpot (and the player's theoretical return) increasing with each wager. The downside is that you don't know exactly when the progressive is set to pop, unless you have inside information from the manufacturer or from a technician. This amount is also usually set to a random level in between each win.
In addition to knowing when the jackpots are set to pop, you would also need to know the specific house edge on the game's reels to calculate your exact theoretical return, and casino manufacturers very rarely make this public. However, one could still improve their odds to a significant degree by watching the slots for long enough to see if there is a particular range in which the jackpot tends to pay out.
Bonus Rounds with Visible Indicators
Some slots have a visible indicator of some sort that shows progress toward getting a bonus round. The exploitable ones are those that remain intact between players. Beating the slot here is as simple as watching for someone else's play to get the indicator close enough to the bonus round, then jumping on the seat when they leave.
As with fixed progressives, this is an unsophisticated approach that is fairly self-evident, so you'll run into a lot of people already camping these machines on casino floors.
Timed Bonus Rounds in Linked Machines
Some slot games are arranged in banks that share a progressive bonus round in some way. Some of these are programmed in such a way that you can predict which machine is about to be awarded with a bonus.
Of all the methods listed here, this is the most lucrative, but also the most sophisticated. There are also very few games that are designed with this vulnerability, and one often has to have information not meant to be available to the general public to know how to exploit it.
There Are No Guaranteed Wins
It's important to keep in mind that a theoretical advantage for the player is just that: theoretical. Variance can still cause you to lose money even when the slot machine is in a favorable state. The idea is to set aside a budget to continue playing these games over a sustained period of time. If you play at an advantage for long enough, the odds say you will end up taking home money (or at least an equivalent value in comps).