Playing the slots is one of the biggest draws in a casino – both online and off! despite this, there are many myths concerning the slot machine and how to “know” whether a payoff is close. These myths are left over from the bygone era of slots that really used a handle to create spinning reels. With the advent of computers, however, this is just no longer the case. Let’s take a look at how modern slots actually work.

The Modern Slot Machine and RNG

Slot machines contain a “random number generator” (RNG) micro-computer that constantly spits out numbers. This is true even if the machine is NOT in use! These random numbers correspond to positions on each of the reels in the machine. Unlike machines in the old days, when you pull the handle or push the button, you aren’t really moving anything. Instead, you are just telling the machine to display the last set of randomly generated numbers.

Like the roulette wheel, where every play is completely random and independent, one pull of a slot handle is completely random and completely independent of the previous or next pull. It all comes down to the precise moment that you pull that handle or push that “Spin” button.

What does this mean for you?

– A machine is never “due to hit.”

– A machine can go for days on end without a decent payout but there is no reason it can’t have two large payouts in a short period of time.

– Playing faster will not increase your chances of winning. The RNG will generate thousands of numbers between the spins of even the fastest player.

– The number of coins you play has nothing to do with the numbers that are generated.

– It makes absolutely no difference to the machine, or the results, if you pull the handle or press the “Spin” button.

The RNG has changed the nature of the slot machine. However, not all machines are alike. The key point with slot machines is that they are set up with different payback percentages and hit frequencies. Machines that pay off frequently are said to be “loose.” But loose isn’t always a good thing if you’re looking for a hefty jackpot. If a machine has a high payback percentage (98%), but also has a high hit frequency, you’ll end up with a lot of little payouts. The best machines are those with a high payback percentage and a lower hit frequency.

Casinos will usually scatter their looser machines in areas that are visible by the largest number of people. You’re more likely to find a loose machine near the front desk where arriving players are standing in line watching the action, near “the cage”, on main aisles, or are visible from buffet and show lines or lounges. The older places near the north end of the Strip may set their machines looser to try and draw players away from the newer, fancier resorts.


– The three-reel machines with only one “payline” (the line that goes across the reel display indicating where the symbols have to line up) offer the best overall percentages for coming out ahead.

– Higher denomination machines have higher payback percentages. You’ll probably do better playing a single coin in a dollar machine than three coins in a quarter machine.

– Don’t listen to those who say “always play maximum coins”. It’s your money you’re putting in those machines. Play the number of coins you feel comfortable playing. The more coins you play the faster you will go through your bankroll, the shorter your session will be, and the fewer spins you will get.

– Don’t forget to insert your players card in the reader before you begin playing and don’t forget to take it with you when you leave.

– Slot play should be fun. If you find yourself mindlessly pushing a “Spin” button watching the “Credits” display count down you’ve probably had enough fun for awhile.

– Most casinos will “cap” (i.e. hold) a machine for you if you want to take a break or go to the restroom. Ask a slot or change attendant if you want your machine capped, but be sure to take your money with you.

– While I have no way of proving it, it seems like the slots tighten up on Friday mornings and stay that way through the weekend (to make more money off of the crowds that drive in). If you stay includes weekdays, play the slots then and switch to table games on the weekends.

By Eric Madsen
Eric Madsen is an avid slots player both online and in Las Vegas. Eric is webmaster for several websites including,,