How to Read a Slot Machine

Fruit machine bars spinning to line of 7's, close-up (blurred motion)
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Most people look at the vast array of casino slot machines and assume they are all alike. They see a handle, a coin slot, flashing lights and figure one is as good as another. However, in making this assumption, they fail to see a lot of valuable information to help determine if they should play a particular slot machine.

Surprisingly perhaps, machines aren't all the same. The best way to separate one from another is to learn how to “read” a machine by looking at the payout schedule on the front.

Let’s see what information can be found on a typical slot machine.

Casinos here in the U.S. and abroad keep several types of slot machines in play at any given time. A few you'll most often see:

Multiplier: This machine has a payout for a certain symbol and the number of coins played multiplies it. If the machine pays 5 coins for three lemons when you play one coin, it would pay 10 for the second coin and 15 for three coins played. This machine does not penalize you for not playing maximum coins. If you plan to play only one coin at a time, this is the type of machine you should look for.

Bonus Multiplier: This machine operates like the multiplier but offers a bonus when you play maximum coins and hit the jackpot. Three 7’s may pay 1,000 for one coin, 2,000 for two coins and 10,000 for maximum coins. The central question is whether the bonus is worth playing the extra coin.

Multiple Payline: These machines have more than one line of play.

Each coin activates a particular line. If you hit a winner on a line that is not activated, you will not receive anything. The older machines used to have three lines but the newer video slots can have up to nine lines.

Buy-a-Pay: These are the most misunderstood machines in the casino. Each coin activates a different payout.

You need the maximum coins to receive the largest jackpot. 

One example is the Sizzlin' 7s machines. This machine will pay on cherries, bars, and sevens. The sevens pay 1,000 coins. If you play one coin you collect only on the cherries. If you play two coins you collect on cherries and bars. 

Three coins are required to collect on the Sizzlin' 7s. If you hit the jackpot with one coin in you will not win anything -- do not play this machine under any circumstances unless you are playing the maximum coins.

Progressive Slots: The progressive slots take a certain percentage of the money played and add it to a pool for the top jackpot. 

First and foremost, It is never wise to play a progressive machine with less than the maximum coins -- stories abound of people losing out on lesser progressive jackpots because of short coin play.

Some casinos link machines together within their own facility to offer mini-progressive jackpots.  

Megabucks and Quarter Mania are examples of machines from several casinos linked together to offer 'life-changing jackpots'. It's important to keep in mind that payback percentage on lesser wins is lowered to allow for these jackpots. 

All of the information you need is posted on the front of each slot machine.

Before sitting down to play, taking a minute to “read” the machine will help make you more knowledgeable in determining which machines may be best suited for you.

Until next time, remember:
"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge Stays Forever."