Playing Penny Slots

eBay Slot Machine. Bill Burton

For decades the most popular slot machines in US casinos were nickles. In the late 1960's, Bally Manufacturing developed the Money Honey slot that could be played for up to five coins. Players took well to the slots, even if they were playing more per pull of the one-armed bandit's handle. More recently casinos have filled-up with penny slots.

The name “Penny Slot” might be best described by the expression, “A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing," because we all tend to associate mental images or feelings to words that we hear.

In other words, a penny slot should cost a penny, right?

Penny Slots – The Newest Innovation

When we hear about penny slot machines the first thing that comes to mind is the image of sitting down and inserting a few copper ”Abe Lincolns” into the machine and pulling the handle in hopes of winning a dollar or two. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Not a Penny Game

The new penny slots are multi-line machines that accept many coins per line. They offer a lot of excitement: theme songs from popular game shows and movies, bonus screens, and special mystery payoffs. Of course. it all comes at a cost. The most popular Konami games like Race Driver and Beat the Field require a minimum of 50 coins per spin. That's a buck a spin. Several other manufacturers have games with up to 16 lines and up to 100-coins per spin. That's 1600 pennies. Yikes!

Penny Megabucks

Slot manufacturer IGT offers a penny version of its popular Megabucks game where you can play for just a few pennies.

On the standard Megabucks machine, which is a $1 variety, the player must play three coins per spin, or $3. On the new penny Magabucks, the player must be playing the maximum 300 coins per spin. That's right, the price is the same, so who’s kidding who?

Play With Caution

If you want to play the penny slot machines you should approach them with caution.

Don’t just automatically hit the maximum spin button or you might be in for an unpleasant surprise. Read the help screen and find out how many coins it takes to have a bet on all the lines. Then decide how many coins/credits you want to risk per spin. You might choose to start with just a few lines or just a single coin per spin.  

And the cautionary tale? Well, the machines are a lot of fun, addictive even, and require a minimum of coins/lines to qualify for the bonus screen, where the bulk of the payoffs are made. So, make sure you play enough coins/lines to get paid when the bonus is hit!

The other caution has to do with all of us as human beings. We're creatures of habit and we gamble because we like instant gratification. And, penny slots have a high hit frequency that ropes us in. It's fun, it's exciting, but most of the time the payoff is less than your initial wager on a spin. In other words, the bells and whistles go off on a regular basis, but for small payoffs. Much of the time you'll risk perhaps 100-coins and get a payoff of 18 coins. So much for the bells and whistles!


What happens when you constantly get small payoffs is, psychology kicks in and your mind thinks, "Great, I'm winning," when in reality you are slowly but surely having your initial deposit chiseled down to nothing.

The main issue with gambling and penny slots in particular, is that your own personal bankroll is considerably smaller than the casinos'. That means that while you might budget $200 for your trip to your particular casino, when playing a penny slot that takes 250 coins per spin, you won't get nearly enough spins to make a dent in the long-odds of hitting a substantial jackpot before your bankroll is exhausted.

When you play 25-cent video poker, you'll have to play 5-coins to qualify for a 4000-coin Royal Flush. $1.25 per spin to win $1,000. On most penny slots that offer payoffs like Bronze, Silver and Gold, the big payoff is much harder to win than the 45,000-1 odds on a video poker game. And, you'll likely risk $2.50 to $5 per spin to win it.

So, enjoy your slot play, but keep in mind that gambling is gambling, especially on the penny slots, because a handful of pennies is still a buck a spin!

If you are playing more per spin, you'll bust-out fairly often, and it can happen very quickly!