Slot Machine Payback Percentages

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The house edge at slot machines isn't based on how lucky the players are, it is based on the pre-programed electronic software used. And, that house edge varies from casino to casino and from geographic location and state to state.

Don't be fooled by a billboard that says "Our slots pay 99%" because that only pertains to a small number of machines, not the casino's overall house edge. All video slot machines (including poker) use a Random Number Generator to provide accurate odds for the player and the house.

The number of winning hands (symbols) in any program is mathematically proven before the slots hit the gaming floor, and while the odds vary for each player (because this really is gambling), overall, the anticipated house edge will eventually be achieved.

The House Edge at Slots

Each gaming jurisdiction requires all slot machines to be registered and all slot manufacturers must submit their programming and math charts to the state gaming office, such as the Nevada Gaming Control Board. While the state may only require a minimum payback of 86-percent, most video poker and slot machines pay more. The average payback in Nevada is lowest on penny slots at about 90-percent. Dollar slots and some Deuces-Wild poker machines have the highest payback at nearly 99-percent.

Of course just because a machine has a payback of 99 percent does not mean you will win back $99 for every $100 you play through the machine.

That payback amount is an average. Over the course of an evening of gambling, you might lose $500 or win $5,000. That's the beauty of the gamble, right? And, the casino doesn't care either way, because they win an average of whatever their house edge is over the course of the month.

How does that 99-percent work for you?

Aside from the ups and downs of jackpots and dry spells, your entertainment dollar is going to be based on how long you play. If you play a machine that takes $3 per spin and you pull the handle 10-times an hour, you are playing $3 x 10 x 60 = $1,800 in action. At 99-percent house edge, your play costs $18 an hour. Some nights you'll go home ready to kick the wall, and other nights you be singing a happy tune because you hit a jackpot and skated out with hundreds. That's gambling.

Play Within Your Means

As a general rule, the higher denomination slot machines have a greater overall payback percentage that the lower ones. That's great for those with a healthy bankroll, but you'll need to play the games that offer you the best bang for the buck. The worst thing a player can do is to play any game for more money than they can afford to lose or at a higher denomination than their bankroll will handle.

Another consideration is making sure you can qualify for any bonus screen or Royal Flush payoff. If you want to wile away the hours playing a single nickel in a machine, that's great. Enjoy. You won't win or lose much and you'll probably go home happier than most players. But your play comes with a catch!

That catch is that the house edge provided for each machine includes the big jackpots (such as a Royal Flush), and if you play below the minimum to reach the bonus screen, the house edge is much higher! You won't lose much, but you'll never win more than a couple dollars.

The Best Option

The best option is to play the games you enjoy most, and make sure you read the Help Screen so you know how many credits it takes to qualify for at least the lowest progressive jackpot and the bonus screen (or Royal Flush at video poker). As a recreational player, your first goal is to have fun. If you only visit the casino occasionally the overall payback of the machine won't make much of a difference. If you visit regularly, make sure you join the Player's Club and play within your means!