How to Bet Slots and VLTs

We've all heard stories of people who played the quarter slots for twenty minutes and hit an $18,000 jackpot (or higher). That kind of luck gets a lot of publicity, but it doesn't happen to very many people. So, when you sit down at a slot machine, keep in mind that this is a form of entertainment. You might be lucky enough to hit the big one, but just in case you don't, remember to be responsible in your betting.

Minimum Versus Maximum Bets

Most machines these days accept multiple coins (or credits, if you're using a coinless system) on a single spin. Sometimes the payouts are different if you play one, two, or three or more coins. Make sure you understand the payout table, and if you have any questions, ask an attendant.

Many experts recommend that you always play the maximum bet. This strategy is suggested to ensure that you'll get the maximum payout if you do hit the big one. It works best on the pay-for-play machines, which don't pay anything for the jackpot symbols if you haven't placed the maximum bet.

Many experts advise you to play the maximum number of coins on every spin to increase your chances of receiving a large payout. Remember, on a $5 machine, you'll risk $25 on a five-coin spin. That same five-coin spin will cost you $5 on a $1 dollar machine and $1.25 on a twenty-five-cent machine. If you go with the maximum bet strategy, pick a denomination that fits within your budget.

However, many machines have a payout ratio that remains constant no matter how many coins or credits you bet. For example, a machine might pay twenty coins on a one-coin bet, forty coins on a two-coin bet, and sixty coins on a three-coin bet. If you win on a three-coin bet, you'll get more coins back, but the payout ratio is still 20:1. And if you lose, you've lost three times as much as you would have on a one-coin bet.

In short, making the maximum bet on each pull means bigger returns for you if you win, while making the minimum bet means your bankroll will last longer.

Straight Versus Progressive Jackpots

Payoffs on slot machines are either straight or progressive. A straight machine pays a fixed ratio on winning pulls or a maximum jackpot, which is posted on the machine. If two players pulled two consecutive jackpot spins on the same $2,500 machine, each player would receive $2,500.

Progressive machines are linked, and a portion of each bet on every machine is added to the jackpot. Linked machines can be within the same bank of machines at the casino, or in different banks, or in different casinos altogether. These jackpots usually have a minimum of several hundred dollars, but they can grow to thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars. When someone wins a progressive jackpot, the jackpot is reset to the minimum and begins growing again until the next winner comes along.

Some experts believe it's more difficult to win a progressive jackpot than a straight jackpot, while others argue that the RNG gives players equal chances of winning on either kind of machine. In the end, it's up to you to decide how to try your luck.

Tight and Loose Machines

There's a popular misconception that casinos can instantly turn a given slot machine “hot” or “cold” with the flip of a switch. This isn't so. That said, casinos do typically have machines that are “tight” — those that don't pay out very often — and machines that are “loose” — the ones that do pay out fairly regularly. The placement of these machines is largely a matter of psychology, and it makes perfect sense when you look at it from the casino's point of view. Nothing sells like success. The lights and sounds of a winning slot machine are designed to attract attention because the casino knows that people are more motivated to play when they see other people winning. Watching other people win makes us want to get in on the action. That's why loose machines often are located in a casino's high-traffic areas; it's good business.

Tight machines are usually interspersed with the loose machines, and sometimes you'll find entire banks of tight machines in lesser-used areas of the gaming floor. This, too, is sound psychology. As a player, you have no way of knowing whether the machine next to the one that just paid out is tight or loose, but you're more likely to try a machine as close as possible to the “hot” one. Conversely, players often assume their chances are better in the obscure corners because of the lack of use of those machines, reasoning that these slots are due to get “hot.” That may be true, but it could take hundreds or even thousands of pulls before such a machine heats up enough to hit a big payout.

Don't walk away from your winnings. Traditional slot machines are limited on how many coins they dispense at one time; large payouts have to be paid by an attendant. If a machine is spitting out coins sporadically, that could mean the hopper is empty; again, you'll need an attendant to get your full payout. Always, always, always hit the “cash out” or “end play” button before you leave a machine.

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