Can you determine what slot payout percentages are on any given machine?
By Frank Scoblete
The lament among some slot players, many other casino players and most gaming writers is the fact that slot machines do not tell you what their percentage returns are except in cases where an area of machines has signs saying something to the effect that “these machines return a minimum of 98 percent” or the like.
You play a machine and you have no idea of what percent of the money it will return. That is true. But what is also true is that the casino tells us no information about the return of any of its games.
That’s right—no casino explains what the returns are at their games; at any of their games. Look at a machine and it tells you nothing, that’s true, but look at the blackjack table or craps table or roulette able or at any other game’s table and nowhere does it tell you what the return is.
So how is it that we gaming writers can confidently tell people in articles about all the other games and what their returns are? There are no signs at the tables telling us this information. There are no signs on video poker machines telling us this information either. Yet, we know what the video poker returns are.
So how do we know?
The casino does not make a point by telling us anything about what we can expect to get if we play any game. Yet, we talk and act as if the casino does such a thing. Again, it doesn’t.
How do we know what the percentage return at every craps bet is but we don’t know what the return is on Lucky Slots Fun?
KNOWLEDGE OF PAYOUT PERCENTAGES
We know payout percentages at almost all games because the casino tells us at every game but slots what a bet pays us.
Follow this now: We know how often that decision comes up, what it pays and what it should pay if the game were a fair contest.
We know in craps that the pass-line bet pays even money and that the casino will win 251 decisions and the player will win 244 decisions on that bet. We know therefore that the house edge is 1.41 percent. We are expected to lose $1.41 per $100 wagered over time.
We know the relationship of every number at craps to the 7 or to making it as a one-roll bet. We know the percentages and how those percentages relate to money.
One more example: Roulette has a house edge of 5.26 percent on the American roulette game that has a 0 and a 00 as two of its 38 numbers. Make a bet on this game and you have a one in 38 chance of hitting the winning number. The payout is 35-to-one, which means the casino shorts you by two units on a win. A fair game would pay out 37-to-one.
We can then figure how much of a percentage edge the casino has at a roulette game by knowing these numbers. The casino doesn’t post this on the tables; we have to do the figuring to come up with the percentages. You can read this information in a publication such as this but you won’t find it posted on the table.
The casino prefers not to tell us anything. On most games, however, we can figure everything out. Not at slots.
THE SLOT MYSTERY
The casinos know how much an individual slot machine returns but the players don’t. There is no way we can find out without being given privileged information.
Yes, we can guess but those guesses are just that—guesses. Okay, how do we guess? And can we actually have “smart” guesses?
Most states have laws that tell the casinos they must show the return percentages on their slot machines, usually based on the denomination of those machines. Therefore, we can find out what the five-dollar machines return, what the dollar machines return, what the twenty- five cent machines return and so on.
Sadly, these are just averages. It may be true that the five-dollar machines are returning 95 percent of the money played in them but we don’t know if the particular machine at which we are gazing actually returns 95 percent or 92 or 98 percent.
But we can say with some confidence that a five-dollar machine will return more to the players than a dollar machine, whose average is about 91 percent. Is this an absolute statement? No. It is a guess; an informed guess, yes, but it is not absolutely a true statement.
We are looking at averages and making our guess based on those. We just don’t have the figures available to us and we can’t figure everything out the way we can at games such as video poker, blackjack, roulette, craps, etc.
We will always be guessing at individual slot machine percentages because the programming is a secret between the manufacturers and the casinos. The player is an outsider in this case and really has little ability to ferret out the correct percentages on any given machine.
Guessing is the best we can do. We don’t have figures as we do with the other casino games so, okay, point to a machine and take your best guess!
All the best in and out of the casinos!
Frank Scoblete’s website is www.frankscoblete.com. His books are available at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, Kindle, e-books, libraries and bookstores.