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How to find slots statistics

11 September 2014

If you play slots, you’ve probably seen statistics comparing slot machine paybacks at different casinos. Many state gaming boards release such statistics to the public each month. For example, New Jersey reports are posted at http://www.nj.gov/lps/ge/mgrtaxreturns.html and Nevada at http://www.nj.gov/lps/ge/mgrtaxreturns.html.

Some states release statistics for each casino. Others, including Nevada, release only a breakdown by region – you can compare slot paybacks on the Las Vegas Strip vs. downtown Las Vegas, but not Harrah’s vs. Casino Royale.

Some do the math for you and give you percentages. Others give raw data on total wagers and the casino’s take, and you have to do the arithmetic yourself. Note to those comfortable with the math: to figure a casino's slot machine payback percentage, divide the casino win by the coin in, and multiply by 100 to convert to percent. That gives you the casino's win percentage, or hold percentage. Subtract that from 100, and you have the payback percentage.

But once you've seen the statistics and found that casino A has been paying 91.3 percent on its slot machines and casino B has been paying 90.2, does that mean you'd better head for casino A whenever you want to play the slots?

Not necessarily. To start with, there are a load of statistical illusions at work. High denomination slots usually have higher payback percentages than low denomination slots, so a casino that caters to big players will tend to have a higher overall payback percentage than one that grinds out its profit on penny slots.

You could check out denomination-by-denomination breakdowns, but even those include a great deal of statistical noise. Video poker games usually have higher payback percentages than slot machines, but statistical lump them together as electronic gaming devices. A casino that has more video poker might show higher paybacks even if its slots pay about the same or less than its competitors.

On top of that, all slot payback percentages are casinowide averages. Just because the statistics say casino A pays 87.5 percent on penny slots, it doesn't mean that EVERY penny slot returns 87.5 percent. Some will return more, some will return less. When all the returns from all the machines are lumped together, we get a casino average that may not apply to any individual machine.


Slot manufacturers make game chips available in a range of targeted payback percentages, but there’s no way to tell from the outside which chips are in which machines. Casinos use a mix of those options, so even if you know a casino pays 89 percent on its penny slots, you could move from a 90-percent game to an 87 percent game to an 88-percenter, all within a short session. You wouldn’t be able to tell which was which, but they all contribute to an overall casino average.

But for the sake of argument, let's say you've been tipped off and you know that a certain game you like has 90-percent chips at casino A, and only 88-percent chips at casino B. Are you likely to get a better run for your money at A than at B?

The answer remains a definite maybe, at least for any one trip to the casino.

If you return day after day, and put in hundreds of thousands of plays, you'll come very close to the targeted payback percentage. You'll also probably be broke, because hundreds of thousands of plays leading to a virtually guaranteed loss is an expensive proposition.

The more wagers are made, the closer returns will come to the expected results. On the other hand, the fewer wagers are made, the more likely results are to vary wildly from the programmed percentage.

That's where the fun for players comes in. Without wild variations, we'd never play. We could just write a check to the casino and be done with it. Instead, we count on those periods when we seem to defy the odds and pull off a winning session, even on a 90-percent, or 88-percent, slot machine.

In a short session, players can and do pull off big wins on even the lowest-paying machines. Maybe you hit a fast jackpot. I’ve had a $200 win on my first play on a penny machine, betting one coin per line on a 30-line game. When you’re betting 30 cents a spin, a hit like that goes a long way.

Maybe the bonus rounds come fast and furious. I’ve had times where I’ve gone 300 spins without going to a bonus event, but I’ve also had sessions when I’ve gone to the bonus four times within 50 spins – and yes, I do count such things when I’m playing.

Either way, it's possible to have a winning session on a 91-percent machine, an 89-percenter or even an 87-percenter.

Are you more likely to win on the higher-paying game? Yes, and it’s better to bet with the percentages than against them. But slot players don’t have enough information to bet with the percentages. The best you can do is play the games you like in a casino where you’re comfortable, and hope luck is on your side.

Look for John Grochowski at www.casinoanswerman.com, on Facebook (http://tinyurl.com/7lzdt44) and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

The Craps Answer Book

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski