Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
Best of John Grochowski

Gaming Guru

author's picture

Should I Bet Max Coins?

22 February 2011

By John Grochowski

It used to be so easy advising players on whether to bet maximum coins on slot machines.

You'll get the highest payback percentage when you bet maximum coins, I'd tell them. Stay within your budget, but if you're going to bet less than the max, don't play progressive slots, and don't play buy-a-pays where you need to bet the max to unlock all the winning symbols.

That's really about all there was to it back when the casinos were filled with slot machines with three mechanical reels.

In the age of the video slot, things are different. Most video slots don't have the big, disproportionate jump in the top jackpot for maximum-coin bets as the three-reel games did and do. For the most part, maximum-coin bets don't bring higher payback percentages on video slots.

But there's a lot of leeway on how you can bet. Most video slots are five-reel games, but you might see anywhere from five to 100 paylines, or "Reel Power"-type games with 243 ways to win as you bet on reels instead of paylines.

You can bet some of the lines, all of the lines, one coin per line, multiple coins per line -- the choice is yours.

That's led one reader to ask about a friend's system.

"On a 50-line non-progressive game, instead of betting one coin on 50 lines, he bets five coins each on 10 lines, for the same 50-coin bet," the player wrote. "He says if the machine is going to pay out, it is going to pay out no matter how many lines you're playing, and when it does pay you want to have the multiplier as high as you can. What do you think?"

Now it's not true that a machine is going to pay out, it's going to pay out no matter how many lines you bet. If you play only 10 lines on a 50-line non-progressive machine, you're giving up all the payouts on the other 40 lines. You'll have only about a fifth as many winners as someone who plays all 50.

That's balanced out by bet size. If your bet per line is five times mine, and I play five times as many lines as you do, in the end we'll wind up in about the same place, though your results will be more volatile than mine.

One big caution. If symbols must land on an active payline to trigger a bonus event, you're far, far better off to play all the lines instead of betting more coins on fewer lines. That's because when we're in a bonus event, we're accumulating credits without making extra bets.

Those who choose to play for more money per line often will find that bonuses are increased proportionally. If you're playing a pick'em-style bonus event, a choice that would yield 10 credits with one coin paid per line might bring 50 if you bet five per line. You might win as many credits going to the bonus once while wagering five credits on each of 10 lines as I do by going to the bonus five times while wagering one credit on each of 50 lines.

Those bonus credits balance out. What doesn't balance out is time spent on the bonuses vs. time spent on the base game. If your method of play means fewer trips to bonus events and more time spent wagering on the base game, you're costing yourself money. You're better off going to the bonus event five times as often than having each bonus pay five times as much.

The choice is yours, but my preference in all this is to cover all the paylines.

PROGRESSIVE THOUGHT: When playing progressive video slots with progressive jackpots, it's imperative to make the necessary wager to be eligible for the jackpots. On some games, especially those with "mystery" jackpots, there is no extra wager required. Those who bet more get extra chances to win the progressives because each credit they bet is a chance to trip the mystery trigger set by a random number generator.

On other machines, it's necessary to make an extra bet to be eligible for the progressives. If you're playing a 25-line slot that has a button that says "25 lines plus feature" and deducts an extra credit from your meter, then that's the way you want to go. Or if there's a button for a 10-credit jackpot bet, you want to make sure you add it to your bet if you're going to play that machine.

Because an increasing portion of their payoffs are tied up in the jackpots, progressive slots pay less money between jackpots than non-progressives. If you don't want to bet enough to be eligible for the progressives, then choose a different machine.

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, with podcasts at Look for John Grochowski on Facebook ( and Twitter (@GrochowskiJ).

John Grochowski Websites:

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski