I have been wondering, is there any strategy for slots? I know there is a lot of strategy for blackjack and other casino games that is applicable to trading but I've never really read about/considered slots. My quick online searches returned nothing very scientific. I assume slots have a routine (low) payout ratio. I wonder how random the results are (the conspiracy theorist in me is highly skeptical, especially of video slots).

It seems the time to play would be after a string of losses as the payouts do need to come. Sort of like counting in blackjack, you could watch other players on machines, wait for them to lose a lot and potentially assume the odds were going up. It also seems (much like old horse racers) the best recipe would be to bet a consistent amount. Watching players I see bet sizes swinging all over and a lot of loss. Usually it is bet big, lose, reduce size, win, up size, lose, repeat until broke.

Bets could vary but only as a constant function of capital (I.e. 1 with 10 in capital, 2 with 20, etc). This would be subject to casino limits but would probably beat changing size due to martingale risk. I also figure different machines would have different odds. Best to play the machines with the highest odds. The scratch lotto for example publishes the odds of their games in ny, I imagine one could find similar publications with slot odds.

Next I wonder how stop losses could be tied in. Would it be best to use a set number of losses to move to the next machine. When playing with house money should you let it ride or use a rolling stop. Rolling stop sounds better. Also if you had a big win it stands to reason that machine was not going to be paying out big soon so you should cash in and move on.

This all may be virtually impossible too unless there were teams working in shifts (people have to sleep) but casinos don't.

Welcome any thoughts or ideas. I know slots aren't sexy like table games but the anonymity and lack of fellow players makes them fun at times (but it would be more fun to walk away up money).

Will Weaver writes: 

If slots are random they don't have a 'quota' of payouts… and as in flipping a coin, every iteration holds the same probability. So there shouldn't be any advantage. But I know nothing about the machines other than they probably are not completely random, though closer than would generate an edge.

Sam Marx writes: 

If they are electronic slots, I believe they use some sort of random number generator. So I've had the theory that if there was some way to determine the formula used, then they might be beaten.

Craig Mee writes: 

Watching the payout numbers on a screen a long time ago when a technician was working on one– this was a poker slot– showed the payout to be approx 80% before double up, and after double up it went down to the low 60% if memory serves me correctly. When playing I took the strategy of banking all my small wins due to this, and doubled up on any large wins i.e 4 of a kind and the like. From there I would work a stop at flat after doubling the stake (if I won my doubles) and then a trailing 20% stop of total win one tripled my initial stake. It seems to let you have a plan, and walk away, rather than the guy next to you, tipping money into that feeder all night. If you must play, then having a plan of attack is the most important aspect, so you bank or your stop goes off …quickly…and you're out of there. 

Jeff Watson writes:

There s one great slot strategy that hasn't been touched on. The best way to win at slots is to not play at all. Even the places that offer 98% payouts. What they are really saying is that for every $100 you feed through the machine, you will get 98 dollars back. The vig is too tough for me, or any other sensible person, for that matter. One has noticed that the really easiest games of chance usually have the highest vig. Things like wheel of fortune, chuck-a-luck, slots, and keno all have outrageous vig and should be played by no one. Save your money and go to a great show.

Pitt T. Maner III writes: 

 Along the lines of the slots thread, here is some info about roulette strategy:

1) Under normal conditions, according to the researchers, the anticipated return on a random roulette bet is -2.7 percent. By applying their calculations to a casino-grade roulette wheel and using a simple clicker device, the researchers were able to achieve an average return of 18 percent, well above what would be expected from a random bet.

Read more

2) "There have been several popular reports of various groups exploiting the deterministic nature of the game of roulette for profit. Moreover, through its history the inherent determinism in the game of roulette has attracted the attention of many luminaries of chaos theory. In this paper we provide a short review of that history and then set out to determine to what extent that determinism can really be exploited for profit."

full article here.

Chris Cooper writes:

The most obvious and effective countermeasure is to disallow betting after the ball is released. The casinos allow betting after release because customers like it, but if they have any doubt it is a simple matter to change that practice.

Secondly, Thorp's original work (and mine) were based on finding wheels which were not quite level. After he hit a few casinos successfully, he found that the number of out-of-level wheels decreased. The paper cited in the original post details an approach for level wheels, but notes that more accurate timing is required.

Plus eV roulette did make it to book form, if not the front pages, by a group from Santa Cruz. More recently, a Hungarian was purportedly successful to the tune of over one million. My paper many years ago is lost to the ages, but in any case you can learn much more by reading the paper cited in Mr. Maner's post.





Speak your mind

8 Comments so far

  1. steve on October 23, 2012 7:49 pm

    Jeff Watson is correct. It is virtually impossible to beat slots over the long run. The only lesson here is never to play. I am no technician nor am I a programmer. As I understand it the previous spin on a slot has nothing to do with the next spin. Jeff is also correct. In an advertised slot machine that states it will pay back 98% for the first $100 you put into the machine you will extract $98. Most people take their credits and play off the money. Eventually there will be not enough credits to play. Slots are for people who have blind ambition of locking up the machine and getting a huge payout. Perhaps to hit the Progressive.

    If you want to sit and have a drink and in some bizarre way consider this as a form of entertainment, if that is your excuse, then go for it.

    There are only two games in a casino that the player can beat. Blackjack and Poker. Blackjack has become much harder to win than when I played it in the 90’s and was rated all over the country. I have read probably 50 books on poker and studied the experts such as Stanford Wong, Edward Thorp, John Scarne, and Ken Uston. The MIT blackjack team, memorialized in the horrible film 21 is so fraught with fiction that it is largely garbage.

    As Jeff Watson will note. The game that can be beat is limit poker. The games of poker that have high positive expectations are lowball, RAZZ, 7 stud hi lo and Omaha hi low. Those games are definitely games of skill. Learn to play those games well stay away from cheats and professionals and you will do well. Whatever you do it is best to stay away from no limit hold-em where one bad beat can wipe out your bankroll.

    The best lesson from casino games is there is no easy way to make money and if you think you are smarter or luckier than 98% of the chumps who have gone before you, chances are you are not.

  2. Ed on October 23, 2012 11:27 pm

    If slots c be beaten it would most likely be a networking or technological feat. In other words not legal.

  3. astro the family dog on October 24, 2012 1:44 am

    You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it. ~Albert Einstein

  4. Scott Haley on October 24, 2012 2:42 am

    It’s possible that luck, prayer and wishful thinking can influence the results of probabilistic relationships. But, you’ll be better served by following the laws of probability, as determining just when luck, prayer and wishful thinking will kick into gear is quite difficult.

  5. Leon Mayeri on October 24, 2012 3:25 pm

    For a different perspective on how the slot and casino industry arranges the conditions for success on their end, take a look at this remarkable book:

    Addiction by Design: Machine Gambling in Las Vegas [Hardcover]
    Natasha Dow Schüll (Author)


  6. Ed on October 26, 2012 11:57 am

    You cannot beat a roulette table unless you steal money from it. ~Albert Einstein

    Einstein was wrong. Thorpe and Shannon beat roulette with the aid of a wearable computer in the 60’s. Unfortunately the articles Thorpe wrote for gambling times on the feat longer seem to be available at www.edwardothorpe.com

  7. Ardent1 on October 30, 2012 1:17 am

    I have been studying beatable slot since WMS’ original Piggy Bankin’ game in say 1996/1997 timeframe. A few years later, Charles Lund wrote a few books on these “wongable slots” and you hear rumors of slot wongers making $10,000 a week during the golden age of these slots.

    Slots can be beaten due to (a) equity in the game that you didn’t pay for such as a progressive or a bonus game near the end of completion of its milestones, respectively, or (b) a design mistake. The third type involves a team that is sufficiently bankrolled and has the manpower to chase overdue progressive slots such that each wager has a positive EV.

    Btw, my hobby for the past 15 years has been exploiting design mistakes in slots (and video poker), and I do have a patent in video poker so I am somewhat knowlegde about game designs.


  8. daniel on December 12, 2012 5:24 pm

    at the middle of 90 s i was beating slots here in greece where i come from like butterfly cherry master or similar video 3 reel slots so even had rng i could ‘read’ these machines or we had electronic device to cheat royal poker so i just try to say that newdays slots can be beaten if only know a very small detail of software


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