Slot machines are the most popular game in any casino. Sure, people bet more on the lottery, and the worldwide sports betting market is huge. But slot machines are the game du jour in most casinos, especially in the United States.
Sadly, slot machines games also offer the worst odds in the casino except maybe for keno. The compounding effect of making hundreds of bets per hour at the slots make these games a bigger moneymaker for the casino than keno.
There’s no science to playing slots. You put your money in, spin the reels, and hope for the best. The only decisions you make are which game to play and how much to bet.
This post covers how much you should bet. You’ll often hear so-called gambling experts say you should always place the maximum bet on slot machines.
This isn’t true for most games.
There Are Two Kinds of Max Bets on Slot Games
You’ll only find one “Max Bet” button on a slot machine game, but some games allow you to adjust the number of paylines you bet on. These are older games. They preceded the guaranteed “243 ways to win” games.
The first time I saw one of these games, a friend of mine called them “penny slots.”
The minimum bet was 10 cents per payline and the game had 25 paylines. The minimum bet was, to my way of thinking, $2.50. You could never bet just a penny on that “penny slot” game.
The maximum bet was $1 per payline. This was a sneaky way of getting the players to lay down more money. If you hit “Max Bet” on that machine, it took $25 in credits from your balance.
The More Complicated the Slot Game, the Less Likely You’ll Win
If you don’t understand how much you’re betting when you push a button on a slot game, there’s something wrong with the game. Perhaps the gaming industry just went through a phase of bad design.
But just because a slot machine game has multiple paylines, you shouldn’t assume that you’ll lose money if you bet on fewer paylines. Each bet on each payline is a separate bet, so playing all the paylines at once might make you more likely to see a winner. But you’ll also see more losing spins on the other paylines to compensate (in the long run, anyway).
The game is still programmed to spin as if all the paylines are active. I watched in horror, as that $25 bet spun the reels. I got lucky and the machine paid a low prize. I didn’t lose $25.
You can save money on a slot machine like this in two ways.
- You can bet on fewer paylines.
- You can lower the size of your bet.
My buddy disabled all the paylines and played $1. We saw a big prize combination come up but it didn’t pay anything. It was on a deactivated payline. There was no pattern on the one active payline.
A Few Older Games Increased Your Probability With Your Bet Size
This kind of game worked in the opposite way. You didn’t disable or enable paylines. The game’s help screen said some features were only enabled for the max bet.
We deduced that meant the theoretical return to player was calculated only for the max bet. And if the game wasn’t allowing you to use all the features with lesser bets then it must have had a lower RTP.
I went back to play some blackjack that night but my friend stayed and played that game. He did okay, not great. He said it made a big difference to play the max bet.
A Basic Slot Game Doesn’t Change the Probabilities
Whether it’s a 3D video slot with monsters running around the screen or just a classic three-reel game, if the slot game doesn’t disable paylines or require max bets, then the probabilities don’t change.
You can bet the minimum or maximum credits, and it won’t affect the outcome of the game. You simply change the number of guaranteed spins you can play.
If you have $300 and a game has a $1 minimum, you can play that game 300 times. If you make a maximum bet of $5 on every spin, then you can only play the game a maximum of 60 times (if you lose every time).
This makes a difference to some players. Other players say you’re not going to lose 60 times in a row, so why worry about that? Bet the max and get the most from your prize.
Most Progressive Slot Games Only Pay on Max Bets
If you’re playing a progressive slot game, then you need to make a maximum bet. I’ve seen a few games with multiple progressive jackpots where you only needed a max bet for the biggest jackpot.
If you have two versions of the same slot game, one is progressive and the other is not, you might as well play the max bet on the progressive version of the game.
Progressive slot games have a mixed reputation. I’ve talked to people who refuse to play them. They’re convinced the payouts are less on progressive games.
And I know people who almost exclusively play progressive slot games. They would rather win a big prize beyond whatever the machine itself pays. They don’t have to win $1 million if they can come away with a few thousand.
I’ve seen it play out both ways. I’ve never been in a casino where someone won more than $10,000.
The Math Says Max Bets Put You Ahead Faster
Assuming you find a slot machine that pays reasonably well, maybe it’s on a “hot” streak despite its regular RTP, why not play only max bets?
If the maximum payout is 1000x your bet, you’ll make $999 on a $1 bet or $4995 on a $5 bet. That’s a really simple equation, so why doesn’t everyone bet that way?
If you’re down to your last $20, you may decide to “roll it up. ” But what’s the difference between rolling up $20 and rolling up $200?
It comes down to how many spins you can guarantee yourself. This is a psychological game we play with ourselves. The odds of winning on the next spin are the same regardless of how much you bet.
There Is Another Advantage to Not Making Max Bets
If you want to play a lot of different games and you don’t have an unlimited bankroll, then playing minimum bets allows you to spread your time around.
Some players like to test the games when they visit a casino for the first time. They make a decision based on luck.
I remember watching a man approach a slot machine late one night. I was getting ready to leave. He put a dollar in the machine and spun the wheels.
He went down the line of machines until one of them paid. There, he stopped and began playing.
Slot game designs have become more polished, but their rules are less confusing. People want to push a button and win some money.
I think caution is only warranted if you’re unfamiliar with the games and you don’t know immediately if they have any special rules. It’s always a good idea to read the pay tables first.
And if you’re a little confused by the game rules, then only play minimum bets until you understand what the game is doing.
There’s no need to rush into max bets if you’re not ready to take that chance.