5 Slot Machine Game Contradictions

Baby Chicken and Egg in Front of Slot Reels

Why do people love paradoxes?

Think about it. A paradox poses a problem you cannot solve, or a puzzle with no solution. Imagine being required to define the value of Pi to the last decimal digit.

Pi is a well-known value in math. It is a mathematical constant, meaning no matter the context of the equation the value is always the same.

Take any circle of any size and measure its diameter (the distance between any two opposing points on the circle’s circumference). Now divide the circumference (the length of the outer edge of the circle) by the diameter. That is Pi.

You can represent Pi by an infinite number of fractions comprised of decimal numbers, but if you try to reduce those fractions to their decimal form you’ll never get an exact value.

That is a simple paradox of mathematics.

The most well-known paradox is the grandfather paradox, which asks what happens if you go back in time and shoot your grandfather before he became a parent.

If your grandfather dies before becoming a father you won’t be born and if you aren’t born then you can’t travel back through time and therefore you cannot shoot your grandfather.

Science fiction writers find ways to cheat the grandfather paradox. They spawn parallel universes, divergent timelines, reveal that the grandfather adopted children, etc. There is always a cheat to every paradox.

The trick to understanding paradoxes is the way they are presented.

Here are five crazy paradoxes about slot machine games. If you’re looking for easy bar bets to play against your friends or strangers, ask them to explain these paradoxes.

1 – Casinos Don’t Know Which Slot Machine Games are Profitable

Casinos make most of their money from slot machine games. They track every penny that players put into these machines. They track all the payouts.

How can casinos not know which slot machine games are profitable?

This paradox arises from the way slot machine games are rated. Every game has a theoretical return to player. That is the expected percentage of all wagers played on the game that will be repaid to players over time.

If the RTP is 96% then the game should retain about 4% of player wagers over time.

How much time is required for the casino to reach that 4% figure?

An infinite amount of time.

Slot machine games produce random results. Every spin changes how much the game is ahead or behind all of the players who have used it since the game was first turned on. The question of when the game becomes profitable can only be answered after the final wager is made.

Row of Wheel Based Slot Machines

But that could be many years after the game is first turned on and casinos don’t track lifetime wins and losses on their slot games.

It would be a simple thing for slot game developers to track lifetime earnings. Assuming that data isn’t lost to accidents, a casino would always know if a game is ahead. But they don’t do this.

Casino accounting practices require them to measure their gross revenue against their expenses on a monthly basis. Revenue is tracked on a per-game basis so the casinos know which slot machine games took in more revenue than they paid out during a given month but because the games are in continuous play this is just an arbitrary calculation.

No casino will ever know which of its slot games is really profitable. But they’ll keep raking in billions of dollars in profits on slot machine games every year.

2 – Size of Wager Doesn’t Matter

Everyone knows that how much you bet on a game makes a big difference, especially if the jackpot is only paid on a Max Bet.

So how is it that the amount of the wager doesn’t matter?

Before you start arguing the math, reduce the question to its simplest terms.

For the casino it comes down to how much money the slot machine game keeps. They don’t care if their $10,000 monthly gross profit comes from $1 wagers or $10 wagers on the same machine.

Any player could make more money on a minimum wager than on a maximum wager. That is because of the random nature of the game.

You’re more likely to win more money from making larger wagers but it’s not guaranteed.

It’s the unpredictable nature of the game that makes it so paradoxical. If you’re going to play the slots the best advice is to make max bets. But you might lose $500 when doing that and the guy who comes along behind you could come out $500 ahead while making minimum bets.

That just doesn’t seem fair, does it?

3 – Most Slot Machine Games Have No Slots

Why are they called “slot” machine games?

According to game historians the name refers to the coin slots that accept and dispense coins.

Online games don’t have any slots and modern slot game cabinets don’t have coin slots.

If you ask your friends to find the slots on a slot game they’ll almost always point to the reels. And on video slot games there are no reels, since everything is virtual.

You can still find and play vintage slot machine games with real slots and real reels, so this paradox only applies to non-vintage games.

The day of the “slot” game is over. Now they’re just video games that look and feel like vintage slot games.

Except many modern “slot” games look and feel nothing like vintage slot games. They have animations, unnecessary features, full soundtracks, and more.

They’re just not slot machine games.

So why do we still call them slot machine games?

4 – Bonus Rounds are Not Free

Slot game players love their bonus rounds. When bonus rounds were first introduced people loved the “free” money they could win on these extra spins.

But the money isn’t free. The spins aren’t free.

To be truly free money you’d have to be able to press Spin and get a prize. The only way to get a bonus spin is to make a wager.

If that seems like a petty word game, consider this: the bonus spin payoffs are calculated into the game’s theoretical return to player.

That means you’re less likely to get your money back if you have a run of bad luck and don’t win any bonus rounds or spins.

Since casino games pay prizes from the wagers other players lose, that means you’re paying for someone else’s bonus round prizes when you don’t get any bonus rounds yourself.

So these rounds are not free. They’re part of normal play and they figure into the calculations of the games’ returns.

And that means your basic spin is more expensive than it appears.

Do you still love those bonus games now?

5 – Do Online Slot Machine Games Exist?

I’ve already established that casinos don’t know when their slot machines really become profitable.

I’ve also shown that there are no slots in online slot machine games.

But when you start playing a real money online slots, you’re just running a program on a gaming server somewhere. That gaming server could run 100 copies of the program at the same time or only 10 copies.

The online casino could track profitability for each gaming session and each iteration of a game, but can it track the profitability over the lifetime of a “game”?

Every day is a new day for the gaming server, except that it runs continuously. There is no start and end time for the gaming server’s software.

Pillar of Slot Machines

So the question is, are you playing an individual game or are you playing against a really complicated multi-player environment?

How can we call it a slot game if there is only the server?

How can we call it a server game if each player is gambling on a different screen according to the rules of a specific type of game?

No one made a dictionary to explain all this. If you play a slot game in a land-based casino you’re playing a copy of the program on a standalone gaming cabinet. Theoretically no one else is playing the same game with you.

But if you play the same game online you’re sharing a gaming server with dozens or hundreds of other people, and they may be playing the same game or different games.

So what is the slot game?


In some ways paradoxes are just word games. The paradox is created in part by the semantics. It’s hard to find a truly illogical paradox because, like Pi, you can usually just change one of the conditions of your question and you no longer have a paradox.

When you look at the questions about profitability you have to wonder who came up with the rules of accounting. Okay, that was a guy in Italy who lived a few hundred years ago but he had no idea that slot machine games would one day exist.

You may not care how insane slot machine games have become because you just enjoy pressing Spin and seeing your balance go up. But if you stop and think about it, you probably haven’t played a real slot machine game in years.

And despite all your losses on these games the casinos have yet to figure out if they’ve actually come out ahead on any game.