Are Dollar Slots Better than Penny Slots?

Dollar Slot Machine on Left Penny Slot Machine on Right

Casinos offer slot machines in several denominations. Some people think that dollar slots are better than penny slots. Other people may think penny slots are better than dollar machines. What’s the truth – are dollar slot machines better than penny slots?

I think, in some ways, dollar slots are better than penny slots. Dollar slots tend to offer better odds overall than penny slots. Also, the prizes available on a dollar slot are going to be higher than those available on a penny slot.

However, in some ways penny slots are better than dollar slots. For one thing, there’s more of them. You won’t find nearly as many $1 slot machines as you will penny slots on any casino floor. Also, penny slots can be played for a lot less money per-spin than dollar slots.

Who can say whether dollar slots are better than penny slots? The answer is up to each slots player. I’ve met thousands of slots fans over the years, and I still can’t tell what kind of slot machines a person likes to play unless I ask them.

If you want to know if dollar slots are better than penny slots, you first have to decide what you mean by “better.”

What Makes One Slot Better Than Another?

I can think of four categories you could use to compare real money slot machines and decide which one is better.

First, game odds. Are dollar slot machines better than penny slots in terms of the player’s likelihood of winning?

The second category is cost. Are the cheaper penny slot machines really better for your budget than dollars slots?

The third category is entertainment value. Are dollar slot machines more fun to play than penny slots?

Finally, jackpot size. Do dollar slots really offer consistently bigger payouts than penny slots?

Below, we’ll consider each of these four questions and compare $1 slots to $0.01 slot machines.

Do Dollar Slots Have Better Odds than Penny Slots?

There’s a rule of thumb that gamblers live by – generally speaking, the more expensive a game, the better your odds of winning.

I think this is true most of the time. You can look at payback percentages for slot machines in different gambling jurisdictions and see a pattern develop.

For example, let’s look at average slot payouts by denomination for the Las Vegas Strip:

  • $0.01 slots – 89.12%
  • $0.05 slots – 90.32%
  • $0.25 slots – 92.59%
  • $1 slots – 94.67%
  • $5 slots – 95.33%

You can see that penny slot odds are “worse” than dollar slot odds.

If you’re the type of gambler that equates low game odds with a game being “better,” then $1 slots are definitely better than penny slots.

Row of Slot Machines

Here’s why this pattern emerges:

Casinos make less money per spin on those penny slots, so they program the machines to pay back a slightly smaller percentage of the money they take in.

On the other end of the spectrum, casinos make enough off each spin on the $5 machines that they can afford to program those games to pay back more than 5% more on average, drawing in more bets along the way.

A Word of Caution about Payback Percentages

Some gamblers believe that a 90% payback percentage means they will earn back 90% of the money they bet into a game as winnings. That’s not true – in fact, it’s a misconception that can really hurt your bankroll.

So let’s take a look at how the math adds up in slot machine games.

A better way to think about a game’s payback percentage is to consider it as the game’s take on every bet. If you’re placing $1 bets on a game with a 90% payback percentage, you’re losing (on average) $0.10 per spin. If your bankroll is $100, you’ll lose your entire stake in 1,000 spins, or about an hour and a half.

Could you hit a huge jackpot on the last $1 of your bankroll and end up in the black?

Absolutely – that’s the whole appeal of slots. In fact, you have just as much chance of hitting that jackpot on your last spin as on your first or any other. The machine has no memory. Each spin is an independent event.

Are Jackpots Higher on Dollar Slots Compared to Penny Slots?

I’ll answer this simply and quickly – yes.

Generally speaking, the highest payouts on penny slots won’t be as high or higher than the biggest payout for dollar slots.

I compared two of my favorite slots at Winstar World Casino for an example.

Winstar has a massive library of slots including some old 80s or 90s-era electronic slots. There’s this awesome old Bally game called American Original that I play every time I visit. It’s a penny slot with up to twenty pay lines, and the max bet is $2 per spin.

The top payout is $2,000 at the max bet. American Original isn’t really “about” the top prize, so much as the free spins and Hot Spins features, which are frequent and really boost the low and mid-range payouts that sustain your bankroll.

Winstar World Casino and Resort Vienna Gaming Plaza Casino Floor

Not far away is Buffalo Stampede by Aristocrat in a $1 slot format. It’s a progressive game, so the top prize is always changing. The Grand Progressive when I last played it was around the $700,000 mark. Obviously, the $1 slot just a few seats away from that classic Bally game is potentially a lot more lucrative in terms of a single payout.

Is this always the case?

No. Some penny slots have big jackpots. Some dollar slots may have small ones.

It’s possible to find a penny slot with a big top payout and compare it to a dollar slot with a relatively small one and say “Ha! I got you. You said penny slots are always less lucrative than dollar slots.”

I think it’s best to speak in generalities since so many different types and styles of slot machines exist.

It’s safe to say that dollar slots are “better” than penny slots in terms of their top payout size.

Are There More Penny Slots Than Dollar Slots?

Based on numbers released by slot manufacturers, nearly half of all active slots are penny slots.

That doesn’t mean they cost a penny per spin. Some penny slots allow play at that level, but most require many credits for a max bet. Since slot play makes the most sense odds-wise at the max bet size, most slots players categorize games by their max bet rather than their credit size.

Clearly, more penny slots exist relative to dollar slot machines. That means players will have more choice of penny slots to play on any given casino floor. If choice is a premium for a slots player, penny slots are definitely better than dollar slots.

Having said that, the popularity of penny slots means that section of the gaming floor is more likely to be crowded, loud, and uncomfortable for slots fans who prefer a slow environment and gentle pace. If you don’t like crowds, dollar slots may be more your speed.

Do Penny Slots Cost Less than Dollar Slots?

Penny slots cost less than dollar slots on a per-spin basis – for the most part.

Some penny slots offer a max bet of hundreds of credits, meaning several dollars per spin. Some dollar slots may allow play for a single credit, meaning a single dollar. In those specific cases, it’s possible that a penny slot can be played for more money per spin than a dollar slot.

However, that’s not normally the case.

Some slot players are surprised to find that they can’t play their penny slots at a max bet size for less than $3 a spin. Lots of times, these players find they’re more comfortable at $0.25 or $0.50 slots that allow max bets of just a few credits.

I’ve found that people interested in playing penny slots aren’t usually all that excited about paying more than a couple of bucks per spin.

Women Winning at the Slots

If you are a slots player more concerned with saving money than anything else, penny slots will definitely be a better choice for you.

If, on the other hand, you aren’t super worried about pinching pennies in the casino, you may find that dollar slots offer the gameplay you’re looking for.


No one can say “dollar slots are better than penny slots” and mean it for every single slot machine fan. Too much variety exists, and there’s too many types of slot machine players with way too many likes and dislikes.

I think this post has been a decent guide to the ways in which dollar slots may be better than penny slots, and vice versa.

If you like big jackpots and don’t mind less frequent wins and a higher cost, dollar slots may be perfect for you. The budget-minded, and those who don’t mind playing for worse odds, can easily enjoy penny slots more than $1 slot machines.