Do Slot Machines Involve Any Skill Or Are They Just Dumb Luck?

Skill VS Luck Text With a Casino Slots Background

Slot machines aren’t the most strategic games in the casino. You can enjoy slots with ease regardless of your gambling experience.

You merely need to select the spin button to play. Therefore, you may feel that there’s absolutely no skill to slot machines and your results are attributed to mere chance.

But are slot machines really just dumb luck? Or do they contain some form of skill that allows you to win more money than average player?

This guide answers these questions by covering the amount or lack of skill in slots and what you can do to boost your odds. It also discusses whether or not slot machines are worthwhile to skilled gamblers.

Slots Aren’t Blackjack

Blackjack is quite possibly the most strategic game in the casino. Every decision you make can impact the house edge and your chances of winning.

Therefore, you definitely want to study basic blackjack strategy before playing. After all, you have a stronger chance to win when you know how to make the correct decisions.

On a luck scale from blackjack to flipping a coin, slot machines lean more towards the latter. They don’t involve a large degree of skill.

Once you push the spin button, you’re leaving the rest up to fate. Everything from that point on depends upon the game’s odds, volatility, and return to player (RTP).

Slots do feature skill (covered later) that can affect your odds. Largely speaking, though, they’re one of the least strategy based games in the casino.

Slot Machines Contain a Limited Amount of Skill

Slots aren’t full of strategy like blackjack and certain other casino games. However, they do feature some degree of skill.

Everything that you can control revolves around what you do before playing. Specifically, you want to look for games that offer high return to player (RTP).

RTP refers to how much a slot pays back in the long term. If a game features 97% RTP, then it will pay back $97 on every $100 wagered.

However, RTP is a figure that’s not realized until after millions of spins. Just because you choose a game with 97% payback versus one with 94%, you’re not necessarily going to win more money in the current session.

The key, though, is to continue choosing games that feature high payout percentages. If you routinely play high-paying games, then you have a stronger chance to win over time.

Harrah's Lake Tahoe Slot Machines

You should also be mindful of a slot machine’s volatility. The term volatility refers to how closely short-term results correlate with a statistical mean. Some developers actually offer a volatility rating so that you can see what type of game you’re dealing with.

High volatility indicates that you’ll be able to win large payouts, but your short-term winnings will vary wildly. Low volatility alludes to lower maximum wins but more consistent payouts.

Volatility doesn’t impact your long-term chances of winning money. However, it can be a nice tool for helping you out with bankroll management. Assuming you’re dealing with a smaller bankroll, you stand to last longer on a less volatile slot. You’ll pick up more wins this way and stay in the game.

If you have lots of money to risk, then more volatile slots are a fine option. You’ll have the funds to wither droughts and, hopefully, win more payouts.

How to Improve Your Slots Odds

Slot machines don’t give you the opportunity to make strategic plays and influence the results to a great degree. However, you can at least use the following steps to boost your chances of earning money.

Look for High RTP

The biggest thing you can do to improve your slots odds involves playing games with high RTP. But what exactly constitutes good payback?

Unfortunately, you won’t be able to find payback figures with land-based machines. Developers give land-based casino operators a wide range of RTP options to choose from. So, they can’t list specific payback in the info screen.

Luckily, you can find payout percentages for the majority of real money online slots. You simply need to navigate to the home screen and find the relevant information. Generally speaking, the average online slot offers around 96% RTP. Anything above this figure gives you a stronger chance to win money.

Consider Bonus Buy

The Bonus Buy option allows you to automatically trigger a bonus on the next spin. You must pay a multiple of your current stake to use this feature.

For example, you might have to bet 50x your stake to use Bonus Buy. This is no small amount, but it can also lead to huge bonus wins.

You don’t gain any strategic benefit at face value. However, some games see the RTP increase in the bonus round (e.g. 96% up to 97%).

In these cases, you’re getting a small advantage when buying the bonus. Of course, you need to weigh whether the slight payback increase is worth risking so much money at one time.

Manage Your Bankroll

Slot machines don’t make casino bankroll management easy. They operate at a fast pace and, in some cases, feature a high house edge.

Nevertheless, you can still work out a bankroll management plan for these games. You just need to account for the right variables.

Here’s an example of slots bankroll management:

  • You go through your finances
  • You decide that you can comfortably put $1,000 towards slots
  • You normally wager $1 per spin
  • You spin the reels around 500 times per hour
  • The house edge on your favorite game is 4% (96% RTP)
  • 1 x 500 x 0.04 = $20 in hourly losses
  • 1,000 / 20 = 50 hours’ worth of play (theoretically)

Even detailed schemes can fall apart when playing slots due to the volatility. However, you’re better off going in with some type of plan rather than none at all.

Consider How Decisions Impact Your Bankroll

Coming up with a plan is only the first part of bankroll management. You also need to consider how your game and bet choices will impact your funds.

No matter how hard you look, you’ll always find negative-expectation slot machines. Therefore, you have to account for the fact that might lose money in any given session.

Volatility also plays a large part in how much you stand to lose in the short run. Assuming you chase the biggest prizes and most-lucrative bonuses, you risk suffering lots of short-term losses.

After all, a good portion of the payback will be wrapped up in huge jackpots. Games that offer these features will pay less consistently.

Are Slot Machines Appropriate for Skilled Gamblers?

Slots aren’t the greatest games if you love using strategy to boost your chances of winning. They don’t give you much of an opportunity to employ skill.

The biggest thing that you can do to win more money with slots involves consistently choosing games that feature high RTP. You may not benefit from this strategy in the beginning, but you’ll eventually make more money over time.

Higher payout percentages mean more winnings in the long run. You can find plenty of online slots that feature favorable RTP.

Diamond Fiesta Online Slots Game

Assuming you want the absolute most out of slots, you can sometimes get an extra RTP boost through the Bonus Buy option. Buy bonus raises payback when the feature offers higher RTP than the base game. You can check the pay table to find out if this is the case.

You should also consider the volatility of a slot before playing. High-volatility games may offer larger jackpots and more bonus games, but they also pay less consistently.

Finally, you can develop a solid bankroll management plan and stick to it. Assuming you effectively manage your bankroll, you stand a better chance of earning profits.


Slots don’t give you a large degree of influence the results. They mainly involve pushing the spin button and letting the programmed mathematics handle everything else.

You do have some measure of control, though, over the results. As long as you keep picking games with high RTP, then you can boost your long-term chances of winning.

You should also think about the volatility of slots and dedicate some time to bankroll management. In combination, these two steps will help you last longer on the reels.

In summary, you don’t have a lot of options for influencing slots results. But you should definitely take advantage of whatever means you do have.