Is It Worth Playing for Big Slots Jackpots When You Have an Edge?

Slots Machine Image Mixed With Hundred Dollar Bills Image

If you chase big slots jackpots, odds are that you’re doing so in hopes of getting rich. However, you can also gain another benefit by playing progressive slots: positive expected value (+EV).

Assuming a progressive jackpot grows large enough, then the accompanying slot will offer a profitable situation.

Casino games with +EV are rare. Certain video poker variations, blackjack (card counting), and Texas hold’em are among the few games that can deliver long-term profits.

You may already know about these opportunities. But you might not be so in tune with the idea of playing progressive slots for +EV. The only problem is that slots profits are entirely theoretical. You actually need to win the jackpot at some point, or at least a number of other large prizes, to realize profits.

Is it still worth playing these games for +EV when the opportunity presents itself? I’ll answer this question by looking at the main factors to consider regarding progressive slots.

You Can Gain a Theoretical Edge With Progressive Jackpots

Again, you can look forward to positive expected value when a progressive slots jackpot grows large enough. In turn, you theoretically profit from every wager you make with such a game.

Here’s an example:

  • You’re playing a slot with 96% base RTP.
  • The jackpot grows from a $10,000 starting value to $1 million.
  • The game is now offering 105% RTP.
  • You wager $1 per spin.
  • 1 x 0.05 = $0.05
  • You’re theoretically earning $0.05 per spin.

In this situation, you want to make lots of wagers and/or increase your bet size to capitalize on your advantage. Your profits will theoretically grow as the jackpot keeps growing.

Of course, “theoretical” is the key word here. You actually have to get sizable wins (especially the jackpot) to turn theory into reality.

Slot machines are among the most volatile games in the casino. They’re very fickle about when they deliver large prizes or any payouts at all.

You can have up to a 20% edge with these games and still lose money. That said, you have to be careful when pouring money into these machines even when you believe you’re holding an edge.

Become an Advantage Gambler Without Getting Kicked Out

One huge perk to concentrating your advantage play on slot machines is that you won’t be thrown out of the casino.

You’ve likely seen movies where card counters are harassed by pit bosses and security. The reason for this scenario is that card counters take money directly from the house.

With progressive jackpots, the game provider usually seeds the initial jackpot. They and the casino share the profits in this scenario.

Closeup of Progressive Slot Machines

Both the provider and casino don’t care who wins a jackpot and by what means. They’ll earn profits from their house edge regardless.

The gamblers are the ones who supply the extra funds to pump up the jackpot and potentially create a +EV situation.

You can play such slot machines as long as you want without being tossed. After all, it’s not the casino’s money you’re chasing but rather the previous gamblers’ funds.

Your Odds of Winning Are Very Low

You have the ability to win profits through any slot just by getting lucky. Therefore, you don’t need a progressive slot with a big jackpot to win.

However, you benefit by playing slots with bloated jackpots because you can earn theoretical profits. The main problem, though, is that you might never hit the jackpot and accomplish this goal.

Every progressive slot machine is programmed to give the house an edge at first. Some of these games offer base RTP as low as 88%.

The growing jackpot is what eventually creates a +EV scenario. When a giant progressive payout is added to the base RTP, a slot can deliver theoretical profits.

Unfortunately, your chances of hitting a big jackpot are really low. For example, Las Vegas’ Megabucks, which commonly features $10 million+ jackpots, only gives you around 1 in 50 million odds of winning.

Of course, not all slots offer jackpots this big or with this long of odds. But you’re still facing odds in the millions with any sizable progressive payout.

How Do You Know When You Have the Edge?

Besides your extremely low odds of hitting a jackpot, the other big problem with advantage progressive slots play is that you never truly know when you have the edge.

You can actually calculate your odds of winning a progressive jackpot with a table game like blackjack or Caribbean Stud. The reason why is because you have access to the odds of making each hand.

In contrast, you have no idea what your odds are of earning each payout with a slot machine. Manufacturers don’t voluntarily give out this information.

The providers likely have this info on hand. However, they don’t want to share it and convince gamblers like yourself to wait until the jackpot is closer to break-even value.

As a result, you can only guess as to when you have the advantage based on a jackpot’s size. Assuming a payout rises from $100,000 to $10 million (100x increase), then you can reasonably assume that game is offering +EV. Unfortunately, you won’t even know for sure in this instance.

Does +EV Mean Anything With Progressive Slots?

The two main factors that diminish the value of advantage progressive slots play include:

  • Low odds of winning the jackpot and realizing true profits
  • You don’t know when you actually have an edge

This type of advantage gambling involves infinite uncertainty compared to card counting. With the latter, you can reasonably assume that you’ll win profits at some point with a large bankroll and enough skill.

Progressive slots, on the other hand, offer no guarantee. You may have to spin the reels millions and millions of times before realizing +EV.

Here’s an example:

  • You’re playing a progressive slot with 95% base RTP.
  • The jackpot has reached $5 million, and the game is now offering +EV.
  • This jackpot has 1 in 10 million odds of hitting.
  • You perform 800 spins per hour.
  • 10,000,000 / 800 = 12,500 hours

You’ll theoretically have to play for 12,500 hours before winning the jackpot. Considering that there are 8,760 hours in a year, you’d need to play for 1.43 years continuously to win.

Closeup of Row of Slot Machines

Maybe you wouldn’t mind waiting this long to win if you were a vampire. But chances are that you don’t have the money nor time to wait this long on an advantage.

Furthermore, you can’t even be certain that you’ll win the top prize after 10 million spins. You may have to perform two or three times this amount of spins before cashing in.

Therefore, advantage progressive slots play isn’t worthwhile from a logical perspective. But it can be worth the effort if you’re already going to play these games anyway.

You may already enjoy spinning reels for huge jackpots. In this case, you should definitely pursue any potential +EV opportunity.

Conclusion

The world of advantage gambling is a fascinating subject. It’s just not so fascinating with regard to slot machines. Progressive slots give you an edge when their jackpots reach a certain point. You’ll theoretically profit on every wager at this point.

Unfortunately, progressive slot machines are theoretical when it comes to +EV. Too much payback is wrapped up in the jackpot to guarantee you any sort of profits.

If you’re dealing with a jackpot that’s seeded at $100,000 or higher, your odds of winning will be in the millions. As explained before, you’d need to play for months or even years to realistically collect such a prize.

Such an effort would require significant time and money. If you’re playing progressive slots purely for the advantage, then you’re going down the wrong path. This isn’t to say that advantage slots play is completely worthless. Assuming you already enjoy progressive slot machines, then you might as well go after any +EV opportunity.

The catch, though, is that you can’t calculate when you have an advantage. Instead, you just have to guess based on the starting RTP, beginning jackpot value, and where the jackpot sits now.