For years, slot machine players and gambling experts have pushed back and forth on the idea that some slot machines are looser than others, that they’re configured to pay more than most slot machines.
Most casino floor managers dismiss the idea. A few people claiming to be casino floor managers on social media have said there’s something to it. But it’s never as simple as rumor makes it out to be.
I think one reason why the argument won’t die down is that the original story came from an interview Frank Scoblete conducted with an Atlantic City slot game director in the early 1990s. In the interview, the director said he placed machines that were looser than average in certain locations.
Much has changed since the early 1990s. Modern slot machines are better designed than the mechanical machines that dominated casino floors in the 1980s and 1990s. The old mechanical reel slots did have multiple settings that changed the odds.
Do Loose Slot Machines Exist?
Yes, you can find examples of truly loose slot machine games. YouTube provides you with the proof you need, but the videos you want to watch are made by technicians. I’ll share a couple below.
What may have confused some players, and I know it first confused me, is a video like this one from 2006. This video explains how to change the odds on a Pachislo slot machine by pressing a button. These games are very popular in Japan.
Pachislo machines look like normal American slot machines, but they allow players to use skill to stop the reels from spinning. In other words, most American slot machines determine what the game result is before the reels stop spinning. Even if you hit the red “Stop” button, the game outcome is decided.
On the Pachislo machines, you have a chance to determine the outcome with skill. I’ve only played one slot machine game in the US that has a similar feature. It was called Lotus Flower and was very popular because players could “catch” the three bonus symbols if they stopped the reels quickly enough.
If you research how odds are changed on modern (American) slot games, you’ll find videos like this one from 2017 which shows a technician removing and replacing a chip. I’ve been told, and have read in many articles, that casino technicians rarely change these chips.
Are Slot Machine Games in the US Ever Loosened?
American slot games are regulated, and changing a programming chip requires a process that ensures accountability is maintained. It’s just not worth the casino’s time to reprogram slot machines often.
On the other hand, I have a friend who once played in a slot game tournament. He watched as casino staff cordoned off a row of machines, reprogrammed them, then guarded them until the tournament. After the tournament, the machines were reprogrammed again.
During the tournament, the slot games ran at their loosest possible settings. The players simply beat the “Spin” buttons as fast as possible to run up their credits (not real money) as high as they could.
But Some Slot Machines Seem Looser Than Others
You may have fallen in love with a slot machine game at one casino only to find that its counterpart at another casino doesn’t seem to pay as well.
There are two possible explanations for the discrepancy. First, it could always be that you’re playing one machine during a random “hot” streak and the other during a random “cold” streak. That’s a coincidence, and it happens.
The other possible explanation is that each casino may order games with their own payout requirements. One casino may buy the machines set at 90% RTP, and another may buy the machines set at 94% RTP.
And it’s possible one casino installs two or more cabinets for the same game with different odds settings. It hardly seems fair.
Can You Tell if a Slot Machine Game Is Loose Without Playing It?
Here’s where things get interesting. You should be able to find some indication of how often a slot machine game is expected or programmed to pay a prize.
Some slot machine games tell you what the theoretical return to player is in their help screens. I’ve had to page all the way to the last screen to find these percentages.
I’ve also seen labels glued to the slot machines that say things like, “This game has a payout ratio of 1:3.5.” That’s not the same as a payout percentage, but it should give you an idea of how often a machine is expected to pay a prize of any value.
All the scratch off tickets I’ve studied print an expected prize ratio on the back of the card. It’s usually in the neighborhood of 1:3 to 1:6.
In fact, I know some players who swear that only the higher denomination slot games—the “high roller” machines—are set to pay more frequently.
I haven’t played enough slot machine games to make up my mind on that. But what I do know is that some slot machine games pay a lot of small prizes less than the wagers. I hate these games and as soon as I realize I am playing one, I move on.
As an example, if you bet $5 on every spin and you win somewhere between $1 and $4 most of the time, the game is making a profit even when it pays a prize. Those bigger prizes and bonus games don’t seem to come as often.
The bottom line seems to be that even if you can find a machine that pays frequently it may not pay enough.
The Grass Is Always Greener on the Other Side
I remember walking through a casino on the west coast one night. A large group of people were standing around a slot game and watching several people play. The machines seemed to be in a hot zone that night.
It took about an hour for the players to grow tired of the games. I don’t know if they left with more money than they had when they sat down. My wife and I decided to try our luck on those games.
We lost about $100 in 30 minutes. Some people would say the machines had gone cold. Other people say they were played out and needed to cycle through their random numbers again. All I know is that I lost the $100 I had won at the blackjack table.
The myth of the loose slot machine may be feeding on the excitement people feel when they believe someone else is winning. How much does a $2000 slot machine jackpot cost you?
I’ve heard stories of people winning a jackpot on their first spin. And yet, when I ask people how far ahead they are after winning a jackpot, a lot of them say they’re still down for the night.
Jackpots are fun to win but they can be expensive.
My friend who plays the slots says he has a sure-fire way of finding slot games that are most likely to pay more than they take. He talks to the people playing the games and asks them if they’re regulars.
Local gamblers often have favorite games. Some of them seem to be luckier than others. My friend believes those few lucky players have stumbled across truly loose slot machine games.
He says he’s won a few jackpots just by playing machines favored by the local regulars. He’s come away with a few thousand dollars on a $100 budget more than once.
If he’s in a new casino or the casino brings in new games, he is just as lost as everyone else. There may be no 100% reliable method for finding loose slot machines. Even so, half the fun is looking for those machines that, for whatever reason, are ready to reward you for your patience.
But I don’t expect to start earning a living playing the slots. Casinos make most of their money from slot games. That means somebody must be losing and it always seems to be me.