Should Slots List an LDW Rate?

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Slots developers have become more and more generous with information over the years. Now, many online slots providers display the return to player (RTP) and, sometimes, hit frequency.

RTP refers to how much a slot pays back in the long run. Hit frequency defines your chances of winning with each spin.

It’s definitely great that developers are willing to offer these figures. But they could go even further by also covering losses disguised as wins (LDWs).

What is a loss disguised as a win, and why is it important? I’ll discuss more on this matter along with why I think that developers should display LDW rates.

What Are Losses Disguised as Wins?

Almost every slot that’s produced today features multiple paylines. Therefore, you have plenty of chances to win with each spin.

Some slots feature as little as five lines, while others offer up to 117,649 “ways” or more. In either case, you can win multiple prizes in every round.

You’ll find real money slots more entertaining when you have lots of chances to win. However, numerous paylines also create a deceiving scenario where you can experience wins that are actually losses.

Under normal circumstances, you’d have no trouble determining that a nickel win on a dollar bet is actually a $0.95 loss. However, slots providers design games to hide this element.

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They program exciting sound effects and animations into games to make it seem like you’re winning when you’ve actually lost money. Going further, you may be encouraged to play longer than normal because you think that you’re constantly winning.

Why Are LDWs Dangerous?

Ideally, you’ll take time in between each round to determine if you’ve won or lost money. However, slot machines feature a fast play rate that creates difficulty in making this distinction.

Assuming you play slots at a normal pace (fast), you’ll be less likely to separate wins from losses. You’ll merely see flashing lights and sound effects and think that you’ve won.

Falling for an LDW here and there isn’t the biggest mistake ever. However, you don’t want to let these fake losses put you into a trance.

Assuming you believe that you’re winning at a higher rate, you’ll be more encouraged to keep spinning the reels. Given that slots are a negative-expectation game, you’ll probably suffer more losses as a result.

Here’s an example of what can happen if you unknowingly give into LDWs:

  • You deposit $400 onto an online casino.
  • You plan to ration this money out over time.
  • However, you start playing a slot and get hooked.
  • The animations and sounds in between wins make it seem like you’re winning often.
  • But many of your wins are worth far less than your $1 spin cost.
  • You run through your entire $400 bankroll in one session.

At this point, you can either reload your bankroll or quit playing until you’ve saved up enough money. Considering that you originally planned on spreading the $400 deposit out, you should definitely choose the latter option.

What Information Do Developers Normally Display?

Slots developers don’t currently list an LDW rate in the info screen (pay table). However, many online site providers do display one or more of the following figures.


Return to player (RTP) shows what percentage of bets you can expect to win back. A game that offers 96.3% RTP, for example, would pay back $96.30 for every $100 wagered.

Payout percentages are only theoretical figures. They indicate how much a game will pay over the course of thousands or even millions of spins.

In the example above, you’re very unlikely to win back exactly $96.30. But you at least have an idea on how well the game will pay compared to other slots.

Hit Frequency

Hit frequency (a.k.a. win frequency) indicates your chances of winning a prize on any given spin. A 20% hit frequency, for example, shows that you’ll win one out of five spins on average.

Win frequency is helpful for knowing how often you can expect prizes. After all, slots are volatile games that don’t pay out as frequently as most casino games.

Of course, this figure doesn’t show how much money you’ll win with each payout. Therefore, hit frequency still leaves you in the dark regarding profit potential.

Bonus Frequency

Most slots offer bonus rounds that include free spins or prize wheels. These rounds give you an opportunity to win huge payouts.

That said, you’re likely interested in how often you can trigger a feature. A bonus frequency figure can, for example, show that you’ll get the feature on 1 out of every 50 spins.

These odds indicate that you’re going to enjoy the bonus round on 2% of your spin on average. Assuming you perform five spins per minute, you’ll unlock the feature every 10 minutes.

Some slots offer a bonus buy option. Bonus buy sees you spend a multiple of your stake (e.g. 100x) to automatically get the feature on the next spin.

What Would an LDW Rate Look Like?

You can see that the information discussed above is put into nice, neat percentages or odds. 96% RTP, 20% hit frequency, and 2% bonus frequency (1 in 50 odds) clearly explain what you need to know.

Therefore, an LDW rate would also offer a helpful percentage. Here’s an example on how this information would work:

  • A slot displays a 30% hit frequency.
  • It displays a 20% LDW rate.
  • 30 – 20 = 10
  • Therefore, 10% of your spins will actually result in profits.

Hit frequency is necessary when offering an LDW rate. Otherwise, you have nothing to compare the latter figure with.

Why Developers Need to Make Players Aware of LDWs

Losses disguised as wins are nothing new in the gaming world. Nevertheless, developers have become bolder and bolder with LDWs.

As explained before, LDWs can lead to greater losses. You’re more likely to continue playing slots when you keep “winning” and feel good.

Nothing is wrong with continuing to play when you’re doing well. However, prolonging sessions can be dangerous when under the false impression that you’re actually earning money.

You could easily go through your entire bankroll in a single session if you get sucked too far into a slot machine. Worse yet, you might start betting money that you can’t afford to lose. The latter is the worst-case scenario for any gambler. You never want to bet money that’s needed for bills, food, or any other essentials.

Unfortunately, LDWs put gamblers in this position. Some developers actually rely on phony wins as a way to remain successful.

They program slots to offer entertaining animations and sound effects following a payout. You’ll see these and hear these theatrics regardless of if your win results in a profit or not.

You simply can’t rely on sounds and animations to inform you of a true win. Instead, you must subtract your spin cost from the payout to see if you’ve actually earned any money.

Not every gambler is going to put forth this effort. Many aren’t even aware of losses disguised as wins. That said, the responsible thing for slots providers to do is display an LDW rate. Whether they take up this responsibility remains to be seen.

Will Game Providers Ever List the LDW Rate?

Slots developers would certainly do players a favor by providing an indication on LDWs. The question, though, is if they would actually consider doing something like this.

Both providers and casinos make quite a bit of money off unsuspecting gamblers. The latter are usually oblivious to LDWs. They fall into slots trances as a result and keep spinning the reels without any concept of time.

Obviously, developers don’t want to give up one of their greatest advantages. However, they also need to think about the industry’s image as a whole.

Problem gamblers make the online and land-based casino gaming industry look bad. In greater numbers, they can draw the attention of gambling governing bodies that need to protect such players.

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That said, game providers and casinos bear a responsibility not only to customers’ well-being but also themselves. They can’t thrive when the majority of their customers are addicts.

Of course, operators still can’t always be trusted to do the right thing. This is why gambling jurisdictions sometimes step in and force developers to list certain information.

For example, the UK Gambling Commission requires online game providers to list RTP in the pay table. They want to ensure that players understand their actual chances of winning money.

The same thing can be done regarding an LDW rate. Gambling jurisdictions could require developers to list this information.

As it stands, though, no provider currently puts this info in their games’ help screen. For now, the chances look low of an LDL figure making it into slots.


Losses disguised as wins keep some gamblers playing slots longer than they want to. Therefore, it would be nice if developers listed what percentage of spins feature an LDW.

Such a figure would give players an idea on how many of their spins will result in partial wins.

A $0.10 prize on a $0.50 spin isn’t a win—no matter how convincing the animations and sounds seem.

Hopefully, slots providers consider listing such information in the help screen. If not, gambling jurisdictions could require developers to display this figure.

In any case, gamblers have the right to know how often LDWs will happen. They can use this information to be better aware of their true chances of winning profits.