What are the Luckiest Slot Machines?

Excited Man Holding Cash With Slot Machines Behind Him

When you tell people that you write about gambling for a living, they almost always want to know “What are the luckiest slot machines?” I’m flattered that they’d think I had inside knowledge and could help them find a lucky slot and win some money. The problem is, I don’t think there’s really such a thing as a lucky slot machine.

What are the luckiest slot machine games? There are games that are programmed to pay out more money over time than others – these can be considered lucky. There are slots that payout more frequently than others – that’s another form of better slot luck.

Finally, there are slot machines that individual bettors swear they have better luck playing. If you can find such a slot, it’s certainly a lucky one, at least for you.

This post is a compendium of everything I know about the luckiest slot machines you can play, including some perspective on unlucky slot machines and the concept of luck in gambling in general.

What Makes a Slot Lucky?

My massive and quite expensive Oxford English Dictionary identifies “lucky” as meaning “being attended by good luck.” When you look up “luck,” you get this gem – “success or failure brought by chance rather than through one’s own actions.”

Okay, so when we talk about “lucky” slot machines, we’re really only talking about success. And, according to the OED, we’re talking about a kind of success brought about by chance, with no element of skill.

What makes a slot machine lucky?

Some slots players consider a slot lucky if they have multiple winning sessions while playing it.

Other slots players may win a single large-scale payout and forever consider the game that led to that prize a “lucky slot.”

A player may also think a slot is lucky on a given day but unlucky on another. In their minds, if they win money on a game, that’s a lucky game. If they lose money, that’s an unlucky slot.

Mathematically speaking, those conceptions of a slot machine’s luck are far off the beam. Obviously, every slot machine outcome is independent of every other outcome. Machines have no memory, no ability to sense the presence of a particular player, and no reason to pay one player over another. It just doesn’t make sense when you apply a little bit of common sense.

If luck with slots means winning, it also means making a profit. Who cares about winning $1,000 during a session if you spent $1,100 to win it?

Taking all of that into account, we can define a lucky slot machine like this – a lucky slot machine is any slot that returns a profit to a player over a particular period of play.

Watered-down like that, the concept loses all of its glamor.

However, it does allow me to write a lot more interesting and specific of a blog post, since I can now quantify what makes a slot machine lucky or unlucky.

Examples of High-RTP Slot Machines

One way to easily identify slots that are most likely to give you a lucky playing experience is to find slots with relatively high theoretical RTP numbers.

RTP is return-to-player, representing a theoretical amount of money a player might expect to lose over a period of play. I could write tens of thousands of words on the question of whether or not RTP is a valuable way to compare slot odds, but at this time it’s the only publicly available information we have with which we can handicap a slot’s relative luckiness.

Land-based slots have RTP figures that typically range from 88% to 99%, though the vast majority of them hover somewhere in the middle.

Finding those rare high-RTP slot machines is a big part of ideal slot machine gambling strategy.

Harrah's Casino Slot Machines

Unfortunately, we can’t usually identify a specific slot machine’s RTP figures. That’s because manufacturers tend to keep that information private. What RTP figures do exist aren’t 100% accurate, since slot designers produce their games in many formats, and casinos are under no obligation to tell players which version they’re offering or what the average RTP is for a particular slot.

The best information that’s usually available about slot machine RTP is a general guide to average RTP for an entire slot denomination in a given casino or jurisdiction. We know, for example, that the average $0.05 slot in Las Vegas has a 94.48% RTP. That doesn’t mean that every nickel slot in Vegas has that RTP, in fact it means just as many have a higher one as have a lower one.

The waters are muddy, for sure.

It’s easy to see why slots players revert to superstition – rational, logical information about slot machine odds just isn’t available, and even the information that is available to the public is difficult to find and interpret.

What Makes a Slot Unlucky?

I’ve spent hundreds of words analyzing what goes into a slot machine’s status as a “lucky slot,” but what about unlucky slot machines? Do such things exist?

I don’t want to repeat myself too much, so let’s just say that unlucky slot machines are just the opposite of lucky slots.

Technically, any slot machine that takes more money from you than it pays out is “unlucky,” in that the machine made a profit from you, and you’re walking out of the casino a few bucks lighter.

Since slot machines are literally programmed to withhold more money than they pay out, most slot sessions aren’t profitable – that basically means slot machines are all 100% unlucky or at least are designed to be.

Unlucky slot machines, by that definition, are much more common than lucky slots.

I’ll give a personal example of an unlucky slot machine I played recently in Chicago.

I was at Rivers Casino Des Plaines and I had about an hour to kill before it was time to go. I took $100 and gravitated toward the slots. Rivers Des Plaines has like 1,200 slot and video poker games, so I knew I’d have my pick of machines and denominations.

I found a Sacred Dragon machine that looked tempting. It’s a big, beautiful 3D slot with lots of loud sound effects and the one I found accepted a max bet of $3 per spin. That meant I had about 33 losing spins burning a hole in my pocket, so I dropped my whole $100 in and started playing.

I lost it all in about thirty minutes. It was the weirdest thing. I kept waiting for the free spins rounds, of which there were two to chase. During my entire $100 of play, I didn’t get a single free spins round, or really any bonus feature worth writing home about.

For me, on that night, Sacred Dragon was an unlucky slot.

Of course, if I’d won a few hundred bucks instead of lost my stack, I’d be writing about how lucky a time I had.

Slot machines are fickle that way. Another word for fickle, here, is “highly-volatile.”

Can You Improve Your Slot Machine Luck?

Yes, and no.

There’s nothing you can do to influence a slot machine’s programming, which guarantees a specific amount of “luck” for everyone who plays the game. Since you can’t literally turn a 98% RTP slot into a 101% slot machine, it’s fair to say that there’s nothing you can do to make a particular slot game more or less lucky.

However, you can shop around for slot machines with relatively high RTP numbers or take advantage of slots or loyalty club points to earn free slot machine play.

Column of Casino Slots

When you go out of your way to choose the slots with the highest possible returns, you’re making yourself luckier relative to play on another machine. Playing a progressive slot machine with an 88% RTP will result in less luck, in a sense, than playing a $1 slot with a fixed jackpot and an RTP of 99%. Theoretically, you should be 10% luckier on the higher-RTP slot.

Playing with free money is a form of good luck. Every $1 you win in free slot play shaves a tiny bit off the casino’s edge. That means technically you just made yourself a little bit “luckier,” if we play fast and loose with the definition of the word lucky. The same goes for any casino freebie, even a cheap cocktail. The more you get from the casino in exchange for your loyalty, the less money they’ve technically won from you.

Our Conclusions

When friends ask me “what are the luckiest slot machines?” I try to answer the question they’re really asking me.

Most people want to know which slots will give them the best odds of winning. Some people want to know which slot machines hit the most frequently, or which slots have the most bonus rounds. There are also a few who think I have some inside secret about a particularly lucky slot that magically pays out big winnings.

If you use your head and learn what it is about lucky slot machines that you like, you can organize your play around those machines that give you the luckiest results. Sometimes, these are high-RTP slot machines which are designed to hold less money than other games. Other times, people just have a touch or a feel for a particular slot.

Whatever the reason, enjoy lucky slot machines for a taste of the addictive slot play that keeps us slot junkies coming back to the casino.