Why It Seems Like You Never Win With Slots


Slot machines have several attractive qualities, including jackpots, bonus features, and interesting themes. Many gamblers are drawn to these benefits as a result.

However, one big downside to slots is that they seem unbeatable. Your bankroll often vanishes much faster on slot machines than with any other casino game.

You may leave the casino feeling like you never win with slot machines. The truth, though, is that slots winnings are simply misleading.

In this post, I’ll cover why it feels like you can’t win with slot machines along with the reality behind the situation.

The RTP Is Misleading

Each slot machine is programmed to offer a certain return to player (RTP). For example, a slot with 96% RTP will pay back $0.96 for each dollar wagered on average.

You definitely want to play games with high payout percentages whenever possible. But even when you’re on a game with high RTP, you may lose lots of money.

This situation leads to conspiracy theories, such as casinos changing payback whenever they feel like it or purposely lying about RTP. However, the truth is much less sinister.

Casinos don’t have to alter payback or misrepresent it. They’re already guaranteed to profit from slot machines over the long run.

Instead, slots are just extremely volatile games that offer unpredictable short-term results. Volatility refers to how consistent short-term results are in relation to the mean.

You may win far more money with a slot that has 90% payback versus one with 96% RTP because of volatility. In short, payout percentages do little to influence how much you win or lose in a given session.

Volatility is influenced by a combination of factors, including jackpot size, payout sizes, and RTP. Of these aspects, the jackpot and payout sizes play the largest roles.

You stand to win more often with games that have a combination of a small jackpot and other small prizes. These slots can afford to pay more frequently because they don’t have huge payouts available at the top.

Meanwhile, slot machines with big jackpots and other large prizes are highly volatile. They must cover occasional big wins and can’t offer frequent payouts without costing the casino money.

You Need Big Wins to Feel Like a Winner

Regardless of how volatile a slot machine is or isn’t, you need to hit big prizes to come out a winner. Otherwise, you’ll just keep bleeding out money over the course of a session.

Slot machines aren’t built to offer lots of payouts over a short time span, such as with baccarat or blackjack. Instead, they only deliver occasional prizes compared to your number of bets.

Even on a 50-line slot, you might only earn a payout on one out of every five spins. In this case, you’re winning just once out of 250 chances (5 x 50) on average.

Even during the course of a hot streak, you’re probably only going to collect several prizes every five spins. On the same 50-line slot, this frequency amounts to five to 10 wins out of 250 opportunities.

You aren’t going to nickel and dime your way to winning sessions. Instead, you’ll need at least one or more large prizes to profit from a slot outing.

Your Winnings Will Be Spread Out

As covered above, you ultimately need big payouts to win in slots. Unfortunately, these large prizes don’t come around very often.

You’ll rarely hit a sizable jackpot, if ever. You may have to spin the reels hundreds of thousands or even millions of times before collecting a huge prize.

The big wins just below a jackpot are more attainable. But even in these cases, you still won’t earn many large prizes over the course of one or more sessions.

That said, you have to accept the fact that your winnings will be spread out over many sessions. You may lose money for 10 straight sessions before you finally leave the casino a winner.

Part of this is due to the fact that slot machines are negative expectation games. Of course, all house-banked casino games carry a negative expectation to some degree.

You might win money in nine out of 20 baccarat sessions on average. But, with slots, you may only profit from two out of 20 sessions.

Again, everything goes back to volatility. Slot machines are so unpredictable that you don’t know when to expect your next successful casino trip.

Tips for Boosting Your Slots Winnings

You’re never going to have the degree of control over slots as you would with, say, Texas holdem or blackjack. Slots just don’t feature the same level of strategy as many other casino games.

However, you can take a few steps to improve your chances of winning. Here are some tips that’ll help you earn more with slot machines.

Play Less Volatile Slots

If you’re sick of losing session after session, then you should really consider playing less volatile slot machines. No slot pays out at a truly high frequency, but the less volatile ones do provide better short-term chances of winning.

The key aspects to consider are the payout sizes. Generally speaking, games with smaller jackpots and other prizes pay more often.

In contrast, you may want to avoid slot machines with huge progressive jackpots. Providers often seed these payouts with a fortune (e.g. $100k to $1 million), meaning they need a lot of money coming back.

Sometimes, a volatile slot machine will have a small jackpot but feature several bonuses that can lead to big payouts. These types of games also pay less frequently to make up for the lucrative bonus features.

Look for Games With High RTP

You aren’t guaranteed to win at a high rate just by playing slots with good RTP. However, you can definitely improve your long-term chances of winning by consistently playing slot machines with high payback.

Online slots are typically the best games for favorable payout percentages. Internet casinos don’t have as high of overhead costs, meaning their slots pay back more than those at land-based casinos.

Furthermore, you can actually find RTP for most online slot machines. The developers often make payback publicly available information, meaning you can just google something like “[slot name] RTP.”

Unfortunately, land-based slots don’t usually have publicly available payout percentages. The reason why is because casinos can order different pay schedules, meaning there’s no uniform RTP figure for a specific game.

A good rule of thumb, though, is that slot machines with higher coin denominations pay more. Penny slots may only offer 88% to 91% RTP, while a quarter game might deliver 93% to 95% payback.

Take Advantage of Comps

I want to state right away that casino comps aren’t worth as much as most gamblers think they’re worth. However, VIP rewards do help your bottom line to some degree.

You automatically generate comps at most online casinos. All you have to do is play real-money slots to begin earning loyalty rewards.

Land-based casinos, on the other hand, require you to sign up for their VIP program. Once you do so, you’ll receive a slots club card that tracks your play.

Cashback is universally the best comp that you can get at an online or land-based gambling establishment. This perk gives you back a percentage of the amount you bet (usually 0.1%).

Other loyalty benefits differ based on whether you’re playing online or at a brick-and-mortar venue. Internet casinos offer free spins, deposit bonuses, and birthday gifts to VIPs.

Land-based casinos are much more extensive in their offerings. Their comps can include free drinks, meals, hotel stays, limo rides, nightclub bottle service, and show tickets.

Have a Stop-Win and Stop-Loss Limit

You should always have a predefined plan before stepping into the casino. Specifically, you want to have both a stop-win and stop-loss limit set for slot machines or any other game.

Both of these limits are predefined points at which you plan to quit playing for the day. The goal is to either minimize your losses or bank winnings.

Here’s an example for how each limit works:

Stop Win

  • You set a limit of $500 in winnings.
  • You hit a big prize and earn $773 overall.
  • You quit playing for the day.

Stop Loss

  • You set a limit of $300 in losses.
  • You have a rough session and quickly hit the limit.
  • Even though you haven’t played long, you stop.

Stop-loss and stop-win limits don’t improve your chances of beating slot machines. But they keep you more disciplined and, in the case of stop win, help you walk out of the casino with some profits.


Slot machines can lead to frustrating experiences when the losses mount. Worse yet, you may have little idea on why you keep losing.

But you’ll feel better about the matter by understanding exactly why slots offer such inconsistent wins. Furthermore, you can adopt a better bankroll management plan to absorb the losses.

The first aspect to understand is that the RTP has little bearing on short-term results. You may win slightly more during a single session on games with high payback. However, RTP figures are based on average payback over the course of countless spins.

Volatility is more indicative of how much you’ll win in the short run. A really volatile slot won’t pay out as frequently as a game with lower volatility.

Regardless of how volatile a game is, you’ll still need large wins to book profits. Meanwhile, you won’t win much if you’re just earning tiny payouts here and there.

Taking everything into account, your slots winnings will be spread out over the course of many sessions. You may suffer through some brutal outings one month, then hit several big payouts the next.

The key through all of this is to be smart about bankroll management. As long as you don’t bet more than you can afford to lose, then you’ll be fine with slot machines.

Posted in: Slots

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