Slot Machine Volatility and How to get the Most out of Your Money

How many times have you heard a slot player say, “I wish the machine would at least let me play for a while instead of just eating my money” or “I lost but at least I was able to play for a long time?” You may have heard this or even said this yourself a time or two. I know my wife and my mom live by this philosophy; as long as they are playing they’re happy.

Slot manufacturers and researchers are starting to take notice and focus on something other than payback percentage. We know that payback is the percentage of money a particular machine pays back to its customers in winnings. Therefore, the higher the payback percentage the better it is for the players. It certainly doesn’t guarantee you will win because the casino still has the advantage, but at least you have a reasonable chance of walking out a winner sometimes.

However, researchers have discovered that volatility has more to do with how long a person can play on average. A machine with low volatility has a greater chance of hitting smaller payouts along the way with less of a chance of hitting the larger jackpots. High volatility machines are where you can win large amounts, but you can also lose very quickly as well. In the short term, these affect players more than the payback percentages because the paybacks are averaged over a long period of time.

What researchers are finding is that many slot players would be happier playing longer, but not getting any significant wins. Instead they get smaller wins along the way to give them more time at the machines. These findings may be used against slot players.

This has also been reflected in the rising hit frequencies on machines. On older three-reel slot machines you might have a hit frequency of 1 in 10 but when you won, you actually won more than you bet. In today’s video slots the hit frequencies may be 1 in 3. That means on average you will win once for every three spins. The problem is the so called “wins” are often less than the amount you bet. It gives the appearance as if you are winning a lot, but in reality all that is occurring is your money is going down slower.

As slot players, what we don’t want to happen is slot manufacturers lowering the overall payback percentages because people are more concerned with volatility and hit frequency. Several researchers have implied that it is a “win/win” because slot players are happier because their money lasts longer, and the casinos are happy because they are making more money.

To me that is absurd. Payback percentage should still be the most important factor in machine selection. I would much rather have a higher chance of actually winning money, than a lower chance of winning but I just lose at a slower rate.

This is another manipulation tactic that you must be careful of. Even though it may seem like your money is lasting longer and you are playing for a greater period of time, the possibility of ever winning anything substantial has decreased.

I’ve talked about not playing large progressive slots strictly to win the huge jackpot. You have a one in a million chance of hitting those jackpots. However, if you are a slot player that plays fairly regularly, you should have hit some fairly significant jackpots if you are playing the right machines. If you haven’t you are either real unlucky or are playing games with low payback percentages.

The point of this article is to show you some of the tactics slot manufacturers are incorporating and how they affect you. Although lower volatility machines with lower paybacks may seem like more fun to play, in the end you will be losing more money. It may take longer to lose it, but the chance of you walking away a winner is much tougher.

I understand people want their money to go a long way and let them play more, but if you never get any substantial wins where you leave a winner, what is the sense of playing?

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