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Using an Understanding of Probability to Help You Win at Slots

Learning how slots odds work and impact your chances of winning is important when choosing which slots to play online. Here are our top tips.
Odds and Winning at Slots

With more online casinos springing up every week, and their virtual aisles rammed with increasingly exciting, and diverse machines, the popularity of slots has never been greater. Players can pick from a seemingly endless array of themed virtual machines that replicate the traditional “one armed bandit” formula. Designers of slot games are in a perpetual arms race against their peers and competition fuels creativity within the industry, generating many memorable titles. One frequent question from those new to the world of online gambling is: is it possible to beat a slot?

Understanding return-to-player (RTP) rates

To answer that question, it’s first important to understand return-to-player rates on advertised machines. Some games might try to dazzle players with immense progressive jackpots, or massive multiplier bonus rounds but these claims do little without an understanding of the machine you’re playing on. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to get the reel plans for every new slot that appears on an online casino. This is the only way to work out the actual probability of an outcome on a machine.

If we we’re able to look inside the machine, we could work out the probability of each symbol required for a single winning combination appearing by working out the odds it would occur on the first reel in the position we wanted, then on the second, and so on. We could continue this across all reels, then multiply our answers together to arrive at our overall probability. We’d have to do this for literally every winning combination too. It all sounds a bit confusing when we just fancy a few spins on a slot, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, slot developers do advertise their slots’ RTP rates online meaning we don’t need to lose our minds over the calculator just yet. The slot’s advertised RTP will usually be around 90-97%. Don’t make the mistake of presuming that this means youll will win 92, or whatever percent of the times you play it.

What it actually refers to is the average return the machine will pay from a given sum of money. If you were to play through your 92% slot with R1,000 after playing it through the machine, you should be returned an average of R920. Note that this is the theoretical return based on a statistical calculation that is programmed into the slot machine. The reality is that the time you are actually spinning away at the reels is just a snapshot in time. It does not mean that measured over your playing period, the RTP will be the same as that published by the casino. It will be lower and if you are lucky, it will be higher and you make money.

The average RTP therefore shows us how “expensive” the machine is to play. The higher the percentage, the cheaper you’ll find it over the long term. That doesn’t mean that the game won’t produce any huge winner, it just means that it will earn slightly more in lost player funds than it will pay out over a long period of time.

The important conclusion is that you should choose slots with a higher RTP% whenever you can. Sure, from time to time you might decide to play a game because you really love the theme, or it has a massive jackpot potential, but over the long run you will do better if you pick the better paying machines. It really is that simple.

Top Ten Slots Based on RTP%

Here is a lit of the best slots in terms of RTP% currently available to South African players.

We also suggest where you can play these games.

RTP Percentage
Where To Play
Goblin’s Cave
Ocean Princess
Jackpot 6000
Kitty Cash
1x2 Gaming
Blood Suckers
Retro Reel – Extreme Heat
Big Bad Wolf
Mirror Magic

Using bonuses to your advantage

One way of gaining a mathematical edge over the casino is by using money they might give you to play with. When you sign up with a new site, if they give you a matched bonus of up to R8000, for example, you can attempt to play through the entire rollover requirements by using the highest RTP slot. It’s quite easy to work out if attempting it will be mathematically possible, if a little time consuming.

We take the total value of the bonus, and work out the amount you stand to lose by running it through the machine the required number of times. Let’s say the bonus is R1,500, and you must wager it 20 times before you can withdraw any winnings. Now, this will probably require a deposit of 1,500Rn too that will also be locked into the bonus and wagering requirements. We need to bet a total of 3,000Rn, 20 times – 90,000Rn. Sounds like a lot but it will be in many relatively small bets, and there’ll be plenty of wins on the way. We now pick the highest RTP slot eligible to use in the terms and conditions. Let’s say it’s 95%.

To work out if the odds are in your favour when trying to wager through this offer on our chosen machine first work out how much you’re supposed to retain per full wager at maximum RTP (95% of 3,000). Then, work out 95% of the outcome. Repeat this as many times as the rollover requires.

95% of 3,000 = 2,850

95% of 2,850 = 2707.5

95% of…….

You get the idea. Anyway, after completing this arduous bit of calculus, you’ll see that the mathematical expected value is on the casino side, not the player’s. A higher RTP machine, or lower wagering requirements would be required to show +EV (Positive Expected Value) for the player. It’s possible to find them but they’re increasingly rare these days.

Only gamble what you can afford to lose

If you are successful in discovering a juicy bonus that only requires you wager five times on a 97% RTP slot, it’s important to remember that even with the maths on your side, you can still lose. In the classroom, the theoretical rand that we lose when bust out don’t hurt as much as real-life ones do.

Gambling can be a lot of fun, and if you study the maths it can be immensely profitable. That doesn’t mean it’s risk free. Far from it. It’s important to remain in control when at the virtual tables or slots, and if you know you like to get carried away, set up automatic risk controls on your account. These prompts should help remind you that sometimes there are more important things to consider than chasing that epic beat.