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Less Pay Allows Best Pay

20 February 2022

Helen is an acquaintance, a friend of a friend of a friend. Once a year or so, we used to find ourselves at the same gathering, where she'd regale me with tales of her latest slot machine triumphs.

It's been a couple of years since that circle of friends has gathered, so I was surprised on a snowy February morn to receive an instant message. Helen had never asked a question before, but now she had one.

"This has been bothering me for years," she said. "I suppose I could have asked before now. What's with the payoffs on video slots where you win less than you bet. That doesn't seem like a win to me at all.

"Shouldn't you actually win something when you win?"

I knew where Helen was coming from. I'd heard that complaint often over the years.

I tried to explain. What follows is a near-transcript of our IMs, edited for length and clarity.

John: You started on single-payline, three-reel slots, right?

Helen: I did, yes.

John: And nearly every winner paid at least five coins for a three-coin bet, except on some machines, one cherry paid two coins for a three-coin bet.

Helen: That sounds right.

John: If you received a five-coin payoff, it was five coins per payline.

Helen: Right! I want that kind of small win back.

John: Today, every win still pays at least as much as you bet on the winning payline. It's just that wins on a small portion of paylines can be overwhelmed by the bets on losing lines.

Helen: I'm not sure I follow.

John: Imagine you're playing a 40-line penny video slot and betting 40 cents. That means you're betting 1 cent on each line.

If you have a five-coin winner on one winning payline, you have the same payoff ratio on that line as you used to get on a one-line three-reel game. But overall, you have a losing spin.

Helen: Then they should make the smallest winner 40 coins, so if you win on one payline, you get your money back.

John: But what if you win on all 40 lines? A 40-coin win on each of 40 lines brings 1,600 coins. If a game paid that much on the smallest possible winner, it would have to make wins less frequent and reduce the size and frequency of bigger wins to yield payout percentages in an acceptable range.

Helen: OK, I guess.

John: Imagine a machine pays players 90 percent. For 1,000 spins at 40 cents per spin, you invest 40,000 coins, or$400. Your average return is 36,000 coins, or $360.

Imagine that total return includes 10 minimal winners at 5 coins each. If those minimal winners pay 1,600 coins instead, that adds 15,950 coins to the payoff. Your net return is pushed to 51,950 coins and the casino loses 11,950 coins per 40,000 you wager.

That doesn't even include spins where you win on three lines and win 15 coins for your 40-coin bet, or other small-payout combos.

Casinos couldn't afford to keep the game on the floor.

Helen: Even so, a five or 10-coin payoff on 40-coin bet doesn't have much value. I mean, why bother?

John: Collecting several of the small wins gives you credits for more spins. They help keep you going.

Those small wins make the big wins and bonuses possible. If the small wins were too big, casinos couldn't afford to offer you the slots' most attractive options. The games would be less fun to play.

Helen: I'll have to think about that. It's not what I was hoping to hear, for sure.
John Grochowski

John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski

John Grochowski
John Grochowski is the best-selling author of The Craps Answer Book, The Slot Machine Answer Book and The Video Poker Answer Book. His weekly column is syndicated to newspapers and Web sites, and he contributes to many of the major magazines and newspapers in the gaming field, including Midwest Gaming and Travel, Slot Manager, Casino Journal, Strictly Slots and Casino Player.

Listen to John Grochowski's "Casino Answer Man" tips Tuesday through Friday at 5:18 p.m. on WLS-AM (890) in Chicago. Look for John Grochowski on Facebook and Twitter @GrochowskiJ.

John Grochowski Websites:

www.casinoanswerman.com

Books by John Grochowski:

> More Books By John Grochowski