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# Ask the Slot Expert: Do slot machines hit more frequently when I bet more?

13 April 2016

Question: Re: the question you discussed about receiving relatively small payouts for a large number of free spins on penny slots.

I just returned from a trip to A.C. two days ago and won 80 free spins while playing \$1 per spin. My total for the 80 free spins? \$36.40. Sadly, the machine was one of those with the option to take the money or take the free spins. The offer ran from something around \$10 to over \$200, if I remember correctly.

Being a gambler(!), I thought surely that 80 spins would at least give me a chance to come out ahead -— especially since the low end of the guaranteed payout was a pittance. Little did I know beforehand that I should have taken the guaranteed amount and hoped for \$40!

Answer: Winning 36 bucks in a bonus round from a dollar bet doesn't sound too bad to me. I've had far worse results many times -- and far better results a few times. I'll admit, though, that I'd be pretty disappointed winning that amount if I had paid for those spins.

Don't beat yourself up over your decision to play the spins. You didn't know how much you would win on the free spins until after they had all been played. And you still don't know how much you would have gotten from the talk the money option.

The slot manufacturers set up the probabilities on the amounts in the guarantee so that the expected value of taking the guarantee is the same as that of taking the spins. If the expected values weren't the same, they wouldn't be able to calculate the long-term payback for the machine without also knowing the probabilities that a player would choose each option. The easiest way to make the choice irrelevant to the long-term payback calculation is to make the expected value of each choice the same.

The casino therefore doesn't care which option you choose. And, in the long run, it doesn't matter how many players chose each option.

Question: My father-in-law and I have a disagreement that I hope you can answer. We both rely on your articles to become more informed gamblers so as to cut our losses.

My father-in-law thinks that machines with different betting options (40, 80, 120, etc.) pay more frequently when you bet at the higher level. I say they hit at the same frequency, but you win more because you bet more. He says the machine starts hitting more when he increases his bets. I say not.

What would you say to end this disagreement?

This is one of those situations in which one side is right, but there is a smidgen of truth to the other side, too.

Slot regulations usually specify that the amount bet cannot influence the RNG, the output from which determines where the reels stop and, therefore, which symbols land on the payline(s). In this sense, you're right. The amount you bet has no effect whatsoever on where the reels stop.

Your father-in-law can be right sometimes too when we consider the phrase pay more frequently. Although increasing the bet can't influence what lands on the payline, it can activate additional winning combinations or even additional reel sets. On Aristocrat's Game of Thrones machine, for example, the minimum 50-cent bet activates the two lower reel sets, while a \$1 bet also activates the upper reel set.

When an increased bet enables additional ways to win, the hit frequency will be higher on the increased bet. On these machines your father-in-law is right. They do hit more frequently with the increased bet.

Let's look at a machine on which an increased bet does not enable new ways to win. You can prove that the amount bet does not affect its hit frequency. Play a few hundred spins at the lower bet and a few hundred spins at the higher bet. Keep track of the number of hits you get for each bet. The amount you win on the spin doesn't matter; a hit is a hit. The ratio of hits over total number of spins should be very close for each bet, and the ratios should get closer and closer the more spins you play.

In the interest of avoiding familial discord, I'll say you're both right. If an increased bet activates additional ways to win, your father-in-law is right. In the long run, the machine will hit more frequently with the increased bet because of the additional ways to win.

If the increased bet does not activate additional ways to win, then you're right. In the long run, the machine will not hit more frequently with the increased bet.

John Robison

John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

#### Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots
John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

#### Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots