Casino Vegas Guide

Steve: Hi, and welcome to our instructional
video on how to win on slot machines. My name

is Steve Bourie, and I am the author of the
“American Casino Guide,” which is the number

one best-selling book in the U.S. on the subject
of casino gambling and travel. I write a lot

about slot machines, and in this video I am
going to explain how slot machines work, how

you can win on them, and I’m also going to
answer some common questions that slot players

have, like do casinos really put the best-paying
machines near the entrance?

Now, before we begin, let me give you some
background information on me and why I know

so much about slot machines. I’ve been to
Las Vegas to visit the facility where the

Nevada Gaming Control Board tests its slot
machines, and I interviewed the manager of

that department. I’ve also been to Atlantic
City where I visited the facility that tests

slot machines for the New Jersey Casino Control
Commission, and I interviewed the Director

of its Division of Gaming Enforcement.

Actually, I wrote a story about my visit to
those two places, and you can read it on my

website at, or just
go to Google and type in the phrase, “Are

slot machines honest?” and I’m sure you’ll
see it pop up as number one or two in the

search results.

I’ve also visited the headquarters of Gaming
Labs International, which is the world’s largest

independent laboratory for testing electronic
gaming machines, and I interviewed its Director

of Operations about the company’s procedures.

I’ve also gone to Reno, Nevada, where I took
a private tour of the headquarters of International

Gaming Technology, which is the world’s largest
manufacturer of slot machines. Plus, while

I was there, I interviewed the company’s Chief
Software Engineer.

Finally, I’ve interviewed slot managers at
major casinos in Las Vegas, Reno, Atlantic

City, and elsewhere in the U.S. about how
they decide about which machines to put on

their floor and what kind of payout percentages
those machines should have.

So, are you all ready to get started?

Good, let’s begin. The first thing we need
to talk about is how slot machines work. Every

machine has a computer chip inside it called
a random number generator, or RNG, and that

chip is making mathematical calculations very
quickly, about 1,000 times a second, to determine

which combination of symbols should appear
in the reels.

Then, when you push the spin button or pull
the handle, that causes the chip to stop at

that exact instant and choose a combination
to display on the reels. This means when you

see the reels spinning, the actual result
of what will appear on those pay lines has

already been chosen by the RNG.

So, in reality, a slot machine wouldn’t even
need the spinning reels to show you whether

you won or lost, but it’s certainly a lot
more exciting to see those spinning reels.

When a casino orders a slot machine, the manufacturer
will have a choice of computer chips to put

into the machine which control the percentage
of how much that machine is set to pay back

to the public. The range of the payouts on
these chips will vary depending on the machine

and the manufacturer. But it’s usually pretty
standard in the industry to offer chips paying

out from a low of about 85% to a high of about

So, how do the casinos decide which machines
should pay back around 85% and which ones

should pay back around 98%? The answer is
that it is done by denomination. The higher

the denomination of the machine, the more
it’s set to pay back. If you play a penny

machine, you can be pretty sure that it’s
set on the low end of the scale to pay back

around 87% to 90%. And if you play a $25 machine,
the payback on that machine is going to be

on the high end around 95% to 98%.

If you want proof of this, all you need to
do is look at the public record of each state’s

gaming statistics. We check with gaming regulators
in every state each year to find out what

the machines actually paid back to the public,
and we post all of that information on our

website. Just go to
and click on the link that says “Slot Payback

Info.” That will bring up a list of states,
and you can just click on the state that you

are interested in to see what the machines

For Nevada, you can also get information on
a particular city, and if you look at Las

Vegas, you can see that the penny slots returned
around 88% while the $25 slots returned around


Okay. So now you know how a slot machine works
and you know how casinos decide what they

should pay back to the public. But the big
question is, “How do you win on a slot machine?”

Well, the answer to that is very simple. You
get lucky.

Keep in mind that the slot machine is basically
just a computer that is programmed to randomly

pay out less money than it takes in. And unlike
video poker where there is a skill involved

in how you play your cards, there’s no skill
involved with a slot machine. It’s all luck.

Therefore, when you play a slot machine, you
are hoping that you can get lucky and stop

that random number generator on a winning

So, if you ever see an ad for someone selling
a system to beat slot machines, don’t believe

it. There is no system for winning on slot
machines, and if there was a winning system,

don’t you think someone would keep that information
to themself rather than sell it to you for

$10 or $15.

Now let’s address some common questions that
people have about slot machines.

Question: Are slot machines set to pay out
at set intervals or once they’ve collected

a certain amount of money?

Steve: No. The outcome of each play on the
machine is completely random. There is no

predetermined point at which a machine is
set to pay out.

Question: If a $1 slot has a chip inside that
is set to pay back at a rate of 93%, does

this mean that if I put $100 through that
machine, I’ll have $93 left when I’m done?

Steve: No. The 93% is a long-term number and
actually represents the results after several

million pulls on that machine. Some days the
casino will lose money on that machine. But

on most days, it will make money, and the
longer the machine is played, the more likely

the result will be that the machine will have
an average payout of 93%.

Question: If I play a slot machine and it’s
not paying out, does that mean it’s due to

hit soon?

Steve: No. Every play on a slot machine is
an independent event, which means that its

past performance can’t be used to determine
its future performance.

Question: If I play a slot machine and win
a jackpot, will that machine stop paying out

to make up for the jackpot I won?

Steve: No. Every time you play a slot machine,
the odds remain constant as to whether or

not you’ll win. If the odds were 20,000:1
for you to win a jackpot and you were lucky

enough to win it, the odds will still be 20,000:1
for you to win another jackpot on the very

next spin.

Question: Do casinos change the payback percentages
on a slot machine at the flip of a switch,

or can they loosen machines during the week
and then tighten them up on the weekend?

Steve: No. Once the payback percentage chips
are set by the casino, they are rarely changed.

In order to change the payback percentage,
a casino technician would have to physically

go into each machine and replace the chip.
This is an expensive and time-consuming process,

so it’s rarely done.

Now, I need to mention that there is a new
technology called server-based gaming where

the payback percentage could be changed by
the flip of a switch on a central computer,

but it’s very new, it’s very expensive, and
only a handful of casinos have it and only

on some of their machines. Also, the gaming
regulations for these machines would not allow

any changes to be made while someone was actively
playing a game.

Question: Do slot manufacturers purposely
program a near-miss feature into their slots

to make it seem like you almost won a jackpot?

Steve: Well, before I answer that, let me
first explain what a near-miss is on a slot

machine. That would occur when the random
number generator knows that the player’s spin

will be a loser, and the machine is then programmed
to show you two winning combinations directly

on the payline, with the third combination
appearing just above or below the payline.

This would make you think you almost won and
possibly encourage you to play more on that

machine. Actually, there was a story on this
subject many years ago on the ABC News program

20/20. I wrote about, and as I mentioned before,
you can read that story on my website or just

go to Google and type in the phrase, “Are
slot machines honest?” and you’ll see it pop

up in the search results.

But the answer to this question is no. Nevada
Gaming Regulations do not allow a manufacturer

to purposely program a near-miss feature into
a slot machine, and any manufacturer licensed

in Nevada would not be able to do that in
any other state.

Question: Suppose I play a machine for 30
minutes, and as I’m leaving, someone sits

at my machine and they hit a jackpot. Would
I have won that jackpot if I had stayed at

that machine?

Steve: No. The random number generator is
cycling through various combinations at about

1,000 times a second. In order for you to
have won that same jackpot, you would have

had to push that button at the exact same
microsecond that the other person did, and

it would be virtually impossible for that
to happen.

Question: Do casinos really put “looser” machines
by the entrance doors or on the aisles?

Steve: No. Like I said before, the payback
percentages on slot machines are fairly constant

within a particular denomination. This means
you won’t find some penny machines set at

an 89% payback in one area of the casino and
98% in another area. They are all set to pay

back within about a 1% range of each other.

Question: When I get to a bonus round on a
video slot and I have to choose from various

symbols to determine my bonus, does it really
matter which symbols I choose, or is it all


Steve: Yes. It really matters which bonus
round symbols you choose. The machine does

not predetermine the outcome, and it’s up
to you to keep choosing winning symbols until

you pick the losing symbol that ends your
bonus round.

So, there you have it. Hopefully, I’ve answered
most of your questions about slot machines

and you’ll be a little more knowledgeable
the next time you sit down to play your favorite

machine. Don’t forget that you can get more
information on slot machines as well as all

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