Slot Machines Tutorial (For 2020 Vegas Beginners)

Do you want a slot machines tutorial that will teach you to win big money in 2020?

I have news for you:

No one can teach you to be a consistent winner at the slot machines. In fact, the only gamblers who win consistently at slot machines are the ones who own casinos.

That’s because the slots have a built-in mathematical advantage in the long run. If you play slot machines long enough, you’ll eventually lose all your money. That’s the reality of the game.

You need to know that before you ever put a quarter in a machine or pull a lever to spin the reels.

That being said, knowing how to play slot machines is fine for a lot of people. In fact, most of the slot machine players I know enjoy their time at the casino. They understand that casino gambling is an entertainment expense. They budget their money accordingly.

I submit that this is the trick to winning at slot machines:

Understanding that your goal is to get the most fun for your money is how you win at slot machines.

The rest of this post explains in some detail how slot machines work, how to play slot machines, and what you can do to at least improve your odds of going home a winner.

1- First, Join the Slots Club at the Casino

No one should play slot machines without joining the slots club first. They call it something different at some casinos, but it’s always the same thing. You get a plastic card to insert into the slot machine when you play.

The card tracks how much money you’re running through the machine. It does NOT track wins or losses, by the way. The casino wants to reward players for the time they spend on the machine.

Here’s why:

The math behind slot machines works like this. The game has payouts for various combinations. Those payouts are tilted in such a way that they give the casino advantage.

For example, if a combination of 3 cherries happens once in 100 spins, but the prize is 95 coins, the casino winds up the winner.

But only if you play long enough.

And since this math applies to the long term, it’s in the casino’s interest to get you playing in the long run.

They incentivize your play by giving you rewards based on how much you’ve wagered. These rewards come in the form of cash rebates, free play on the machines, free rooms, food, and beverage. You can also get tickets for entertainment events and even free airline tickets.

They use a formula that calculates how much you’re expected mathematically to lose to assign those rewards. They’re not concerned with your actual win rate or loss rate. They let the math take care of that.

It’s also a myth that the slots payout less when you play with the card inserted. The casinos have no incentive to do that.

So the first trick in learning how to play slot machines is to join the slots club. Then use your slots club card every time you play.

2- Learn How to Read a Pay Table

All modern slot machines have pay tables. That’s just a list of the combinations of symbols you might get along with how much those combinations payout.

But modern slot machines, especially video slots, have more complicated pay-lines than traditional 3-reel slots.

In fact, on modern video slots, the full pay table–including the diagrams that show where the pay lines are–are only accessible via an extra screen on the computerized video monitor.

On traditional 3-reel slots, the paytable is easy to figure out. It’s just a horizontal line through the center of the reels. When 3 symbols line up there, you win the corresponding prize amount.

On newer 5-reel slots, that middle pay line is still there. But most of these games have several pay lines in various shapes.

And here’s the thing about the extra pay lines:

You have to pay extra to activate them.

Suppose you’re playing a penny slot machine with 25 pay lines and a 5 coin max bet. You’re suddenly wagering $1.25 per spin just to activate all the pay lines and maximize the potential prizes.

My advice is to stick with the basic 3-reel slots as much as possible. They tend to have the highest payback percentages.

Most slot machine gamblers ignore that advice, though. They just can’t turn down all the bells, whistles, and bonus features available on modern slot machine games.

3- Understand that There’s No Strategy to Slot Machine Games

You’ll find plenty of people willing to share the secrets of winning at slot machines with you. Some of them even claim to have been programmers or technicians for the companies that manufacture these games. None of them have a clue how to actually improve your chance of winning.

A computer program called a random number generator (RNG) powers modern slot machine games. This program is tiny but powerful. It cycles through thousands of numbers per microsecond.

When you hit the spin button or pull the lever, the program stops on whatever number it’s at. Each of those numbers corresponds to a specific outcome on the machine. Before the reels even stop spinning, the game has determined your outcome.

Each spin is completely independent of the previous spin, by the way. And the symbols on the reels are just for show. They don’t indicate that a machine is ready to pay out or anything like that. You’ll see people selling a “zig-zag system”, for example. The theory is that when you find symbols arranged a particular zig-zag pattern on a game’s screen, it’s getting ready to payout.

4- Use Appropriate Bankroll Management Techniques, but Don’t Think that They’ll Help You Get an Edge, Either

The first and most important principle behind managing a slot machine bankroll is to only use money you don’t need. If you haven’t paid the rent, if you’re behind on some of your bills, or if you’re deep in debt, you’re better off not playing slot machines at all.

A gambling bankroll is an amount of money you’ve set aside specifically for purposes of gambling. Since slot machine gamblers are always playing a game where the math is against them, they should always be prepared to lose all their money. That’s why you don’t play with money you can’t afford to lose.

Other bankroll management techniques include win goals and stop-loss limits. Proponents of bankroll management techniques usually think these strategies can improve your chances of winning. That’s not true.

They can, however, improve your chances of occasionally walking away a winner.

Let me explain.

A win goal is an amount that you’d like to win. The agreement you make with yourself is to quit once you’ve won that amount. Most bankroll management proponents suggest setting your win goal as a percentage of your bankroll.

If you have $1000 to gamble with, and you have a win goal of 40%, then you’ll quit playing when you’re up $400.

A stop-loss limit, on the other hand, is another arbitrary amount. It’s also usually a percentage of your bankroll–less than 100%, though. If you have $1000 and a stop loss limit of 40%, you’ll quit when your bankroll drops to $600.

Neither of these strategies help improve your chances of winning. Those stay the same no matter what.

The win goal, though, does increase your chances of walking away a winner.

Most gamblers without win goals keep playing until they inevitably lose all the money they’ve won–plus their starting bankroll for good measure.

It’s a subtle–but important–difference.

5- Avoid the Progressive Jackpot Games

A progressive jackpot slot machine is one with a constantly increasing jackpot. You’ll recognize such a game because of the jackpot ticker at the top of the machine. The amount listed there should be increasing gradually while you watch.

These games can afford to offer such huge jackpots because they take a tiny percentage of each bet and apply it toward the jackpot. This reduces the payback percentage for the machine until the jackpot gets hit.

You’ll find 3 different kinds of progressive jackpot slots in casinos:

  1. Individual games
  2. Local area network games
  3. Wide area progressives

An individual game’s jackpot increases only when you put money in the machine yourself. Players on other nearby machines don’t affect the jackpot. If you stop playing, the jackpot ticker stops increasing until another player starts spinning the reels.

A local area network game, on the other hand, features several networked machines in the same casino. Play on any of those games feeds the jackpot. The advantage of this type of progressive slot jackpot is that it grows faster than the jackpot of an individual game.

A wide-area progressive has hundreds–maybe even thousands–of games in its network. These games don’t have to be in the same casino, either. When you see the big jackpot games with payouts of $10 million or more, you’re looking at wide area progressive games. The most famous of these is probably Mega Bucks.

But all of these games have one thing in common:

They offer lousy odds to the player.

The payback percentage for a slot machine game is based on the payouts and the probability of winning each of them. If you have a 1 in a million shot at the big jackpot, you’re playing a game with a close to 0 chance of winning the $1 million. You might as well take it out of the calculation.

For practical purposes, your effective payback percentage for that game is at least 1%–probably more than 1%–lower than the real payback percentage for the game. That’s because the real payback percentage accounts for that huge jackpot–which you’ll probably never hit.

Ignore this advice if you’re a progressive jackpot hunter. Some players are, too. They’re not satisfied with average win sizes. They want a life-changing jackpot, even if it’s next to impossible to win.

6- Watch Out for Signs of Addiction

No casino game is more addictive than the slot machine. It is, in fact, designed specifically to be addictive. It’s a behavioral scientist’s dream.

BF Skinner is famous for an experiment he did with something called a “Skinner Box”. This was a box that dispensed food to mice when they pulled a lever.

His first Skinner box dispensed a piece of cheese every time the mouse pulled the lever.

To mix it up, he created a new box that dispensed cheese some of the time when the mouse pulled the lever.

He was surprised to learn that the mice who were getting sporadic awards were more motivated to pull the lever than the mice who were getting consistent rewards.

The brain chemistry of someone who gets a near-win at a slot machine game is almost exactly the same as the brain chemistry of someone who gets a win.

And that’s how they get you!

Avoid spending an excessive amount of time at the slot machines. Try to find other activities at the casino to entertain yourself with. Slots can be a fun hobby, but they’re a lousy master.

The rooms of Gamblers Anonymous are filled with people who’ve lost their entire lives to slot machine addiction. Your best move is to be mindful of how much control you have over your desire to play these games.


Learning how to play slot machines is easy enough. After all, it’s just a matter of putting money in the machine and pushing a button or pulling a lever. Learning how to play slot machines and winning occasionally is a whole other matter.

I have a friend who’s a pretty good poker player. We visit the Winstar in Oklahoma occasionally. He’ll play solid poker for hours on end.

But when we walk back to our cars at the end of the evening, he wants to stop and put his money into the slot machines. He almost always loses everything he’d won at the Texas holdem tables.

Don’t be like my friend. The key to winning at slot machines is knowing when to and being able to quit.

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