Slot Machine Payouts
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Slot Machine Payout Percentages
Various ways of describing the house edge on gambling games are traditionally used. With table games like roulette, blackjack, or craps, the house edge is normally expressed as a percentage. For example, blackjack has a house edge of between 0.5% and 1% when played with perfect basic strategy. That means out of every $100 bet, the player can expect to lose between $0.50 and $1.00. (This is a long term expectation, and in the short term, anything can happen.)
But slot machines are normally described according to their payout percentages. The payout percentage is basically what percentage of money will get paid out compared to what is wagered. A slot machine with a payout percentage of 99.5%, for example, would pay out $99.50 for every $100 wagered. (Again, this is over the long term.)
Slot Machine Hold Percentages
A slot machine's hold percentage is the amount of money the house can expect to win over the long term. This number is determined by subtracting the payout percentage from 100%. So a slot machine with a 96% payout percentage has a 4% hold percentage.
The hold percentage on a slot machine is the same thing as the house edge on a table game. The only difference is the term used to describe it.
Typical Slot Machine Payouts and Payout Percentages
A typical slot machine payout percentage varies according to what area of the country you're in. Slot machine payouts also vary based on what denomination of slot machine you're playing. Usually, the more active a casino destination is, the higher the slot machine payouts are. And the higher denomination games usually have a higher payout percentage than the lower denomination slot machine games.
For example, in August 2006, the slot machine payouts at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City looked something like this:
(That information is according to Strictly Slots magazine.)
Cost Per Hour
Some authors, like Andrew Brisman, who wrote The American Mensa Guide to Casino Gambling, find it useful to look at the expected loss per hour of a particular gambling game. It's a simple calculation. You take the average number of bets per hour, multiple that by the amount being wagered, and then multiple that by the house edge or hold percentage. That's the expected loss per hour.
For example, in roulette, most players are going to get in 65 bets per hour. Assuming you're playing for $5 per bet, your total amount wagered per hour will be $325. Since roulette has a house edge of about 5.2%. So a roulette player's expected loss per hour is $16.90. (And keep in mind that's a long term expectation. In the short term, anything can happen.)
Most slot players make about 100 spins per hour. So using the examples above, a slots player can expect to lose the following amounts per hour at the Trump Plaza in Atlantic City:
On the quarter slots, the player will be wagering $125/hour. (Assuming the player is playing a five coin max bet, which is typical.) The player can expect to lose 7.4% of that, or $9.25.
On the dollar slots, the player will be wagering $500/hour. (Again assuming a five coin max bet per spin.) She can expect to lose 6.7% of that, or $33.50, per hour.
One the five dollar slots, the player wagers $2500/hour assuming a five coin max bet. She can expet to lose 2.7% of this, or $67.50 per hour.
So even though the percentage return on the higher denomination machines is better, the amount of money it will cost you to play on each spin will often still be higher.
How Do You Know What a Specific Slot Machine's Payout Percentage Is?
I offer a short answer to that question: You can't. The casinos don't make this information available, and the number of spins to estimate an accurate percentage would be dramatically high. Even after 4000 spins, you couldn't be entirely sure that your calculations were accurate because of the effect of the big jackpots. And 4000 spins would take 40 hours of play.
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