Slot Machine Secrets: The Math Behind Winning

Andreea Udescu
By Andreea Udescu
Last updated on Sep 07, 2021
13 min

It’s safe to say that any kind of gambler, novice or veteran, is familiar with slot machines. That is because slots are the most popular casino games on the market. Players choose this type of casino games for many different reasons, but two of the most common are diversity and high entertainment value. Slot machines come in many flavors and cover a wide range of themes and bonus features. 

Their immense offline popularity successfully translated from land-based casinos straight to users’ screens via online play, which greatly increased their reach: all of a sudden, gamblers no longer had to leave their home to play their favorite slot, they could head to the nearest PC or mobile device instead. 

There are several things to consider when playing a slot machine. Surely you, much like everyone else, play to win. In order to maximize your odds of winning, it’s useful to know how these games work, what you can expect to receive upon playing and finally, which slot machines have the best odds of delivering substantial prizes. This article will help you discover the secrets to winning on slot machines.

Here, you will learn about how slot machines are programmed to function, but also about volatility, RTP, bet value, free spins and how each and all of these factors play a huge role in a slot’s potential to be profitable. We aim to cover quite a lot of ground in this guide, so keep on reading to brush up on your slot machine strategy!


Are slot machines wins programmed or random?

It’s commonly believed that slot machines wins are all about luck. Sure, some games with special features such as nudges may require some sort of preparation or knowledge to form a strategy, but most of them simply deliver random results, which leads us to believe that in the end it all comes down to chance. 

With that in mind, how can we explain that some games are programmed to give the house an edge through preset payback percentages? How does this programming affect bonus rounds? The answer lies somewhere in between. Turns out slot machines can be both random and programmed at the same time. On a micro level, the outcome of an individual spin is random, but over time the odds start to amount to a preset payback percentage, otherwise known as the “house edge”

Something similar occurs with bonus rounds. In a pick-a-prize bonus game, your individual choice actually determines the outcome of the round. Whatever prize you pick, it’s yours. However, as prizes are randomly attributed to the icons, programmers use an average result to build the payback percentage. That way, at the end of the day, the results will still lead towards the predetermined payback percentage. 


How to win at slot machines

As we mentioned earlier, there are many things you can look at and learn about in order to maximize your chances to win while playing slots. It is important to mention these are by no means ways of cheating the system. They are simply some parameters you will find in just about any slot that will give you some information about the game so that you know what you can expect from it. With this information in mind, you might be able to form some kind of strategy to score substantial wins more often. So let’s go over these tricks to winning at slot machines one by one.

Choose the slot machines with the highest payout

Slots have evolved a lot over the last few years, now boasting complex themes rendered in exceptional visual quality, bonus features that are engaging and rewarding, so it’s sometimes hard to focus on the game’s payout potential when there are so many other aspects fighting for your attention. 

However, if you’re “in it to win it”, then you should start seeking out slot machines with the best odds at winning, and those are slots with the highest RTP. Otherwise known as Return-To-Player percentage, this number indicates the slot’s potential to deliver payouts, or in other words the amount paid back to players over a large number of spins. Most slots have an average RTP somewhere between 92% and 97%. Below you’ll see where you can find the RTP value of a slot here on SlotsMate.



If a slot’s RTP is 95% for instance, that means players should expect to receive back 95€ for every €100 they deposit. A high RTP is key to maximizing your odds to win at slots, and slot games with a high percentage are the best paying slot machines you can find. You can find an extensive list of the Best Payout Slots right here on SlotsMate. 

One of the slots with the highest payout on the market is WGS’ Beat the Bank with a staggering RTP of 99.17%. Some other slots that rank high on the highest payout slot list are NetEnt’s Mega Joker, with an RTP of 99%, Thunderkick’s 1429 Uncharted Seas with 98.5% and Quickspin’s Joker Strike with 98.1%. 

Become a master of numbers - consider slot volatility 

Slot machines have what is called volatility or variance, which dictates how much and how often you win at slots. This refers to the degree of risk involved in playing a slot for real money. Depending on your play style, you may choose one of the two options available: low volatility slots or high volatility slots. 


  • Low volatility implies that you should expect frequent small wins as you play. If you don’t like waiting around too long for winning combinations to occur, then this is the ideal choice for you. Low volatility slots enables you to minimize your investment and your losses by allowing you to play longer on a low budget. Starburst by NetEnt is a great example of a slot machine that offers frequent small payouts, if that’s what you wish for. In conclusion, low volatility is largely considered the safe option.

  • High volatility, on the other hand, implies a slightly higher degree of risk during your gambling session. From slots with high volatility you should expect rare but significant prizes. That means you cannot get away with a measly investment. You have to be patient and remember that not every gambling session will be a smashing success. If this high-risk high-reward option appeals to you, then you can check out slot machines such as Microgaming’s Immortal Romance


There are also some slot machines out there that qualify as medium volatility. As the name suggests, these slots rank somewhere in the middle between low and high. They offer a more balanced gameplay to any kind of gambler and tons of bonus features to play with. If you want some degree of risk and adrenaline but don’t have a huge budget or a lot of time on your hands, then you could opt for a medium volatility slot such as NetEnt’s Gonzos Quest


Place bigger bets, if you can afford it!

Winning at slots may be largely dependent on luck, but there are a few things you can do to turn the odds in your favor. Big bets - or, if you can afford it, max bets -  are key to unlocking all sorts of bonus features that can maximize your chances of winning. Features such as free spins and jackpots create favorable conditions for landing substantial prizes. 

Be careful, though, not to get carried away and invest more than you can afford to lose. Set a bet level that is appropriate for your budget, have fun with the features you unlock and prizes will soon come a-knocking!


Always make use of free spins

Many online casinos offer free spins as part of their sign-up offers, in an effort to attract more players. This is a great opportunity for everyone, so be sure not to ignore it if you want to learn how to win at slots. There are several types of free spins bonuses out there, such as free spins deposit bonus, free spins no deposit bonus, deposit bonus + free spins or other free spins promotions. By benefiting from such offers, you will get the chance to experiment playing different slots and hopefully even start a bankroll in the process. 

It’s very important, however, that you read and comply with the Terms and Conditions that come with such offers, so that you don’t end up wasting your time and money. Here are a few things to keep in mind for when you’re claiming a free spins bonus:


  • Security should be your first concern. Before taking any major step, you should make sure the website that is hosting the online casino of your choice is trustworthy, and that the casino is licensed and secured.

  • Consider wagering requirements, which refer to the number of times you have to play through a bonus before it starts paying out. 

  • Choose an offer that lasts a few days at the very least, so that you’ll have time to enjoy your bonus. 

  • Try claiming bonuses only on high volatility slots, as these usually deliver more substantial prizes.


Trust other players’ feedback

Don’t underestimate the importance of player reviews. The feedback system is a great tool through which you can evaluate the legitimacy of an online casino or quality of a slot game. Reviews and ratings benefit everyone, and it’s important to leave your genuine feedback on a game or casino once you’ve accessed it. 

Our extensive library of slots can be filtered based on rating scores, so be sure to rate each slot after you’ve played it. It helps other members of the community identify the best slots that much faster and enjoy their time playing the highest-rated slots available.





Gambling myths that need dubunking

We have shared quite a few casino slot machine secrets so far, but there’s one more very important step to take before you can really say you’ve learned how to win at slots: myth debunking. You may think you know enough tips and tricks to handle any situation and come out a winner, but if you lend your ear to misconceptions you might end up frustrated, having wasted your time and money on a false belief. Let’s go over some myths that still need debunking in 2020:


Hitting the stop button increases your chances to win

You may have been led to believe that hitting the stop button on a slot machine does influence the outcome of a particular spin. That is simply false. If for some reason you enjoy a rapid-fire gaming session, you’re free to hit the stop button so that the game progresses faster. But know this: hitting that button won’t boost your chances of winning, it just reveals the outcome of a spin faster than normal.

Slot machines have “cold streaks” and “hot streaks”

There’s no such thing as a programmed streak in slot machines, be it hot or cold. The machine simply goes through periods of time when it pays more and others when it pays less. It all comes down to chance. 


Max betting is the only way to win a progressive jackpot

While betting high increases your chances of winning a progressive jackpot, this is not a rule or a programmed event. Anyone can win a progressive jackpot while playing slot machines if they’re lucky enough.


You’re due a win after playing for a while or after a losing streak

Neither one of these ideas are true, and if you base your gambling strategy on them, you might be wasting your time, energy and worst of all, your money.  At the end of the day, it all boils down to luck, and depending on the case, some skill and strategy. 


Final thoughts

Our guide was designed to offer some guidance on how to play slots and more importantly, how to win as much as possible. With these tips and tricks in mind, we hope you’re better equipped to take on the gambling world, have fun and win big! You can play tons of slot games for free right here on SlotsMate and once you decide to start raking real wins in, check out the online casinos in our Real Money Slots section, pick one and create an account to start playing. 




  • Which slot machines pay the best?

The slot machines that pay the best are those with a higher-than-average RTP, preferably above 97%. Higher RTP equals higher payouts, so if you want to win big, your best bet is pay attention to RTP and choose only the highest-paying slot machines.

  • Can you tell if a slot machine is going to hit?

There is no way to predict when a slot machine is going to hit, or in other words, if or when it is due a win. Any effort to look for clues, patterns or even go as far as tipping a casino employee to indicate a “hot machine” (a slot machine that is supposedly bound to pay off) is a waste of your time. You’re better off using that time enjoying the games.

  • How to win on penny slot machines?

Penny slot machines are appealing because they require a minor investment, meaning that you can wager very little money to keep playing. Many stories of remarkable wins on penny slot machines mention progressive jackpots, which suggests this might be one great way to win at this type of slots. 


  • Do casinos keep track of your winnings?

Most casinos do keep track of both your winnings and your losses. They usually do this to collect data for their own research purposes. 


  • How to pick a winning slot machine?

To pick a winning slot machine, you must consider the following: high payback percentage (RTP), bonus rounds, jackpots and a wide bet range. If the machine of your choice ticks all these boxes, you’re very likely to have a highly profitable gambling session. 

  • How are slot machines programmed?

Slot machines are in equal measure programmed and random. On an individual level the outcome of a number of spins is random, but at a macro level the machines are programmed to lead towards a predetermined payback percentage, also known as the house edge. 


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