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There are a huge number of slots available to play and new ones are being added all the time. Each has its own house edge (usually between 3 and 6%) and its own variance, which is always high. There is a list of house edges for various slots here and plenty of information about various slot games on the slotbeaters site.
Risk Category E-F, high risk
Slots are not a good choice for WRs because of their high variance, which is why they are usually favoured by casinos. There are certain exceptions to this, notably Ladbrokes casino (see below). Free spins are also worth playing providing you do not have to risk money in order to withdraw any winnings.
Most slots are either 3-reel or 5-reel, with different numbers of pay lines. There are 3 common types:
Normal – pay out standard winnings for combinations of symbols.
Bonus Video – Bonus features are triggered by certain symbols. Bonus rounds are normally free spins or “picks” where you can click on symbols to reveal a prize. Some also have random features which pop up from time to time.
Progressive Jackpot – these have a pool of funds which may come from several slot games or even several casinos, giving a massive jackpot which is won when the highest possible score is hit.
The strategy for slots is basically to select smallest coin size and max lines, and spin and hope. Remember that most of the payout will be centred around the rare jackpots, features and top lines, which will happen a lot less regularly than you might think. This is explained in more detail below.
An alternative strategy which can increase the EV of slot bonuses is two-tier betting (see below).
Some slots offer the option of doubling certain wins. This can reduce the house edge and is often not allowed for bonuses and WRs. It also increases the variance so the effect on the chance of gain is complex. There is more information on doubling up on slots here.
Ladbrokes casino is unusual in allowing you to do one WR while completing the qualifying rounds for another bonus, therefore increasing the EV. Some of the Ladbrokes slots also have autoplay which can be used, although you will have to restart it every time it hits a bonus feature.
Slots bonuses are risky to play because of the high house edge and high variance involved.
More and more of the casino bonuses nowadays seem to be restricted to slots, or have much higher WRs for games other than slots. I thought people might find it interesting, and possibly useful, to know how these games work.
Unlike games like blackjack, which have a known house edge within a small range and a lowish variance, slots games are all different, with widely differing house edge and high variance. Casinos which share the same software are likely to have the same games and new ones are being brought out all the time. Therefore although there are lists of some of the slot games and their house edge on beatingbonuses, the bonuses tend to be on the new games and the house edge for these is not yet known.
How Slot Games Work
Intuitively playing slots, you would expect that the chances of getting any particular symbol on any reel would be the same, and that there is some pre-programmed sequence, so that if you have a long losing streak you will be “due a win”. This is not the case at all. The symbol appearing on each reel is determined by a random number generator, and there is no link between the numbers either for each reel or for each game. The random numbers are generated all the time, and the ones used are the last ones generated before you press the button. This is equally true in a physical slots machine in a betting shop as it is online.
The important factor, and what gives the slot its house edge, is how the random numbers are linked to the symbols on the reels. Slots usually have a big payout for the jackpot combination, and smaller or zero payouts for other combinations. There will be many more random numbers than there are possible combinations, and most of them will be linked to zero or low payout symbols. The exact distribution of the symbols between each random number is different for each reel, and the probability of each coming up on any given spin determines the house edge of the slot game. For example if you had a simple 3 reel slot with fruit symbols, and the jackpot was 3 oranges, you would find that there was only one random number on one of the reels which was linked to orange. There might be 20 or more linked to apple, if apple was a low payout symbol, and so on.
Another problem with slots is their huge variance. Although the calculation of EV for a casino game does not include the variance directly, it does include the house edge, and this is linked to the variance. Slots tend to have one very large and very rare jackpot payout, and this can make the house edge appear falsely low. So even though the equation for EV may imply that the bonus is +EV for a particular WR, unless you hit the very rare jackpot the actual EV will be much less.
Most slot game play involves no skill or strategy at all. You simply press the button and hope. Some slots have bonus rounds where you may be able to choose what to do. The game itself may give you advice on this, if so, it is apparently wise to follow it. There may also be an option to double your winnings by drawing a card, but double play often does not count towards the WR for bonuses and can result in losing your winnings on that game.
Two Tier Betting Strategy
This is a method of increasing the EV of slots games, but carries serious risk warnings. It only works if you can bust out, so it is useless for post wager bonuses. The idea is that you start off by betting large bets (typically the whole of your deposit + bonus) with the intention of either increasing your bank or busting out immediately. This works best with sticky bonuses with no WR, since you are using the bonus to double your winnings if you do win, and you can then immediately withdraw.
A similar strategy can be used with a bonus with a WR, and in this case it is often better to start with a game with a lower house edge (eg blackjack) to double or bust on the first few hands. (If using blackjack for the high stake bets, use half your available money, not all of it, so that you can still double or split if required, otherwise the house edge is much larger). This can be done even if the low house edge game doesn’t count towards the WR, but always check that this does not void the bonus, as in some casinos it does. Once you have achieved the target amount, you can then reduce the bet size to reduce the variance and play out the WR on slots. This all sounds good, but you can still lose everything on the blackjack and you may still find that the slots game has such a high house edge and variance that you lose all your money anyway.
Both of these strategies increase the EV of slots offers, but not by a huge amount once you factor in the risk of busting out. There is a very high risk of losing all of your deposit and bonus money. Another serious risk with the two tier strategy is that casinos recognize this as a method of increasing EV, and they may ban you for bonus abuse. This is why there is a maximum bet size in some casino bonus t&cs.
In the video below Darren Hall illustrates using slots to qualify for a free bet on football at Coral. No slots offer is risk free, but the video illustrates the best strategy, which is to use the smallest coin size and maximum number of lines and Autoplay if possible.
Comment from BetSeventyTwo forum
by BetsToBefair » Fri Apr 02, 2010 11:25 am
I always go for the lowest coin value but the maximum number of lines. With thunderstrike it 334 * 25p spins, with pure platinum it was 63 * 40p spins. This wrongly or rightly gives me the most chance of hitting a feature whilst qualifying for the bonus.
As stated slots can be harsh. I have play some slots and lost all my wagering requirement. Does not bother me as most slots pay out around > 80% so in the long run I am going to win and do win. This is only going to work if you play the bonuses every single month and/or on multiple accounts. I use a manual titty counter to make sure I only play what I need to qualify.
My advice is work out your strategy and ride the wave. If the slots have a gamble option I always gamble one 50/50. This can be painful, yesterday was no exceptional on all the small wins gamble paid, but my first 3 > £10 gambles did not pay off and then I had one that did. To be honest they are much better players and probably more sophisticated ways of playing but I am happy with my simple and quick mechanism which has servers me well for the last few months. I play the games like a robot and never vary. I find the manual counter useful as I am often doing 3 other things at once.
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