Slots may be the most popular games in online casinos, but for many players, their inner workings remain a mystery. Many still believe that a slot game that has not paid big for a while would be due for the jackpot. This is just one of the many myths surrounding online slots, and for superstitious players, the truth about them is just as elusive as a slot-winning strategy.
There is no strategy or method you can employ that would guarantee hitting the jackpot in these games. The reason for this is very simple – slots are based on chance, and their outcome is purely random. No skill or prior knowledge would help you win more, while payouts themselves are determined by mathematical probabilities. This all may sound too complicated, but it is not – understanding the odds and how slots pay would help you find the best slots on the Internet.
In the past, slot machines had mechanisms responsible for fixing symbols in particular positions on the reels. They could be easily tampered with and the outcomes predicted after careful observation, which compromised the fairness of the games. Today, this is not possible thanks to the introduction of a special computer program called Random Number Generator or RNG. It is used not only in online slots but in all virtual, computer-based games where a random result is needed.
The RNG is a complex algorithm that determines the exact position of every symbol on the reels in each spin. It generates hundreds of numbers per second and an initial value, called seed value, is used to pick one of those numbers. Each number is attached to a symbol and a position on the reel, and as soon as you hit the Spin button, the outcome is already determined. It is indeed as random as possible and cannot be predicted or fixed – unless, of course, you know the seed number.
Slots Odds and PAR Sheets
Different slot games have a different number of stops, and some symbols have a better chance of coming up than others. These patterns are pre-programmed by game developers – some symbols may be programmed to come up every 5 spins, whereas special symbols such as Wilds, Scatters, or bonus-triggering symbols may come up every 25 spins. All this is described in detail in the so-called PAR (probably from Probability Accounting Reports) sheets, which are typically confidential and kept a secret by casinos and software developers.
Therefore, the actual odds of online slots remain unknown to the players. In comparison, the odds in roulette, for example, are fixed and can be easily calculated and card players always know the number of cards that are in play. Here, players have no way of knowing the probability of landing each winning combination, which makes slots somewhat mysterious to the inexperienced player. Still, every reputable online casino has its RNG independently tested so fair play can be guaranteed.
As we already know, online slots may be random and fair but, at the same time, they also lack transparency. Whereas the odds are rarely shared publicly, the payout percentages of most games are published by software providers and online casinos. The average payout, also known as expected return, shows how much each slot game would pay out over time.
Here, time should be understood as an indefinite number of spins, so the payout is, in fact, a theoretical percentage that would never be achieved in real life – it might, but after you play millions of spins. It is usually listed as RTP, which stands for Return to Player. With payouts ranging from 92% to 98%, online slots typically, have higher RTP than their physical counterparts in brick-and-mortar casinos (which could offer payouts as low as 80%-85%).
To visualize this, imagine you make multiple bets on an online slot, and after an hour, the total amount you have wagered is $100. Theoretically, if the slot has an RTP of 95%, $95 of your bet would be lost to the casino, while your winnings would be only $5. In reality, you may win another $100 during that hour, but you may lose it all, too.