Beating Slots at Live and Online Casinos in Canada
Slots are the most popular casino games in both online and live casinos. Their appeal goes beyond the entertaining themes and bonus features. One lucky hit can result in a big win – or even a life-changing progressive jackpot.
This guide covers how to win at slots. While each game has a house edge in favor of the casino, there are multiple ways you can keep this to a minimum. Combine strategy in choosing the right slots, bet sizes, and strategy with casino bonuses and comps – and you can increase your chances of short-term wins significantly.
Winning at slots starts with a solid understanding of how these games work. This is covered first below, with sections on finding the best slots to play, strategy, and bankroll management after that.
Understanding how slots work
One of the biggest myths among gamblers is that a slot is “due to pay”. While there are rare exceptions with must-win-by jackpots, most slots have no memory of previous spins.
Each time you press spin, the software generates a random number, which determines what you see on the reels. With mechanical slots, this is done via “stops”. The math for the slot is baked in. While a slot might appear to be hot or cold, each spin is an independent event.
The random number generating software can’t be beaten over the long run. You can enjoy streaks of wins, or even jackpots, while you play. The casino house edge (expressed as a return to player percentage) varies significantly between machines. You will also find some slots are more volatile than others.
Return to player percentage for slot games
For casino table games, players look for a low casino house edge. With slots, this is usually listed in reverse. Slots have a “return to player percentage” or RTP score. The best games are around 97% RTP. This means that they will return 97% of the money put in by the player – the equivalent of a 3% house edge. At the other end of the spectrum, you will find penny slots with an RTP of 90%.
On many games, you can find the RPT percentage via their ‘Information’ screens. As a rule of thumb, here is what to look out for to get the best returns.
The denomination of a game is the most significant factor in the overall returns. At $1 per line and up, you will find 95%+ returns in most casinos. Penny per line slots have the worst returns – with 2c, 5c, 10c, and 25c denominations in between.
Understanding slot volatility
To win at slots, you need to account for the volatility of each game and adjust your strategy to this. This refers to the lumpiness of wins. For example, one game might pay huge wins of 100x your bet rarely, while another will pay smaller wins of 2x or 5x on a more frequent basis. Many newer games pay ‘wins’ of less than your bet amount.
The RTP% of the two games could be identical. If one is volatile while the other has smoother payouts, then your risk of ruin for a set bankroll is significantly different depending on which game you choose.
Slots with huge progressive jackpots are the most volatile of all. Over millions of spins, the returns could be 95%. With one player winning millions, these wins are unevenly distributed. For almost all the players, the returns will be nowhere near the long term 95% rate.
How to win at slots: choosing the right games
Once you understand the concepts of the randomness of outcomes, RTP, and volatility – you can make an informed choice about what games to play.
Entertainment is a huge factor that does not involve any statistical analysis. If the numbers point to a 3-reel dollar slot with no progressive, and you enjoy the latest movie tie-in game with multiple bonus features – then you need to weigh up what is more important to you.
Here are the rules of thumb for finding slots with the best returns:
- Denomination: The more you bet per line, the better your returns. Penny slots have the worst RTP. These games spread your bets over 30, 50, or more lines. Slots with just 1 win line and dollar+ bets have the best returns.
- Complex media tie-in games: These days slots are themed around music stars, movies, and TV shows. These are often complex games, with on-reel features, jackpots, and multiple bonus games. They also have the worst returns.
- Progressive jackpot slots: Each time you spin on a slot with a progressive jackpot, some of your stake is used to grow the prize pool. For many players, having a shot at big (even life-changing) money is a plus – this balances the lower returns for those that do not win the big prize.
Beating slot games: a new type of slot which involves strategy
A new type of slot appeared in live casinos which involves some strategy. This concept started with IGTs Harley Davidson slots, and has now been used by other producers – for example Aristocrat’s Buffalo Diamond games.
The strategy involves selecting your bet amount. Each betting level has several free spins together with a multiplier of wins for that bonus. As you play, the number of spins goes up. If you sit at a game and see 40 free spins at $1.50c bets and only 10 free spins at $2.25 bets, then you can choose the lower bet amount.
Another format that involves strategy is on “must-win” jackpots. These feature on many Konami slot games. There are two jackpots, one bigger and one smaller than must pay before they hit a specific level. If you see two must-with ‘must win by $1000’ prizes, and one is at $999 while the other is at $850, then you should always choose the $999 game.
Strategy for jackpots can also be used when they are not must-win prizes. Slots often cap their smaller jackpots. A popular example involves the Major Jackpot on Lightning Link slots. They are seeded at $500 – and capped at $1000. Your chances of hitting one are the same, whatever the level. This means your strategy should be to pick the game with the biggest major whenever there is a choice.
Winning at slots: how much to bet?
You can bet on casino slots for as little as 30c a spin. At the other end of the spectrum, many games let you spin for $25 or more in high limit slot rooms.
The sweet spot for how much to spin combines your overall bankroll level with a chance of winning meaningful money. If you have thousands of dollars to gamble with, then those 30c bets will not produce wins which make a difference to your overall bankroll. Conversely, a player with a $100 bankroll for an evening will not get much play betting $10 per spin.
Setting aside money you can afford to lose, and being disciplined with it, will keep you playing for long enough to have a chance of a lucky jackpot or big line hit. Spinning with 1/100th of your total bankroll is a solid starting point – though many gamblers choose 1/200th or less.
If you lose part of your bankroll, then you can adjust your bets downwards. If you have a winning streak, you can choose between taking a shot at the higher stakes or adding this to your bankroll and moving up stakes in proportion to the new level.
Slot free play and comps at live casinos in Canada
Loyalty reward schemes are available at all casinos in Canada. Some schemes cover entire provinces, for example the Players Advantage Club in Ontario or Encore Rewards at some casinos in BC. Others are for individual casinos or groups of venues run by the same organization.
These schemes have a similar format. You sign up for a card, which tracks your play and spend at the casino resort. You then get bonuses and benefits based on how much you spend/gamble.
A sign-up bonus of $10 (or more) in free play for slots is common. Some players will turn this into a big win right away. You will then get free play as you hit point targets. If you are playing the slots, then taking advantage of these schemes is a no-brainer. Many schemes use tiers. As you play, you move up levels, getting a different card with better bonuses. The top tiers often come with perks including free rooms at hotels, discounts at restaurants, and line-cutting privileges.
Comps at live casinos are not big enough to nullify the house edge completely. If you are not taking advantage of them, you are effectively handing some extra money to the casino each time you spin.
Winning at online slots: casino bonuses make a big difference
Fierce competition between online casinos means there are multiple bonus deals to take advantage of. Used intelligently, these can help you win at slots while you are clearing them. The bonuses available to slot players are better than those for blackjack, roulette, and other casino table games.
Here are some of the ways to beat slots with online casino bonuses:
- No deposit bonuses: Many online casinos incentivize Canadian players with free play simply for registering an account. These deals range from $10 to $30. You will need to play through this bonus multiple times — allowing you to check out several different slots.
- Free spins bonuses: These can be offered as a no-deposit deal — or packaged with a welcome bonus. Casinos give you a set number of spins where you can win real prizes. Some will specify which slot to spin on.
- Matched deposit bonuses: Casinos match the amount of your first deposit at 100% or more. You then play-though this bonus a set number of times to ‘clear’ it. Slots are ideal for this type of bonus, contributing 100% to your wagering requirements. Some casinos split these bonuses over multiple deposits.
- Loyalty reward schemes: Online casinos have comp schemes that reward players in the same way that live casinos do. You accumulate points based on your play, which determine your tier and bonus offers available.
- Reload bonuses and promotions: Bonuses for regular players are a must for casinos that don’t want to lose players to rivals. Reloads work in the same way that welcome bonuses do. Promotions can include free spins, double points, slot tournament entries, or specials / one-off events.
Wrapping up: can you win at online slots?
Slots have a built-in house edge. You can win in the short term, though over the long run the casino will always prevail. What you can do with both live and online slots is to minimize the house edge, maximize your bonuses and comps – and make your bankroll last the longest time possible. This will give you the best shot at hitting that big line hit or a progressive jackpot.
Several factors determine the returns from a slot. The biggest factor is the denomination – how much you are betting per line. The low denomination ‘penny slots’ have the worst returns. Slots with TV or music tie-ins, with multiple/complex bonus features, have notoriously bad returns. While there is a strategy element to choosing a slot and (in some cases) your bet size – managing your bankroll is a more significant factor. The sweet spot involves finding a bet level where your wins will be meaningful, without betting so much as to risk going broke due to the natural volatility of these games.
Most important of all, slots are designed for entertainment. A game might have the best returns, though if you get more enjoyment from a potential jackpot windfall or themed game – then that is the slot you should choose.