You’re no doubt aware that slot machines are programed to pay out a certain percentage of the money they take in. So too are video poker machines but there is one very important distinction–with video poker machines it’s easy to figure out the payout simply by doing a little math. We know that there are 52 cards in the deck (give or take a few wild cards) and we know what the payout is for which hands. With this knowledge, we can determine the probability of making each hand and the accompanying return to player. You don’t even need to do this math yourself as there are plenty of resources that have done it for you.

Slot machines are completely different. You might know the pay table but you don’t know how many ‘stops’ the reels (or video representation thereof) have. You don’t know how many of each symbol is on each reel. Without this information you can’t reverse engineer the slot machine payout–and the slots manufacturers aren’t telling. That means that you have to use some common sense and basic knowledge to determine which slot machines offer the best return to the player.

Before we get into this list I’ll preface it by saying that return to player isn’t everything. Some players enjoy the newer slot machines with licensed themes like Game of Thrones or Wheel of Fortune. Other players like taking a shot at a big networked jackpot like Megabucks. If you already have a preference of this sort by all means follow it. Many players don’t, however, and are more interested in finding which machines have the highest payout percentage. Here’s some tips on finding these machines.



This might not be the best way to explain this concept but I’m a sucker for alliteration. Here’s what I mean by ‘boring is better’: if you’re looking for the highest payout slot machines you want to find devices that most closely resemble traditional three reel slot machines. If you see a lot of crazy symbols and bonus games that’s a ‘tell’ that you can find higher paying machines elsewhere. Simply put, if a machine has an intrinsic entertainment component beyond pulling the reel and hoping for the best you’re not getting the highest possible return.


Themed slot machines have been hugely popular for over a decade now. There’s really no limit to the licensed themes you can find on the casino floor–everything from Tabasco Sauce to Game of Thrones to Madonna’s Material Girl to I Love Lucy. The reason that they’re so popular with celebrities, movie studios, etc. is the revenue they generate. Lucille Ball’s estate pockets in excess of $5 million a year from royalties for her image on a slot machine. The specific deals and royalty amounts vary but they all have one thing in common–they’re coming out of your pocket in the form of lower payouts.


There are two types of slot machine jackpots: fixed and progressive. Fixed jackpots are significantly lower and don’t change. For example, a machine might pay out 1200 coins for the top prize. A progressive machine is one in which the jackpot grows with play. There are progressive jackpots limited to a single machine, a group of machines within a casino or networked throughout a number of properties (eg: Megabucks). Progressive machines will pay out at a lower percentage than non-progressive machines. You won’t hit a life changing score on a fixed jackpot machine but you’ll hit it more often.


This is a fairly well known concept but one that is worth repeating. Higher denomination machines will typically have a higher payback than lower denomination machines. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you should play the higher denomination machine–many people enjoy ‘grinding’ with nickles and never think of risking quarters or dollars. Play the slots how you want but be aware of the reality that the higher denomination machines typically have a higher return percentage.