There are two fundamentally basic jackpot types for slot machine players and video poker players. When choosing which slot machine type to play the first decision after what your stake will be is ‘progressive jackpot or fixed jackpot’. In this article we’ll look at their differences and some considerations for which to choose.


Generally speaking, slot machines with fixed jackpots offer a lower ‘theoretical hold’ than progressive jackpots. If your goal is to grind out your bankroll for as long as possible this would likely be your best choice. That is not everyone’s preferred playing style, however, and the ‘fixed vs. progressive’ question is not quite as simple as it initially seems.

A fixed jackpot is just that–a jackpot is paid as indicated on the machine and does not change. The next jackpot will be paid exactly the same. A good example of a fixed jackpot is the near standard 4000 coin return for a royal flush on a Jacks for Better video poker machine. The same basic concept applies in video poker–on balance, a fixed jackpot machine offers a lower ‘house edge’ than a progressive.


There are several types of progressive jackpots that we’ll describe in detail with a future article. The important concept to remember at this stage is that a progressive jackpot is one that grows–or ‘progresses’–over time. The more play a machine receives, the higher the jackpot grows. The three basic types of progressive jackpots:

–SINGLE MACHINE PROGRESSIVE: Just like it sounds–the jackpot applies to that machine only. As money is put into that machine the jackpot grows until it is hit. It will then reset to a predetermined minimum and the process will start over again.

–MULTIPLE MACHINE PROGRESSIVE: The jackpot is ‘shared’ among a group of machines within the same casino. It might be a casino wide jackpot or a jackpot exclusive to a bank of machines. These are attractive to players because with more machines contributing to the jackpot pool the big prize is much higher than the single machine jackpot.

–NETWORKED PROGRESSIVE: If you’ve spent time in Las Vegas (or Reno/Tahoe) you’ve seen networked progressives. Two of the most popular are Mega Millions and the lower stake Nevada Nickles. They’re pretty much the same concept as the multiple machine progressive described above but instead of being limited to the machines in a single casino the jackpot is shared between the relevant machines at multiple casinos. Sometimes this will be machines at casinos owned by the same corporate hierarchy (eg: Boyd Gaming casinos). More often–and in the case of the hugely popular Mega Millions–the jackpots are networked state wide and available in most major casinos. The networked progressive began as an effort to compete with the huge jackpots offered by state lotteries. The largest slot jackpots in Nevada history have been Mega Millions jackpots which can get as high as $30 or 40 million.

The reason that the ‘house edge’ is higher with the progressive machines is likely apparent by now. In addition to the ‘hold’ an additional amount from each bet is contributed to the jackpot pool. Expected value (EV) is an advanced betting concept that we’ll talk about down the road but when gambling experts figure the ‘EV’ of a slot machine they factor in the massive jackpot potential.

Generally speaking, by playing a progressive machine you won’t play as long per session but you have the potential of a much larger, in many cases life changing score. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer. It all has to do with your jackpot goals and preferred playing style.