Slot machines have been called “one-arm bandits” for a reason. On the one hand, they literally had one arm – a lever, usually on the player’s right, that they needed to pull to make the reels turn (this feature has disappeared over the years, being replaced by buttons).
On the other, there is no way to play them in the long term and make a profit – they will literally take your money, just like a bandit. The house edge – the money the gaming establishment charges for the services offered – is built into the game from its inception.
This, of course, doesn’t mean you’ll invariably lose when playing the slots – it only means that, statistically, you’ll walk away with less money than you had when you started playing.
But, as you might expect, not all slot machines are created equal. There are some aspects that you can keep in mind so you can choose the game that offers you the best (entertainment) value for your money, no matter if you play it at an online casino or a land-based gaming establishment.
Return to player (RTP)
One of the metrics most casual slot machine players don’t give too much attention is the return to player (RTP) of a slot machine – but they should, because it is an important metric.
Imagine you have $100 that you want to feed the one-armed bandit during your casino night. The RTP expresses the percentage of that $100 you can expect to lose – statistically, of course, in the long run.
The RTP of a slot machine is always under 100% (usually between 95% and 97%) – the difference is the house edge built into the game.
So, if you feed a one-armed bandit $100, you can expect to walk away with anywhere between $95 and $97 – again, statistically, and in the long run.
Volatility is one of the more ephemeral aspects of a slot machine but it has a major influence on its entertainment value – and payouts.
In short, the volatility of a slot machine shows how often it hits – as in it pays out a win, any win.
Low volatility slots tend to be more entertaining for the casual player because they hit often – but the payouts are usually small, lower than what you spend on a spin.
High volatility slot machines, in turn, pay out much more infrequently – but it’s worth the wait because their payouts are much higher.
In many cases, the game developers themselves disclose the volatility of a game. If not, it’s relatively easy to “measure” – you need to play it and see for yourself.
Keep it fun
Beyond being scientific about choosing the slot machine with the perfect hit frequency and the highest payout percentage, there is another thing worth keeping in mind when choosing the best slot machine for you: its entertainment value.
Because it is a game, after all, meant to entertain – and if you’re not entertained by the game you play, why play it at all?