Is Picking a Winning Land-Based Slot Machine Even Possible?

Is Picking a Winning Land-Based Slot Machine Even Possible?
By Jon Young

Do you want to know how to pick a winning slot machine? Are you curious about what land-based slots machines win the most for players?

Then you’re on the right page. We have a guide to finding the best-paying slots, and we’ll tell you why payout percentages aren’t always what they seem.

There are many tricks and schemes to finding winning slot games. Unfortunately, due to modern random number generators, it’s harder than it looks. But just because slot machines have random outcomes, it doesn’t mean you can’t find a good game to play. Let’s explore how you can make your next slots foray more profitable and increase your chances of winning by implementing proper slot strategy.

Is It Possible to Know When a Slot Machine Will Hit?

If you want to know how to pick a winning slot machine, you must understand how modern land-based slots work.

Slots games are governed by a computerized RNG (Random Number Generator) that determines when and where the reels will stop.

As soon as you hit the “Spin” button, the RNG chip calculates an algorithm that chooses one reel position on every reel. The reels stop in succession, from left to right, to determine whether you have won or lost.

This process is completely random, and all slot machines are tested and approved by New Jersey’s TSB (Testing of Gaming Equipment) department before they hit the casino floor.

The key takeaway is that every spin is completely independent from the last. The slot machine has no “memory.” There’s no guarantee that a “cold” slot will suddenly pay out after a long period of no winning spins. Your odds of winning do not change.

What’s a Loose Slot & Why Am I Being Told to Look for These?

So, if the modern Random Number Generator means it’s impossible to know when a slot will pay out, how can you find loose slots?

While the outcome of every spin is random, the payouts aren’t. Every slot machine features different prizes and jackpots. The slot machine can be highly volatile, and pay out large prizes infrequently, or have low volatility. In those games, you may win lots of small, frequent payouts. The bonus rounds may trigger quite a lot, but the payouts will be quite low.

It’s also important to understand the “hit rate.” The hit rate is the frequency, as a percentage, that you are expected to hit a winning spin. The hit rate is different to the RTP, which is the long-term average payout during the lifetime of a game.

Tight slot games will have low hit rates, maybe 10-20%. Loose slots may have a hit rate of 50%. Of course, a high hit rate might mean you’re only hitting lots of low-paying winners. But over time, these could add up to a handsome profit.

It’s hard to gain information on hit rates for land-based slot machines. However, you can get a good idea of slots with low hit rates by looking at games that are promoted by top online casinos in New Jersey.

A game like NetEnt’s Starburst, for example, has a hit rate of around 22-23%. Starburst is usually included in a welcome bonus free spins bonus to attract new players. But with such a low hit rate, you may end up wasting your spins.

You can find the best online slots here at

How Can I Find the Best Paying Slot Machines?

So, how do you pick a winning slot machine? It’s hard to get information about individual slots at the big Atlantic City casinos. However, the state does publish overall gross gaming revenue (GGR) reports that show total payout returns on the casino floor.

In 2019, Harrah’s Resort (92.2%), Borgata (92%) and Caesars AC (91.4%) rated the highest. But these returns covered all casino games, not just slot machines.

Let’s assume, then, that most Atlantic City casinos offer a similar payout rate for their games. The big nine operators all have thousands of slots games to play, from classic steppers to big-money progressive jackpot slots.

Let’s dispel one of the biggest slot myths right away. Casinos don’t put higher-payout slots near the front doors, or by the bar. There’s no truth in the theory that slot machines with the best payouts are placed in high-traffic areas.

You can gauge a top-paying slot by looking at the coin size. Generally, the higher the coin stakes, the better the payouts.

For example, penny slots may pay around 88 or 89%. Dollar slots will be a lot higher, perhaps paying 94-95%. $5 slots pay even better, perhaps up to 97%. But these figures are always for the average, long-term payouts.

Calculating the Payback Percentage of a Slot Machine

Every slot machine has an in-built payback percentage, called the RTP (Return to Player percentage). This relates to the amount paid back to players on average over the long term. Of course, the long term could be millions of spins. In your lifetime you won’t play that many spins, even on a single slot.

For example, a slot with a theoretical RTP of 94% will pay back on average $94 for every $100 wagered. The remaining $6, or 6%, goes to the casino. That’s the casino’s “house edge.”

Slots manufacturers can tweak the RTPs by arranging symbols in a particular way on the reels. Let’s imagine a slot has 10 unique symbols. Each one offers the following percentage returns when they form winning combinations:

  • Symbol 1: 25%
  • Symbol 2: 20%
  • Symbol 3: 15%
  • Symbol 4: 10%
  • Symbol 5: 8%
  • Symbol 6: 6%
  • Symbol 7: 5%
  • Symbol 8: 4%
  • Symbol 9: 3%
  • Symbol 10: 1%

Total payback percentage: 96%

Of course, payouts are skewed by scatters, wild symbols and bonus features. A generous bonus round like free spins that triggers often may increase the overall RTP.

Also, an RTP may not reflect the volatility of the game. A slot may pay out well for its jackpot symbols but they may not appear that often. You may go on a long downswing playing slots before hitting a winning combination and activating a big jackpot.

What Can I Do to Better My Chances at Winning Slots?

We’ve shown you how to pick a winning slot machine. But how can you can improve your chances of winning and collecting long-term profits? There are a few slot machine tips you can follow to help increase your odds:

Work out the volatility of a slot: How do you improve your chance of winning real money? One way is to work out the game’s volatility, or variance.

Some developers will publish whether their games have low or high volatility. But if not, it can be hard to find it out. One way is to look at the slot’s paytable. Check the difference between the highest and lowest jackpot. If the gap is huge, it could be the sign of a volatile slot. Volatile games boast large jackpots and bonus features, but they tend not to activate that often. If the biggest jackpot in the game is enormous, it won’t be won frequently.

Find the average payout percentage (RTP): Every slot has an RTP programmed into the game. But it’s important to note that the RTP is a theoretical number based on long-term averages. You may find the slot RTP in the game’s paytable, but not all land-based casinos list their RTPs. Remember to check the official releases from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE), which regularly publishes payout figures.

Avoid unproven slot machine myths: There are many myths to working out how to pick a winning slot machine. But these are just that: myths.

One can easily debunk systems like the Zig-Zag, which claims to know when a slot is ready to pay out. With the Zig-Zag System, you scout the casino floor looking for slots featuring symbols in a zig-zag pattern across the reels. The myth goes that a zig-zag is a sign that the slot is ready to pay out big.

Unfortunately, slot machines don’t work this way. Each spin is independent, so it’s irrelevant how the symbols are lined up before the next spin. It doesn’t change the odds.

Plan your bankroll: Bankroll management is as important when it comes to slot strategy as understanding how to pick a winning slot machine. You can easily go broke playing high-variance slots with the wrong bankroll. Play too small on low-variance slots, and you won’t take maximum advantage.

It’s important to note that higher-stakes machines like the $1 and $5 slots will often have higher RTPs. It’s good to mix up some low-stakes penny slots with jackpot games where you can take a shot at winning millions.

Earn comps and player points: It’s still possible to earn comps and benefits when gambling on your favorite slots. Remember to insert your player card when gambling to maximize your loyalty points. Online casinos in New Jersey also promise player points when you gamble on slots. Join a VIP plan and redeem points for cash or benefits like quicker withdrawals and party invites.

Try free-play slots online: Land-based casinos in New Jersey don’t offer free-play slot machines. However, you can try hundreds of slots online for demo play credits.

Often, you can test out free-play slots at the top NJ casinos without having to log in. Just load a game in your browser in seconds. Test out the volatility, trigger a free spins bonus, or see if the software is slick and smooth. And if you find you like playing slots from the comfort of your home or on the go, sign up to an online casino and collect a welcome bonus.

Looking for more? At TopNJCasinos, we have a comprehensive list casino reviews to get you started, plus slot machine tips to help you along the way. You can sign up at dozens of legal online casinos and play hundreds of slots. You can even earn a welcome bonus when you open your account!

Check out our top tips for winning at slots and become a better player in the process.



Jon Young is a writer and magazine editor with over 12 years' experience in the gaming sector. He has written on everything from poker and slots to casino, sports betting and mobile gambling. When not trying to take down the Mega Moolah jackpot he can be found playing poker tournaments in casinos.

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