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Ask the Slot Expert: Are Jackpots More Likely on a 3-Reel Slot Than on a 5-Reel?

19 December 2012

By John Robison, Slot Expert™

Thanks for all of your very useful information!!!

One of my favorite slots is a $5 - 2 coin Wild Cherry where you can play $5 or $10 a credit.

Are my chances of winning increased with the $10 bet?

Thank you.



Thanks for the kind words.

Your question is a good continuation of last week's question about whether the computer program running the slot machine knows how many coins you've played and what effect, if any, that knowledge has on the outcome of a spin. Let's start with the number of credits you bet and then move on to your question about how much each credit is worth.

Does the program know how many credits you played? The answer can be a bit confusing. Clearly, the program must know how many credits you played. It needs to know how many paylines you've activated. It needs to know how many credits you played on each line so it can pay you the proper amount for a winning combination.

The section of the program that generates the random numbers, however, does not know how many credits you played. Or, more precisely, the number of credits played is not used by the Random Number Generator (RNG) function when it generates the numbers. In fact, some jurisdictions specifically state that the RNG function cannot be influenced by the number of credits played.

The chances for any particular combination landing on the payline is the same regardless of the number of credits you played.

Now let's move on to multi-denomination machines. The program must know how much each credit is worth so it can deduct the proper amount from your meter for each spin you play and award the proper amount when you win.

In this case, though, the program could switch to a different virtual reel layout when you switch denominations. Casinos usually want to give a higher long-term payback to higher denomination players. We see this happen in video poker all the time. The higher denominations frequently have better paytables on multi-denomination machines.

Are your chances better at the $10 level? Maybe. There's no easy way to tell. Almost certainly, though, the house edge at $10 will not be half or less than the house edge at $5, so your expected loss per spin will be higher at $10. If you can afford $10 per spin and playing at $5 doesn't give you the experience you want, then play at $10. Otherwise, you're better off with $5.

Jackpots for all,

Is the RNG more likely to generate a number that corresponds to 3 Megabucks on the payline (3-reel machine) than it would generate a number that corresponds to 5 Megabucks (5-reel machine) on the payline? In other words, does a person have greater odds of winning on a 3-reel machine than on a 5-reel machine?

A friend told me I could play a 5-reel machine my entire life and never hit a jackpot but have greater chances with a 3 reel.

Thank you,

Dear Jane,

Yes. No. Maybe. It depends.

Intuitively, it seems that getting five of something is less likely than getting three of something. And, all things being equal -- that is, reel layouts the same on each reel -- you are less likely to get five than three.

All things are not necessarily equal. IGT wants your chances for hitting a progressive jackpot to be the same, regardless of the machine you are playing on a particular progressive link. So if a 3-reel machine and a 5-reel machine participate in the same progressive jackpot, your chances will be about the same on each machine.

Your chances are about the same on any Megabucks machine for marketing not mathematical reasons. What ahout stand-alone machines? Are you more likely to hit the jackpot on a 3-reel machine than on a 5-reel machine?

Now the answer is maybe. The virtual reels on the two machines could be laid out such that the jackpot is less likely, more likely or just as likely to hit on one than on the other. It all depends on how the reels are laid out.

Note that the RNG just generates numbers and it has no idea whether a particular number is a jackpot or a bust.

Jackpots for all,

John Robison
John Robison is an expert on slot machines and how to play them. John is a slot and video poker columnist and has written for many of gaming’s leading publications. He holds a master's degree in computer science from the prestigious Stevens Institute of Technology.

You may hear John give his slot and video poker tips live on The Good Times Show, hosted by Rudi Schiffer and Mike Schiffer, which is broadcast from Memphis on KXIQ 1180AM Friday afternoon from from 2PM to 5PM Central Time. John is on the show from 4:30 to 5. You can listen to archives of the show on the web anytime.

Books by John Robison:

The Slot Expert's Guide to Playing Slots