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Slot Machine Hit Frequency, Turning $200 into $2,000

1 November 2003

By John Robison

Dear John,

I am be keen to know how to estimate hit frequency for 9-reel, 8-payline slot machine?

Standard way overestimates this number since it does not account for simultaneous hits!

Is there any formula or accurate approximation that I can use -– if yes can you please explain it! And how far from the true number this formula is?

Thanks in advance,

Dear Iva,

The easiest way to get a feel for the hit frequency of a machine is to play about 1,000 spins on it. Count the number of hits you get and that should give you a very good estimate of the hit frequency of the machine.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Dear John,

I will be travelling to Biloxi, Mississippi in a few days to play at the casinos. I am not a gambler by nature, so I was wondering if you could give me some good advice on playing the slots at Biloxi? I am only going for one night and I am willing to risk up to $200.00. I would like to come back with $2,000.00. What machines should I play that could give me that much of a return and is it possible? I appreciate your input!


Dear Veronica,

I wish I knew how to turn $200 into $2,000. It might happen if you hit a jackpot, but it's not really a reasonable goal.

In your position, I'd look at how long I want to play and how much I'm willing to risk. That gives me an idea of how much I can risk per spin. Once I know what I can risk per spin, I look for machines I want to play and risk no more than that amount per spin.

With a $200 bankroll for one night, I recommend that you don't risk more than $1 per spin. That gives you enough to fund 200 spins and guarantees you'll play for at least half an hour. When you replay your winnings, your bankroll should last for a few hours, unless you have a run of bad luck. Of course, the less you risk per spin, the longer your money will last. You will have longer guaranteed play time if you risk less per spin.

Now, you can hit the casino and look for machines you want to play. As long as you bet $1 or less per spin, I think your money should last for as long as you want to play.

Let me know if you hit a $2,000 jackpot!

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,


I am as puzzled as anyone about the payouts in Cosine's run by Native Indians management.

There seems to be times of the day/night when the pay ratio is very low. I know of one casino in Washington state where the payouts are so small to walk away a winner is almost unheard of.

Do the casinos change the programing of the slots during the day/night. I know of one casino where there is a reset switch which is used after a jackpot is paid. What would be the cycle before another jackpot is due.


Dear Bill,

I don't know what the regulations are in Washington.

Anything that would alter the odds of hitting a winning combination based on time of day would be illegal casinos in Nevada, New Jersey, Mississippi, and in every other state-regulated casino.

If the machines are manufactured by IGT, WMS, Bally, or any of the other manufacturers supplying casinos in Nevada, you can be sure that there is nothing altering the odds. If the machines are made by other manufacturers, there could be something in there, but I doubt it.

I think what you noticed just happens to be a coincidence or the result of selective memory. If you and some friends kept careful track of your results at various times of the day for a number of days, I think you'd find that the machines hit just as frequently at all times of day.

Every slot machine I've seen has a reset switch. Slot machines lock up when a hand-pay or W-2G is needed. The reset switch is used to unlock the machine. It has nothing to do with when another jackpot will hit. The odds of hitting the jackpot are the same on every spin--even the spin right after hitting the jackpot.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Dear John,

My win/loss statement showed a very high loss. I remember reading an expert's story in a slot magazine that the statement can be way off from a figure showing actual take home dollar winnings or losses. Do you believe that to be true? I am comped suites, limos and all food and drink, could this affect win/loss?


Dear Ken,

Your win/loss statement can differ from your actual net. I've experienced a few instances in which action I've given on a machine has never made it to my slot club record. Not only is my action not on my record, my net win or loss on the machine also isn't on my record.

It's possible that you hit one or more large jackpots and those never got included in your slot club records.

Comps never affect win/loss. Your win/loss is always just how much you won or lost playing in the casino.

Win/loss can affect comps, however. Some casinos will be a bit more generous with comps if you've lost much more than your expected loss. Unfortunately, some casinos tighten up on the comps if you happen to be lucky.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Dear Mr. Robison,

I play video keno at the Brantford Charity Casino in Brantford Ontario. Ontario regulations require that no slot equipment be set lower than 85%. My question is that I and many others find that they pay very little back to play with and that the large jackpots are very few and far between? Maybe you can give some advice on how to play them for a better return?


Dear John,

There's no way to play a machine to get a better return. The odds of hitting a winning combination are the same on every draw and there's nothing you can do to change that.

The only thing I can suggest is that you do the math to find the house edges when you choose three numbers, four numbers, etc., and play whichever has the lowest house edge.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Is there an advantage of U.S. slots over Japanese slot machines? Besides cost?


Dear Renee,

The main advantage I've seen with U.S.-produced slots as compared with foreign-produced slots is that U.S. slots seem more familiar.

There are cultural differences in symbology. American artists will draw things a little differently than Japanese artists. American slot designers will do things a little differently than Japanese slot designers.

It's just like visiting a foreign country. Many things are basically the same, but with a bit of a twist. Phones, for example, are basically the same but phone numbers follow a different system and there are different tones for dial, ringing, and busy. It just takes a little getting used to.

Best of luck in and out of the casinos,

Send your slot and video poker questions to John Robison, Slot Expert, at

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