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Slot Machine Frequency vs. Payback

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There are two terms associated with the slot machines that are sometimes used interchangeably albeit incorrectly by the players. These are Frequency and Payback.

Payback is the overall percentage that a machine will return to the player in the long run. These figures are programmed into the machines computer chip and are set by the manufacturer to the specifications that the casino wishes to use for that machine. This may be anywhere from 75 to 99 percent. Some states regulate the minimum payback that a machine can return. Machines with a small payback are usually referred to as tight machines and ones with the higher payback are referred to as loose machines. Sometimes a casino may advertise that they have the loosest machines in town. This means that the machines are set with a higher payback. Some may even advertise the exact percentage of that some of their machines as being 98 or 99 percent. Although this doesn’t mean that al of their machines are set to payback this amount. It’s not uncommon to have two of the exact same machines side by side set to different paybacks.

Many slot players refer to a machine that is not paying out as a cold machine and they say that the payback for that particular machine is terrible. In essence they are really talking about the frequency that the machine is returning coins to them.

Frequency is the percentage of spins that will return something to the player. It is based on how many times each symbol is on the wheel and how often a winning combination will occur. A machine that has a low hit frequency may only have a winning combination show up one in every ten spins while a high frequency machines may have winning combinations show up on an average of every three or four spins.

Machines with a high hit frequency pay out small wins frequently while machines with a lower hit frequency usually pay out larger wins less frequently. This has no relation to the over all payback of the machine. Machines with a high payback may still have a very low hit frequency because it pays out more for the higher winning combinations. On the other hand you can have a machine with a lower payback that returns small wins more often.

Many of the new multi-coin – multi-line machines have a very high frequency although you may not even be getting your money back when you have a winning spin. For example if you play five lines for one coin each (5 coins) you may get many winning combinations that pays you back two or three coins for a winning combination on one of the five lines. This machine has a high hit frequency paying back many smaller wins but may not have a high payback overall.

It is not possible to determine the exact payback for any given machine in the casino, as this is programmed into the machine. You can however get a general idea about the frequency of a machine by looking at the pay table of the machine. If you see that there are a lot of combinations that return smaller wins, then this machine will usually have a larger hit frequency than one that has fewer winning combinations that pay back larger wins.

It is up to you to determine if you want to play a machine that affords you many smaller wins or are you the type that wants to go for the “Big One”? By looking at the pay table you can get a general idea. Although payback percentages are set to return a set amount over the long run, anything can happen in the short run. You might be unlucky with a high frequency machine or you may get very lucky on a lower frequency machine. Anything can happen. Just remember that playing slot machines should be considered entertainment so pick one that will give you the most fun.

Until next time, remember:
"Luck comes and goes...Knowledge stays Forever."

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