Slot Machine Payouts are Fixed – Not Rigged

Question: No matter what anyone says, I just can't believe that slot machines are random. There has to be some way for casinos to control how much people can win on slots – it can't be possible that each spin is determined only by chance, can it?

First off, you are right, in a way. Slot machines payouts are fixed so that they will, over time, pay out less money than they take in. Otherwise, why would casinos have them? However, that is something entirely different than rigging machines (i.e. tampering with them to prevent players from winning).

They best way to look at this is through a simple analogy. If I take a normal die and roll it, we can agree that there is a random chance that any one of the six sides will come up. So, if I win when the even numbers of 2, 4, and 6 come up and you win when the even numbers of 1, 3, and 5 come up, we both have an equal and random chance of winning. Slot machines are exactly like that die.

The difference is, if you (the player) wins, you give me $10, but if I (the casino) wins, I give you $9. We both have a random chance of winning, but the winning amount is fixed to favor the casino. It's the exact same idea with fixed slot machine payouts.

Question: Lately it seems like when I play blackjack, I haven't been getting as many blackjacks as I should. The table I play at is hand-shuffled with a single deck and pays 6-5 for blackjacks instead of 3-2. How many blackjacks per hour should I be getting?

In a perfect world, the answer would be 'zero'. But that is because in a perfect world 6-5 blackjack tables wouldn't exist, and if they did, you wouldn't ever play at one.

There is this pervasive idea in the gambling world that single-deck blackjack always has the lowest house edge, even if the payout for blackjack is 6-5 instead of the standard 3-2. But that's not actually true.

If single-deck blackjack actually pays out 3-2, then the house edge is a microscopic 0.15% when playing basic strategy. But, at 6-5 instead, the house edge balloons to 1.5%, which is actually far worse than the 0.73% edge the house has on a 3-2 game with a six-deck shoe.

As for your other question, you should expect to get a blackjack once every 21 hands, which is the same no matter what kind of game you are playing. At 100 hands per hour, you can expect to get about 5 blackjacks an hour. Of course, luck exists so sometimes it will be less, sometimes more, but over the long term it will be around 5.

So, considering that you get 5 blackjacks an hour, if you play $10 a hand at a 3-2 table, you win $75 off those blackjacks. But if you play 6-5, you only win $60. That $15 is far too much to give the casino for the right to play single-deck.

About The Author

Insider casino expert Mark Pilarski worked nearly every job in his 18 years in the casino industry, from dealer to cashier to shift manager. Armed with that experience, he created the legendary Hooked on Winning casino advice audio series and he currently lectures and writes gambling columns for various websites, newspapers, and magazines.

  • "The baccarat pit is quite different from other areas of the casino. Certain casinos have baccarat dress codes, while tables have seat numbers and room for fourteen players, yet never contain the number 13"

  • "In 1930s Nevada, bingo was known as keno, and 'Chinese Lottery' was also called keno because lotteries were illegal. To further disguise it, it was called 'race-horse keno' and games were called races."

  • "The lights on the top of slot machines aren't just for decoration. Called 'candles', the colour of the bottom light denotes the machine's denomination: nickels yellow, quarters yellow, and dollars blue."

  • "Playing at a full roulette table is far better than playing at an empty one because it reduces the number of spins you see per hour while qualifying you for better comps through longer play."

  • "It's far easier and cheaper to learn how to play video poker or blackjack on a home computer program or smartphone app. Save yourself some money and learn at home for almost nothing."

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