Few players ever consider the odds behind the pokies. In this article, we will help you better understand how slot machine odds are set and the kinds of odds you’ll get when playing pokies in live casinos and on the Internet. If you’ve ever wondered how casinos determine how much their machines pay out, read on to learn everything you’ve wanted to know about poker machine odds.
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Understanding the basics of poker machine odds
When we talk about poker machine odds, we usually take in terms of the “return” to the player. While this is similar to the house edge, it is expressed slightly differently; rather than focusing on the percentage of each bet the casino expects to win over the long run, the return tells the player what percentage of their money they can expect to win back over the long run. This is essentially the opposite of the house edge; for instance, a pokie with a 95% return can also be said to have a 5% house edge.
When it comes to the odds that are displayed on a pokie, it’s important to remember that all payouts are expressed in a “for one” format, rather than a “to one” format that is used in most table games. If you’re used to sports betting, this should come naturally to you, as these numbers are the same as reading odds in decimal format. This means that the payouts consider your initial bet to be lost: you won’t be getting that back in addition to the payout listed on screen. If a pokie says a combination of symbols pays out five credits, then, you’ll be getting your initial bet back as well as four more units.
Typical poker machine odds
It’s hard to talk about exactly what a “typical” pokie machine pays out to its players. The odds on pokies can vary from casino to casino, and even from game to game. Higher denomination games tend to pay out at better odds than their cheaper cousins, however.
A typical poker machine at a live casino, club, or pub might pay out with a return of anywhere from 85% to 95%. In general, live casinos tend to keep their pokies all at the same odds at a single denomination, though this is not a hard and fast rule (and even where it is, the odds aren’t likely to be exactly identical, just very close). Operators may be able to set their returns in a given range, with several options being given by the manufacturer.
Online pokies tend to be even better than their live counterparts. At leading Internet casino sites like those recommended in our table above, you may get returns of 95% or more even on low-cost poker machines, a number that few live casinos can hope to match. When playing online, this puts poker machines on par with many table games, making them much more appealing even to serious gamblers than they are in a live casino.
How pokie machines pay out
While a poker machine has a target return percentage, that doesn’t mean that it will return that amount on every spin, or even on any given number of spins. Instead, this number is intended as a long-term average payout that the machine will approach over the lifetime of the machine.
Every spin on a pokie is considered random and independent, meaning that the machine doesn’t consider the results of previous spins when determining whether or not the player will win on the next spin. All modern poker machines use a random number generator to determine the results of each spin in accordance to their programming. This means that no matter how often a symbol appears on a reel, it can be programmed to come up very often or very rarely. There’s no obligation for all symbols (or stops on a physical reel) to come up equally as often — and, in fact, this is very rarely the case in the modern world of poker machines.
Progressive jackpot games have an interesting impact on poker machine odds. On most progressive jackpot machines, the larger the jackpot gets, the better the odds become for the player. That’s because the base odds of hitting the jackpot stay the same, but the payout for that jackpot is growing. This means that the larger the jackpot, the more the theoretical return to the players. If a jackpot gets large enough, the poker machine odds can become so good that the return gets over 100% – enough to make the machine theoretically profitable for the players.
Misconceptions about poker machine odds
One of the biggest misconceptions about poker machines is the idea that a pokie can be hot, cold, or “due,” and that this should affect how the game will pay out in the future. While in some cases these beliefs are completely based on superstition, some players actually have a type of logic behind this belief.
Let’s say that we know a pokie is designed to pay out at 96%. We’ve been tracking the machine over the course of an hour, though, and it has only paid out at 91% in recent play. Obviously, if the machine is designed to return 96% to players over the long run, the machine will have to make up that amount to balance out the scales, right?
Actually, that’s incorrect. The problem is that the 96% figure is based on the long-run returns of the machine, not short-term variance. Yes, there will be periods of time where the machine offers more or less than the target amount, but the machine doesn’t “remember” this and correct it; over the long run, the ups and downs will naturally bring the machine very close to the target number without any manipulation. Remember, there’s no guarantee that the machine will ever have given out exactly 96%, but over the long run, it will get very, very close — and short term runs of good or bad fortune will mean very little to the long run figure.
This is especially true in games that offer large jackpots. The fact of the matter is that a game with a large jackpot will usually pay out at a little below its target returns, since the jackpot represents a good chunk of the player’s expectation. When it does pay out the jackpot, the short term returns will be way above 100%, though, and in the long run, the machine will get very close to the intended returns.
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