Are all machines in a progressive created equal?

2014-05-01T00:00:00Z 2014-10-14T18:17:18Z Are all machines in a progressive created equal?John G. Brokopp Times correspondent
May 01, 2014 12:00 am  • 

This question from a reader is compelling evidence that slot players are eager to know basic information about the gamers they play:

“Hi John, Horseshoe Hammond has an island of 12 progressive Triple Double Star slot machines that all have the same amount for the jackpot. Can you tell me if each machine has its own random access method for payouts or are your chances of winning something the same as if you went to any one of the machines. Sincerely, Ronald M."

Well Ronald, I posed your question to the folks in a position to know at The Shoe and received the following response:

“These games are what we call a linked progressive jackpot. All the games underneath the jackpot are the same theme so they have the same odds to hit the top award. What we do is add a percentage of the hold of the games to the top award so that with every handle pull by a guest the award increments or progresses up.

“To win the jackpot someone has to hit the top award by betting the max bet on any of the games connected to the jackpot. The games are independent games, but it’s the same odds to the top award on each game, everyone participates in the progressive and everyone has the same odds to winning. (It is) very similar to the lottery where we all buy tickets and contribute to the pot, but my ticket is independent from your ticket.”

Using strategy implies that you are seeking to gain an advantage that hopefully will lead to victory. If that's the case, there is no strategy for playing the slots.

Slot machines are programmed to guarantee a profit for the casino owners. There's no way around it and there's no way to beat them. It's all about the math.

The vast majority of the money a slot machine takes in over the course of tens of thousands of plays is returned to gamblers as a collective group in the form of winnings. The only way for individual gamblers to win, however, is to have good fortune on your side.

Every slot comes with information that details the math about that particular game, but those so-called "PAR sheets" are made available by the manufacturers only to casino operators.

Expanding further on our research about slots available on International Game Technology’s Website (, consider this:

Take a traditional 3-reel spinning slot with a single pay line. If each reel has 32 "stops" (positions at which the reel can stop), you multiply 32 X 32 X 32 to determine the "reel cycle", or total number of possible combinations you can get, in this case 32,768.

Of those 32,768 combinations, 3,277 of them are programmed to be winners of varying amounts. The "hit frequency" of this machine, therefore, would be 3,277 divided by 32,768, or 10 percent, meaning that the mathematical probability of winning something is once in every 10 spins.

The math from machine to machine varies, depending upon the number of reels, the number of stops, and the number of times the jackpot symbol appears on each reel.

For example, a 4-reel spinning slot could have 64 stops per reel, which translates into a reel cycle of 16,777,216 combinations, of which 2,516,582 are winners. A 5-reel video slot could have a reel cycle of 62,015,625 combinations, of which 3,931,452 are winners. The chances of hitting the top award can soar into the millions to one.


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RIVERS: Every Friday and Saturday in May more than $60,000 will be given away each weekend in the “Batting for Cash” giveaway. Become eligible by swiping your Rush Rewards card at any promotional kiosk from 3 to 9:59 p.m. Winners will be chosen every half hour 5 to 10 p.m.

The opinions expressed are solely the writer's. Reach him at

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