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Comparing the Different Slots on the Casino Floor

A better understanding can decide the way you play

by John Robison


Let’s finish our look at the different types of machine you find on the slot floor.

Rather than multiplying payouts or buying extra winning combinations, additional coins played on a Multi-Line machine activate additional paylines. Multi-Line machines are usually three- or five-line machines, but some have nine or more paylines. Double Diamond is available as both a three- and a five-line game. Cherries ‘R’ Wild is a nine-line reel-spinning Multi-Line slot machine.

The paytable on a Multi-Line machine indicates where the paylines are and how much each combination is worth on each payline. As a general rule, only the top jackpot has a different value on each payline.

The worst payout on a Multi-Line machine can be less than a push. On a three-line Double Diamond, for example, one cherry pays two coins when it lands on the third payline, but you have to play three coins to activate that payline. Again, because a Multi-Line can pay less than a push, Multi-Lines can have higher hit frequencies than Multipliers.


Mathematically speaking, you should never play more than one coin per spin on a Multi-Line machine. Extra coins do buy increased hit frequency, but unless there’s a bonus on one or more combinations, they don’t buy increased long-term payback. And if there is a bonus, the same rule for Bonus Multipliers applies here too—even large bonuses lead to small increases in long-term payback.

Emotionally speaking, it can be frustrating to land winning combinations on paylines that you didn’t activate. If you live by the numbers, play one coin per spin. If you live by your heart, play full coin.

This classic version of the Multi-Line machine is a dying breed, supplanted by the Multi-Line/Multi-Coin machine, which we’ll look at next.

Australian or Multi-Line/Multi-Coin
An Australian-style slot machine, also known as a Multi-Line/Multi-Coin machine, is a relatively recent arrival on the American slot floor. This is the only type of machine slot players play Down Under and it has taken the United States by storm, particularly in casinos frequented by local-area residents.

On a Multi-Line/Multi-Coin slot machine, players choose how many lines they want to activate and how many coins they want to play on each line. (On a straight Multi-Line machine, players can play only one coin per line.) Most machines have bonus games you play when certain symbols land on a payline. You can tell a Multi-Line/Multi-Coin slot by its complicated paytable and the many buttons needed for the player to choose the number of lines to play and the number of coins to play.

Multi-Line/Multi-Coin slots usually have high hit frequencies, sometimes 70% and even higher. These slots can pay considerably less than a push (say, two coins on a nine-coin bet), which is why they can have such high hit frequencies.

Just as with the Multi-Line machine, the math usually says you are better off playing just one coin per spin, but because most of the fun of playing these machines is getting hits on multiple paylines, I usually play one coin per line. That plan usually gives you the highest hit frequency at the lowest risk per spin.

Watch out for bonuses that are activated only when you play a certain number of coins. That feature acts like a Buy-A-Pay and the payback on it may be high enough to warrant betting enough coins to activate it. We can’t know for sure without knowing more about how the machine is programmed, but because the possibility exists I usually recommend betting enough coins to be eligible for all the bonuses.

Multi-Line/Multi-Coin slots used to be exclusively video slots, but now slot manufacturers are applying the Multi-Line/Multi-Coin paradigm to traditional reel-spinning slots too.

The top jackpot on a progressive machine isn’t fixed; it increases as people play the machine. You can recognize a Progressive machine by the LED meter displaying how much the jackpot is worth. Any of the machine types we’ve discussed so far (Multiplers, Buy-a-Pays, Multi-Lines, Multi-Line/Multi-Coin) can also be Progressives.

There are three types of Progressives: Stand-Alone, In-House, and Wide-Area.

Stand-Alone Progressive
These Progressive slots are not linked to any other machines. Money played on a Stand-Alone Progressive increases the jackpot on that machine only and on no other. Blazing 7s is frequently a Stand-Alone Progressive, as are the custom machines based on Blazing 7s that you find at many casinos.

Unlike the long-term paybacks on the other types of Progressives, the long-term paybacks of Stand-Alone Progressives tend to be about the same as the paybacks of other machines of the same denomination in a casino.

In-House Progressive
In-House Progressives are groups of linked machines operated by one casino company. All of the linked machines share the same progressive jackpot. Sometimes all of the linked machines are at one casino; sometimes they show up at multiple casinos owned by the same company.

The long-term paybacks of In-House Progressives tend to be a little lower than the paybacks of other machines of the same denomination in order to pay for the costs of operating the link.

Wide-Area Progressives
Wide-Area Progressives are the machines that offer life-changing jackpots and are found at many unrelated casinos. As with the In-House Progressives, the play that any of the machines, anywhere, receive increases the jackpot on all of the machines. Wheel of Fortune, Megabucks, Elvis, and Quartermania are all Wide-Area Progressive machines.

Wide-Area Progressives usually have very low long-term paybacks (around 85%). The odds of hitting the big one are very small, as low as 50 million to one on Megabucks.

Regardless of the type of Progressive, there is only one rule for playing a Progressive machine: If you don’t play full coin, you’re only feeding the progressive meter for some other player with no chance of hitting it yourself. Always play full coin on a Progressive.

Be aware that you might have to bet 44, 89 or even more coins on a Multi-Line/Multi-Coin Progressive before you can drop the magic coin that qualifies you for the progressive jackpot.

Comparing the Different Slots on the Casino Floor.

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