Knowledge makes you bet more effectively
by John Robison
Even though there are hundreds of different slot machines made by a variety of different manufacturers, all slot machines basically fall under one of six categories. The different types of machines have their own unique playing characteristics, and understanding these differences is important. For starters, knowing the type of machine you’re playing will help you to determine the number of coins you should play per spin.
Let’s look at the different types of machines you’ll find on the slot floor, how to recognize them, and some tips for betting smart.
This is the most common type of slot machine. Wild Cherry, Wild & Loose, Double Diamond, Triple Diamond, and Five Times Pay are all Multipliers. The paytable on a Multiplier is a table with one row for each winning combination and one column for each coin you can play. The worst payout you can get from a Multiplier is a push—that is, a return of the exact amount of money you bet on the spin.
Hit frequencies on Multipliers range from low to high, but they’re usually not as high as Multi-Line and Australian-style slot machines (we’ll get to these types of machines later).
“Multiplier” is the general category name. A machine is either a Straight Multiplier or a Bonus Multiplier.
Straight Multiplier machines pay you the same amount of money for each winning combination, for each coin you play. Each column in the paytable on a Straight Multiplier is the payout for one coin multiplied by the number of coins played. Two-coin Double Diamond machines, for example, are usually Straight Multipliers. You get 800 coins for three Double Diamond symbols when you play one coin at a time, and you get 1,600 coins, which is exactly 2 times 800, for three Double Diamond symbols when you play two coins at a time. Every other payout in the Coin #2 column is exactly twice that in the Coin #1 column.
Playing more than one coin per spin on a Straight Multiplier is a waste of your bankroll. You don’t activate any new winning combinations, so you don’t get an increase in hit frequency. You don’t get an increase in the per coin payout on any winning combination, so you don’t get an increase in long-term payback. Play one coin per spin on Straight Multipliers.
Bonus Multiplier machines pay you a bonus for playing full coin. The amount paid for the top jackpot, and sometimes the amounts paid for other winning combinations, are more than just a straight multiple of the number of coins played times the amount paid when playing one coin.
Three-coin Double Diamond machines are usually Bonus Multipliers. The jackpot you receive for lining up three Double Diamond symbols when playing full coin is 2,500 coins. That’s 100 coins more than the 2,400-coin jackpot this machine would pay if it were a Straight Multiplier.
Sometimes the bonus is quite large. A Red, White, and Blue machine, for example, pays 2,400 coins for hitting red, white, and blue sevens when playing one coin, and 4,800 coins when playing two coins. When playing three coins, however, the jackpot jumps to 10,000 coins. That’s a bonus of 2,800 coins for playing full coin.
It’s true that you have a higher long-term payback when you play full coin on a Bonus Multiplier. It’s also true that the combinations that pay a bonus hit so infrequently that even large bonuses lead to very small increases in long-term payback. Play one coin per spin on Bonus Multipliers. If the thought of missing out on a huge payout is too much for you to take, you’re better off playing a different game.
When you play Buy-A-Pay machines (sometimes called Buy-Your-Pay or Option-Buy machines), you must deposit full coin to activate all of the winning combinations. This feature takes many players by surprise, which is why Buy-a-Pay machines, such as the two-coin Sizzling 7s, have a bad reputation. Players who don’t read the paytable carefully often don’t understand why they didn’t get a payout for what they think is a winning combination. And quick-fingered players sometimes accidentally play less than full coin because they hit the Spin button without realizing that one of the coins they dropped, or one of their presses of the Bet One button, didn’t register.
The paytable on a Buy-A-Pay is divided into separate boxes, one for each coin you can play. The box labeled Coin #1 tells you the winning combinations and how much they’re worth when playing one coin. The box labeled Coin #2 tells you the additional winning combinations you buy when you play two coins at a time, and so forth.
The worst payout on a Buy-A-Pay can be less than a push. A winning combination can pay one coin and require two coins to be activated. Because a Buy-A-Pay can pay less than a push, it can have a higher hit frequency than a Multiplier. I’ve seen Buy-A-Pay machines on which the last coin paid over 100%, so I recommend always playing full coin on this type of machine.
There are very few pure Buy-a-Pays on slot floors today. Most of the games that have Buy-a-Pay aspects are what I call Hybrids.
These games are part Multiplier, part Buy-a-Pay. These machines usually take three coins, occasionally more, but never less. Sometimes the second coin multiplies the payouts from the first coin and the third coin buys new winning combinations. Sometimes the second coin buys the new winning combinations, and the third coin multiplies the payouts on the combinations bought with the second coin.
Blazing 7s is a Hybrid game. The first coin buys the Bar combinations. The second coin buys the 7 and Blazing 7 combinations. The third coin multiplies the payouts on the 7 and Blazing 7 combinations bought with the second coin.
Other Hybrid games are not as obvious. On some games, you can play a bonus game only when you bet full coin. On the old Silicon Gaming machine Banana-Rama, for instance, you’re eligible for the bonus game only when you play full coin. The third coin buys you the opportunity to play the bonus game. Similarly, you can spin the wheel on Wheel of Fortune only when you play full coin.
As with the pure Buy-a-Pay, the worst payout on a Hybrid can be less than a push. Hybrids can also have higher hit frequencies than Multipliers. And just as on the pure Buy-A-Pay, I’ve seen Hybrid machines with individual coins that paid over 100%, so I recommend playing as many coins as needed to activate all the winning combinations and make you eligible for all the bonus opportunities.
Next time, we’ll finish our look at the rest of the machine types you’ll find on the slot floor—and explain the smart ways to play them.