Myths vs. Reality

Are Handpays a Big Deal?

Know Your Slots founder's $2,000 handpay at the D in April of 2018.
Written by Joshua

In many of the slot communities that I am a part, there’s always conversations about handpays and how some people get tons of them and others have never had any. It creates a bit of a frustration point sometimes on those who have been gambling their entire lives and never having seen one, while others are getting them with frightening regularity.

In this post, let’s examine what a handpay is, and whether or not it’s really a big deal.

What is a Handpay?

The United States requires all slot machine wins of $1,200 or more to be reported. As such, when a game pays that amount or higher, regardless of the bet, the machine locks up in a special state and an employee of the casino has to take information so they can report the win. They will return after entering the data with cash, and will pay you directly into your hand, hence the term handpay.

$1,200 is certainly a big number and sounds exciting. But it’s fixed. and that’s where the challenges lie.

A Fixed Number is Flawed

The biggest problem with the handpay number is that with newer machines and higher bet levels, it can be really easy to get a handpay. On slot machines where you can bet $1 or $5 credits (with bets of $10-50 not unusual), handpays could come more easily than you think.

If you play $5 credit video poker, getting a straight flush on a standard Jacks or Better pay table, which is a rare occurence but not hugely so, would trigger a handpay.

Table games don’t have this problem because they consider what you bet to determine the situation. You would have to win 300x your bet to get a “handpay” at a table game. This really isn’t possible without exotic bets like the Fire bet on craps or a progressive jackpot at a Blackjack or other table game, so the chances of seeing it are incredibly rare.

And this is where the problem of glorifying a handpay starts to occur. Someone betting $10 on a spin of each slot machine needs a 120x win to achieve a handpay; betting $20, like 20-line Cleopatra II at a $1 bet, a 60x hit would constitute a handpay. By comparison, someone betting just $1 a spin would need a 1200x win – not impossible on some games out there today, but highly improbable.

My only handpay, seen at the top of this article, was $2,000 on a $3 bet – a very nice 666x the bet. I’ve had other substantial wins, between $300 and $1000, but they didn’t reach the point of a handpay.

A Better Measure of Success

So how can we analyze when a win is particularly exciting? For some time now I’ve used the 100x marker. If you’re betting 40 cents a spin on a penny slot, a $40 win is impressive. If you’re betting $10 a spin, a $1,000 win is equally impressive.

If you start to think about it in terms of the scale, something like my more than $830 win on Dancing Drums with an 88 cent bet seems pretty exciting too! It’s nearly 1000x the bet which is a substantial win.

$839.96 major won on Dancing Drums with just an 88 cent bet!

Similarly, a Royal Flush at any bet level looks impressive – $1000 for a $1.25 bet in this particular example!

One of two royal flushes I got in 2018 at the quarters level, but this one on a single hand was the lower bet of the two at $1.25 – that’s an 800x win!

So if you’ve never achieved a handpay, don’t despair – look for those amazing wins that are a good multiple of your bet and celebrate those successes. And if someone’s posting handpays all the time and you’re feeling envious, check those bets – they might be playing at levels that make them inevitable, and while it’s great to celebrate each other’s wins, that 60x handpay isn’t as exciting as it might look when the special music fires and they come over to count money into your hand.

Check Out This Handpay

Brian Christopher has had his share of handpays, but this one takes the cake – how about landing the GRAND on an 80 cent bet? Check out his 9000x win!

Have you ever had a handpay? What’s your biggest win? Share in the comments below!

About the author

Joshua

My name is Joshua, and I’m a 30-something who works in tech as a marketer by day, and dabbles in casinos periodically during off-times. Know Your Slots will reflect my interests in understanding the various ways you can play slots, games that give you a potential edge, casino promotions and systems and how you can get the most out of it.

2 Comments

  • Great article, Joshua! I’ve only ever had 2 handpays in my life, both on VP. One was for $4000, and another for $2000. Personally, I would rather win $1199 – or the $1000 Royal – than a handpay at $1200! Heck, you can keep giving me $1000 hits all day long, and I would not be sad! 😉

    • I can certainly appreciate this. I had two Royal Flush wins on quarters, one with a progressive but still under the $1200 limit, and those are certainly nice as they’re less messy 🙂

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