Myths vs. Reality Slot Payback

Can You Spot Visible Differences in a Game That Can Impact Payback?

Enchanted Unicorn by IGT two reels wild
Written by Joshua

A player I routinely converse with shared with me an example of a game he plays often, and how at two different casinos there appeared to be a difference on the fourth reel. One version had a pair of wilds stacked on top of each other. Another version had a single wild.

His supposition was that the game had different software in it. But I said that it might be something else, which led to the question. Could you spot differences in the game that could give you an indication as to its payback?

STATUS: A game could be designed with discernible differences that a player could spot. But then you’d not necessarily be sure which one pays better.

When designing a slot machine, a certain number of payback settings are created within the software. Once a base game is developed, there are a variety of ways that games’ payback can be established. Examples of how that can be done can include:

  • Adjusting the weighting of a reel stop. This is of course common on mechanical reel slots, which have a physical limitation, so adjusting the frequency of how often each stop on a reel occurs can be one way to adjust the payout percentage.
  • Meters moving at different speeds. There are games with accumulators such as progressives, free game counters, etc. that progress at a different pace on one payback versus another.
  • Different versions of a game. The most famous example is Buffalo being required to be redesigned for Nevada because of regulatory requirements, but in very rare situations a game may differ in one slot market versus another.
  • Adding, removing or replacing symbols on reels. On virtual reel slots, which are basically just animated on a computer screen, you could adjust how often a symbol appears to get to a different payout percentage.

It’s that last one that my friend was potentially identifying. But here’s the challenge: Without more information, you may not be ever 100 percent sure which one pays better without other information, such as a PAR sheet, to truly confirm the answer.

But regardless of that, there are scenarios that if you play a game enough, and begin to spot those reel strip differences, you could very well be seeing a difference between payback of the same game in two different locations. It’s not a guarantee, but it could be a sign.

But whether that can tell you anything else is a bit more difficult to answer without other backing information.

About the author


My name is Joshua, and I’m a slot enthusiast 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, travel, casino promotions and how you can get the most out of your casino visits.

Leave a Comment