Myths vs. Reality

If You Haven’t Hit a Handpay, Are You Doing Something Wrong?

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

Occasionally on slot forums I see someone discussing how they’ve played slots for years, bet decently large, and never has won a handpay. They wonder if they’re doing something wrong that’s leading them to not have one.

STATUS: You’re not doing anything wrong, other than avoiding betting absurdly high to eventually guarantee an arbitrary scenario to occur.

The handpay number of $1,200 (in most parts of the U.S., anyway) is an arbitrary number established decades ago. There have been efforts to change the value to reflect inflation, but right now it’s still an impressive number to win on a slot machine.

But let’s say you spin an average $3-5 a spin. You would need a 240x-400x hit to get a handpay. That’s not an easy thing to accomplish at any bet level, so the chances of such a scenario would be relatively rare to begin with.

Most slot manufacturers also know of the $1,200 threshold and design various jackpots to flirt with that number but rarely crossing it. Major jackpots on the many link games are designed to get up around the $1,000 range but rarely run up beyond it (if they can at all). Then there’s games that are designed to not handpay at all.

Both the slot manufacturers and casinos know that a handpay, while exciting, also takes a player out of contention for awhile (except those who have things like Fast Pay nowadays, but most of the time only players that handpay a lot will bother to set it up). As such, while they want to make it possible, they don’t want to make it routine for average sized bets.

I’ve even seen a video poker machine with a pay table at the $5 denomination that purposely sets the straight flush payout at 239 credits, to insure it comes in at $1195.

So you shouldn’t stress too much if you’ve never had a handpay; if anything it saves you dealing with paperwork. Instead, celebrate the wins that are a big multiple of your bet. Anything 100x or above tends to be infrequent enough to be celebrated, and 250x and above is pretty rare.

Most games have big win celebrations that kick in between 10x and 25x, and even those are infrequent enough, so celebrate the wins you get and don’t worry too much about the lock-up of a machine because of an arbitrary number.

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.


  • Hi Josh.

    I just found out about your site through a YouTube channel. Still trying to read a lot of these article, but I have a question regarding tight and loose slots.

    First off, is that a fact or myth that casinos either tighten or loosen them up? Also, does playing slots during the week, compared to the weekend has any impact on someone not only winning at slots, but winning big? I read an article a while back that said sometimes loose slots can be found either in high traffic area, or in certain locations, such as cashier/cage area, restrooms, restaurants.

  • Hello, Ive been playing the Buffalo Gold game for years, love it 4 sure, but in years of playing it the most ive ever won was 650.00 and at the casino i go to alot i really never see anybody winning much on that game, can the casino set it never to pay out very much ??? Greg Spikes

    • Hi Greg! Casinos can choose a payback setting on a game to determine its payback over time, but such settings won’t disable a game’s ability to hit a handpay entirely. You don’t mention how much you’re betting, but if you’re at the 60 cent level, for instance, $650 is more than 1000 times your bet, which is a rarity on a slot machine regardless of game or design. (Of course, betting more, such as a $3.60 max bet seen on many versions, that would be a 60x win, which would be a bit more unusual to not exceed playing periodically for years.)

      The game’s upside potential largely falls in the ability to upgrade enough gold heads, and the 15 gold head club is sort of a unicorn in the casino world with people having seen it, but it being exceedingly rare, so that may explain in part why you haven’t seen hits above it, but they’re out there, and I bet if you look around your casino’s big win photo library wherever it may be found (Facebook, website), if you dig through enough you’ll see the handpays on that game. I’ve witnessed someone in person getting a couple thousand on a 60 cent bet on one thanks to the 15 heads and a lot of retriggers, so if you get far enough along it can be quite lucrative… but getting there’s the hard part.

      Hope that helps!

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