Most casinos have some sort of slot tournament element that they offer periodically. The concept is pretty simple – a certain number of players are allowed to play, and a prize structure exists for the top performers.
However, not all slot tournaments are created equal. There’s a number of general buckets of tournaments, each with their own pros and cons. In this article I’ll review the basic arrangements of the core types, and what would make them worth playing or not.
Play to Qualify
In this example, you have to play a certain amount to be eligible for the tournament. In some cases, the bar can be pretty low – such as earning 100 Mlife points for the daily slot tournament at New York-New York, for instance. In the case of that tournament, the top five players each day receive free slot play.
With hundreds playing on an average day, it’s not going to be high odds, so you should consider it a bonus opportunity on top of any gambling you’re already planning to do.
With the tournament being only a couple of minutes long, and you can play your entry anytime from the point in the day you earned it until they stop taking players, it’s a low barrier to complete, and so playing to earn entries and playing said entries isn’t a huge time investment.
The Wynn has periodically done play to qualify daily tournaments, and one year while I was there they were doing play to qualify and awarding a buffet as a bonus for playing; that provided a guarantee while also giving a chance at bigger winnings, so for me it was worth it.
Invite Only Tournaments
These are usually structured to cater to certain player types, and as the name implies, they are invite only.
They are usually structured in a multi-session format, either everyone playing multiple rounds, or assigned times to ensure everyone gets a chance to play. There’s usually some sort of finals and sometimes semi-finals to determine the final prize awards.
The size of the tournament and the prize structure will ultimately determine whether it’s worth going. I received invites multiple times to tournaments in Las Vegas where the minimum prize was $50 or $75 in free play, lower than my free play offers at the time (but of course a chance of winning a whole lot more).
There’s also a more rigid time commitment, as you’re assigned a slot (or slots) and as such must be available and at the tournament location for various sessions. These can be spread over multiple days, and a session itself isn’t that long, but unlike open-ended ones you have to plan your day around where you need to be.
As someone who lives on the East Coast, that’s not worth cross-country flights for a couple of days of tournament play, but if I was already going to be in Las Vegas during an invited tournament, I’d certainly look at it.
Invite Only tournaments could have a play component or requirement, blending with play to enter tournaments. Cosmo has been known to do million point tournaments for their very top players, so that requires a lot of play, but the prizes are also substantial for those tournaments too.
Other tournaments may have play components to cut the line to the semi-finals or finals, and for those who didn’t earn those seats chances to play.
Buy An Entry Tournaments
Some tournaments let you buy an entry if you haven’t been invited, or are purposefully designed to be buy-in tournaments. Especially in the latter case, they are structured with a prize structure that allows them to make some money off the event, while also pooling much of the money into the prize structure.
This is, not unlike other things regarding casinos, more of a gamble, since you’re now putting your own money on the line. It helps to review the prize structure to see if there’s any guaranteed prizes, or what the odds of coming out ahead are, and deciding if it’s worth it for you.
Time planning will be similar to the invited tournament in these cases, because of the formal play rules and prize structure.
The Tournament Experience
Generally speaking, with exceptions as I’ve discussed here before, slot tournaments are based largely on luck, and not on skill. You slap buttons and touch items on the screen for two to three minutes, and whoever gets the most points moves on or wins.
I’ve been able to qualify for the second round in a number of tournaments but never landed in the money. They’re fun experiences, a chance to socialize a bit with others in a similar situation to yourself. I’ve done them at home casinos, on cruise ships and in Las Vegas, and all of them had a similar feel.
If you find the repetitive action of smacking buttons not for you, or something you think may be too demanding, it might be worth skipping a tournament opportunity. But if you don’t mind the time commitment and doing something a bit different, a slot tournament can be a fun component of a casino trip.
I know this is an older article, but I had a question about slot tournaments I was hoping you could answer! My husband and I were both invited to an invitation only tournament at our local. We have never been to one before. I have an understanding of the basic jist of the tournament, but would it be a better “strategy” to play a game with more lines or ways to win, i.e. a 100 line game or a 1024 ways? Or would it matter?
I’ve only been to MGM slot tournaments, but they’ve always made everyone play a specific slot machine called “Spinferno” that is specifically made for tournaments; they didn’t let people pick any game.
Thanks for replying to Rose, Hexxus – somehow I missed this comment! Hexxus is correct – they will assign you a machine, and regardless of the machine type everyone’s playing the same game – there’s no variation between how each machine in a tournament bank works. Some tournaments are played on slots that operate as normal slots outside of tournaments, while others are specifically tournament only machines.
I just did a slot tournament in Vegas.
$500 buy-in, room provided, I had lots of MGM Rewards points that covered a lot of my meals. 1 in 30 shot at a top prize of $10,000 freeplay, everyone gets at least $400 freeplay. I only got the $400 freeplay, but I won $3,000 with the freeplay, so I’d say it was worth it.
There’s another tournament coming up, with some nice prizes (minimum prize $2,000 freeplay), but the buy-in is $5,000, which I can afford to pay, but this one seems a bit riskier than the other one.
Here’s the link to it:
What do you think of tournaments like this one, that have expensive buy-ins but you get, at minimum, a couple thousand dollars freeplay?
My biggest issue with it is the open-ended number of participants (note the 31st-all others vs. a specific number). If it was a fixed prize structure you would know the odds of overperforming your buy-in. Certainly having 40% of your buy-in rebated as free play is a helpful aspect but the fact that you don’t know how many players there will be is my biggest gripe about it. I’ve definitely seen some promotions by Vegas properties like this where there were a fixed number of entries so the prize structure was more clear. 5 prizes over perform, 5 prizes are even money and X (some number) are less.
That said, putting $5k at risk and knowing you get 40 percent of it back isn’t the worst scenario, and you have certainly the potential for upside on it. It’s certainly less of a risk than other types of high stakes options so I’m not against it.