Slot Tutorials

Picking the Right Denomination for Your Bet Level

Denomination button slot machine Munchkinland
Written by Joshua

I’ve been nibbling at this topic for awhile, but time to get more explicit. Given a certain bet level, are you playing the wrong denomination?

Let’s take a look at this under a few scenarios: $1 bets, $3 bets and $5 bets. Many players will fall into these categories, but if you’re below or above a given threshold, you can still adopt these thoughts into something that can help you make the most of your time on slot machines.

$1 Bets: Limited Options, But They’re There

If you’re betting around $1 a spin, you may favor penny slots with 30-50 lines and betting to 2x or 3x. Or you might be comfortable betting 88 cents a spin on a game like Dancing Drums.

But many of the games out there now allow you to select denominations. You might be able to find a 2 cent or 5 cent machine that still lets you bet $1. Or you could up the denomination within a game like Mighty Cash and not only be able to play nickels, but lower the required symbol minimum for the Mighty Cash bonus from 6 to 5. The adjustment of symbol can also be a sign the casino can set a different payback level, since the math would be different. Not all casinos do, but it’s a calculated gamble that they might, and we’re in a casino so calculated gambles should be our thing.

There’s also the old school three reel games like Double Diamond at quarters (which if it’s 3 quarters as max bet is only 75 cents). The public slot payback reporting generally reveals that quarter denomination machines have a payback percentage that’s a few percentage points better than a penny slot, so on average you should have a longer runway of play for a similar bet on a quarters machine than pennies.

I know that reel games aren’t for everyone, but it’s worth putting into the rotation if you want to make your money last longer, or have a better chance at a nice win.

$3 Bets: Widening Options for Betting Smarter

If you are going to max bet at pennies you can pursue games that have max bet progressive options like Quick Hit, which start at $1.50 but many require a $3 max bet per spin nowadays. This ensures you get the best payouts for that bet possible on those games.

Games with a 40-60 cent bet on pennies as a minimum bet would be $2-3 betting nickels. Stepping up to nickels vs. max-betting pennies should still yield a bit of improvement on the payback side. Even if nickels give you a 1 percent extra advantge, for every $100 in coin in you’ll average $1 better in payback over the pennies version; if you do a few thousand in coin-in that can be significant.

At $3 you open up games like Pinball, Top Dollar and others at the $1 level as well, if you’re comfortable with three-reel games. And at that bet level you may even find yourself taking a step into high limit rooms now and again! $1 level games will pay a bit more than the quarter level, so compared to a max-bet pennies bet your payback levels would be 4-5 percentage points higher on average.

Everi has a series of jackpot-driven games that are 9-line quarter denomination with three reels and frequent jackpot hits as well; With the additional lines the pays come frequently enough to feel more like video slots in that regard.

$5 Bets: You Can Definitely Bet Higher Denominations

By the time you reach a $5 bet per spin, if you’re still playing pennies, it’s because the choices at higher levels aren’t calling to you. You can find video slots at a 50 cent level and get a similar experience to a $5 pennies bet.

Many Ainsworth video slots at quarters for 20 lines or 50 cents for 10 lines will be the same games you can play at lower denominations. Dragon Link has a 5 line option at the $1 level within the machine. Many high limit games become accessible by this bet level.

So why would you bet pennies? The entertainment factor, I’m sure, as many video slots have fun bonuses. But it helps to educate yourself on what’s on the floor – look to see if there’s a higher denomination version of your favorites so you can pick up that extra payback opportunity over a basic penny slot level.

If Your Bets Don’t Line Up With the Above…

  • If you bet less than $1, the less lines approach can help make higher denominations, whether nickels or dimes, be approachable, as long as you can stand some additional volatility.
  • If you bet more than $5, you’re probably already making your way into the high limit room, and that’s where you generally belong.

And remember, regardless of what you’re playing, your denomination matters less than the total amount bet and how long you’re playing when it comes to the offers made available to you.

Do you maximize your opportunity and payback when at the casino? Share your thoughts in the comments!

About the author


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.


  • Why do slot players on you tube sit and bet on one machine only ? They generally put in $ 100 and vary the denomination. To try to achieve a max bet build up. When I try this method I lose my butt finding it takes some times 50 to 125 spins before getting another bonus and then being behind in my bet.

    • Hey Mark – I’m not sure. Some channels purposely stick to a single game as their format; others switch around, and their decision-making is probably driven by video watching and how they bet impacting that. I know some people who just like changing around the denomination if nothing’s hitting, which helps them feel like they’re making decisions to shake things up (although in and of itself it isn’t really helping or hurting anything). But I can’t speak to any specific reason that slot channels abide by as a whole – everyone’s got their own ways of doing things. Hope that helps!

      • Changing around the denomination or (or the bet level) isn’t USUALLY helping or hurting anything, unless you’re paying a game like “Buffalo Link” or “Scarab”, where your bets count towards an eventual guaranteed special feature and each denomination and bet level is using a different counter towards that feature.

      • Someone stole my I phone out of my semi so I just now found your response so sorry. Josh I have this new question. Which denomination is the best on 5 dollars pennies nickels dimes or dollars on dragon link or does the machine reflect the payout in the bet payout denomination ex a 5 $ bal or a 5.00 $ ball on the scree. Thx

  • If I’m betting 2 dollars on a game and my denomination is 10 cent, How much am I actually betting are spending on one spin? Still not sure how this works with a denomination.

    • Hi Tammy, If you’re betting $2 a spin, that’s what you’re spending. Your total bet is comprised of two things – your denomination, which determines how much a credit is worth, and your bet, which is how many credits you’re betting.

      Penny denomination is easy – if you’re betting 75 credits, it’s 75 cents. On a dime denomination, that 75 credits is $7.50 – 75 times 10 cents. So it’s just a simple multiplication of credit bet times denomination.

  • So if I am understanding this correctly, as soon as you are betting at the dollar denom you’re betting at the 1 dollar payback % listed on the Nevada gaming control board payout list? I ask because I previously assumed that betting anything over 1 dollar per spin would put you into that % payback but after reading up on things, I feel I was mistaken.

    • Hi Michael – the paybacks shown on Nevada’s website are a roll-up of a bunch of casinos and are a historical payback record of a period of time – month, quarter or year, depending on what you’re looking at. Your machine can be set at any of the options a slot maker offers for that game, so no, it doesn’t mean it pays at that level. However, that historical payback data does show a consistent pattern that as you go to a higher denomination, you tend to get paid back a bit better over time. So you won’t know on a slot exactly what the payback percentage is, but you have a general expectation that playing that $1 denomination game will have a better overall payback than, say, a penny denomination machine.

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