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What Will You Win On a 98 Percent Payback Machine?

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Written by Joshua

In a previous article on loose slots, I’ve mentioned casinos that have marketed 98 percent slot machines here and there. Let’s say you hit on the holy grail, and you come across a slot machine that’s marked 98 percent payback. Does that mean that if you play it, you’ll get a 98 percent payback yourself?

STATUS: No, because short-term volatility will mean you could be up or down.

Finding a game that’s set to a higher payback percentage, sometimes known as a looser slot, certainly has its benefits. However, it’s not a guarantee you’re going to make more on a given session.

Slot author John Grochowski referenced an anecdote in a book he wrote that he once played a 98 percent machine as guaranteed by a casino and had 40 losing spins in a row. That 40 spins may sound like a lot for an individual player, but it’s 40 spins out of hundreds of thousands that over time will get it to its 98 percent payback.

Variance and volatility play in to any slot session. Given there are winning spins and losing spins, you’re not guaranteed 98 percent payback on any given spin or session. It’d be an awfully boring experience to spin a $1 spin every time and get 98 cents back on every single spin – we’d stop playing quickly once we’d realize what was going on.

What it does mean is your chances of coming out a winner could potentially be better, because the casino is not keeping as much of the wagers for itself. But if it’s a tough game, you could still find yourself on the losing end of things well more often than the winning side. The thing to remember is a payout percentage is not a guarantee for a given session, but just over hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of spins.

Like Grochowski, I sat down at a machine marked 98 percent payback back in December to give it a try. It also wasn’t a particularly volatile game. Despite that, I lost $20 reasonably quickly because I wasn’t getting any bigger hits to keep my session going. But one big hit and I could’ve been well over 98 percent in my session.

As such, finding a 98 percent payback machine can be worthwhile to play, just given the ability to potentially outperform a slot that pays 10 points lower, and as a general rule your money should last longer. But it’s not a guarantee that a given session will be great, or even good.

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.

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