Are Slot Machines Programmed to Show Near Misses?

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Buffalo slot machine by Aristocrat two coins

A player asks in a recent question to us whether slots are intentionally set up to tease players around bonuses and near hits:

Are slot machines programmed to show you near wins and tease you into believing you almost hit the jackpot?

Jerry M.

By default, slots will have near misses because of the ways the reels are set up. And slot manufacturers can emphasize near misses with a higher frequency than direct line hits.

There are techniques for doing this, such as weighted reels, where certain reel spaces come out more frequently than others. But generally this isn’t overdone, because it would create frustration at some point for players who see so many near misses without an actual landing of a big win or bonus.

There is a psychological basis for doing these things. The anticipation of a big win or hit is actually more enticing than the actual landing of the big win, so leaning into that plays into the psychology of a player. Other studies have shown that after losing for awhile, a smaller win can become more exciting.

One thing slot manufacturers do is add anticipation elements, such as additional spinning and sounds once the second symbol has landed, or increasingly higher pitched sounds to make it sound great when cash on reels balls are landing to get you excited about a hold and spin.

These amplify the fact that a bonus or big line hit was almost achieved, and can lean into that anticipation of a win and the losing that leads to winning, all things that give players a dopamine hit.

So there’s definitely something there in that games are designed to amplify those near misses, but they also won’t be overdone as there is a point where the anticipation can switch to frustration. Anyone who’s played an old school Quick Hit machine where the two bonus symbols come out a lot without that third one landing will know what we’re talking about.

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