Do Machines Award Bonuses When You’re Low on Cash?

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Sometimes we’ll share replies received on our content here at Flip The Switch, as a jumping off point for You Asked! It’s more of a You Replied! but we will still dive into the crux of a question at heart.

Here’s an example, from our article “Do Slot Machines Know How Much Money You Put In?”:

It has been my experience over many years of playing slots, that a bonus will occur as your credits almost run out. It’s happened to me, over and over, and I know your reply will be that it is totally a coincidence; I think not. As a result I rarely start with $100 bill unless I know I will bet mostly the max. Most often I begin with $40.


Thanks for this comment, Ronald, and this leads to an area a lot of us as players fall into which is not coincidence, but something a bit different – it’s called confirmation bias.

Let’s say we develop a hypothesis based on something we just keep happening to notice. One that we’ve heard is the slot machine that drops two bonus symbols on a given spin will purposefully drop a single one on the next spin to reinforce you were “off by one.” 

Now, sometimes that symbol will appear on the next spin, and sometimes it won’t, but because we have now “spotted this pattern,” we will be much more likely to retain this knowledge than when it didn’t happen. And it certainly doesn’t happen every time, but it is that much more noticeable when it does happen. That is confirmation bias, and we humans are susceptible to it all the time!

Humans love to spot patterns to try to figure out why things are happening. Slots are built to achieve their goals across millions of spins and thousands of sessions, so even the amount we play per year is a mere pittance compared to what ensures a slot achieves its lifetime goals. Yet we play enough that it’s inevitable that we’ll begin to seek patterns in our play.

With that as a foundation, let’s go back to your specific scenario – we hear from people who also believe the exact opposite – that when you’re running out of money, the slot will slow down the payouts just to get the job done and capture your money. Why give the player money back when you almost have it all taken away?

And for that matter, if you are correct, why would you ever put in $100? Why not always put in $40, or even less, so you can get the bonus that much more quickly? These are the scenarios which begin to make it fall apart under some scrutiny. There’s no system for winning on slots – they are designed to make the casino money over time. And so the chances of that bonus happening on the first spin or the last spin is the same.

Perhaps because it happens when you’re so low on cash it becomes more memorable, and helps fuel that confirmation bias. Comebacks tend to be pretty exciting because they take you off the edge and bring you back to life!

And in your case, because you’re purposefully putting less money in, getting bonuses when your balance is low almost becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – there’s not going to be a time when you get it with a lot of money in the machine, because you’re not putting a lot of money in to begin with.

Now, having said all that, we also happen to like your system, because it’s a good money management approach, even if it’s not necessarily designed for that. You’re going to put a limited amount of money into a game, presumably to achieve a bonus. I’d venture that if you don’t get that bonus, you’re likelier than not to move on – this is a healthy practice and one we encourage other players to consider.

It can be easy to feed lots of money into a machine chasing a bonus. By setting limits and moving on, it ensures each round with a machine is relatively contained. It also means if a big bonus is achieved, it can be a good time to lock in the wins and move on as well.

So while we can’t get on board with the concept that starving a slot of cash is the key to bonuses, we don’t dislike the approach as a healthy slot strategy, Ronald, and appreciate your sharing it with other players!

Have a question? Submit yours here!

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2 Replies to “Do Machines Award Bonuses When You’re Low on Cash?”

  • Reggie R says:

    Isn’t this all common sense?

    Machines are random. I’ve hit three Majors within 20 mins on the same dragon link and then nothing for 2 hours.

    Players card in or out doesn’t affect anything except deprive you of earned comps when it’s out.

    You cannot win over any appreciable amount of time gambling. You will win on occasion but when you are dead and buried (hopefully not for a long time), you will be a loser.

    The goal should be to have fun and lose as slowly as possible.

    What else is there to know?

    • says:

      Hey Reggie – we certainly think this is pretty straightforward, but between those who get bad information out of social media forums, and those who simply don’t believe that machines are built fairly, we get a lot of comments about things they “know” are the case. And part of our mission is to address them and debunk them.

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