False Wins: Lots of Noise, Little Money

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Sad Brian Christopher shows a small ticket

The days where slot machines had one or a handful of lines have long since passed, and the math behind how much a line pays has evolved over time. When your bets are spread across 30, 50 or 100 lines, it changes how payouts feel.

For instance, imagine a five line game, where you bet one credit per line. If three bars paid 5 credits, you got your money back when it landed.

Now imagine that same game with 30 lines and 30 credits – that 5 credits isn’t even close to what you put in. Some games it’s even more complex, where you do 30 lines but it’s more like 75 credits because of the additional money required for bonus features.

So, there’s plenty of slots nowadays where you can get a “win,” but it’s not really a win, because it’s less than your wager. The more formal term for this is “false wins,” because the game makes music like you won, shows animations, counts up the money, but it’s not actually a win.

Granted, the noise it makes tends to be more subdued, but in our brains we still process it as a win. Like other elements (such as those perceived persistence pots), it’s a way to make the game feel more active, and certainly getting something back is better than nothing. But it still means your balance is burning down, but meanwhile it is trying to make you think you’re winning more often than you actually are.

Do you like spins that only pay part of your bet back?

As players, we aren’t necessarily fond of the psychological games – 74 percent of players polled on Brian Christopher’s YouTube channel said they prefer to win at least their bet back. But one in five said that winning a part of the money back it at least something.

Higher volatility games may sprinkle in more of these types of wins to conserve the payouts for the big bonuses or line hits, so this can be a way to help balance the game out and make it feel more active. But lower volatility games can leverage this too – some games feel like they’re paying all the time, even though on many of the spins it’s a false win.

So now you know what to call them, and why they exist. Don’t get sucked in by the false wins!


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