How Long Does a Slot Take to Reach Its Intended Payback?

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97 percent payback slot machine

How long does it take for a slot machine to achieve its intended long term payback? That’s the crux of today’s question:

What is the time period over which slots can confirm paying back a certain percentage? i.e., after a large jackpot, how long does that machine take for it to settle back to its % equilibrium? I never hear of experts speaking about duration when discussing %’s. I am aware of random number generation, but for a company to set its machines to a certain percentage – at what time is this % NOT CORRECT…..I know I sound confused with these similar questions, but that’s it….I am confused! Lol

Michael H.

Ready for an even more confusing answer? It’s almost never exactly at the intended percentage.

Time is not the discussed data point because it’s in large part about the number of outcomes (in this case spins completed), which can happen in a variable time window, depending on how often a machine is played, how fast a machine is played, how long bonuses take, and so on. So it’s not necessarily about time, but the number of spins conducted on a slot machine.

Machines also don’t settle at an equilibrium either. Because a slot has an equal chance of hitting any one outcome vs. any other, the more spins that are completed, the more likely each of the outcomes it his roughly an equal number of times.

Of course, when you get started, it can be wildly off. Imagine a massive jackpot being hit in the first 20 spins. Or imagine a run of losing spins at the beginning. But mathematically, over time, it will slowly converge on that expected outcome.

This is why when testing labs review slots, they test it by doing a massive number of spins – tens of millions of spins. The people who develop the games will test them into the billions of spins themselves to make sure it will approach that percentage.

But the randomness aspect still means hitting that target exactly doesn’t happen – instead it’ll fall into a range that gets closer and closer as the number of spins increases. Every time another spin is completed, the math changes, and the percentage paid out (if you kept the decimal places going) will adjust upward or downward by some small amount.

The thing to remember is that if a jackpot is hit, the machine doesn’t “return” to equilibrium in that it favors less winning outcomes or anything like that, and the same goes if it hasn’t hit a jackpot in awhile. A slot’s past performance is not a predictor of future opportunities – the chances of hitting any outcome is the same after a losing spin as after a jackpot.

So ultimately, the actual percentage paid amount will tend to differ, usually by a small percentage, from the exact amount set. That’s OK – when you put together hundreds or thousands of machines in one casino, being played by thousands of players a day, it will ultimately even out over time and roughly hit the intended overall payback percentage the casino is trying to achieve.

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