What Can a Slot Session Tell You About a Game?

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Brian using his brain

As regular readers have probably seen, many players attempt to take their experience from a round or two on a slot and reach conclusions about a game. But what is really possible to tell from a session or two?

A machine is giving small bonuses and in the case of a blue Buffalo game, got 0 on a bonus with 8 spins. Do you move to another machine since it seems the payouts are low and very minimal?

Vincent B.

While you certainly can move, and might as well if you’re not having fun, what you observed doesn’t really give you enough information about the machine. 0 bonuses can happen on high paying slots, but ones that are simply very volatile.

We thought we’d use your question as a jumping off point for a larger one – what can you actually learn about a slot machine from a round or two of play?

What You Can Learn

One of the things you may be able to discern is something called Hit Frequency – it’s the percentage of spins that yield some sort of payout, regardless of how much. Lower volatility slots tend to have a higher hit frequency, but pay out less when you do get a win. 

Conversely, higher volatility slots will often have a lower hit frequency, but pay more when you do have some sort of a win.

A session can also give you a general idea of what you’re playing for. Is it a bonus? A progressive? A hold and spin feature? Some combination thereof? Usually within a session you can get to know the game and what its general thrust is for players.

What You Can’t Learn

What you won’t be able to tell is, for instance, a slot machine’s payback. A couple hundred spins is not nearly enough to get an idea of the game’s long term payback potential. Getting a bad or small bonuses doesn’t mean the game doesn’t pay, it just means a lot of the money is in infrequent, big wins.

The highest paying slot machines can have dead spin runs – it’s the nature of the randomness within the range out of outcomes possible. And the worst paying machines can hit jackpots. A round or two of experience aren’t going to tell you what to expect in the long term.


Ultimately what you choose to do as you play is up to you – if you’re not having fun, you should move. But changing machines because you think it pays low is more of an emotional response than anything you actually know about the game, so don’t lean into that too much.

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