Playing the pokies is fun because you don’t have to worry about strategy, yet you have a chance at a bigger prize per money wagered than many games in the casino. This provides a bigger thrill for some players, but at the cost of having a higher house edge. Whether in a land-based or online setting, gambling on the poker machines should be for fun or entertainment–never for profit or “winning back what you lost”.
The first thing players should get clear is this: pokie playing has no strategy component. In blackjack, you learn basic strategy so you can maximize your optimal payout percentage. You learn card counting to go beyond that optimal level, sometimes even giving yourself an edge over the casino. No counterpart to basic strategy or card counting exists when playing pokies.
A player can learn a few tips which might help, but these don’t give a player an advantage over the casino. For instance, one solid tip for pokies is to place the max bet, because you face a lower house edge when you do so (in many instances). A max bet is often the only way to activate a progressive jackpot. Even if you’re playing a flat-top machine, the maximum wager is likely to pay off a higher percentage jackpot, such as 1000 for 1-coin, 2000 for 2-coin, and 5000 for 3-coin. In these instances, it’s a good strategy to max out your wagers.
It’s also a good idea to learn money management, because this can help preserve your winnings when you get lucky and limit the damage when you get unlucky. Learning about a “loss limit” and a “win goal” helps do these things, but it won’t give you a theoretical edge. All you do on the offline or online pokies is hit a button. No strategy exists which tells you when is the best time to hit “spin”.
Now that all machines are electronic, all pokies use a random number generator to produce results. An RNG is a computer chip which spits out thousands of number combinations per second. Each of these corresponds to a certain reel alignment. The chances that the number corresponding to a progressive jackpot prize is going to occur are tiny. Also, each number is independent of all other numbers. They aren’t on some loop which can be predicted. Even if you could somehow divine some pattern in these numbers (and you can’t), the chances of guessing the right millisecond to click “spin” to win that jackpot would be difficult, to say the least.
For that reason, reel alignments don’t tell you anything about your chances of winning or losing. Whether the last player who was sitting in front of a machine tells you nothing about your chances. Random chance is going to determine whether you win or lose.
Let’s go back to the thought that nothing you do can give you a theoretical edge when playing pokies. Poker machines have a low payout percentage, and thus a high house edge. Of all the casino games, pokies take more money. In some casinos, roughly 70% of the revenues come from poker machines. These games also take a bigger percentage of your cash. Blackjack and video poker might take less than 1% of the money you wager. Baccarat and craps offer a house edge of around 1.4%, while European roulette played with “la partage” or “en prison” rules pay at 1.35% for the even-money wagers. European roulette played without the aforementioned rules pay at 2.7%, while any better besides the even-money bets pay at the same percentage while using the rules made famous in Monte Carlo. American roulette offers a 5.26% house edge.
That’s among the best land-based and online pokies odds. High roller pokie players might receive games of 3%, but most gamblers tend to face a house edge around 5% to 15%. Only the big six wheel in brick-and-mortar casinos, online scratch-offs in Internet casinos, and keno games in both offer odds as bad or worse. Actually, a few wagers in craps and the side bet in games like Let It Ride and Caribbean Stud also (usually) have worse odds, but our point is gamblers face long odds when gambling on pokies. Nothing you do changes that fact, so please understand that the next time some so-called expert tries to pull a fastie.
We mentioned this before, but we want to reiterate. As a trade-off, players receive a chance at bigger payouts when they do win. Blackjack is in many ways the diametric opposite of pokies in a casino. Blackjack offers a low house edge and a chance to use strategy, but it usually only offers 1:1 payouts or, at most, 3:2 on a blackjack. It’s a grinder game. If you want to win a lot of money, you’ll have to wager huge amounts.
Pokies, on the other hand, provide a chance at a huge progressive jackpot with a relatively small risk every spin. The odds are low you’ll win a progressive jackpot, but many online pokies offer a chance at a million dollar jackpot with a $5 wager (or less). (See Major Millions.)
On the same principle, the 3-reel classics which many live casinos and online Microgaming sites offer may not sound as exciting as the big progressive jackpot machines, but they provide an exciting middle ground.
If you want a chance at a good jackpot prize, but you don’t want to sit around waiting for a million dollar jackpot, you can play the 3 reel, 1 payline machines. These offer jackpots between 2000 and 15000 coins, but with a much better chance of hitting than the progressives. That’s why you’ll see so many of the old school players of pokies sitting in front of the three-reel machines.
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