Some advice available on the topic of how to win at pokies is perfectly sound strategy, but some is perfectly ridiculous. Learning how to be a poker machine expert requires a little bit of reading and a little bit of homework. This isn’t because some complex mathematical trick exists that will increase your winnings (as is the case with blackjack and other skill games) but because you’ll need to wade through an ocean of bad advice and strategy to chance on the pearls of pokies wisdom.
A good place to start, whether you’ve been spinning the reels for decades or are just starting a new gambling hobby, is to tackle a few myths and get the most common bad strategic advice out of the way.
Myth: Poker machines have a memory.
The first way to lose a lot of money playing poker machines: look for “hot” and “cold” games. People who don’t understand the basic mathematical truth about games of chance spend a lot of time categorizing games by a single factor – whether a machine has recently paid out a big jackpot or not. In this line of thinking, a “hot” pokie is one that hasn’t paid out a big prize in a while and is therefore supposedly “due” to pay one out. The opposite of a hot machine is, naturally, a “cold” one. These are games that have paid out a big prize recently and are therefore (according to bad poker machine strategy) less likely to do so in the near future.
The reason this myth is garbage is simple. It’s based on the false assumption that a machine has a memory. In order for a game to be “due” to pay out a big prize, it would have to somehow know that a lot of time has passed since it last paid out a big jackpot. This false assumption belies a misunderstanding of a concept that math nerds refer to as independent/dependent events. Pokies have no memory, and each time a player spins the reels, they’re facing the same set of odds they faced on the last spin. Past results have no bearing on current results.
Myth: A game’s payout percentage indicates whether a game is “good” or “bad.”
This myth is a little more difficult to overcome because payout percentages look like the kind of thing strategy experts would use. After all, aren’t these numbers based on statistics and math, the very things we’re using to debunk bad strategy? Yes and no. Don’t worry about that, though. To get over this myth, just remember one word: theoretical.
A payout percentage (a number like 90% or 99% posted on signs near the games) is a theoretical number indicating to casino management what percentage of the wagers placed on a game will be paid back to gamblers. Remember that this is a totally theoretical number.
The problem with this myth isn’t a concentration on this theoretical percentage, it’s the way people apply the number to their poker machine gambling. If this number is all a player focuses on when looking for a game, they’re missing the point. Instead of finding games as close to 100% as possible, you should look for a fun game (one with a licensed theme you’re drawn to, for example) with features you like (bonus games, a progressive jackpot, etc.) that accepts bets that you can afford and pays out reasonable fixed jackpots.
With those myths out of the way, let’s focus now on how to “win” on pokies.
The best thing a poker machine player can do for his bankroll and his mental state is to change his or her approach to the games altogether. Rather than thinking of the advice in this article as a method for winning more money, think of it as a method for enjoying yourself more.
After all, poker machines (and all other casino games) are designed to be fun. The cash you bring into the casino to gamble with is no different from the money you pay for a movie ticket, a ride at a theme park, or a round of golf. “Winning more” is a matter of increasing the value of your entertainment budget.
Besides some bonus rounds that pay bigger prizes to gamblers that have better hand-eye coordination, poker machines are based entirely on luck. There is no method for making yourself more lucky. So how do you make pokies more fun? Follow these three easy steps.
Step one: Play a variety of machines to find out what designers, game features, and other variables appeal to you the most.
The only way to figure out what games will entertain you the most is to play a lot of different titles. Until you know what kind of games pique your interest, set aside a small bankroll that will allow you to try out a dozen games. The more you play, the more you’ll know about your personal taste.
Step two: Develop a bankroll strategy.
This kind of strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. Figure out how much cash you can afford to lose and quit if you hit that number. On the flip side, work out a ceiling for your winnings, such as “If I win $100, I’ll walk away happy.” This will keep you from doing what the casino wants you to do, which is to continue to wager winnings to chase an even bigger payday. A final aspect of bankroll strategy: work out how much you can afford to wager each spin. Half a percent of your total bankroll is a conservative per-spin wager that should keep you playing (and having a good time) for a few hours. For example, when we have a $500 bankroll, we stick to games that let me bet $2 – $2.50 per round.
Step three: Leave the casino when you feel angry, frustrated, or “down.”
Getting your emotions involved is the best way we know to burn through your money and wipe out the entertainment value of your bankroll. To that end, when you feel the first stirrings of emotion, step away from the game. Not ready to finish gambling? That’s fine. Go have a soda or a bite to eat, take a little walk around the casino floor, maybe even sit at a blackjack table or place a couple of roulette bets. If you start to feel better, you can go back to your poker machine. The point here is to manage your emotions at least as well as you manage your bankroll.
Players who have a good time and walk out of the casino with a happy look on their face are, in the end, winners. Regardless of how much cash you have in your pocket, if you enjoyed yourself and you didn’t lose your rent money, you’ve improved your winnings. Should a poker machine actually add a little cash to your wallet, so much the better.