What Most Gamblers Get Wrong about Skill Slots

Stop Counting Cards (And Try This Instead)

Clint Eastwood Slot Machines

Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell gave birth to slot machines. Fey’s 1895 invention featured a very simple setup that operated through mechanical drums and playing cards.

Fast-forward to today and slot machines are much more sophisticated. Modern video slots feature 3D and 4D graphics, bonus rounds, and soundtracks.

Slot machines still dominate casino floors thanks to all of these features. However, slots popularity is beginning to wane among millennials.

Game manufacturers have responded by rolling out skill-based slot machines in an attempt to woo younger generations.

This move is based on the idea that millennials don’t want to mindlessly spin reels when they’re facing a disadvantage. Skill-based slots are an attempt to introduce more interactivity into the equation.

But the term “skill based” is somewhat misleading as it pertains to these games. Keep reading to find out more about these machines along with why they’re so widely misperceived among many players.

What Is a Skill Based Slot Machine?

A standard slot machine is based on pure random chance. You spin the reels and let fate take care of the rest.

The hope is that luck is on your side and you win money. You have no control over the results once you hit the spin button.

Of course, you can do a few things to improve your odds of winning before playing a game. But the key word here is “before.”

A skill-based slot differs by giving you some degree of control over the results. This is most often done through bonus rounds.

Here’s an example of a skill-based bonus round:

You’re playing a Wild West-themed game.
The bonus round requires you to shoot outlaws in an allotted time to earn credits.
You move a cursor around to shoot the outlaws.
The amount of credits you receive is based on how many targets you hit.

Some of the biggest developers are now rolling out skill-based slots in an effort to attract a new crowd. IGT and Scientific Games are both combining retro arcade games with slot machines.

Scientific Games has released Space Invaders, which is based on a 1978 arcade classic. The Space Invaders bonus round involves shooting enemy spacecrafts as they inch towards the bottom of the screen.

IGT has rolled out Centipede, an Atari game that was launched in 1981. Centipede features a bonus round where you shoot at a giant centipede and other creatures as they travel towards the ground.

You can see that these new generation slots combine skill elements that haven’t previously been seen in casino gaming.

Contrast this to standard slots bonus rounds, where your results are totally randomized. Here’s an example of a standard bonus:

You’re taken to a second screen where you see nine pots.
You choose three of the pots to reveal bonus rounds.
It seems like your choices make a difference.
But the odds are completely random.
Therefore, your choices don’t really matter in theory.

Like any new form of gaming, skill-based slots have been slow to catch on. However, it’s likely that they do become more popular at some point in the near future.

The Common Misbelief About Skill Based Slots

The biggest misconception surrounding skill-based slot machines is that your results are largely dependent on skill.

The reality is that skill-based games work just like other slots for the most part. You spin the reels and rely on chance to win.

It’s only when you trigger the bonus round that you get to influence the results. Even at that, you’re only changing a few percentage points on the return to player (RTP).

Here’s an example:

A skill-based slot pays anywhere from 90% to 96% RTP.
The 6% gap is based on how well you play the bonus round whenever it’s triggered.
The house still holds at least a 4% edge over the best bonus players.

Marcus Yoder, Vice President, Regulated Markets Business Development at Gamblit Gaming, LLC, highlighted this misbelief when speaking with BMM Testlabs.

“We have seen that the term ‘skill-based game’ is really not the right way to classify these games,” he explains.

“As this description implies that the games base their outcomes predominately on the skill of the player. They most often don’t.”

Yoder says that skill-based slots are better described as Player Interactive EGMs. He also explains that skill games are mostly random.

“The amount of skill to play these interactive games varies, but in no instance is skill the predominate determining factor,” he says.

“Gamblit games actually use RNG math in a traditional sense to generate the wagering outcome. Our games are just simply more interactive and we think fun to play, than a traditional slot machine.”

Do Skill Based Slot Machines Have a Big Future in Gaming?

Many people have looked at the introduction of skill-based gaming as an attempt to change the course of casino gambling.

But this isn’t quite the case. Yoder points out that Player Interactive EGMS isn’t a “fork in the road,” but rather an introduction to a new style of gaming.

“Much like billions of people like different styles of games on their phones, we see different types of players gravitating to the various genres we have on our Player Interactive EGMs,” he says.

“There’s no question that these games will have a bigger footprint on the floors going forward making it just a matter of timing.

“Based on our field data, we are bringing new players into the mix, so our games are complimentary, not disruptive to the traditional player market of today. We’re focused not on a revolution, but incremental growth.”

Again, skill-based slot machines aren’t taking the industry by storm. But it’s important to note that these games have only been around for a few years.

Casinos still draw plenty of revenue from traditional slot machines. Game manufacturers still have time to experiment with and tweak skill-based slots as needed.

What’s interesting is that skill-based gaming isn’t just relegated to slot machines. Gamblit has even introduced gambling arcade games to the casino scene.

Gamblit’s Danger Arena is a first-person shooter that’s styled like Halo. The goal is to shoot as many robots as possible and boost your credits.

The amount of attention being devoted to skill games likely means that it’s only a matter of time before they draw more gamblers. You can expect to see skill-based slots and arcade games become a bigger and bigger part of the gambling scene.

Other Ways You Can Win with Slot Machines

Skill-based games may not be the end all to winning more money. But there are some things you can do to win more with slot machines.

Everything from searching for the highest payout percentages to capitalizing on rewards will improve your results. Here’s a closer look at what you can do to win more.

Look for Slots with High RTP

All slot machines are programmed to offer a certain payout percentage. Games with higher RTP give you a better chance to win more money over time. For example, a slot with 95% RTP will pay better than a game with 92% RTP.

You can find payout percentages for online slots simply by googling “[game name RTP].” Doing so should bring up a number of results that show the game’s payback.

Unfortunately, finding payout percentages for land-based slot machines isn’t so easy. Developers don’t release this information.

Your best bet is to look at state gaming reports or any other online info. These reports show the average RTP for each coin denomination.

Penny slots pay the lowest in the 90-92% range, while everything from nickel to $5 slots pay in the 94-96% range. Of course, you shouldn’t play a higher coin denomination just because it offers better RTP.

You’ll theoretically lose more money based on the higher bets you’re making. Nevertheless, you should still consider bigger coin denominations if you like betting big anyways.

Pay Attention to Hit Frequency

RTP isn’t the only factor you should consider with regard to how slot machines pay. You also want to think about hit frequency, which refers to how often slots make payouts.

Games with high hit frequency see you earn more payouts per spin. The only drawback is that the jackpot and other prizes aren’t usually as big with these slots.

Slot machines with low hit frequency deliver fewer prizes per spin. However, these games also typically have the largest jackpots.

Most game developers don’t list hit frequency (a.k.a. volatility rating). Therefore, you need to guess by looking at a couple of main factors.

You first want to look at the jackpot size. Larger jackpots are normally reserved for low hit frequency games, while smaller top prizes are often found with high hit frequency slots.

Next, you should check how many small payouts are available. A slot that offers payouts worth 2 coins, 3 coins, 5 coins, and 10 coins likely has good hit frequency.

Take Advantage of Bonuses & Rewards

Casinos give out VIP rewards and other bonuses to entice customers and retain their play. You should take advantage of these offers to help pad your winnings.

Land-based casinos offer comps based on your playing volume. Free drinks, cashback, meals, and hotel stays are common rewards in brick-and-mortar casinos.

Giving the casino more betting action makes you eligible for more of these rewards. Just make sure you sign up for the player’s club first so that you actually get comped.

Online casinos start new players off with a welcome bonus, which normally consists of a deposit bonus and/or free spins.

The deposit bonus is based on a match percentage of your first deposit. Here’s an example:

A casino offers a 100% match bonus up to $100.
You deposit $50.
You’re now eligible for earn a $50 bonus.

Free spins give you a chance to make real money slots spins without risking anything. You technically keep whatever you win from the free spins.

But remember that online casinos attach terms and conditions to all of their bonuses. You must meet the terms before the bonus money is officially yours.

Internet casinos also offer standard comps based on your play. The most-common reward is cashback, where you can exchange comp points for a certain amount of money.

If you’re going to play slots anyways, you might as well take advantage of the rewards available at both online and land-based casinos.

Come Up with a Bankroll Management Plan

Many slots players wonder why their money disappears so quickly. The reality is that their money vanishes so fast because they don’t pay attention to bankroll management.

Bankroll management is the practice of managing your slots funds in a responsible manner. The biggest goal is to avoid betting money that you can’t afford to lose.

The second goal is to spread your funds over multiple sessions so that you don’t lose it all right away. Getting more casino visits out of your bankroll is preferable to losing everything in one session.

Slots bankroll management can be accomplished in several ways. One of the easiest is to assume that you’re going to lose a certain amount of “units” per session.

A unit refers to your average bet size. $0.25 would be your unit size, for example, if you’re betting a quarter per spin.

You then need to estimate how many units you stand to lose on average. Obviously you hope to win money instead of losing, but it’s important to prepare for the worst.

Here’s an example:

You’re playing a slot with 95% RTP (5% house edge).
You perform approximately 600 spins per hour.
Your unit size is $0.25.
600 x 0.05 x 0.25 = 7.5 ($7.50)
5 / 0.25 = 30
You’ll lose 30 units per hour.

I’d tack on an extra 10 units to this figure just to be safe. Again, slot machines are extremely volatile and can see you lose quite a bit in a short span.

Knowing your hourly loss rate helps you plan for how long your bankroll will last. You can then ration your bankroll out over a set number of sessions.

Dedicate Most of Your Time to Online Slots

Playing internet slots is one last tip to improving your odds of winning. Online slots have better payout percentages on average than land-based machines.

The average online game delivers between 94% and 96% RTP. Land-based slots are all over the place, paying anywhere from 88% to 98%.

Again, the lower range is reserved for penny slot machines. The upper range is rare and normally only found with high coin denomination slots.

This brings me to another point in that you normally achieve the same payback with an online slot regardless of your bet size.

Here’s an example:

You’re playing an online game with a coin size ranging from $0.01 to $5.
You must play all 25 paylines.
This makes the minimum bet worth $0.25 (one cent across every line).
You still qualify for 95% RTP regardless of if you bet $0.01 or $5 per line.

Always check a game’s help screen to make sure that you don’t have to bet more to qualify for the jackpot and certain bonuses. Generally speaking, though, you’ll still be in line for the top payback regardless of your coin denomination.


The biggest thing to understand about skill-based slot machines is that they’re not predominantly skill. Instead, they work like regular slot machines for the most part.

You still spin the reels and wait for random results. Skill only comes into the equation when you trigger the bonus.

Of course, it’s a big deal for slots players to have some degree of control over their results. A skill-based bonus lets you influence payback by a few percentage points.

If you’re good at video games, then you’ll have a stronger chance of winning in the bonus and increasing your RTP. Just remember that the increase isn’t as big as many think.

The best way to improve your slots results is through conventional methods. These methods include searching for high RTP, playing online slots, picking up bonuses/rewards, paying attention to hit frequency, and managing your bankroll.

Of course, it also doesn’t hurt to combine all of this with a skill-based slot. Mastering the bonus round will improve your chances of winning more money.

Author: Jordan Bennett