How often do slot machines payout?

  • 2023-06-26

We’ve all been there, just before parting ways with your money, you think ‘Will I actually get a return on this slot machine?’. We deep dive into the facts and figures surrounding slot machines and how often (if at all) you can anticipate winning.

Return to Player: RTP – What is it?

Every slot machine, whether online or in-person should have a percentage figure listed on it. This is the RTP% which is a decent metric of how the game behaves on average. The gambling commission defines the working practice of RTP as:

If a gaming machine displays an 85% RTP, you should not expect to win an average of 85 pence for every £1 you stake during a playing session.

Of course, that average is usually measured over a lot of plays, quite possibly in the tens of thousands – so unless you spend all day spinning the machine, it’s unlikely that you’ll reach meet the average. The caveat is that you could strike it lucky on that one spin and win the jackpot.

Hit Frequency

While RTP is a legal requirement for operators to list openly, unfortunately, the hit frequency isn’t as easily accessible to potential gamers. This information gives a great insight into how often the machine pays out. Hit frequency is measured by the number of winning combinations divided by the total number of possible combinations.

For example, a machine might have 10 winning combinations but 5000 different ways the machine could land on. A simple equation of 10/5000 will allow you to work out that the chance you’ll land a winning sequence is 0.2% of the time.

Sometimes the best way to see how these odds play out is to actually take part, so if you want to play free slots for fun, you can try this list of slot games where you can also win real money and see if luck is on your side.

Game Complexity Adds Risk (and to an extent, Reward)

There was a time when the only slot machine was the one in the corner of the bar. Typically players wanted to roll on a three-of-a-kind, whether it was 7s, cherries, bells, or another icon the game was very simple. This option is still available but most online slot games and physical machines have been manipulated to add more elements of play.

i.e. you’ve spun the machine, not won, and then the game gives you the chance to hold one of your icons for the next spin. In theory, it might seem like you’ll have a better chance to win, but truly the odds are still against you, and a lot of the games are pre-determined anyway (be sure to read up on the terms and conditions for clarification).

Now in a crowded marketplace where you can play on multiple themes of slot machines, imagine the prior example on steroids. You might think you’re travelling further through the jungle by playing that extra spin, getting closer to that graphic chest of treasure but really these are just marketing mechanisms to extract more money from you. If you like these designs, that’s great but a simpler game may foster a better chance of success.


In totality, while people go to slot machines with the idea of hitting it big – there the chances are always stacked against you, you have a better chance with games like poker as they have variables that you can control. Of course, that’s not to say that slot machines don’t serve a purpose. Some people prefer not having to think too hard about a casual bet and slots often that luxury as very little skill is required.