Anyone who spends a bit of time on the slot floor of a casino will hear players refer to machines as “loose” or “tight.” Loose slots are those that are paying out frequently or in amounts considered to be above average, while tight slots are the opposite, yielding less than the expected norm. Indeed, entire casinos are often noted for being loose or tight because their slots have been programmed at the factory to payout at rates above or below local standards, respectively.
For example, when a slot machine has a pre-set payout ratio of 98%, it can be expected to return to the player as winnings 98 cents out of every dollar wagered. On the flip side, the casino depends on this ratio to predict its slot income over any period of time as 2 cents out of each dollar bet. Another casino might have its machines set to payout 98.4%, which may not seem like much difference, but the “looseness” will show up in increased player winnings and reduced casino income, which it hopes to make up through greater volume of play.
Spotting Loose Slots
On a casino slot floor, not all slots will be set at the same payout ratio. Some will be configured to payout higher than average and others will be lower. Many casinos draw attention to their loose slots by posting banners or signs above them, such as “99% Pay Back.” However, finding a loose slot typically takes a bit more sleuthing.
There is some evidence to support the theory that the physical location of a slot machine within a casino can be linked to its payout ratio. For example, in some casinos slots near high-traffic areas, such as entrances and exits, have been identified as looser than those tucked away in corners where nobody can see them pay out. Slots located on elevated carousels, where they can be easily seen, may be loose, too, and the same goes for those positioned by the intersections of walkways passing through the casino.
On the other hand, slots next to the pit area are believed to be notorious tight, because pit managers don’t want their table games players distracted by ringing bells and flashing lights. Tight slots may also be grouped near sportsbooks, bars, lounges, or café areas. The reason: patrons with loose change in their pockets may be tempted to play a bit nearby and lose quickly.
Upon the unveiling of a brand-new slot game, lots of attention is desired, so the machine will often be set up in a prominent location. The idea is to have it seen by as many potential players as possible. If the payback percentage of the new machine is set a bit higher (looser) than average, the passersby will see players winning frequently. Experienced slot players say the loosest slots are always found at such introductions, upon the opening day of a new casino or following the renovation of slot floor section.
Many players swear that slots are set tighter toward the end of the month, when casinos strive to make monthly income quota, or on weekends, when visitor traffic is high. However, resetting the payout ratio for slots takes more than the turn of a screw or turn of a dial. It requires recalibrating the program that drives the slot’s computer, so it is highly unlikely that payouts are changed frequently, if at all. More often, slots deemed too loose are taken out of service and replaced by tighter ones.
A better indication of what slots are loose is when a lot of local or regular players are seen in a certain section of the slot floor—a sure sign that the machines there must be doing something right. And if another section of the slots area seems deserted most of the time, that’s a pretty good indicator of tight slots. A player who looks for trends and openings will find them. Loose slots do exist, and they can be found much more easily than might be first imagined.