I finally discovered something that has a lower payback than slot machines – New Jersey Turnpike tolls! As I write this, we’re back on the East Coast for personal business. After landing at Newark, we had to drive up to the Boston area. I couldn’t believe the toll from Newark airport to northern end of the Turnpike. It was $3.60 to go about 20 miles. Throw in the $12 toll to cross the George Washington Bridge to cross into New York and I was out more than $15 after only being on the road for 25 minutes! It takes quite a bankroll to drive on these roads, and with NO chance of winning. We had only left NJ less than a year ago and all these tolls had gone up considerably since we left!
On a more serious note regarding slots, I received a very good question from a reader this past week. He acknowledged what I had written several weeks ago that the average slot machines paid only 92-93% and that video poker generally paid 97-100+%. He asked that given that casino gambling is just a form of entertainment, what is so bad about the idea of taking $100 of your bankroll to go for a huge jackpot on a slot machine, especially given that winning a similar amount at video poker would take a long time with smaller wins along the way. I have to admit, that it took me a little while for me to come up with a response.
I think the best I can come up with is that if you go in with your eyes open as to what you are doing then I can’t really say there is anything wrong with it. Gambling is entertainment and if it brings you enjoyment to take part of your bankroll and put it into a low payback slot machine with a jumbo-sized jackpot, that is your choice. If I have any issue with the concept it is that it is very hard, if not impossible to go into this with your eyes truly open. Yes, you can know the size of the jackpot, but you don’t know the probability of actually hitting it.
The other issue is that it is standard practice in casino gaming that if the game has a huge jackpot (usually Progressive) then the payback of the game tends to be even lower. This is true for both slot machines and even table game sidebets. Outside the casino, this is even truer for things like Lotto. Most state lotteries have paybacks in the 50-60% range. Players are willing to play games with very low paybacks in hope of winning that life altering prize. Again, however, in the case of Lotto, we are able to compute the probability of winning the top prize. This is not the case for slots.
While the low payback of regular slots is concerning, and the presumed even lower payback of a Progressive slot is even more concerning, the biggest concern still belongs to the notion that there is no way to know anything about a slot machine. We don’t know the probability of the jackpot spin or any other result. We have no way of knowing the overall payback of the machine by a simple glance at the glass. In a place like Nevada, the payback can be no less than 75% so that is about all we really know.
So, that all said, if you feel that you want to play a game that has a life-changing jackpot with a portion of your bankroll, I can understand the desire to try your hand at a slot machine. It is probably the only chance you have for a multi-million dollar prize. If you are looking for a gigantic jackpot, I would personally recommend a Pai Gow Poker sidebet or the Six-Card sidebet for Three Card Poker. The prizes will only be in the few hundred thousand to $1 million, but you’ll still be playing games with higher paybacks.
In the end, it is your money and you have to decide how you want to spend it and what provides you the most enjoyment. If chasing a mega jackpot on a low paying machines with a portion of your bankroll is what brings you joy, I won’t stop you.