Winning at Slots


Who will benefit most from this article?

  • Those who feel they waste/lose too much money playing online slots
  • Those who are new to playing online casino slots
  • Thunderstruck* slot fans
  • Those who get sucked in by the Reverse Withdrawal feature too often!

* To accompany this article, load up the fully functional Flash version of Thunderstruck by clicking here.

Important Note – January 2007: This article was written in 2005. If you are looking for good casinos to play at, check out my online casino database for up-to-date information.

Many people have touted ways to “beat the online slots” in the past, but lets face it, the very nature of a slot machine is to randomise spins and ensure payouts leave a “house-edge”, however small. But there are ways to ensure that you at least maximise the potential for a return and play safely and for a reasonable length of time without the temptation to exceed your budget.

This article explains how I approach playing slot machines and reveals the slot strategies I use – with a reasonable degree of success – to ensure that my slot sessions don’t leave me high, dry and cashless! If i’m honest, I have very little “self-discipline” and find it very easy to keep plugging away ’til my money is gone and this can be fatal. The strategy i have devised always leaves me with a good long session, lots of fun and money in my pocket. For the purposes of this article, I will use my favourite (and most successful) online slot to demonstrate the strategy and that slot is Thunderstruck on the Microgaming platform. This 5-reel 9-line “bonus” slot is particularly suited to my strategy as you can pick up some pretty high wins. What’s more, the “bonus” feature (15 free spins, all wins trebled) is excellent fun and gives a great rush! Which in itself can be a dangerous thing I guess. After all, the more fun you have, the more you want to play!

Click here to open a realtime Flash version of Thunderstruck before you start. Click on the “Expert Mode” button and use this to practice the strategy outlined below.

There are two fundamental points to my playing strategy that are absolutely imperative. The first is picking the right online casino (knowing which ones to use is the hard part – that is hopefully explained here) and the second is managing the wagers to ensure a return.

So lets deal with the casino first. If you are a UK player wagering in pounds, and want to play on the Microgaming (MG) slots, then there are now two choices. If you are wagering in Euros or Dollars, also on Microgaming slots, then there is potentially more choice but I have chosen (for demo purposes) a casino below that I know will do what we want. If you are playing RTG slots then I fear you will find this step tricky (I don’t play RTG so I could be wrong). If your choice of platform is Cryptologic then, because they use Ecash, the choice is almost irrelevant (however Ecash needs to 2 days to email you a “cashout” PIN number and its essential to have this in place first). So why is the casino we play so important?

Well, the problem we have on the MG and RTG platforms is the gamblers biggest bain – the Reverse Withdrawal “feature”. Yes, its touted as a “feature” that many gamblers supposedly love, but in reality it means the “Law of the Gambler” can be applied. This law states that “a gambler shall continue until he has no more money to wager“. This is especially true with casino slots. Its incredibly easy to hit a bad streak, dry up on your deposit and “reverse” a previous withdrawal. In our strategy, we are going to be withdrawing regularly throughout a session (hopefully) and it’s essential that we can’t get our hands on the money we take out. But on the face of it, its a sad fact (for us) that every MG and RTG casino – bar one – has this in place. But all is not lost.

In actual fact, the two casinos I elude to do have the option to reverse, but one also has a second stage process that allows you to “flush” the withdrawal altogether (meaning it starts its way back to your bank account/credit card/wallet service and leaves the holding area) and the other will flush the withdrawal when you email them after a session. No more temptation! The casino that allows immediate withdrawal is Ladbrokes Casino, a UK casino run by a well-known bookmaker. The one that you email is 32Red (and this is the casino I use most, playing in Euros). Ladbrokes’ comps are minimal, but the withdrawal feature makes it an excellent choice. If you live anywhere other than the USA, Germany, Netherlands, Australia, Hong Kong or France, go get one of these two now. If you live in one of the countries above, then we need to find you an onlinecasino that will minimise the time a Reverse is allowed for. In fact, although a UK player, I have one other MG casino that I use and play in Euros. So if I’m on a bad run at one, I can switch to this one. Also, you get more Euros or Dollars to your pound so when your budget is tight, playing in Euros gives you more time for your money. Anyway, I digress. My suggestion for the rest of you is to download from Roxy Palace (they pay very slightly slower but have 10-minute support!.

We are now set to start playing knowing that we can safely withdraw without the temptation of “re-investing”. This is essential as we need to have a “cut-off” point where we say “OK, thats where I stop” – and this forces us to do this while we (all being well) still have some money for a rainy day! This is all well and good, but we still need to win some money from the beast in question. So pick your slot (as mentioned i’m using MG’s “Thunderstruck” for this article) and let’s get started.

First up, take a look at your “budget” for this session and decide which denomination of coin you are going to play to start with (bearing in mind we’ll be going up from here!). If you are going to stand a chance of winning in the shorter or longer term, you have to vary the wagers – the house edge would just bleed you dry over time if you stick with the same amount every spin. The skill is to win on the up! Some slots reward you with better top-end payouts if you stake more than 1 coin per spin. I’d suggest picking a slot that doesn’t do this (most don’t anyway) as we’ll be changing stakes (wagers) quite regularly. Thunderstruck, thankfully, does not payout a diferential on coins staked. As an example of Thunderstruck, if I have 200 Euros in my budget, i’ll start at a 5 cent denomination playing 2 coins (9 lines x 5c x 2 = 90c per spin). The beauty of these MG 9 line slots is that you can play from 1c up to mega-money (90 euros a spin on some!). But I know that this level will probably give me a minimum of an hours play and more likely nearer 2 hours. Adjust your starting stake accordingly!

So i’ve set my starting point at 90c per spin (use the “Expert Mode” Auto-Play feature) (You can set this on the Flash version to set the number of spins). I will play 50 spins at this level, no matter what happens. What we’re really playing for is the “bonus” Scatter-Rams feature where the big wins usually come. The chances of getting 3 Rams in a spin are 1 in 123.5 though it can happen quickfire or much less frequently obviously! The bonus on Thunderstruck will reward me with 15 “free spins” where each win in thoose spins pays 3 times the wager (90c / 9 lines x 3 x total win). From one of these bonus rounds, I’d be expecting a minum of 25 times my overall stake (25 x 90c) but it can get a lot higher. I’d classify a “good” bonus round as 35x stake and anything above that as perfectly acceptable! I’ve had well over 100x stake on quite a few occassions.

But lets assume we don’t get the bonus in these 50 spins. For the next 50, we up the stake to 3 coins (1.35 euros per spin) and then again to 1.80 euros after that 50 if it hasn’t showed up. With a 200 euro budget, i’d probably cycle round between 1.35 and 1.80 per 50 spins from then on if they were proving hard to find (though I’d consider myself unfortunate if after 200 spins the bonus Rams still hadn’t showed). If my budget was 300 euros, I’d probably step up to 2.25 euros after 1.80 had failed to attract the Rams before I stepped down again.

But let’s now say the Rams has showed in the first set of 50 spins at 90c. If it was a decent win (50 euros plus), i would immediately withdraw 75% (or thereabouts) of the win and leave the rest to bet with on top of what was left of my deposit. I’d then start all over at 50 spins at 90c and wouldn’t increase my stake until a clear 50 spins without the bonus had passed. The reasoning behind this strategy of starting low is this. If you start on a good run then you’ll be winning anyway so you’re ok and starting to form a bankroll of cash via withdrawals. If you don’t start well, then by increasing your stake after 50 spins, when the inevitable Rams hit, you’ll be in with a better chance of winning more from them. Of course, if you get your denominations wrong, this can get a bit hairy after 200/300 spins without the bonus turning up.

In the above strategy, all amounts are relative. But I would still look to withdraw 75% of any “big win” each time it hit. I follow a similar strategy in Cryptologic’s Double Bonus Video Poker incidentally, another game where big wins can happen fairly regularly. With the Thunderstruck slot, I tend to start with 500 euros and more often than not this will last me half a day or more (starting at 90c wagers again). The major observation here is that I’m never dipping into the money i’ve withdrawn. Of my 500 euros, i’ll stick 100 in at a time and if I run out, irresepective of how much is available to reverse from my withdrawals, i’ll deposit fresh until my limit is reached. By this time, any withdrawals are usually long gone from the reversal bin and in a couple of days, they will be back in my bank account. I may choose to start again, I may spend it elsewhere, but this method guarantees that I rarely go to bed wondering where I am going to find some money from.

One final note – i’d avoid using a credit card for gambling altogether. Get yourself a NETeller ewallet account (its free) or use a debit card, either of which will put a finite and reasonable limit on what you spend dependent on what you actually have, rather than what you can borrow! And if you win big, remember me 😉