Should slot players check pay tables, like video poker players?

 Should slot players check pay tables, like video poker players?

Experienced video poker players know to check pay tables before they play. Higher pay tables mean higher long-term returns, although anything can happen in a short session.

But what about slot players? I received an email from a player who took it for granted that higher pay tables mean higher-paying slot machines. “I’ve been playing the slots for 40 years and have played in 96 casinos, by my count,” he wrote. “We’re told to check the payout schedule on the back glass of every machine.”

Checking pay tables is not among the standard pieces of advice I give to slot players. For one thing, there’s not as much pay table variation on slots as on video poker. It’s not unusual for me to see Jacks or Better in 9-6, 8-5 and 7-5 versions in the same casino, but on slot machines payoffs usually are going to be the same on games of the same type. When there are variations, it’s usually at the top of the pay table especially on progressive jackpots.

But even when there are differences in pay tables, they don’t tell us anything about the odds of the game. In video poker, there must be an equal chance of every card being dealt on every hand. That’s why we can calculate the payback percentage on a video poker machine just by looking at the pay table. That enables us to devise strategies.

On slot machines, machines with different pay tables can have the same payback percentage, and machines with the same pay tables can have different pay back percentages. We can’t tell the frequency of winning combinations without inside information, and can’t calculate payback percentage from the pay table.

Comparison shopping for pay tables doesn’t work on the slots.  My best advice: Choose slot games you like, have fun, and don’t bet more than you can afford.

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