The Best Long-Term Strategies for Playing Progressive Jackpot Slots

By Randy Ray
Published on November 09, 2018
Playing Progressive Jackpot Slots

The slots world is filled with many different types of games. But progressive jackpot slots are by far the most popular.

A progressive slot funds the jackpot with small increments from every bet. The amount taken from each wager only ranges from 1% to 3%.

These tiny amounts don’t seem like much, but progressive jackpots grow to immense proportions when thousands of players are contributing.

Chasing a slots prize worth six or seven figures is obviously exciting. The only problem, though, is that most players take a bad approach with these games.

They fail to account for the volatility, bankroll management, and high loss rate. Not factoring in these variables causes one to quickly burn through their bankroll.

I’m going to cover all of these aspects so that you don’t make the same blunders as other players.

The strategies presented in this guide will help you develop a good long-term approach to playing progressive slot machines.

Understand the Volatility of Progressive Slots

The number-one thing that you should understand about progressive slots is how volatile they are.

Volatility refers to how closely short-term results correlate with a statistical average. This concept is helpful when deciding how often you can expect to win in any casino game.

Here’s an example using baccarat.

  • The banker hand features a 1.06% house edge
  • The banker bet pays 1:1
  • You win 50.68% of these wagers (minus 5% commission)
  • The fact that you win over half of your bets makes baccarat a low-volatility

Slot machines differ greatly from baccarat and other table games because payouts aren’t made at a 1:1 ratio. Instead, slots feature a wide variety of payouts that can range from a single coin to thousands or even millions of credits.

Here’s an example using a generic slots pay table.

  • 5 diamonds = 10,000 coins
  • 5 triple BARs = 2,000 coins
  • 5 gold bars = 500 coins
  • 5 silver bars = 100 coins
  • 5 rubies = 25 coins
  • 5 copper bars = 5 coins

You can see that payouts range from 5:1 to 10,000:1 compared to your original bet (per payline). For example, betting five credits per line and getting five triple BARs on one line would deliver 10,000 coins (5 x 2,000).

Slot machines’ wide payout disparity from top to bottom means that they can’t pay with the same consistency as baccarat. These games have to make up for disproportionate prizes at the top by paying you less often.

Progressive slots with huge jackpots are even more volatile than the average slot machine. If a game developer seeds a progressive payout at $1 million, then it’s guaranteed that the slot will have lower hit frequency.

Of course, progressive slot machines don’t always have to pay less often than the average slot. Games with smaller jackpots can offer a fairly even payout distribution.

Common examples include older online slots developed by RealTime Gaming (RTG). RTG’s older games have progressive jackpots ranging from $1,000 to $2,500 and see you win small payouts more frequently.

Always use slots volatility to determine how often you’ll win. High hit frequency becomes very important when you have a smaller bankroll and are trying to stay in the game.

Determine How Much Money You Can Risk

The worst thing that can happen with progressive slots is betting money you can’t afford to lose. You can make sure this doesn’t happen by determining how much money you can afford to risk on these games.

Nobody wants to think about losing their entire bankroll when playing progressive slot machines. Nevertheless, this scenario is something that you should always consider.

You can set either a weekly or monthly budget. But the key is that you have some sort of figure to rely on when setting a budget.

Everything starts with looking over your personal finances, including weekly/monthly income and expenses. Most people earn a weekly paycheck and can quickly figure out how much money they make after taxes.

Self-employed people have a more difficult time determining their weekly or monthly earnings. However, the average self-employed person should still have a vague idea of what they’re making.

The next step is to determine bills and expenses. Doing so requires more work than figuring out income, given that you must add up everything you spend within a week or month.

It’s still a good practice to do, though, so that you can get an accurate measure of your slots budget. Once you figure out your expenses and bills, subtract this figure from your income.

The final part is to determine how much disposable income to use on progressive slot machines. Here’s an example.

  • You make $3000 per month after taxes
  • You have $2000 worth of monthly bills and expenses
  • $3,000 – $2,000 = $1,000 in disposable income
  • You decide to use $400 of this amount (40%) on progressive slots every month

The percentage of disposable income that you use on slots is a personal preference. Of course, I don’t recommend using all of your free money on slot machines or any other casino game.

Set a Progressive Slots Bankroll

Once you figure out how much money you can afford to risk on progressive slots, the next step is to create a bankroll management plan.

Slots is one of the toughest games with regard to bankroll management. But you can create a good bankroll strategy with the right approach.

The best place to start is with breaking your bankroll down into units, which refers to your average bet size. Dividing your bankroll into units is a good way to make slots funds more manageable.

Here’s an example.

  • You have a $2,500 bankroll
  • You make $0.50 bets on average
  • 2,500 / 0.5 = 5,000 total wagers

Breaking your slots bankroll into units is a nice start. But you should take this further by figuring out how long your funds will theoretically last.

The average player loses between 300 and 350 units per hour on a progressive game. The upper range is appropriate for progressive slots with big jackpots.

Knowing the average amount of losses, you can then determine how long your bankroll will last in terms of hours.

Here’s an example.

  • Your slots bankroll is worth 5,000 units
  • You’re playing a progressive slot with a big jackpot
  • 5,000 / 350 = 14.29
  • Your bankroll will theoretically last for 14.29 hours

The hope is that you hit a big payout and walk away from the casino with a fortune. But you should be realistic and come up with a theoretical figure on your bankroll’s longevity.

Figure Out the Jackpot Rules for Each Slot You Play

One thing that you definitely want to avoid with progressive slots is failing to qualify for the jackpot.

Unfortunately, a large number of gamblers have this problem because they don’t look at the info (help) screen before playing.

You should always check the help screen prior to playing a slot. Doing so lets you see both the general rules and jackpot qualifications.

The jackpot qualifications are key because these explain exactly what you must do to win the progressive prize.

One of the most common stipulations is that you must use every payline. On a 50-line slot, this would require putting at least a penny on all 50 paylines ($0.50 per spin).

Some games require that you make a side bet (e.g., $1) to qualify for the jackpot. This means combining your regular bet and the side wager.

Random progressive slot machines don’t require anything specific other than the minimum bet. These games are nice for low rollers who still want to win a jackpot without betting a lot.

The only catch with random progressive slots is that you stand a better chance of winning with large bet sizes. But most players are fine with this as long as they have any opportunity to win with small wagers.

Set Stop-Loss Limits

No slots player enjoys losing their entire bankroll in a single session. Therefore, it’s wise to set stop-loss limits that help determine when to quit playing.

A stop-loss limit refers to the point at which you stop playing slots based on losses. This restriction can be any size you want, but smaller limits make for more conservative bankroll management.

Here’s an example of setting a stop-loss point.

  • You have 3,000 units
  • You set your stop loss at 600 units
  • You’ll immediately stop any session where you lose 600 bets

Another good idea is to set stop-win limits. Creating a stop-win point helps you bank profits after winning so much.

Stop-win limits are also a personal preference. I personally set a stop-win amount that lies somewhere between 15% and 25% of my bankroll.

In the case of a 3,000-unit bankroll, I’d quit playing after winning anywhere from 450-750 units.

Choose Progressive Slots with Good Base Payback

Return to player (RTP) for progressive slot machines is an overrated concept. Only one person wins the progressive jackpot before it’s reset.

Seeing as how just one player wins, everybody else misses out on the RTP portion that’s wrapped up in the top payout.

Nevertheless, you should still consider payback for any slot machine that you play. Base RTP, which refers to starting payback at the jackpot’s initial value, is especially important.

Here’s an example of base RTP.

  • Microgaming seeds their Mega Moolah progressive slot at $1 million
  • Base payback is 88.1% at the initial $1 million value
  • RTP grows as the $1 million jackpot grows

Mega Moolah is a wildly popular online progressive slot because it pays out some truly massive prizes. But 88.1% base payback is really low.

NetEnt offers more reasonable base RTP for their jackpot slots. Mega Fortune, which offers jackpots comparable to Mega Moolah, features 96.4% payback.

You can look forward to higher theoretical payout percentages after a jackpot has grown. For instance, Mega Moolah would feature better RTP when its jackpot grows to $5 million.

You should generally judge payback by the base amount, though, because odds are that you won’t hit the jackpot.

Consider Chasing Smaller Progressive Slots Jackpots

Players love going after big progressive jackpots for obvious reasons. Hitting a seven- or eight-figure jackpot can change one’s life.

I don’t blame anybody who’s of this mindset. But it’s important to keep smaller jackpots in mind since they offer notable advantages.

First off, you actually have a chance to win a smaller jackpot. Rather than facing something like 1 in 40 million odds of winning Mega Moolah’s or Mega Fortune’s jackpot, a 5,000-coin progressive prize may offer you around 1 in 30,000 odds.

I’m just throwing rough numbers out, because most game developers don’t publicly release the chances of winning their progressive jackpots.

One exception is IGT’s Megabucks, a Las Vegas slot machine that gives you 1 in 49,836,032 odds of hitting the multimillion-dollar jackpot. Megabucks charges $3 per spin, meaning almost $150 million must be spent on average to win the top prize.

Here’s an example to illustrate the incredible costs and low odds of winning a huge jackpot.

  • The Megabucks jackpot requires approximately $149,508,096 million in bets (3 x 49,836,032) to win
  • You wager $100,000 on Megabucks
  • 100,000 / 149,508,096 = 0.000688
  • You have a 0.069% chance of winning the Megabucks jackpot with $100k worth of bets

Betting $100k on any slots game would seemingly give you strong odds to win. The Megabucks example shows otherwise, though, because you don’t even have a 1 in 1,000 chance of winning.

Considering your astronomical odds of hitting a giant slots payday, I recommend spending some sessions chasing smaller progressive payouts.

Take Advantage of Promotions and Loyalty Rewards

You should take advantage of casinos’ loyalty programs and promotions if you’re going to play progressive slot machines anyways.

Loyalty programs deliver comp points every time that you make a slots bet. Most players are only comped on around 0.1% of their play, but this still makes a difference over time.

The following example illustrates this point.

  • You make $10,000 worth of bets
  • The beginning casino comp rate is 0.1%
  • 10,000 x 0.001 = $10 in comps

$10 isn’t going to make you rich. But this extra amount gives you another 20 bets if your average wager size is $0.50.

Also note that you can effectively raise your loyalty program status with more play. Improving your status increases your comp rate and allows you to earn more rewards.

Land-based and online casinos also run promotions that give you a chance to make extra money. Internet casinos are especially well known for this because they offer deposit bonuses, free spins, free chips, and more.

Be aware, though, that comps and promotions never match the theoretical losses required to earn them. Slots’ house edges are far higher than anything you’ll earn from freebies.

You can see this in the example below.

  • You bet $2,000 on a slot with a 5% house edge
  • 2,000 x 0.05 = $100 theoretical loss
  • The beginning casino comp rate is 0.1%
  • 2,000 x 0.001 = $2 comps
  • 100 / 2 = 50x difference between theoretical losses and comps

My point isn’t to dissuade you from taking advantage of free slots money. Instead, I’m just illustrating that you should never play progressive slots solely to earn comps.

That said, take advantage of promos and loyalty benefits when you’re already going to play slots. Adding just a few dollars to your bankroll could be the difference-maker in eventually winning a progressive jackpot.

Conclusion

Many gamblers become frustrated with progressive slots because these games can quickly drain a bankroll. But the good news is that you can avoid the frustrated group with a solid long-term strategy.

The first aspect to consider is the volatility of slot machines. Progressive slots — especially those with big jackpots — are extremely volatile when compared to other casino games.

You want to keep this volatility in mind when playing so that you don’t have unrealistic expectations regarding short-term winnings.

Bankroll management is another key to good progressive slots play. This is a multi-part process that involves creating a budget, dividing your bankroll into units, and determining how long your roll will last.

Other important aspects to successful progressive play include setting a stop-loss limit, finding games with good base payback, and taking advantage of rewards.

One optional aspect to consider is chasing smaller jackpots.

You may love the dream of winning a huge payout. But you actually have a chance to win a smaller progressive prize.

The overall goal of playing progressive slot machines is to have fun. And you’ll find that this goal is much more achievable when you have a good strategy.

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The Best Long-Term Strategies for Playing Progressive Jackpot Slots
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The Best Long-Term Strategies for Playing Progressive Jackpot Slots
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How do you reconcile playing progressive slot machines with being a savvy gambler? This post explains the best approach to take in the long run.
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