This is not your mother's slot machine.
Last update: March, 2018.
For decades, the results of play on electronic gaming machines like slots and video poker were 100% random. Nothing at all influenced the outcome, just cold, hard randomness. Suddenly, that's changing. Nevada law changed in 2016 to allow machines with an element of skill, and in 2017 such machines started slowly creeping into the casinos.
The reason for the change is that casinos are hoping to appeal
to younger players with machines that play more like a videogame,
since younger players haven't shown much interest in traditional
slots. As older gamblers pass on, they haven't
been replaced with as many younger ones, and as a result casino
revenues have been plummeting.
|Gambling activity decreases with age|
|Age range||% of Vegas visitors
Denver Post, 2014 survey
So, is this working? The reports are mixed, and it's
still too early to tell what the long-term result will be.
What the games are like
The early games are taking a variety of forms.
- Battle games, like a zombie shooter
- A Guitar Hero knockoff
- A Fruit Ninja clone
- Old-school video games, like Space Invaders. (Though if the idea was to lure millennials, why are they leading with a game that disappeared twenty years before those people were even born?)
- Puzzle games, like a Candy Crush wannabee
- I haven't seen trivia yet but I'm expecting it, at least for the multiplayer games.
The skill element takes on many forms:
- A straight videogame-like experience, where the higher you score, the more money you win. (100% skill)
- A traditional slot, with a normal, random main round, and an arcade bonus round (like Space Invaders) (hybrid of skill and chance)
- Multiplayer games, where you compete against other players to win their money, with the casino taking a commission of the pot. (AP) The one I saw was based on how fast you could make the best hand with a set of cards. Let's say each of four players bets a dollar on a round, for a $4 pot. The winner might get 93% of that ($3.72) with the casino taking 7% ($0.28).
What if I'm not skilled?
Some players might worry that if they're not skilled, they'll
lose even more money than they would at regular slots.
That's understandable, but I don't think there's anything to worry
about. First, such players can simply play traditional
slots. They're not going away any time soon. However, I
predict that almost all players will do okay on skill slots, at
least in the games with a hybrid of skill and chance. The
casinos don't benefit by alienating players, so I think playing with
even a modest level of skill will result in normal returns.
Also, if some players are really bad, the games can adjust on a
player-by-player basis, so the game could conceivably get easier,
paying back a little more in order to keep the player glued to the
Can expert players kill the games?
It's unlikely that expert players will beat the casino, for a variety of reasons.
- The games will probably be set so that even an extraordinary level of skill still results in a slight house edge.
- In multiplayer games, the most you'll be able to win is a percentage of the pot. But even though a player can't beat the casino here, this is a skilled player's best chance of coming out ahead. It's just like poker, where you battle other players directly instead of the casino.
- When someone formidable is playing a player vs. casino game, it's possible for the game can get harder between rounds. Nevada law allows for that, as long as a message appears on the screen stating what's happening. (14040(2)) I imagine something like "Expert Player! Difficulty Level Up!" Calling the player an expert strokes their ego so they might be distracted from the fact that the game is getting harder. They might think, "Ha! I'm too good for this game!"
How will I know if a game requires an element of skill?
Nevada law requires such games to advertise that fact clearly.
"Gaming devices that offer games of skill or hybrid games must
indicate prominently on the gaming device that the outcome of the
game is affected by player skill." (14.040(6))
Play slots online
I suggest you play something other than slots because the slot odds are so bad. You could also play online with fake money, because then it doesn't matter if you lose. A good casino for free-play is Bovada, since it requires no download and no registration. (If you see a registration box, you can close it and continue without registering.) You can play with real money too, though I hope you won't (or at least won't bet more than you can comfortably afford to lose). (advertisement)
All my slot machine articles
- Slot machine basics. How much it costs to play, how much you can win, expected loss, why they're a bad bet, why they're popular, how you can limit your losses, speed of play
- How to play slot machines
- Slot returns. How much they pay back.
- The Randomness Principle. Slots don't continually get looser and tighter as they're played. They don't have to.
- How they work. Explains the randomness principle, and runs through the math to show how a game returns a particular payback percentage. There's a companion page on Par sheets.
- Slot Machine Myths
- Slot Machine B.S. Wrong info that's published elsewhere.
- Strategies. Tips for increasing your chances of winning, and saving money.
- Slot Jackpots. Odds of hitting the jackpot, progressive jackpots, and other jackpot topics.
- Biggest Jackpots. The largest slot and table game jackpot wins in Vegas.
- Skill-Based Slots. The scoop on the new games in which your results aren't entirely determined by chance.
- Slot Machine malfunctions. How and why slot machines screw up, causing players to think they've won the jackpot when they really haven't.
- Slot Machine Simulator. I programmed an exact replica of the Blazing 7s slot (odds-wise). Click it to play thousands of spins in one second and see how you do.
- Slot name Generator. Randomly creates a slot machine name using common slot words. Hilarious!