We’ve all seen scenes of people winning big jackpots at casinos in movies and tv shows. Indeed, big jackpot wins on slots in places like Las Vegas often make the news.
But how do the prizes in those game actually work? And, is there a realistic chance of winning one? Answering the first question, in a sense, provides an answer for the second. And, when we break it all down, it might surprise you as to how the mechanics of a game determine a jackpot winner.
To start, let’s look at what a jackpot game is at a fundamental level. If you pay a typical slot machine, it will run on an RNG (random number generator). Nobody, including the operators of the casino, will know how and when that game is going to pay, so you should ignore the myths and conspiracy theories about special hot and cold buttons a sneaky casino owner can use.
What that RNG will do is set parameters for the game, and that means how much it will pay back over time. The figure is called the RTP (return to player), which is a bit like a guaranteed house edge in reverse. So, for example, a typical slot machine might have an RTP of 96%, meaning that the casino will make a 4% profit over time (recorded over millions of spins).
Jackpot prizes funded by players
With a jackpot slot, such as Great Blue jackpot @Mansion Casino in Canada, it will be a little different. The RTP might be 96.03% officially, but another approximately 1% of that might be paid into the progressive jackpot. In short, 1% of each spin will be paid into a jackpot fund, which will grow and grow until one player is awarded the prize. How is that winner determined? It goes back to the RNG. It will take a random figure – let’s say $1,983,938.17 – and the spin that pushes the jackpot to that amount will win the prize. Once again, the casino operator will not know that figure as it is picked at random (within certain parameters).
Now that we know the mechanics of how a prize is funded, we can determine how likely it is to win a progressive jackpot. Consider if the average stake for each spin is $1, meaning a cent is paid into the jackpot prize each time a player plays. That means it will take 100,000,000 spins to grow the prize by one million dollars. So, you can gather that it’s quite the long shot for your spin to be the lucky one.
Games favour high-stakes
But if we go back to that point about 1% of each spin paying into the fund, it follows that high stakes players will be paying more into the fund. For instance, compare a player playing $0.50 spins to someone playing $50 spins. The former will be paying half a cent into the jackpot fund for each spin, whereas the latter will be paying in 50 cents. It sounds like a small margin, but it means that the high stakes player (in this scenario) is 100 times more likely to win the jackpot than the guy playing low stakes.
As you can see by the numbers, it’s best to treat playing the games with the same respect you would buying a lottery ticket. There are, of course, other ways to win in the games, and some modern non-jackpot slots are programmed to offer massive prizes regardless. Above all, while it’s nice to dream of that big jackpot, it’s always much more fun if you play responsibly.