Some gamblers like to chase the big win on slot machines. Progressive jackpots are the best opportunities for those gamblers to do so. And those gamblers often want to know the answer to this question: how often do progressive jackpots hit?
When you know the answer to this, you can time your play on the game so that you’re playing right before it’s statistically likely to hit.
For example, if you know that a specific progressive jackpot hits, on average, every 6 weeks, and it’s been 7 weeks since the last hit, you know it’s time to play.
This analysis of when a progressive jackpot is due has a lot to do with the idea of slot machines running hot and cold. I’ll cover that in this post, too.
How Do You Know When a Progressive Slot Machine Is Hot or Cold?
A hot slot machine game is one that’s hitting wins and jackpots more often than usual. A cold slot machine is one that’s not hitting very often compared to its average hit frequency.
Being hot or cold is a function of being a random game.
I know slot machine gamblers who refuse to play a game if they don’t hit a win in their first 5 spins. I know others who use different numbers — 7 or 10 or 12. John Patrick used to call this a naked spin limit in his book on slots.
The idea is that if you hit too many naked spins in a row, you move on to another machine. This idea is crucial to Hal’s strategy for red screen slot machines, in fact.
But that’s not the only way to decide whether or not a progressive slot machine is hot or cold.
How Often Does the Progressive Jackpot Hit on this Game?
You can find websites which track how often progressive slot machine games hit. If you’re a fan of the “play an overdue slot machine” strategy, these kinds of sites are perfect for you. They usually include other data, too, like the average size of the win on these games.
I like to look at 2 different data points when I’m looking at such sites.
The first is the average amount of time between wins on the progressive.
The other is the average size of the jackpot when it hits.
Casino.org offers one such tracker. It has a nice feature that grades online progressives according to how hot they are. You can find this data by choosing a game from the dropdown box.
When I wrote this post, Mega Moolah was a 2/5, which means that it’s not even warm. King Cashalot, on the other hand, is a 5/5, which means that it’s burning and ready to drop. The site also tracks Major Millions and Poker Ride. As near as I can tell, those are the only 4 jackpots being tracked on that page, though. The site says it tracks 331 separate jackpots, but I couldn’t find the trackers for them.
My favorite jackpot tracker is at Jackpot Graphs. This site has been around as long as I can remember, and I’ve been writing about the online casino industry for a long time. They claim to track over 574 online jackpots.
On their “all jackpots page”, you can find a list of all the jackpots they’re tracking. It’s a sortable table, too, and if you click on the column with the American flag, you can limit your search to just those jackpots that are friendly to United States gamblers.
Some of these games include:
- Jackpot Pinatas
- Aztec’s Millions
- Shopping Spree II
Do Progressive Slots Really Become “Due” After a Specific Amount of Time?
I’ve seen writers claim that the idea of an overdue slot machine is a myth. Since every spin of the reels is an independent event, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since the last jackpot hit. The odds of hitting the jackpot are the same on every spin.
Obviously, most people don’t think like this. Mathematically, though, this idea is sound.
How Does a Progressive Slot Machine Work?
Progressive slot machines don’t work much differently than any other kind of slot machine. Everything’s based on a random number generator. The difference between the payout odds and the odds of winning is where the casino makes its money.
Here’s an example:
You have a combination of symbols that are programmed to show up once out of every 1000 spins on average. That specific combination pays off at 750 for 1.
Do you see how such a situation is profitable for the casino without them having to cheat?
The difference between most jackpots and a progressive jackpot is mostly one of scale. Also, the size of the jackpot on a progressive machine gets bigger over time. That happens because the machine is programmed to take a tiny percentage of each bet and “feed” it into the jackpot.
This, of course, reduces the payback percentage overall for the game.
Eventually, it’s possible for a progressive jackpot to get big enough that it might offer a positive expectation. Suppose that the prize for the top jackpot on that earlier example has grown to 1500 for 1 instead of 750 for 1.
Since you’ll win that jackpot on average once every 1000 spins, you’re in a mathematically profitable situation.
Here’s the problem:
You never know what the odds are of hitting that jackpot.
This is where the jackpot trackers become handy. They don’t really measure how hot or cold the machine is, but they can help you estimate — with a LARGE degree of error — when the jackpot might be big enough to provide you with a positive expectation.
How Much Effect Does the Previous Spin Have on the Next Spin?
You might read some gambling writers discussing how the odds on the previous spin have no bearing at all on the odds for the next spin.
This is true of flat top machines, for sure.
But it’s not entirely true for a progressive slot machine.
The odds of winning the jackpot don’t change from one spin to the next regardless of what happens on the previous spin.
But the payback percentage is determined by the ratio of the payouts on the game with the odds of winning. Since, by definition, a progressive jackpot increases every time you spin the reels, the payback percentage increases every time you spin the reels.
This is nitpicky, and when you’re dealing with numbers this great, it’s not a noticeable difference.
But it’s the nature of gamblers and gambling writers to be nitpicky.
One thing’s for sure — you can’t turn a slot machine into a poker game. It’s never going to be a game of skill.
How Should YOU Play Progressive Slot Machine Games?
If you live near a casino and want to gamble on a progressive jackpot slot machine, here’s my suggestion:
Set a budget and stick with it. Base it on what you can afford and on how often you visit the casino.
And keep it simple.
Let’s say you’re trying to win the Megabucks jackpot and you visit the casino once a week. You might only be able to afford $21 a week in gambling.
This means you’ll sit down at the Megabucks, insert your money, and make 7 spins at $3 per spin. Win or lose, up or down, you walk away from the machine after 7 spins.
This is a reasonable strategy for playing.
On the other hand, you might visit the casino every day and have the same budget. In that case, you make one spin per day.
Let’s say you only get to the casino once a year, though. With that same budget, you might take $1000 to the casino and make 300 spins on Megabucks.
That’s only about half an hour of play, so play slowly. You can probably stretch it to an hour.
And keep in mind that you might want to gamble on some other, non-progressive games, too. You’ll want to budget more money for those activities if that’s the case.
How often do progressive jackpots hit?
It depends on the game. I’ve seen reports that games like Major Millions, an online jackpot, hits every 6 weeks or so. Other games, with smaller jackpots, hit more often.
If you visit some jackpot tracker sites, you can find the actual averages for the games you’re interested in. Some of them even score the jackpots on how “due” or “overdue” they are.
Take all this with a grain of salt, though. Gambling, even on progressive slot machines, should always be a recreational activity for entertainment. No one really makes a living playing slot machines.