One of the byproducts of casino culture is the constant assessment of games’ mechanics.

For example, roulette players might discuss systems like Martingale because it illustrates the ‘flaws’ in the game’s math. Or blackjack players might argue over whether the house edge exists in the game, particularly when employing strategies like card counting.

And yet when it comes to slots at the, there is rarely any discussion of strategy. That’s understandable – everyone knows that slots, both online and offline, are random.

An RNG (random number generator) will determine the outcome of a spin, and there’s not much the player can do to change that.

However, there are elements of the mechanics of slots that we can examine that can give us at least some insight into how they work. Probably the most interesting example is that of the mechanics of progressive jackpots in slot games.

Jackpot games are (mostly) funded by players’ bets

As we know, progressive jackpot games exist in both online and land-based casinos, and they tend to work on the same principles. The jackpot, which is constantly growing (hence the name progressive), is funded by players’ bets.

Normally, only a small amount – often 1% or less – is taken from each wager to fund the jackpot. There is also an amount contributed by the casino to start the jackpot off – this is called a seed.

But this is where the math gets interesting. Let’s say that the average stake on slots is $1. We don’t have the exact figures, but that sounds reasonable and serves a purpose.

If the jackpot contribution is 1%, then 1 cent is added to the jackpot for every spin. Thus, to grow the jackpot by $10, you would need to play 1,000 spins; to grow it by $100, that’s ten thousand spins, and so on.

So, to grow it by $1 million, there would need to be 100 million spins played on the slot. That’s a lot, and it’s worth remembering that some of these jackpots can hit $10 million (1 billion spins) or more.

Economies of scale help grow the prizes

Now consider this: If each slot spin took two seconds on average, it would take around 62 years to play a billion spins.

This would be a logistical nightmare, so the solution is to have games linked as part of a progressive network. That means different games are linked together across different casinos to create a network.

As such, if there are 1000s of games linked to a progressive network, it might take weeks, or even just days, for the prize to grow to a big number like $10 million. This is basic economies of scale principles in action.

So, if that’s the case for funding the jackpot, how do you win them? Well, it goes back to the RNG. When a new progressive jackpot starts, the RNG will pick a random figure that the jackpot will pay at.

Say, for example, the figure is $12,983,874.25: When the jackpot reaches that amount, it will pay out. To whom? To the player whose bet contribution puts it over the edge, i.e., the player whose proverbial penny changes the jackpot from $12,983,874.24 to $12,983,874.25.


However, we should point something out here. The mechanics of the game mean that the jackpot is more likely to be paid to players making larger bets. Why? Well, let’s look at this scenario: Player A bets $0.10, Player B bets $1, and Player C bets $100.

Every spin Player A makes is going to grow the jackpot by a fraction of a cent, whereas Player B will grow it by a cent, and Player C will grow it by a dollar. It means that Player C’s spin is much more likely to be the one that reaches the progressive threshold.

In fact, Player C is 100 times more likely to win than Player B, and 1000 times more likely to win than Player A.

We should point out that our example is only a basic one, and progressive jackpot networks will have different rules.

But, broadly speaking, like in Las Vegas, the jackpot slots are more favorable to high rollers than low-stakes players. Still, it shouldn’t deter casual players from having a bash, and we have seen media reports of multi-million dollar prizes going to players who bet small amounts before.

Once you understand the numbers in play, the main advice is to treat it like buying a lottery ticket. Your chances might be remote, but it does happen for some people.