When I first got involved in the gambling business as a writer, I also published websites. During this process, I trained other writers on how to write about online casinos, especially online slot machines. I won $4000 playing an internet slot machine during one of these training sessions.
I thought it would be fun to write a detailed post explaining just how I did that. Let me make it clear from the beginning, though, that I can’t offer you a strategy for winning at online slot machines—other than the obvious one:
I did get lucky once, at an RTG casino that’s no longer in business. I didn’t experience any of the problems you sometimes here about, either. I had no trouble cashing out or getting my money or anything like that.
Here’s exactly what happened.
1- I Signed Up for an Online Casino Using Realtime Gaming Software that Accepted Real Money Players from the United States
I was teaching the writer how to write an online casino review. I’m convinced that if you’re going to write an online casino review, you should play at the casino you’re reviewing before writing about it. Anything else would be less than authentic.
The signup process for any online casino is easier than you might think. In those days, you need to download software to your desktop computer (or your laptop). Nowadays that’s usually not necessary. That part was as easy as pointing the cursor at the right icon and clicking on it.
Creating an account wasn’t hard, either. Mostly it was just a matter of filling out some online forms with the kind of information you’d expect when creating an account at any kind of business:
- Your name
- Your address
- Your phone number
- Your email address
- Your date of birth
They also asked me to send them documents verifying my identity. I did that as an attachment to an email. Some people get nervous about this part of the process, but I prefer to think of this part as a clue to the integrity of the casino. If they don’t make you prove your identity, how will they know it’s really you playing at their casino? Also, how will they know if you’re legally old enough to gamble there?
Once all that was set up, I was able to play the games at the casino for free as much as I wanted. They give you free “play money” chips to use to try out the games.
I understand marketing, and you should, too. They let you play the free games in the hopes that you’ll like them enough to deposit money and play for real. Make no mistake about that.
The signup process might be slightly different at a modern online casino, but it won’t be much different. One thing marketers understand, too, is that the easier the signup process is, the higher their conversation rate will be. (Their conversion rate is the percentage of people who actually signup for their casino after visiting their site.)
2- I Deposited Money at the Casino Using NETeller, an Online Wallet
Getting money to and from an online casino was a lot easier before the passage of UIGEA (The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) in 2006. Contrary to popular belief, UIGEA didn’t make it illegal to gamble on the internet. It made it illegal for companies to process money transfers for the purposes of illegal gambling.
There are no federal laws that explicitly ban internet gambling in general, although The Wire Act almost certainly applies to betting on sports via the internet. But no one’s ever been prosecuted for playing slot machines for real money on the internet yet.
At any rate, NETeller got into trouble for being an online wallet service that catered specifically to online casinos and gamblers. They no longer do business with citizens of the United States for the most part.
But even before the passage of UIGEA, credit card companies regularly declined online gambling transactions if they were coded as such. Online gambling transactions are considered a bad risk by the banks, and they’re not in the habit of messing with that sort of thing.
The best advice I can give you now about transferring money to and from a casino is to talk to the people in customer service about the best methods. Cash transfer services like Western Union can be useful. Wire transfers and electronic checks work well, too.
The people working at the casino are experts at making money transfers as painless for their customers as possible. In some jurisdictions in the United States where online casinos are now completely legal and regulated, you can transfer money using services that normally took a hard line against gambling transaction.
3- I Claimed a Huge Signup Bonus
I deposited $2000 at the casino in question. They were offering a 100% signup bonus to new players, so I had $4000 in my account to begin with. Deposit bonuses have changed a lot since then.
The deposit bonus, by the way, had nothing to do with me walking away a winner. I hit my $7000 jackpot on my 4th spin of the reels.
But the wagering requirements had a definite effect on how I was able to cash out and how much I was able to cash out for.
Online casinos know that advantage players are always looking for ways to get a positive expectation. It’s easy to find that positive expectation with a signup bonus unless you include some restrictions that make it harder to cash out.
In those days, you could still get a signup bonus with a 15X wagering requirement. This meant that I had to wager $4000 X 15, or $60,000, before being allowed to cash out. I also had to make sure I wagered that money on the slot machine games. Wagering on games like blackjack didn’t count.
For the newcomer, it might sound impossible to make that many wagers when you’re starting with $4000.
But keep in mind that you’ll win some of those wagers, too. You don’t lost every bet you make, and the wagers on the winning bets count, too.
I’ll have more to say about the wagering requirements and meeting them below.
For now, just understand that I used a bonus code which I input in the cashier section of the casino site to claim my signup bonus.
4- I Played Silly Slot Machines that Looked Fun and Had a Progressive Jackpot
I’m not a slot machine expert, but I do understand that slot machines with huge progressive jackpots have lousy odds. The payback percentage—the theoretical amount you’ll win back—is artificially elevated, because it includes that huge payout that you probably won’t receive in your entire lifetime. Also, the casinos fund these progressive jackpots by taking a percentage of each bet you make and applying it toward that ever-growing jackpot.
This results in a slot machine game with worse odds for the player.
I’m old-fashioned, and my favorite game at the time was It’s Good to Be Bad. You don’t hear much about it anymore, but it had a feature where you’d win bonus money if you lost a certain number of spins in a row. It is a progressive jackpot, though, but I still love it.
I started by playing a game called Mid-Life Crisis slots. It’s a silly game with the kinds of symbols on the reels you might expect from a game with that theme—Viagra pills, sports cars, and women in bikinis. The game is nothing special, but I enjoyed my surprising result on my 4th spin when I won my $7000 prize.
You can bet up to 45 coins per spin on this game. It’s a quarter machine, and it has 9 paylines. You can wager up to 5 coins per line. This means that a max bet spin on this game was 9 X 5 X $0.25, or $11.25 per spin.
Anyway, that was my game, and that’s where I won the $7000—which wasn’t the progressive jackpot, by the way.
In fact, I didn’t even mean to play it for long. I was just showing off a little bit for the new writer. “Look at me—I can afford to bet $11.25 per spin on a slot machine.”
It turns out, that was the best move I made.
5- I Played for Slightly Bigger Stakes than I Was Comfortable With
I wouldn’t normally play for stakes like that, but like I say, I was showing off a bit. I attribute some of my win to this, though.
Slot machines win money for the casino in the long run by offering prizes that aren’t commensurate with the odds of winning. In other words, if you have a 1 in 10 chance of winning, but you only average a payout of 8 for 1 when you win, over time, the casino will win all your money.
But that doesn’t happen in the short term. That’s a long-term expectation. The longer you play, the closer you should get to the theoretical expectation. In the short run, anything can happen.
Your goal then, as a gambler, is to avoid the long run as much as possible. The way to do that is to make fewer bets for bigger dollar amounts.
Most online slots players don’t get this. They just want to be in action as long as possible. They often play low stakes games endlessly.
By doing this, they’re practically guaranteeing that they’ll lose the kind of money the casino expects them to lose mathematically.
The only way to avoid that is to avoid the long run.
6- I Got Lucky and Hit a $7000 Jackpot on My 4th Spin of the Reels
If I’d been betting less than $11.25 per spin, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to make such a big win. If I’d only been betting $1.25 per spin, for example, I might have only won $700 instead of $7000.
Also, higher stakes slot machine games tend to have higher payback percentages than lower stakes slot machine games.
But the bottom line is that I won this game because I got lucky in the short term.
And I had a definite strategy for what to do after that.
The 1st thing I did after winning my jackpot was to stop and think about what my best strategy after that point was. I got out a pen and paper and a notebook. I wrote some thoughts down.
I also contacted customer service and asked them where I was at in terms of fulfilling my wagering requirements. I wanted to cash out as much of my bonus and winnings as possible, and I didn’t want to run afoul of the casino’s wagering requirements doing it, either.
In a situation like this, the casino expects to come out ahead. Assume they have a 10% mathematical edge on their slot machine games. When you gamble $40,000 with a casino that has a 10% edge, your mathematically expected loss in the long run is $4000.
That’s exactly how much money I had to begin with.
The good thing for me was that I got lucky early in my series of spins. The more spins I made, the closer I would get to the expectation.
How should I maximize this gift from the goddess of fortune?
7- I Tracked My Play Closely to Make Sure I Knew When I’d Hit My Wagering Requirements
After making 4 spins at $11.25 each, I’d put $45 into action. This means I needed to make $39,955 more in wagers before cashing out.
Since I’d already booked my big win, I didn’t want to risk losing all that on a series of big bets. I wanted to get as close as possible to losing the expected $4000. When I did, I’d still have most of my winnings left.
I used a pencil and paper to track how many spin I made and at what amount. I think I went with $5 per spin on one of the games, which meant I was gambling about $3000/hour. At that rate, it took over 13 hours to clear the bonus.
I would have liked to wager less than that per spin to try to ensure that the rest of my gambling got as close as possible to the mathematically expected loss, but I didn’t have 40 or 50 hours to spend playing slots. (That’s how long it would have taken if I’d bet $1.25 per spin, for example.)
When all was said and done, I got in my $40,000 in wagering, and I lost $3000 of it, leaving me with a $4000 profit. I was lucky, but I was also smart enough to wager a little over $40,000 so it didn’t look like I was just abusing their bonus structure.
I had $8000 left in my account when I cashed out.
8- I Cashed Out and Got My Money via NETeller
Withdrawing money via NETeller was just as easy making a deposit, but it did take some processing time on the part of the casino. Still, I had my money within a week. I was then able to transfer the funds from my NETeller account to my checking account.
In today’s online casino environment, you’d need to check with the casino to see what the fastest and most efficient way of getting your money would be. Some casinos might be able to send you a check via courier, but keep in mind that it takes extra processing time to deposit that at your bank. They wait until it clears the international bank on the other end of the check before crediting your account, so that adds to your processing time.
Because of the tricky legal situations involved, you can expect it to take a little time to get your winnings, one way or the other. Don’t panic over that. Just be ready for it.
9- I Spent the Money on a Jukebox
What did I do with the $4000 I won?
I combined it with the $2000 I’d deposited and the $2000 bonus to have a total of $8000.
I’d always wanted a jukebox, and this new writer was a friend of mine, so I asked him if he’d go to a store called Billiards and Barstools with me to buy a jukebox.
I asked my wife before we left where she wanted to put the new jukebox.
She said, “What jukebox?”
I said, “The one I’m going to buy.”
She said she didn’t know but we’d figure it out. I told her to have a spot for it picked out before I got home.
I found a beautiful Rock-o-la jukebox that held 100 CDs for right at $8000, and they were able to deliver it that day.
When I got home, I asked my wife what she’d decided.
She said, “About what?”
I said, “About where we’re going to put the jukebox I just bought.”
She said, “You bought a jukebox!?”
I said, “Yeah, why are you surprised?”
She said something about how nothing I did or didn’t do surprised her anymore, then muttered something about how I’m always saying I’m going to do things and then don’t do them.
We enjoyed that jukebox for years, but I probably enjoyed it more than she did. You can also tell how long ago this story took place, since modern jukeboxes, even the ones built for home use, usually just stream music via the internet these days.
I have a buddy in Pennsylvania who bought a jukebox with his gambling winnings, too. He got there earlier than I did, and he deliberately used bonus hunting techniques to win enough money to buy his jukebox.
I tell this story to share some lessons with you about how to win money playing online slot machines. The biggest lesson, though, is that you should mostly hope to get lucky early. After that, if you’ve won enough, you should hope to get results as close to the expectation as possible so you don’t lose everything you just won.
No amount of strategy or skill can help you get lucky like that. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t. That’s the nature of gambling and playing slot machines.
I should also point out that I haven’t been able to duplicate that feat of gambling in the 14 years since, either. If I really had the secret of winning at online slots—like some people claim—I’d have won several times more.
The reality is that gambling online is a negative expectation bet. You accept that when you place your wagers. If you can win some money in the short term, great, but don’t expect it.
You’re fighting more than an uphill battle, especially when it comes to slots.
To be honest, I wouldn’t have been playing slot machines at all except for 2 reason:
- I was training a writer to review slot machines as part of his casino reviews, and
- I wanted to clear my wagering requirements for my bonus.
I should also point out that most online casinos have more stringent wagering requirements than ever. The average seems to be 35X your deposit plus bonus instead of 15X. If that had been the case, I probably wouldn’t have been able to cash out with a profit at all in this situation. I might still have some of my deposit bonus plus my deposit left, but even that’s not entirely sure.
Finally, that 10% house edge I mentioned is just a wild guess. We don’t know the exact payback percentages for slots. We just know that the numbers are higher for slots than for other casino games like blackjack, craps, or video poker.
If I could have cleared my wagering requirements with one of those games, I would have played any of them instead.