Many gamblers are familiar with progressive slot machines, which feature jackpots that increase with every bet. But progressive slots is a broad term that encompasses various types of games.
A mystery progressive slot is one of the most-unique progressive games. The name alone makes mystery progressive slots sound intriguing.
But the truth is that these games aren’t as mysterious as the name suggests. Keep reading as I discuss the basics of mystery progressive slot machines along with their intricacies.
You’ll also be interested to know that these slots can actually give you a long-term advantage under the right circumstances.
What Is a Mystery Progressive Slot Machine?
A mystery progressive slot machine works similar to any other progressive game. These slots feature a jackpot that increases slightly with every bet.
But the key difference is that a mystery progressive game features a jackpot that must be won at a specific value. Contrast this to a normal progressive slot, which pays its jackpot completely randomly.
Here’s an example on how a mystery progressive works:
- You choose a mystery progressive slot with a jackpot that must pay at $100.
- The top prize is currently at $75.
- $25 worth of jackpot contributions must be made before the prize is hit.
You can see that these slot machines aren’t overly difficult to understand. The key thing to note is that the jackpot is delivered at a specific value.
I honestly don’t know why these games have the word “mystery” in them. After all, there’s literally no mystery to when the jackpot will be paid.
In any case, these games are definitely unique from other progressive slot machines. You’ll especially want to check out any mystery progressive slot when its jackpot nears the target value.
Where Can You Find Mystery Progressive Slots?
Mystery progressive slot machines can be found all over the gaming world. You can visit either land-based or online casinos to enjoy a mystery game.
Land-based casinos tend to feature mystery progressive slots that have smaller jackpots. These prizes often range from $50 to $500.
WMS is one developer that manufacturers mystery games. You can find these slots at many casinos that carry WMS products, which encompasses a large portion of the market.
Online mystery progressive slot machines typically feature bigger jackpot payouts. You can expect to win anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000 on some of these games.
Arrow’s Edge is one online developer that features mystery progressive slots. Their jackpot must win by $10,000, making it one of the industry’s largest mystery prizes.
Gaining an Advantage Through Mystery Progressive Slot Machines
One of the most-exciting things about mystery progressive slots is that you can actually gain a long-term advantage through them. These games offer one of the few legitimate opportunities to make profits in the casino.
The concept behind gaining an edge in mystery progressive slot machines is playing when the jackpot is about to pay out. Doing so allows you to bypass paying all the credits needed to advance the jackpot to its target point.
Here’s an example:
- You’re playing a mystery progressive slot that must pay by $250.
- You jump on the machine when the jackpot is at $240.
- You only have to contribute the remaining $10 in seed money to win.
Using this technique doesn’t guarantee that you’ll win profits with mystery progressive slots. After all, you could go on a cold streak and win few small prizes en route to the jackpot. But you’ll greatly improve your long-term odds of winning by playing when the jackpot is ready to hit.
The easiest way to take advantage of mystery progressive slots is by guessing the point when a game will be offering positive expected value (+EV). A key advantage here is that you don’t have to do anything other than walk around casinos and find progressive games that are about to hit.
The downside to this strategy, though, is that you’re only guessing on when the game offers +EV. Therefore, you could be playing these slots at a point well under the profitable range.
This is where using a mathematical formula to calculate the perfect target point comes into play. Using a formula ensures that you know exactly when to start playing.
Casino actuary Michael “The Wizard of Odds” Shackleford developed the following formula for determining the perfect time to playing mystery progressive slots:
- Formula: t = m × (h + r) / (h + 2r)
- t = Target point
- m = Max jackpot
- r = Rise of meter rate (percentage of each bet that goes into jackpot; i.e. 2%)
- h = House edge of game (includes average value of progressive jackpot)
The big catch to this formula is that you won’t know the jackpot contribution for the game you’re playing. Slots developers don’t offer this information to the public.
Another downside is that you may not know the return to player (RTP) for certain games. This is especially common with land-based slot machines, because the developers don’t offer RTP info.
But you can make an educated guess on both variables. Most progressive slots see 1-2% of each wager go towards funding the jackpot.
Land-based slots RTP can be estimated by looking at state gaming reports, which show how much each coin denomination pays on average. You can then apply these averages to the game you’re playing.
Assume that you’re playing a nickel slot machine in Nevada. A UNLV Center for Gaming Research report shows that nickel slots offer 94.54% RTP (5.46% house edge) on average.
Now here’s an example on putting multiple variables together and determining when you should play a mystery progressive slot:
- Formula: $250 jackpot x (0.0546 + 0.02 rise in meter) / (0.0546 + 0.02×2) = $197.15
- You should play when the jackpot is at $197.15 or higher.
Your calculations may not be 100% perfect due to the ambiguity of jackpot contributions and RTP. But using this formula is more accurate than simply guessing when you should play a mystery progressive game.
You can scout out where these types of slots are in your favorite online and/or land-based casinos. You should then perform calculations ahead of time so that you already know when to play each game.
Pros of Mystery Progressive Slots
It’s exciting to play any type of progressive slot machine if you love gambling. But mystery progressive games offer distinct advantages over other progressives.
These advantages range from knowing when you can win the jackpot to having a stronger chance at winning the top prize. Here’s a closer look at each mystery progressive advantage.
You Know Exactly When the Jackpot Will Hit
Slot machines are supposed to be random. This is part of what creates excitement when considering that you can win big on any given spin.
But you may appreciate knowing exactly when you can expect to win a jackpot for once. Mystery progressive slots offer this by displaying when their jackpots must be hit.
Not only does is help you plan when to play a mystery game, but it also lets you know how much you’re playing for. If a $20 jackpot doesn’t sound appealing, then you can move on to the next game without wasting any spins.
Mystery Progressive Games Pay Jackpots Frequently
Progressive slot machines with huge jackpots are the most-popular casino games. These slots give you an opportunity to get rich with a single spin.
It’s not hard to see why the progressive slot machines are so popular. But the main problem is that larger jackpots pay quite infrequently.
This is where mystery progressive slots become attractive, because their jackpots pay out more often. Smaller top prizes have a greater chance of occurring for two reasons:
- The odds of winning these jackpots are higher.
- Casinos are willing to give you higher odds since they don’t have to spend much seeding these jackpots.
You’ll find mystery progressive games interesting if you’d rather have a strong chance at winning a $100 payout versus a low chance at winning $1 million.
You Can Gain an Advantage
I covered in great detail how mystery progressive slot machines give you a chance to rack up long-term winnings. It’s worth reiterating this fact since casinos don’t offer many +EV games.
You can use a simple approach by walking around gambling establishments and playing any mystery game that’s about to pay out. The benefit here is that you don’t have to use complicated math and can simply focus on finding good opportunities.
You can take things a step further by using the aforementioned formula, which helps pinpoint the perfect time to play a mystery progressive game. Using this formula becomes easier and easier as you gain more experience with progressive slots.
Cons of Mystery Progressive Slots
So far I’ve discussed many positive points regarding mystery progressive slots. But not everything is perfect with these games.
You also have to consider the potential downsides before playing a mystery progressive slot. That said, here are the drawbacks to these games.
You Won’t Win Big Jackpots
Playing for smaller progressive jackpots has its good and bad points. The good is that you have a better chance of getting a top prize. The bad is that you don’t have an opportunity to win life-changing money.
Having the chance to hit a giant progressive jackpot and retire early is a driving force for many people play slot machines. This is one reason why you see the same slots (e.g. Mega Moolah) set new records for multimillion-dollar jackpots again and again.
You may be perfectly fine playing games that don’t give you a chance to collect a huge win. But if you’re looking for a massive payout, then you won’t find it with mystery progressive slots.
Other Players Will Be Trying for the Jackpot
Most slots players aren’t idiots. They know that if a slot machine must deliver its jackpot at $300, then it’s worth playing when the prize is at $295.
Therefore, you’re going to have competition when trying to win these prizes. You may even run across advantage gamblers who have the same idea as you.
Some of these players are casino regulars who walk slots floors on a daily basis looking for good opportunities. The same advantage players may get testy if you beat them to one of the near-full jackpot meters.
Any Potential Mystery Progressive Slots Edge Is Small
One of the selling points to mystery progressive slot machines is that they can deliver profits. But it’s important to realize that you’re not going to get rich even if you do realize your advantage.
Your best chance to make money with these games is by visiting a major casino destination like Las Vegas or, to a lesser extent, Atlantic City. Even in these cases, though, you only have so many chances to gain +EV on a daily basis.
I certainly don’t recommend stalking casino floors with the intent to become a professional slots player. This is instead a hobby for the average gambler.
Mystery progressive slots are perhaps misnamed when considering that they’re most-straightforward progressive game. You’ll know exactly when the jackpot is set to pay, which lets you plan the point of attack.
Speaking of which, it’s possible to gain an edge through mystery progressive slot machines. You simply need to figure out when its profitable to begin playing a game based on its jackpot size.
Earlier I discussed a formula that will help you do exactly this. Of course, you can also opt for the less-refined strategy of merely guessing when to play.
Being able to gain +EV from mystery progressive slots isn’t the only advantage these games offer. You can also look forward to winning mystery jackpots more often than with other progressive slots.
Of course, there are also downsides to consider with these games too. Concerns include small jackpots, other players competing for these prizes, and the limited advantage to be gained.
Despite these drawbacks, I still recommend that you give mystery progressive slot machines a try. They’re interesting games that display the exact jackpot you stand to win.