Loose Slot Machines versus Tight Slot Machines

Loose Slot Machines Are Like Loose Women...Sorta...Spend
any amount of time talking to people who play slots or reading up on slot
machines online and you’ll come across the phrases loose and tight many
times over. In gambling jargon, a loose slot machine is one that is
programmed to pay out a slightly higher percent of the money put into it,
while a tight slot machine is one that’s designed to pay out a lower
percentage of the money it takes in. Think of the words loose and tight as
they refer to slots as you would a person with his money; if someone is a
tightwad, they don’t spend much cash, while someone who is loose with their
cash can also be called a big spender.

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The actual difference between loose slot machines and tight slot machines
is the difference in the machine’s theoretical payback percentage. Modern
games are designed to return a theoretical percentage of all cash paid into
them back to the player; that’s where casinos get an edge against the
gambler when it comes to slots. For example, a slot machine may be
programmed to pay back 95% of the money it takes in. But if you noticed, we
used the word theoretical above a couple of times. That’s because this
programmed payback percentage is accurate given an infinite amount of time
and an infinite amount of play.

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Why would casinos want to host loose machines, theoretically earning less
money than with their tighter versions? Slot gamblers are more likely to
continue playing a game if it appears to be loose, meaning the gambler wins
enough to stay happy. The more time a gambler spends on a machine, even a
loose one, the more money the casino makes. If a machine is designed to be
too tight, the player won’t put as much money in, losing interest when he
doesn’t win enough to keep his butt on the stool. You can see how setting a
slot’s theoretical payback percentage requires a balance between being too
loose and not earning the casino enough cash or too tight and not drawing in
enough play from gamblers.

Loose and Tight Slots on the Casino Floor

It’s common for casinos to mix up their loose and tight machines so that
players can’t figure out which is which; this according to Frank Scoblete, a
writer for Strictly Slots magazine. Casino managers know how to
arrange machines to derive the greatest amount of income from their slot
machine banks. So how can you tell a loose game from a tight one?

Two ways of determining the relative looseness of a machine exist:
studying up on slots and playing by feel. Magazines like Strictly Slots
publish theoretical payback percentages for different casinos and games,
though these aren’t chiseled in stone. The other way to figure out if you’re
playing a loose game is by feel. If you’re winning enough to keep yourself
interested in the game, you’re probably playing a slot on the loose side.

Payback percentages of slot machines are usually controlled by government
agencies; for example, all slots in Las Vegas have to payback a minimum
percentage by law, set by the Gaming Control Board of Nevada. Beyond that,
the loose or tight nature of a game is up to the designer and the casino.