What is progressive slot machine?

Progressive slot machines are machines that offer a jackpot, like a big payout or grand prize, which increases each time people play the game, but nobody wins the jackpot. When someone eventually wins, the jackpot for the next play is reset to a preset value. Then, it begins to increase again on the same principle.

A lot of video poker and slot machines come with a progressive jackpot. It increases by a small preset amount every time people play on it. Sometimes casino operators will pool or link multiple machines together to form a larger progressive jackpot, which will increase at an accelerated rate because more losing plays will count toward it.

Quite a few lotteries feature progressive jackpots. The big payout or jackpot money is “carried forward” to the jackpot for next drawing after each drawing in which the jackpot is not won.

Qualifying for the jackpot

Progressive jackpots are usually available only to players who bet the maximum amount or number of credits per play. All bets contribute to the jackpot, be they maximum-credit bets or not. Due to this, a game that requires a 5-credit bet will have jackpot levels rise to lower levels than one which asks for  a 10-credit wager relative to its break-even level, a concept we’ll clarify shortly.

Typically, you can only win the jackpot if you hit the combination with the highest payoff or three or five of the most valuable symbols on a slot, like fruits or animals. Usually, the amount of the jackpot that’s displayed includes a base payout. That tends to be the minimum qualifying wager multiplied by the regular payout for the winning combination.

The minimum a player can win if  the jackpot is “reset” to this amount every time someone wins is just the amount you’d ordinarily get for the winning combo because, essentially, the casino isn’t providing seed money for the jackpot.

More about progressively increasing jackpots

Every time someone plays on a slot linked to the network, the amount of the jackpot increases by a small amount. The casino determines the amount, by which the jackpot increases. A slot offering a progressive jackpot normally displays the jackpot amount in a very clear way to attract players. It goes back to a preset minimum after someone wins the jackpot.

Jackpots are rarely more than 20% of the house edge. If the casino’s edge is 5%, for example, a jackpot contribution of 1% would be considered generous. In essence, this is a fifth of the expected profit. Yet, casinos are willing to contribute some of the profit of a slot connected to the jackpot because players are attracted to those. More specifically, the novelty of progressive jackpots intrigues many of them. Usually, just a small number of the casino’s slot machines is linked to a progressive jackpot.

The constantly changing meter is another object of interest. This shows the amount, by which the jackpot has or is increasing. Often, the amount is displayed on large LED or LCD displays. Finally, the large jackpot amount can be very enticing. It will motivate more and more players to play the game and make bigger and bigger bets, due to which the amount will keep increasing. And so the circle closes in.

More about progressively increasing jackpots

The role of advantage players

Advantage players are players who only wager if they have positive expectations toward the progressive jackpot. More specifically, they wager only when they have an advantage over the casino. These players still generate revenue for the house because players who played, but didn’t win, have pre-funded the bulk of the progressive jackpot.

These advantage players can organize teams to play slots where the expectations toward the progressive jackpots are positive. These teams tend to displace ordinary players, making the slots unavailable at a time when they are usually the most attractive to bettors. Team members frequently use cell phones and ‘work’ in shifts. When they need to take a break, they call a teammate to replace them.

Understandably, some gambling operators do not admit such ‘teams’ and will have players removed from the venue upon suspicion of playing on such teams. However, this tactic only works at land-based casinos. With online ones, the number of duplicate machines, at which people can play is practically endless. No group or other entity can monopolize a game.


You can devise a game strategy based on the average payout in video poker, blackjack, Caribbean stud poker, and some other games. The average is calculated by multiplying the payout amount by the chance of payout. A progressive jackpot can exceed the players’ breakeven point because it’s constantly growing. Then, the bet becomes a positive expectation for the player because the return to player (RTP) rate is above 100% on average. Conversely, the expected value for players is negative wen the progressive jackpot is less than the breakeven point. This means the casino has an edge.

If you devise the right strategy, you can make a profit off progressive games as long as their jackpots are above the breakeven. However, you might need to make thousands of plays before this becomes possible. What’s more, it’s not simple to calculate the breakeven point on a slot machine game, because the player doesn’t usually know the payback percentage for the game. It’s possible to calculate the breakeven point in poker because the payback percentage for the game is a function of the odds and paybacks of the hands, which are based on a standard deck of cards.

Breakeven strategy

When it comes to slots, the return can be seen on the published pay table and on the reels, which usually aren’t published. Players who choose five-reel slot machines have to know each symbol on each reel to be able to calculate the odds. This isn’t possible for a three-reel slot because the reels tend to be weighted. The manufacturer might divulge the payout of their slots in rare cases.  

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