You can find pokies, both offline and online, with varying stakes. Some of them accept wagers of as little as a penny per spin, while others might require a wager of $5 or more per spin. The poker machines which require the higher wagering amounts are often considered “high roller” or “high stakes” games. They offer distinct advantages over their “low roller” brethren.
All pokies are programmed with a payout percentage. (This is also sometimes called a “payback percentage”.) The payout percentage is the long term amount of each bet that can mathematically be expected to be returned to the player in the form of winnings. In many jurisdictions throughout the world, 75% is the legal minimum payback percentage for a gambling machine. How does that work in actual practice?
One might think that a game is rigged to just pay out 75 cents on every spin that has a single dollar wagered on it. If such a machine did exist, it would be a perfect example of a game with a 75% payback percentage. If you played such a game long enough, you’d certainly go broke.
No one would play such a game, though. On the other hand, suppose you had a game that was programmed with two results–you either win $1.50 or lose, and you have a 50% chance of either. This same dollar machine has a payback percentage of 75% over the long run, but in the short run, you still have a chance of winning.
You could even have a game where you only win once every ten spins, but when you do win, you win $7,50. You’ve wagered $10 over those ten spins, but you hit a jackpot 10% of the time. The game still has a 75% payback percentage, but it’s more interesting, especially if you hit your 10% chance of winning before you’ve made all ten spins.
Of course, pokies have lots of more complicated payout schemes than this, and that’s what makes them so popular. The illusion–heck, the reality–that you could win a lot of money before the house edge catches up with you is a great incentive.
The Difference between Penny Pokies and High Stakes Pokies
One of the main differences between high stakes pokies and penny pokies is the payback percentage. In land-based casinos, managers want to maximize the amount of money they generate per hour per square foot of casino space. A penny poker machine takes up as much space as a dollar or five dollar poker machine. So how do you encourage players to play at the one that makes more money for the casino?
You increase the payout percentage on the higher stakes machine. In fact, you can offer a dramatically better payback percentage on a high stakes pokies game than on a low stakes game, and you’ll still be way more profitable. Here’s how the casino makes these calculations.
The first factor to take into account is how many spins per hour you’re looking at. This doesn’t vary much from machine to machine or from player to player. The average is around 600 spins per hour. Once you know this, you can plug in the other important numbers to forecast your machine’s expected win per hour.
On a penny machine with a 75% payback percentage, the casino expects to keep 25 cents out of every dollar wagered. How many dollars per hour does a penny pokies player put into action? 600 spins multiplied by a penny is $6. 25% of that is $1.50, which is the expected hourly win on such a machine.
On a dollar machine with that same payback percentage, the casino would expect to keep $150 per hour, which is a lot more money. But players don’t enjoy losing $150 per hour.
The casino compensates for this by offering a better payout percentage. They can do this and still make more money from a higher denomination machine. For example, a dollar machine with a 90% payout percentage earns the casino $60 per hour. That’s still way more than the lower stakes machine, but the odds of a player winning on any given spin become much higher.
What Stakes Should You Play Then?
If you don’t have a large bankroll, you might be stuck accepting the lower payout percentages at the lower stakes machines. That’s okay. But smart pokies players want to get the most entertainment they can for their gambling dollar, so they play the highest stakes games they can reasonably afford.
Gambling writer Basil Nestor recommends a minimum bankroll size based on how long you want your session to be. Assuming you want to play for a three hour session, his guidelines look like this:
- Penny pokies players should have enough for 250 bets
- Nickel pokies players should also have enough for 250 bets
- Quarter and dollar players only need enough for 200 bets
- Players who are playing for $5 or more per spin only need a bankroll large enough for 150 bets
These amounts take into account the higher payback percentage. Your goal is to avoid going broke before your gambling session is over. You also want to give yourself enough time to take advantage of the inevitable hot streaks that happen during gambling sessions. If you run out of money in your first 20 minutes at the machine, you’re not even giving yourself a chance to get hot.
What do these numbers translate into in actual dollars?
- For a penny player, you only need $2.50.
- For a nickel player, you only need $12.50.
- For a quarter player, you only need $50.
- For a dollar player, you need $200.
- For a $5 player, you need $1000.
These amounts don’t take into account betting on multiple lines and making the maximum wager per line. For example, if you’re playing a penny pokies game with a max bet of 5 units per line, and the game has 15 lines, you’re wagering 75 cents per spin. That means you need a bankroll of $187.50. (250 bets of 75 cents each).
Are You a High Roller?
For the purposes of this page, I’ll consider a high roller to be a dollar player. You only need a bankroll of $200 to be considered a high roller, but if you’re playing multiple paylines, you’ll need a larger bankroll. It’s worth it, though, because your chances of winning an amount of money that will excite you goes up considerably.