There are countless different slot machines that a player will encounter at land-based and online casinos. Some are fairly simple, though technologically updated, games that have a lot in common with slots that would have been seen in a casino in the 1970’s. Others are almost unrecognizable as a slot machine featuring celebrity or movie branding and unique ‘bonus games’. It would be a monumental task to catalog every slot machine variation in use at land-based and online casinos. It would also be of limited value since once you understand the fundamentals of slot machine play its easy to adapt it to any game no matter how complex.

With so many different games it’s hard to even group them into specific ‘types‘. The easiest division is one familiar to video poker players—progressive and non-progressive jackpot slot machines. These are important distinctions and the type of game you choose has much to do with your playing style, risk aversion and overall purpose for playing the slots in the first place.


So what’s the difference between ‘progressive‘ and ‘non-progressive‘ jackpots? It’s pretty simple. Let’s start the with ‘progressive‘ jackpot. A progressive jackpot is a jackpot that is not ‘fixed‘ at a certain amount or number credits. Instead, it increases as people play a specific machine or more often a group of machines either in the same casino (referred to as a ‘bank‘ of machines) or in many cases a group of affiliated casinos (these are called ‘networked‘ jackpots). The long-running and popular ‘Megabucks‘ machines found in many Nevada casinos are an example of a ‘networked progressive jackpot‘. The jackpot grows as players all over the state play until the jackpot reaches the millions of dollars. Once someone hits the jackpot the process begins anew and the jackpot is reset. In fact, the starting amount of a progressive jackpot is referred to as the ‘reset‘.

A non-progressive jackpot is simply a jackpot that is fixed at a specific amount. For example, many slot machines use the traditional slot symbols like ‘cherries‘ ‘bars‘ and the ‘big 7‘. A jackpot on this type of machine might be 5,000 coins for three 7’s (7-7-7). Most of the time—but not always—slot machines with non-progressive jackpots are of a more traditional design. Most of the fancy new slot machines offer a progressive jackpot. The top jackpot on this machine never changes regardless of how long it goes between jackpots.


So why would anyone play a machine with a lower jackpot? Isn’t it just common sense to play a game where you have the potential of making a life changing score? It’s a little more complex than that. The most important consideration is odds of winning—you’re much more likely to walk away a winner from a non-progressive machine than you are a progressive machine. At least that’s what the experience of many expert gamblers has suggested.

It’s not easy to quantify the exact odds on a slot machine. The player doesn’t know how the game was designed so he doesn’t know how many possible reel combinations are possible. This is in contrast to video poker where the odds are easy to calculate. For that reason, it’s not possible to specify that certain machines are more ‘player friendly‘ than other machines. In general, however, non-progressive jackpot machines offer you a better chance to win than their progressive counterparts.

Of course, one size does not fit all—what are your goals for playing? Do you just want some entertainment and to ‘grind out‘ a profit if you’re lucky or do you want a shot at a life changing jackpot score? What’s your tolerance for risk? Do you like to try to milk a game for as much time as possible or are you comfortable losing your money quickly as you go after a 7 figure payday? Do you like more traditional style slots or the new ‘fancy‘ machines with video screens, bonus games, etc? The ‘fancy‘ machines almost always offer progressive jackpots. They’re also almost always giving the player lower odds of success than the more traditional machines.

We’ll talk more about progressive and non-progressive machines in the future including strategies for each. It’s important for every slot player to understand the difference between the two types of jackpots and know which type is most appropriate for their bankroll, goals, and playing style.