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Online slot machines: to ‘stop’ or to ‘spin’, that is the question

Online video slots are proving more popular than ever before. And if you’re a keen player yourself, you’ve probably heard the rumour going around that there’s a way to beat the online slot machine: by stopping the reels mid-way through a spin.

How’s stopping a spin supposed to help?

All online video slots have some form of ‘play’ or ‘spin’ button which players click to set the reels in motion. In the case of numerous machines (such as the 2018 Playtech release Vampire Princess of Darkness), this button switches to a ‘stop’ button whilst the reels are spinning. Hitting it makes the reels cease spinning instantly.

It’s understandable, therefore, that many online casino slot players believe stopping the reels at just the right moment could result in a win that would not have occurred if they had let the reels continue spinning by themselves, and that skill and timing have an impact on their success as a slot player.

Unfortunately though, this is simply not true.

Why doesn’t stopping a spin pay off?

Whist early slots, like Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell, were real machines with mechanical reels, online video slots work with digitised reels. The ‘spinning’ is therefore not a necessity, but a superficial, computerised effect, a way of building anticipation and excitement for the player. Video slots would be a lot less entertaining if players just hit play and the result appeared (with absolutely no spinning involved), but that’s not to say it would not be possible.

It’s actually the Random Number Generator (RNG), rather than the spinning of the reels, that is responsible for the outcome of your bet. And even for the best of players, it’s impossible to beat the RNG. Often described as the ‘brains’ of a video slot, it’s continuously generating a sequence of random numbers, at a rate of hundreds (sometimes even thousands) of numbers per second. The sequence is eventually repeated; however, most machines are programmed to continue generating numbers when they are not being played, preventing even the most advanced players from predicating the next result in the sequence.

What’s more, all video slots are issued with a fixed percentage Return to Players (RTP). Typically around 90% – 98%, this figure is established when the software is created by slot game providers like NetEnt, IGT and Playtech. It determines how much the slot will pay out as winnings in relation to how much money is wagered on it. For example, if a player were to place a total of one hundred £1 bets on a slot with a 97% RTP over a given period, they could theoretically expect to get back £97.

Stopping the reels part way through a spin does not impact on the outcome of the RNG or the slot’s programmed RTP. All that happens is one of the most exciting elements of playing the slot (in other words, getting to see the reels spin) is cut short. You may discover if you’ve lost or won faster than if you let the spin play out by itself, but you’re not affecting whether you lose of win.

What’s the point of a stop button at all?

Whilst the ‘stop’ button has no impact on the outcome of the bet, stopping the reels to determine the result faster does allow players to squeeze more spins into a single gaming session. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re more likely to win, but it does mean you get a lot more action out of slot than if you waited for the reels to finish spinning.

Nevertheless, the majority of players would rather get more out of each spin than rush through every bet and (potentially) lose their money faster. For you average player, therefore, the ‘stop’ button is best avoided.

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