Knowing the Odds When Playing Progressive Games

There's no getting around the fact that players face daunting odds trying to win a progressive jackpot game of any kind at an online casino. The gambling sites couldn't offer the games profitably if they were too easy to win, so the chances of winning are indeed remote for any given person. Still, someone has to win the jackpot at some point, so many players like to know something a little more precise than “remote” to give them information about their chances. A few relatively simple mathematical concepts can shed some light on the odds, depending on the progressive game in question.

The odds are most clear in video poker, because even though the results of each hand are determined by an RNG (random number generator), it is set up to replicate a deck of playing cards. Thus, the exact odds of hitting the hand needed to win a progressive video poker jackpot can be determined. For example, the most rare poker hand, a royal flush, has odds of 649,740 to 1. That means on a hypothetical video poker machine that cost $1 to play, once the progressive jackpot got past $650,000, there would actually be a positive expectation for playing it, since a royal flush would pay out more than its actual odds. Note that this expectation only plays out in the long run, which is hard to define but generally accepted as tens of thousands of hands.

That's still more information that slots players have about their progressive games. Slot machines are set to a specific payback percentage that is a function of all possible winning combinations multiplied by their prize divided by the total number of possible reel combinations multiplied by the max bet. Not only is that much harder math than for video poker, it's literally impossible because players don't have access to most of the numbers. For slots, the only thing that can be done is to look for abnormally high progressive pools that haven't been hit for a while, as they are more likely to be giving players a positive expectation – though again they are no more likely to be hit than at any other time on any given spin.

Blackjack and other table games can usually be figured out the same way as video poker, as long as the total number of cards or outcomes is known. Most often these odds are worse than in video poker, though there will also come a point at which they can be played at a positive expectation.