Penny Slot 101: All You Need to Know About the One-Armed Bandit

A penny or pence is the smallest denomination of currency in most countries, but this is especially so in the US, Canada, and the UK. In slot machines, there was a time when all you needed to wager was a penny, and people used their spare change to bet on physical slot machines usually found in barbershops and beer saloons.

Over time, as inflation happened, manufacturers stopped making them, and people could no longer play penny slot machines because the new slots, mostly electronic ones, required a minimum of quarters to wager.

But what are penny slots, and do they still exist today?

The Components of Penny Slots

The old slots had no electronic components. Essentially, they are made of several parts, each working in cohesion with the other.

  • Drum – these are also called reels. These are cylindrical objects where the symbols were either glued or painted. These are the objects that spin when you pull the lever.

  • Lever – in the modern electronic equivalent, this is the Spin button. In the physical world, it is a rod that has a head that you pull back to make the drums spin. The lever is attached to gears that set the drums in motion, and it has a spring to pull it back to its original position.

  • Glass – this is the area where you see the symbols, also called a pay line. The old slots only had one straight line of glass where the symbols from each of the three reels show.

  • Internal Mechanism – since the old slots were mechanical, there are many gears and cogs found inside the slot. It also has a release mechanism that opens if specific combinations of the symbols line up together.

  • Coin Drop – this is mouth where you drop your coin. There is an apparatus that recognizes whether your coin is legitimate or not. If it is real, the mechanism will release the lever and let you spin. If not, it is stuck in place, and you cannot move it.

The Modern Penny Slots

Today, a mechanical slot machine is a rarity. If you ever find one, it is usually in a restored condition and is only used as a display to give a store a classic look and feel. The slot today is completely electronic, and are mostly found online.

You can still find penny slots in cabinet form in land-based casinos, albeit you do not insert pennies anymore. What you do instead is to buy an electronic card, load it with money, and use that card in the machine to play.

How to Play the Modern Machine

The penny slot is called so because you only need a hundredth of your currency’s unit to play. The cost to play is only $0.01 per wager per line. Depending on your game style, you can bet on only one line or wager on them all.

If the slot machine has 25 play lines and you bet on them all, your total stake for that spin is $0.25. Some slot manufacturers create fixed pay lines, which means that you have no other choice but to bet on all of them.

With more symbols and pay lines, you will also get lower odds of hitting a jackpot combination.

In most cases, you can adjust the size of your coin and the number of coins you want to bet. Instead of $0.01 per coin, you can turn it into $0.02. The maximum varies, but a majority of games have a maximum of $1 per coin.

The next important thing is the coin amount or the Bet Level. Not all slot machines have this, but most do. The Bet Level refers to the number of coins you want to stake per line, which is usually maxed out at ten.

You have to do the math to get a perspective of how much you are betting.

  • Line Bet = coin size X Bet Level
  • Total Stake = lines active X coin size X Bet Level

For example, we will use a coin size of $0.05, a bet level of 7, and 25 pay lines.

  • Line Bet = $0.05 X 7 = $0.35
  • Total Stake = 25 X $0.05 X 7 = $8.75

Tips to Win

The reason a penny slot exists is to give you a chance to play despite being low on budget. Here are some tips to help you win.

  • Payout – choose slot machines that offer high payouts, as much as 1,000x your line bet for regular wins.

  • RTP and Volatility – you must play slots that have high return-to-player rate, at least 96%, and a low to medium volatility.

  • Line Activation – make sure you activate all lines when playing so when the symbols land on any of these pay lines, you still win.

  • Bonus and Features – only play those that offer wilds, scatters, and bonus rounds.


Despite being called cheap, penny slots can make you a lot of money, with some that can pay up to 250,000 coins. If you are lucky and patient enough, you can win as much as 50,000 if you land just one five-symbol combo, mostly a combination of wilds. For a penny, that is still equivalent to $500.

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