If you have ever seen an advertisement for a casino that had huge amounts (often in the millions) offered as top payouts you have probably seen games with a progressive jackpot. Keep reading to learn what a progressive jackpot is, how they work, different types of progressives, and where you can find them.
What Are Progressive Jackpots?
Progressive jackpots are amounts offered as the top payouts for particular casino games that continue climbing until a player wins. They are available on a wide range of games, but the most common ones are tied to slot machines.
They tend to run from thousands of dollars all the way up to millions of dollars. Progressive jackpot games are available at online casinos as well as in land-based casinos.
Most progressive jackpot games require maximum wagers to be eligible for the jackpot amount. So if you hit whatever the required combination or hand is to win the progressive but haven’t wagered the correct amount you won’t win the progressive.
This would have to be one of the absolute worst feelings in the world so make sure you both understand the minimum wagering requirements to be eligible for the progressive and are always betting at that level or higher when you play on a progressive game.
The most common example of this is a video poker game with a progressive jackpot. On most machines, you have to wager five coins to unlock the top payouts. So if you are playing a quarter video poker machine the total bet at five coins would be $1.25 per hand.
If you bet less than this and hit the top paying hand you will only win the amount listed for your number of coins, not the progressive jackpot. If you aren’t comfortable betting as much, you should play for a lower amount per coin.
You may be able to play the same video poker game in a nickel machine, making your bet .25 for a five-coin wager. Many slot machines have the same ability to play for a lower amount per line.
How Progressive Jackpots Work
Progressive jackpots build over time until a player wins them, then they reset to a predetermined level and start building again. The way they build is by taking a percentage of every bet made on the game the progressive jackpot is associated with and adding it to the jackpot amount.
Here’s a fictitious example so you can see exactly how a progressive jackpot works. The example uses numbers that are easy to compute for the purpose of this page. These numbers are not necessarily representative of a real-life progressive game but are an accurate representation of the mechanics.
We’ll use a slot machine with an attached progressive jackpot as an example. The slot machine takes 10% of every wager and places it in the progressive jackpot amount. After the jackpot is won the amount is reset to $100,000. The reset amount is generally accumulated from the contributions to the overall progressive jackpot.
In this example, 1% is used to fund the next reset amount and 9% goes straight to the progressive amount until $100,000 is accumulated in the reset account. Once the $100,000 is accumulated the entire 10% is used for the climbing jackpot. Another way this can be handled is the casino or software provider, whoever is running the progressive, fronts the $100,000 and the 10% goes toward that until it is taken care of.
Then the progressive will continue growing. There are a few other ways the reset amount can be handled, but the important thing to know is the seed amount is taken from the wagers on the game just like the progressive amount.
Continuing with our example, you are playing for a total cost per spin of $2.50. In this case .25 of each spin is contributed to the progressive jackpot amount and $2.25 is handled just like it is on a non-progressive machine. The other pay outs and the profit from the machine are taken from this second amount.
A common misunderstanding is the belief that the casinos are taking a huge cut of the progressive jackpots. The casinos tend to make more money on large progressive jackpot machines, but not because they are getting a cut of the jackpot. Generally, they pay out 100% of the jackpot between the jackpot amount and the reset amount.
The reason they can make more profit on the largest progressive jackpot games is because of the extra players who are trying to hit the big win. The media coverage picks up when jackpots get high and it increases the number of players. The additional profit comes from the second amount ($2.25) in our example.
For example, if the machine in our example is set to pay out 90% over time, the casino will make 22.5 (twenty two and a half) cents per bet. So here is the complete breakdown of a $2.50 wager on the slot machine in question.
What are the Differences Between a Local and Wide Area Progressive Jackpot
From a player’s perspective, there really isn’t a big difference between a local progressive jackpot and a wide area progressive jackpot. A wide area progressive jackpot is also sometimes called a linked jackpot and some progressives are called a bank. The wide area jackpot tends to build faster because there are more players, but the mechanics of how the jackpots build are the same.
A wide area progressive jackpot is one shared across games, usually slot machines, across a range of properties. For example, you might find the same progressive slot machine games in numerous land-based casinos or in online casinos running the same software platform. If they are part of a wide area progressive they each feed into the same jackpot and payout from the same jackpot pool.
When there are hundreds or even thousands of players playing the same machines at the same time the progressive amount is bound to go up faster than local progressives.
A local progressive jackpot is one that is usually tied to a single game. An example that many players have seen of a local progressive is a progressive game of Caribbean Stud poker. The progressive is usually only tied to the individual game or group of the particular games at the particular casino.
In other words, if the casino has three tables offering Caribbean Stud, all three will more than likely share the same progressive, but no games outside of them will contribute. Note that the three games do not have to share the same jackpot. They can have three separate progressive jackpots.
You will also run into a bank of slot machines in land-based casinos that share a progressive jackpot. These machines don’t share a jackpot with any slots not included in the bank of machines.
If you are wondering where the line is drawn between local and wide area progressive games, in my mind if the game is linked to games offered at other casinos, either land-based or online, it is a wide area. If it is tied to a single game or a group of games in the same casino it is a local progressive.
Of course, it does go back to the first part of this section in the fact it doesn’t really matter for players. All that matters is how big the jackpot is and what you have to do to qualify for it.
What Types of Games Can Have Progressive Jackpots?
The most common types of games that have progressive jackpots are slot machines. While the slots that are most likely to have progressives are the newer video slots with multiple pay lines, often with bonus rounds and other features, progressives can be found on all types of machines.
I’ve seen progressives on just about any type of slot machines that you can think of, including three reel machines. I have also seen progressive jackpots tied to video poker machines and table games.
Though it really goes beyond the scope of this page, when you consider playing a video poker game with a progressive jackpot compare the paytable of the progressive machine and a non-progressive one. The progressive video poker game is almost always a worse paytable than the non-progressive one.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play the progressive machine, because sometimes the progressive amount will get high enough that it is actually a profitable game to play.
An actual example of this that I have seen many times is Jacks or Better. The best Jacks or Better machines are called 9 / 6 machines, offering 9 coin payouts for a full house and 6 coin payouts for a flush. The progressive jacks or better games tend to only pay 8 coins for a full house and 5 coins for a flush.
Common table games with progressive jackpots include Caribbean Stud Poker, roulette and Let it Ride. Theoretically, just about any table game can be tied to a progressive jackpot. Most of the ones that have progressives have them tied to a side bet.
A common example is a $1 side bet. It’s up to each player whether he or she places the progressive jackpot side bet. I have even seen more than one table game tied to the same progressive jackpot.
For example, a casino could have their Caribbean Stud and Let it Ride progressives together. This can create higher jackpots faster as more people are contributing to the jackpots.
Are There Progressive Jackpots Online and Off?
You’ll find great progressive jackpot games both online and at land-based casinos. Anything the casinos can do to get more people to play they will usually do and huge progressive jackpots help get players in the door or in the virtual door.
So as long as progressive jackpots continue helping the casino make money you will continue to find them at all different kinds of casinos.
Popular Progressive Jackpot Games
Here is a table with some of the most popular progressive jackpot games both online and off. The amounts continue to climb and reset, so the popularity of these games goes up and down with the amount of the top payouts.
These are just a few of the hundreds of possible progressive jackpots so if you don’t see any you like, just take a quick look around at your favorite casino. You are sure to find plenty of other options.
Should I Play Progressive Jackpot Games?
This is a question that only you can answer. There are progressive jackpots that are life changing amounts, but the odds of ever winning one are so high that millions of players will never hit one in their life. But many players view all of their gambling as entertainment expense and don’t really count on winning anything in the long run.
If you have the money to play with and can view your gambling as an entertainment expense, then, by all means, try to hit a big progressive jackpot. As a side note, there is nothing wrong with either gambling as an entertainment expense or gambling while trying to find an advantage against the casino. I am not judging either way, just covering as much of the subject as I can.
Many casual casino players will play a few casino games instead of going out to eat or taking in a movie. If you were going to spend a couple hundred on a night out, why not use it instead to take your chances at your favorite slot machine or table game? Even if you play the games with the highest house edge you will occasionally leave a winner.
You can also find progressive jackpots that get so high that they can be played with a statistical edge over the casinos in the long run. I mentioned this when discussing video poker above and it is an in-depth topic that can’t be covered in full here, but it is possible and when you find these situations on a game you enjoy you should take advantage of them and play.