Slot Machine Lurking: What Is It & Does It Work?

min read
A man smiling, sitting in a casino, in front of a slot machine
BetMGM Oct 19, 2023, 7:17 AM

Wherever games exist, there’ll be spectators. People have been watching other people play games for entertainment since time immemorial. Sports, racing, esports, you name it, whatever activity gives people an opportunity to compete, test their skills, or take a chance, there’s an audience for it. There are even dedicated streaming channels where you can watch gamers play and react to your favorite online casino games.

Slot machine lurking is not the same. People who lurk slot machines aren’t doing it for the entertainment value. Instead, they have their eyes peeled for what they think is a chance to win big. Are they onto something, or are they playing themselves? Delve into the strange world of the slot machine lurkers.

Slot Machine Lurking 101

So what is slot machine lurking all about? It’s a phenomenon that exists exclusively in land-based casinos. Suppose you go to your local casino for a session with one of your favorite jackpot slots. You have fun spinning the reels, but it isn’t your night to win big, so you get up once you’ve spent your budget. That’s how responsible gambling works, after all. Then it happens. As soon as you get up, another gamer swoops across the fall, pounces on your seat, and starts spinning the reels with a beady glint in their eye. You’ve just witnessed a slot machine lurker in the wild.

Why People Lurk Slots

The reason people lurk slots is easy to understand. They are motivated by superstition, pure and simple. The fact is that lurkers believe that slots run hot and cold, that it’s possible to determine when a machine is “due” — that is, when it’s about to award wins. As a result, they comb the casino floor, looking for players who aren’t winning. According to their simple logic, the more time another player spends at a slot without winning, the greater the chances it will pay out afterward. In their minds, they won’t have to wait long — or spend much money — before reaping the rewards that the slot machine has to offer.

Does Lurking Work?

“But wait, I once saw a slot lurker win big after three spins — surely there’s something to it?” On the contrary, the belief that a slot machine is due to pay after a certain period is completely unfounded. Land-based cabinet slots, as well as online slots, all run on software that use random number generators (RNGs). These RNGs run algorithms programmed to produce random outcomes. Every time you play an online slot machine, the algorithm is calculating thousands of outcomes per second. When you spin the reels, an outcome is randomly selected. Think of repeatedly throwing thousands of many-sided dice at the same time, then picking one with your eyes closed. An exploitable pattern is simply not going to emerge.

Cognitive Bias

So why, despite the evidence, do people still lurk slots? It all has to do with the cognitive biases that can fool people into believing things that are not true. Gamblers especially have to be on their guard against them. Take the “hot hand” fallacy — the belief that luck comes in streaks. A gambler who thinks they’re on a winning streak is liable to double down in hopes of maximizing their wins. However, slot machines and casino table games aren’t called games of chance for nothing. Slot games aren’t fixed, roulette dealers are unable to control the ball, and the chances of winning after a winning spin are exactly the same as before. 

The Gambler’s Fallacy

Slot machine lurking is motivated by the opposite of the hot hand fallacy: the “gambler’s fallacy.” This is the false belief that a winning or losing streak has to end at some point. The ultimate example of the gambler’s fallacy — and how it can cause gamblers to lose a lot of money — happened at a roulette table in the Casino de Monte-Carlo on August 18, 1913. The ball landed on black an incredible 26 times in a row. The longer the streak continued, the more gamblers started betting heavily on red, in the belief that the streak was due to change. They lost millions.

Is It Okay To Lurk?

Delusional as lurking slots may be, it isn’t forbidden. No casino will throw a gambler out for lurking around the jackpot slots, biding their time until they spot a fellow player on a so-called losing streak. That said, lurking is often considered to be poor casino etiquette, as it can lead to a negative gaming experience for the player who’s being lurked on. If a lurker gets expelled from the premises, it’s because they’re rude, not because they’re lurking. To avoid lurkers altogether, simply play at an online casino.

Play Top-Rated Online Casino Games

Keen to experience online gambling at its best? Register at BetMGM to explore a broad range of online slot machines, including top-rated jackpot slots, as well as classic casino table games such as blackjack, American and European roulette, baccarat, and craps. Play virtual RNG games at your own pace, or join one of the many live dealer casino games for real-time fun. Play it your way at BetMGM.

Actress Vanessa Hudgens flipping casino chips next to the text "The King of Casinos"
About the Author


Read More

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.

Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.