4 Ways Pokies are programmed to keep you Hooked

4 Ways Pokies are programmed to keep you Hooked
4 Ways Pokies are programmed to keep you Hooked

If you’ve ever been to a casino, it’s likely that you’ve noticed that there are many players sitting in front of slot machines for hours on end. They look more like zombies than human beings because their glazed eyes stare at the screen hoping to strike just the right combination. Here are 4 Ways Pokies are programmed to keep you Hooked.

The right way to describe the scene above is by saying this hypothetical player has a full-blown addiction. But when you consider all the ways the deck was stacked against them, it’s hardly surprising.

In this article, I’ll go over four ways slot machines are designed to keep you playing hours and hours.

4 Ways Pokies are programmed to keep you Hooked

1 – There’s Almost No Learning Curve

There’s Almost No Learning Curve
There’s Almost No Learning Curve

The appeal of pokies machines is that there’s barely a learning curve involved for new players. Grab the lever or press the buttons and the wheels go spinning, then stop them by pressing another set of buttons and see if you’ve won. It does not require anything to learn especially for playing beginners’ level games.

Even some of the easiest games out there such as blackjack or roulette take a few rounds of playing before first-timers actually feel comfortable. Additionally, the fact that players are interacting with a machine and not a real person means there’s no actual interaction when it’s clear that the player doesn’t really know what they’re doing.

The most important factor leading to players getting addicted to slot machines isn’t some psychological hack or trick being played by games designers, it’s really just the ease of play. Besides this, there are many sneaky ways slots are designed to keep you sitting there long after you should have left. But if the game wasn’t so easy in the first place, there wouldn’t be as much at stake.

2 – The Near Miss Approach

The Near Miss Approach-p4 Ways Pokies are programmed to keep you Hooked
The Near Miss Approach

If the ease of play is the casino’s way of saying, “Hey beginner, come play this game,” the near-miss is what keeps those beginners spinning and spinning, hoping to hit a big prize. Let’s find out what is the near-miss phenomenon. This is one of the 4 Ways Pokies are programmed to keep you Hooked.

Our brains are hardwired to want to accomplish something we’ve set out to do. This is a function of evolution, and it’s something that has obviously contributed to the survival of the human species. Ironically, when this center of the brain is hacked with pokie machine design, it can have negative consequences.

In today’s world, where we no longer have to hunt for our food to bring home to the tribe, the near-miss is manipulated by casinos to keep players coming back again and again for more. A near miss on a pokie machine doesn’t mean anything at all, but the human brain has a hard time recognizing this fact.

When you spin the wheel on the pokies machine and you end up one symbol short of the jackpot, you win as much money as if you had no matching symbols at all. The “near-miss” phenomenon makes you feel like you’re almost there, but in reality, it doesn’t mean anything in terms of how close you are to hitting the jackpot.

Casinos know that the near-miss keeps players coming back for more. For this reason, it’s often focused on computerized versions of slot machines with messages like, “So close!” or “Just one more spin!” This is just an example of the many ways gambling taps into a part of our evolutionary psychology and uses it against us.

3 – Small Payouts

Small Payouts
Small Payouts

One of the more nefarious ways pokies machine designers and engineers keep people hooked is by intentionally programming these machines to give you a small reward when you’re on a losing streak.

Here’s how it works. Remember, this practice was identified by gaming authorities; and considered to be illegal, but it still persists in casinos all over the place. Machines have been programmed with a special code that gets triggered; when a player has lost some number of spins in a row. When the threshold of losses is reached; the machine automatically gives the player a win and a small amount of money.

Now, here’s the most ridiculous part of this setup: These small wins aren’t really even wins. The game is programmed to deposit a small percentage of your losses into a “bank”; which serves as the reserve for your losing streak payout. For instance, if the game says you’re losing $0.50 every time you lose; it will deposit $0.02 cents of that loss and save it for later.

But the fact is, not all pokie machines are designed this way. It’s not legal but it does still show up from time to time. This is probably the most egregious example of programmers hacking the minds of players; to keep them spinning, and spinning, and spinning for hours on end.

4 – They Accept Credits Instead of Cash

They Accept Credits Instead of Cash
They Accept Credits Instead of Cash

Most casinos nowadays utilize programmable gaming cards instead of cash. In the early days, you would have to put your dollar bills into the pokie machine; you simply swipe your card today. Casinos might tell you that the purpose of the card is simply that it makes things easier. How else could they give you comps so fast? In reality, they’re just putting a barrier between you and your money which makes it much easier to spend.

There are practical applications for the casino membership card that is the standard nowadays. However, if the card led to less spending by players; you can bet that cash would still be used in the majority of gambling casinos. It’s not necessarily wrong for casinos to use cards instead of cash. Rather, it’s necessary for players to understand that each time they reload that card; your bank account is taking a hit. All the more reason to create a full-fledged bankroll prior to your gambling trip.


It is not about criticism of pokies machines. Like every other vice, they have a time and a place where they’re plenty appropriate; and even a little bit fun, too.

The fact is that you simply need to be able to recognize when you’re falling into a trance-like state while playing pokies and understand that they’re designed to make you feel that way. If you’re able to identify the addictive nature of pokies, there’s a good chance you can avoid any negative consequences that will lead to you draining your bankroll quickly.