Online Slots Guide

March 25, 2019
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online slots super guide

Walk into any casino around the world and there are a few simple reasons you're usually greeted with a sea of slot machines: They're fun, easy to play, and they give you a real chance to turn a tiny bet into a massive payday.

Online slots are even better. Nowadays there are more themes to choose from, better graphics, and bigger jackpots than ever before.

If you want to study up on slots, you've come to the right place. This page is your one-stop-shop for everything slots-related including how to play, how to win, which games to choose, our top strategy tips and tons more.

Online slots super guide

#1 - how to play slots

Besides big winning spins, one of the most appealing things about slots is how easy they are to play. Because the gameplay is simple, you can focus on the stories and graphics as well as the big jackpots and how to win them.

Most slot machines work in much the same way. Symbols are arranged on vertical spinners called “reels”. The reels spin and stop to show a random series of symbols arranged on the payline. You win by hitting different combinations and patterns of symbols.

In addition to reels and paylines, you should brush up on your game's special symbols, special bonus rounds, jackpots and RTP, to name just a few.

Get to Know Common Slot Machine Elements

symbols

Each game usually has 10-12 standard symbols. In addition to these regular ones, there are also special symbols like “Wild”, “Bonus”, and “Scatter”.

PAYLINES

The line that connects the combinations is called a payline. Some machines can have 25 or more paylines that zigzag all over the screen.

bet level

This is the basic unit you'll use to bet. Then you can choose how many coins to bet on each payline and how many total paylines you want to play.

Progressive Jackpots

In these games, a tiny bit of each bet goes towards the jackpot which keeps growing until someone wins it.

Bonus Rounds

Hitting a bonus round not only unlocks special mini-games within the main game, it's also a great way to rack up winnings.

Return to Player % (RTP)

RTP refers to the casino's statistical advantage in a specific game. The bigger the RTP, the better the game is for the player.

Symbols
symbols

Each game usually has 10-12 standard symbols. In addition to these regular ones, there are also special symbols like “Wild”, “Bonus”, and “Scatter”.

Paylines
PAYLINES

The line that connects the combinations is called a payline. Some machines can have 25 or more paylines that zigzag all over the screen.

bet level

This is the basic unit you'll use to bet. Then you can choose how many coins to bet on each payline and how many total paylines you want to play.

Progress
Progressive Jackpots

In these games, a tiny bit of each bet goes towards the jackpot which keeps growing until someone wins it.

Bonus Rounds

Hitting a bonus round not only unlocks special mini-games within the main game, it's also a great way to rack up winnings.

Return to Player % (RTP)

RTP refers to the casino's statistical advantage in a specific game. The bigger the RTP, the better the game is for the player.

paylines explained

There's a big difference between playing one payline and playing 25. The more paylines you play, the more often you're going to win and hit special bonuses. You also have more chances to hit a jackpot. It comes with a price, however, since you have to place a separate bet on each payline you're playing.

single
multi
single
Single payline slots
multi
Multi payline slots

A lot of players like choosing a lower denomination coin that allows them to max out the paylines while keeping the total bet at a manageable level. Other people prefer to play a smaller number of paylines with a bigger bet riding on each. The truth is, it's more exciting to hit lots of winning combinations which is why you see new machines pushing the limits with more and more paylines.

Symbols Breakdown

Even though the symbols are different depending on which slot machine you're playing, they all work the exact same way. There are standard symbols that are usually inspired by the game's theme, these can match up or line up in special ways for you to win, and there are special symbols that can trigger special prizes, multipliers or bonus rounds. Here are the most important symbols to get familiar with.

Wild slot symbol
Scatter slot symbol
Bonus slot symbol
Multiplier slot symbol

#2 - free play slots

Whether you want to play purely for fun or you want to research new games and online casinos before signing up, there are tons of options for free play on most of our recommended casino partners.

Money isn't the only reason slots are some of the most popular games in the entire casino. A lot of the enjoyment for people has to do with the game's story, characters and the thrill of spinning the wheels. You can get all of that without risking a dime by checking out the free play casino games sections of most casino websites.

Another big benefit to being able to play for free is to research a new site before signing up. Different casinos use different game developers so it's great to be able to actually play new titles before going through the process of opening an account and depositing money.

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#3 - jackpot slots

Million-dollar jackpots are the dream of every self-respecting player. Everyone gets to win hundreds of dollars, and lots of people get to win thousands, but it's a once-in-a-lifetime experience to hit a truly big jackpot.

The jackpots that get the biggest are called “Progressive Jackpots”. That means a small part of each wager is added to the jackpot. It keeps increasing until someone hits it. Until someone wins it, it just keeps growing and growing.

Massive progressive jackpots aren't available on all games, and usually, you have to be betting a certain amount in order to qualify. If you want a chance at them, make sure to research the games and the qualification criteria to make sure you're eligible. Here's a look at some of the biggest online progressive jackpot slots on the planet.

Jackpot
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massive winners

There have been tons of seven-figure slots winners over the years but the biggest of the big will blow your mind. Imagine playing on the internet for pennies and winning a prize so big it changes your life forever.

€17,879,645 – Mega Moolah

On October 6, 2015, John Heywood was betting 25p per spin on the legendary slot Mega Moolah and hit the biggest jackpot in history, worth over €17,879,645. Heywood was a 26-year-old soldier who had fought in Afghanistan and reportedly used his winnings to help his sick father.

Mega Moolah slot winner
€17.8 million – Mega Fortune

On October 6, 2015, John Heywood was betting 25p per spin on the legendary slot Mega Moolah and hit the biggest jackpot in history, worth over €17,879,645. Heywood was a 26-year-old soldier who had fought in Afghanistan and reportedly used his winnings to help his sick father.

Mega Fortune slot winner

#4 - slots tips

When you play slots for years you pick up a lot of tips and strategy along the way. Luckily for you, we've distilled that experience down into a short list of easy-to-follow guidelines. It starts with picking the game that gives you the best chance of accomplishing your goals.

Choosing Your Online Game

There are a number of key factors that can guide your decision as far as which game to play. The first step is identifying your priorities and then finding the games that are in line with them.

Do you want the absolute best value for your money?

By looking at a game's RTP, which we explained above, you can find the titles that offer the best statistical value.

Do you want the chance to win big jackpots?

Usually, progressive jackpot games have a lower RTP because you can win massive prizes. Make sure to account for that in your bankroll management if you're hunting big jackpots.

Do you want to be entertained?

It's fine if entertainment is your main priority. Make sure to pick a game with great graphics plus a theme and story that appeals to you.

Are there any special promotions with different games?

Are there any special promotions with different games? Online casinos promote different games at different times so it's worth staying up to date with the latest promotions and giveaways associated with different games.

7th Heaven slot machine
 Forbidden Throne slot machine
Grim Muerto slot machine

online strategy

A lot of people assume that there's no strategy in slots. They're only partly right. While the advanced gameplay strategy is limited, there are lots of decisions that will affect your chances of winning and having a positive experience playing.

Choose Games with High RTP

In terms of value, the biggest decision you get to make is which game to play. If you want the statistically best chances of winning, always pick the games with the highest Return to Player percentage. These games have the lowest house edge and give you the best chance of coming out in the black.

Games with high RTP
Use Free Spins

Casinos give away free spins so promote new games, reward you for playing or as part of a larger loyalty scheme. Make sure to research your options and take advantage of them when they're available.

Free spins
Use Bankroll Management

The key is to understand your goals and what you're comfortable with. If you like to take risks and gamble, making big bets in relation to your bankroll can mean huge wins. It can also mean having to reload sooner. If you like slots for entertainment consider betting small compared to your bankroll to make sure you get your money's worth.

Piggy bank
Hunt Big Jackpots

The odds of hitting the winning combination stay the same. That means by keeping an eye on which jackpots haven't been won lately, you can get a lot more value out of your spins.

Slot machine with bullseye

Our Top 4 Online Tips

Sign up at new casino
Sign Up at a New Casino

A lot of online casinos juice up their welcome bonuses with free spins which are great for slots players.

If you have a favorite game, don't worry, lots of different gambling sites use the same software developers and offer the same games.

Slot machine with 777
Diversify Your Games

Some slots players stick to one game and we think it's a mistake. It's okay to focus on a small number of games but you should make sure you're covering all your bases.

If you're only playing one game you might be missing out on jackpots, multipliers, bonus rounds, free spins and other promotions that are only available in other games.

Casino chip icon
Max Out Paylines

It's way more fun when you're racking up winning combos on every spin and accessing the bonus games regularly.

That's why we recommend lowering the value of each coin and maxing out the number of paylines you're playing on each spin.

Loyalty program
Sign Up for Loyalty Programs

Most casinos have loyalty programs but not all of them sign you up automatically. Make sure you're registered, then make sure you're keeping track of which games offer the best rewards.

Loyalty programs are one of the best ways to swing the odds in your favour.

OFFLINE strategy

Slots were around long before computers or the internet and while there are a lot of similarities between online and offline, there are some important strategies that only apply to brick and mortar casinos.

Hot and Cold Machines

The idea of a “hot” machine, one that's due for a win and therefore more likely to pay out, has been around for a long time.

The truth is you're way better off choosing a machine based on its actual odds since they're not supposed to change regardless of how often they've been won.

Hot and cold machines
Comps and Freebies

Slots are an easy way to get comps for free restaurant meals, nights in the hotel, or entry into special events like tournaments and giveaways.

Make sure to sign up for the rewards program and enter your card every time you start playing.

Comps and freebies
Progressive Jackpots

Live casino jackpots aren't usually as big as the biggest prizes found online but they can still reach into the millions of dollars.

Make sure to keep an eye out for the machines that advertise big progressive jackpots and take a shot at winning life-changing money.

Progressive jackpots
Play in Tournaments

Lots of casinos host slots tournaments and they're a blast.

We'll explain the ins and outs of tournaments, including the different kinds, a little later on but for now, if you have an opportunity to play in one we highly recommend it.

Play in Tournaments

Our Top Offline Tips

Play for fun
Play for Fun

The best way to play is for fun because you're always a winner.

Whether you're meeting a group of friends at the casino to hang out and play or you just need a break.

Play within your bankroll
Play Within Your Bankroll

Play within your limits.

You should never feel stressed out over losing money or regret your decision to play. Only play with money that you can afford to spend.

#5 - slot tournaments

Much like poker tournaments, slots tournaments are a way to compete against lots of other players all at once and potentially win huge prizes. They're available online and in brick and mortar casinos. There are different variations but far and away the two most common are single-level and multi-level tournaments.

Types of Tournaments

Single-Level Tournaments

In a single-level tournament, everything happens within one set amount of time.

Everyone starts with the same number of credits and generally maxes out the coin denomination and number of paylines. The strategy is to win big or go down in flames.

To win a slot tournament you have to get lucky but you also have to risk disaster to do it.

Single level tournaments
Multi-Level Tournaments

At the end of each level a certain percentage of the field is eliminated.

For example, the tournament could start with 500 people and the top 10% of winners advance to the next round. Now 50 players compete in a new level and the top 10% advances to the final round where the last five players compete for the biggest prizes.

Usually, multi-level tournaments have bigger fields, more play and bigger prizes.

Multi level tournaments

how slots tournaments work

Tournaments are really exciting to play, especially live. Imagine a room with hundreds of people trying to get in as many spins as possible. Tournaments often come down to the wire with people cheering on the final players and they always come with great cash and prizes. The best part is they're really easy to understand.

Slot machine icon

Each player gets their own machine and starts with the same number of credits.

Hourglass icon

There's a time limit, during which everyone tries to play as many spins as they can and win as many coins as possible.

Ranking chart icon

When the time runs out, players are ranked according to how many coins they won.

There are variations of this structure that reward different things like how many spins each player was able to make and how many bonus rounds they finished successfully. Whatever the case, the prizes are agreed upon beforehand and usually pay out 10-15% of the total field.

#6 - bonus games

Within most games are mini-games, also called bonus games or bonus rounds. You trigger them by hitting three special symbols like Bonus or Scatter. Different games work in different ways but the one really common bonus is a set of free spins. The game will auto-spin 20 times, for example, and you get to keep all the winnings. In other games, a second screen will appear and let you spin a wheel or play a new game to win special prizes.

Pick 'em Bonus

In this bonus round, you're presented with a choice of icons to click.

When clicked, each icon will reveal a coin amount, multiplier, or other special bonus.

Pick'em Bonus round
Match Bonus

In this game, however, you have to click on two or more and hope that they match.

If your choices match, you win the amount shown or the prize that corresponds to the symbol.

Match Bonus

Slots with Great Bonus Games

The best games in history usually have the biggest prizes and the most entertaining bonus rounds. Nowadays new games feature tons of exciting and innovative mini-games but sometimes you can't beat the classics.

Mega Moolah's Jackpot Wheel

The grand-daddy of all online progressive jackpots, Mega Moolah has awarded some of the biggest prizes in the history of online gambling.

That includes the €17,879,645 jackpot won by 26-year-old John Heywood in 2015 that we mentioned earlier.

In this game, you get to spin for one of four jackpots, including the massive Mega Jackpot.

Mega Moolah Jackpot Wheel
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100 Free Spins on Zeus

Greek mythology-based classic Zeus has a deceptively simple bonus round but it's helped make this title a legend both in real casinos and on the internet.

Players can win up to 100 free spins in the bonus round which almost always means big cash prizes and an exciting gamble as the spins play out.

Zeus slot game

Bonus rounds are a highlight for people who love slots and we always recommend games that deliver the very best. Make sure to spend the time exploring new titles and old ones you might have missed for the most exciting bonus games.

#7 - rngs

Real-life slot machines were originally 100% mechanical, the outcomes decided by complicated machines. Then came electrical circuits and eventually computer chips. That was when virtual random-number generators were first used in gambling.

What is a Random Number Generator?

The random number generator is a computer algorithm that constantly produces complicated runs of numbers that are used to decide the outcomes slots and other casino games. While they've been proven to fall short of true randomness in a mathematical sense, they've been accepted to be more than adequate for online gambling.

How They Work

Online casino software has the RNG built into every single game and it's always running. The RNG creates numbers between 1 and 10 digits long, hundreds of times every second. Each of the numbers corresponds in a certain way to a symbol and possible position on a reel. When the player hits the spin button, the game chooses the numbers created that millisecond to decide the game's outcome.

Random number generator

rng

The computer algorithm is constantly spinning, producing numbers every millisecond.

Casino icon

casino

The player triggers the spin button on a slot machine, for example.

7 slot symbol

OUTCOME

The numbers chosen correspond to a certain game outcome which decides whether you win or lose.

RNGs have been in use in slot machines for decades and they've improved rapidly alongside computer technology in recent years. Nowadays they perform better and are more secure than ever before.

#8 - different varieties

We've already covered a lot of ground but another important distinction to make is between the main kinds of slots you'll run into both online and in brick and mortar casinos.

Penny Slots

In the past, Penny Slots often referred to games that were more basic compared to the fancier machines that cost more money to play.

In the world of online games, however, you can play tons of the best titles for whatever stakes you want, even as low as a penny.

Penny slots
Video Slots

If Penny Slots make you think of an old-fashioned coin-operated machine, Video Slots should make you think of sleek animated graphics and exciting stories and characters.

Nowadays slots have evolved far beyond the days of cherries and gold bars. In many cases, they're a lot more like video games.

Video slots

All the online slots casinos we recommend offer huge catalogues of games that include both traditional games and modern video versions. That means you can try them all to decide which ones you like the best.

slot machines vs video slots

In most online casinos you still have the option of playing more traditional-style games. These are simpler and let you focus on the spin and hitting more straightforward combos. It's a huge contrast compared to the fast-paced animations and stories we outlined in the last section. In the end, it all comes down to personal taste.

Old Fashioned

These games are easy to understand and a lot more relaxing to play than some other more modern titles. They include:

  • Fewer reels and fewer paylines which mean the action is easier to follow.
  • Less complicated bonus games that usually include free spins.
  • A slower pace with less on-screen action.
  • A more nostalgic experience for people who like traditional games.
  • Modern Games

    Modern video slots are big on the visual experience as well as more complicated stories, gameplay and bonus rounds. They include:

  • Lots of reels, paylines and special symbols.
  • Fast-paced gameplay.
  • More visual screens including animation and mini-stories.
  • Modern themes, stories and characters.
  • We recommend switching it up and trying different games and styles. Sometimes you might be in the mood for more fast-paced action while other times you might want something more relaxed that takes less of your concentration. There's a lot to choose from so don't be afraid to try a new title.

    #9 - slot cheats

    When most people think of rigged slot machines they usually worry that a casino might be manipulating the game in their favour to win more of your money. In reality, the opposite is far more common. History is full of examples of players cheating the casino out of millions by hacking or compromising the slot machine's ability to function properly.

    Biggest offline cheats

    • Ron Harris

      If you've seen the movie Oceans 11 you might be familiar with this story, even if you didn't know where it originally came from.

      Harris was a computer programmer that worked for the Nevada Gaming Control Board. His job was to find bugs in slot machine software and fix them. Instead, he rigged them to pay out jackpots when a certain number of coins were inserted in certain sequence.

      His story has also been featured on numerous TV shows including Breaking Vegas and Vegas Cheaters Exposed.

      Read More on Wikipedia
      Ron Harris
    • Dennis Nikrasch

      This famous slot cheat reportedly cheated Las Vegas casinos out of more than $15 million in the 1980s.

      Nikrasch was a master locksmith and successfully developed ways to manually trigger jackpots. He was caught and the story goes that he traded some of his secrets in exchange for a reduced sentence.

      Read More on Wikipedia
      Dennis Nikrasch
    • Tommy Glenn Carmichael

      Carmichael famously developed a thin piece of metal that could be inserted into the coin slot to set off a win.

      As technology improved, Carmichael developed his tool into a light-emitting wand that was able to hack more modern machines. He was in and out of prison until becoming permanently banned from all casinos in the early 2000s.

      He still works in the gaming industry, however, helping casinos catch cheaters.

      Tommy Glenn Carmichael

    Why Your Chances are Slim

    Hacking a mechanical slot machine from the 1980s is one thing but cracking the advanced security used by today's online casinos is entirely another. And let's be honest, none of us would even be able to hack a slot machine from the 1980s. There are a few key reasons you have zero chance of successfully cheating:

    • Advanced encryption and security technology.
    • Proven random-number generators that cannot be predicted.
    • Active security teams using advanced monitoring technology to track and protect players.

    #10 - offline slots play

    Long before anyone had even heard of a computer, let alone the internet, people loved gambling on slot machines. Even though they've become way more advanced, people loved old-school slots for the same reason people love online slots now: They're exciting, easy to play, and offer the chance to win big.

    The Online v Offline Debate

    Arguing that online or offline slots are better is a lot like arguing that a dog is a better pet than a cat. The truth is, they can both be great and you don't have to choose one over the other.

    That said, there are differences that may appeal more to different people. Let's look more closely at the most important pros and cons.

    Online
    offline
    Online Slots

    People love to play these games online for lots of reasons but these are the biggest:

    • Convenience – There's a lot to be said for being able to play around your schedule from home or on the go.
    • Amazing games – New technology lets game designers get creative with awesome graphics, themes and stories.
    • Huge jackpots – Nowadays the progressive jackpots online are as big or bigger than anything you'll find a live casino.
    • Bonuses and Promotions – Online casinos offer free spins and free cash when you sign up as well as ongoing rewards for playing.
    Offline Slots

    There's a certain allure to live machines but that's not the only reason people love them:

    • Fun and social – Lots of people love hanging with their friends and meeting new people while gambling at the casino.
    • Exciting games – Some games have huge screens, giant wheels and other fun gimmicks to make the experience more exciting.
    • Live tournaments – Casinos hold tournaments where you can play against lots of other people and sometimes give away tickets for free.
    • Big wins – Just like online, you have a chance to win massive jackpots that can be in the millions of dollars.

    vegas slots

    Tens of millions of people visit Las Vegas every year and for those of them that love slots, it's heaven. These are the biggest reasons why:

    Endless Games

    Sin City might as well be called Spin City because every casino is jam-packed with the world's best slot machines and other games.

    You could spend a week in Vegas and not even come close to playing them all. Check out the modern machines on the strip or venture downtown for the old-school experience.

    Casinos in Sin City
    Bonuses and Comps

    It's fun to check out lots of casinos but when you gamble, it's best to stick to properties that share the same rewards program.

    Sign up for a VIP card and stick it in the machine every time you play. You'll get free hotel nights, buffet tickets and lots more just for playing the games you love. You can also earn your way into special slots tournaments.

    VIP Comps

    There's a time and a place for both online and offline slots but the best part is, you don't have to choose between them. There are tons of great reasons to play both.

    #11 - video poker

    A close relative to the slot machine, video poker is another game that's easy to play, lots of fun and offers a chance at big jackpots. It's also another example of a game that successfully made the jump from brick and mortar casinos into our favorite online gambling sites.

    What is Video Poker?

    Video poker machines feature games like Jacks or Better, Double Bonus Poker and Deuces Wild, to name just a few. The most common games play like a five-card draw.

    You win based on how big a poker hand you make according to a pay-table posted above the game. Each hand the player receives five cards and then has the option to trade zero to five cards for new ones.

    We'll get to the ways video poker is similar to slots but there are a few key differences, most importantly it usually requires more skill and strategy. Make sure you understand the rules of the game you're playing and don't treat it like a slot machine.

    How it's Similar to Slots

    There's a lot of crossover between slots and video poker and if you like one, chances are you're going to like the other two. Some of the biggest similarities include:

    Casino chip icon

    A private gaming experience where you can relax and play your own game.

    Checklist icon

    An exciting gambling game that offers the chance for big wins with relatively small risk.

    Timeclock icon

    The ability to play at both live and online casinos.

    Our Recommendations

    There are so many games out there it can be overwhelming, but don't worry. We've tasked our experts with recommending a few choice titles based on other games you've probably already seen.

    if you liked...
    Mega Moolah

    If you like jackpots, hopefully, you've heard of Mega Moolah.

    It awarded the biggest jackpot in history when the UK's John Heywood won £13,209,300 betting just 25p per spin. With a super-fun safari theme and tons of prizes, there's a reason this is an all-time great game.

    Mega Moolah
    read more
    then you'll love
    Mega FORTUNE

    If you've been around slots for a long time you've definitely heard the name Mega Moolah.

    If you're new to the game, we can't risk you missing out on this one. In 2017 the jackpot was hit 12 times, the most ever, with an average prize of over $5.7 million USD.

    Mega Fortune
    play now
    if you liked...
    snow business

    This classic game features a really fun North Pole theme and, best of all, a jackpot that regularly gets into the multiple millions of dollars.

    The game actually features four different jackpots that can be accessed in a special bonus round that lets you spin the bonus wheel to see which prize you'll win.

    Snow Business
    play now
    then you'll love
    jackpot giant

    If you've never played it, this game is too good to pass up. It combines a fun and original theme with some of the biggest progressive jackpots around.

    At the time of writing this article, the Jackpot Giant grand prize is worth an astounding USD$12.1 million! Make sure to add it to your list of games to try.

    Jackpot Giant
    play now

    #12 - glossary

    Autospin
    Bet
    Bet Max
    Bonus Feature
    Cascading Reels
    Classic Slots
    Click Me Bonus
    Coin Size
    Coins
    Expanding Wild
    5-Reel
    Fixed Lines
    Free Spins
    Gamble
    Jackpot
    Line Bet
    Mega Spin
    Multi-Line
    Payline
    Pay-out
    Pay Table
    Pick'em Bonus
    Pokies
    Progressive Slots
    Progressive Jackpot
    Progressive Ticker
    Reels
    RTP%
    Scatter Pay
    Skill Stop
    Spin
    Stacked Wilds
    Symbols
    3D Slot
    3-Reel
    Trigger
    Video Slots
    Wild Symbol
    Wild Multiplier
    Winning Combinations
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