Online Slots Guide

September 25, 2016
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Playing And Winning at Online Slots
Your complete guide to playing online slots

Visit any land-based casino or fire up an Internet casino room today and you’ll find packed among the roulette and blackjack games banks and banks of slot machines.

Known as the slickest and most efficient way to boost your bankroll, slots have become a staple option for millions of savvy casino players over the years. Indeed, whether it's a quick spin in the Bellagio or at one of our community's favourite slot destinations, such as Planet 7 Casino, you'll find that spinning reels is the way to go if you want to win more.

Why is this the case, we hear you ask?

Well, there’s a good reason that, like their brick ‘n’ mortar cousins, real money online casinos promote their online slots so heavily and that's because: – they’re popular, they're packed with state-of-the-art features, they're profitable for the casinos, and capable of pumping out big winnings for a relatively small outlay.

So, with online slots, and their new, snot-faced younger brother, mobile slots, leading the way in online gambling, let’s take a look at how to play them, where to find them, and which real cash slot games you should be playing. Then you can give yourself the best chance of bagging a big jackpot.

Finding A Good Slots Online Casino

Many online slots from the biggest developers can be found at the best online casinos around. Some developers will have exclusive deals with Internet casinos to provide their slots portfolios, but be warned – not all online casinos are created equal.

How To Play Online Slots
Slots Strategy

When real money online slots first appeared in the mid-1990s, they had just a few reels and one payline. Today, you can find slots with 3 reels, 5 reels, 1,024 paylines and expensive animated sequences – there are even slots based on the latest Hollywood blockbusters.

Whichever web slot you pick, they basically work in the same way, although there are slight differences in features from developer to developer. Remember, you can often ‘try before you buy’ and there are numerous websites which offer free-play versions of these games. Many of the big slots developers (see below for a good list) will also have free-to-play versions of their real money games on their websites.

Spinning The Slot Reels

After loading up an online slot from an online casino or instant play site, you’ll be presented with a game screen filled with reels. The classic slots have three vertical reels but most modern video slots will have five (see types below for more).
Each reel will have typically upwards of 20-25 symbols on them, relevant to the slot’s theme, and the aim is to spin the reels and hit winning combinations of symbols as the reels come to a stop. With so many symbols on the reels - and so many paylines - this can add up to millions of possible combinations to hit.

You’ll see a ‘Spin’ button to the bottom right of the screen which sets the reels moving. Some games will have a ‘Skill Stop’ button so that you can stop the reels yourself.

View The Paytable

Slots Strategy

Before you’ve even spun a reel, click on the ‘Paytable’ or ‘Info’ icon on the game screen; that will take you to a separate screen with all the game info you’ll need. Here you’ll find the various payouts for hitting different winning combinations, a list of the different symbols, and details of any bonus rounds, if any. Some, but not all, developers will list the theoretical Return to Player (RTP) percentage too. There’s more of that below.

Bet Sizing And Paylines

Before you play a real money slot machine, set the bet sizes and number of paylines you want to play. For lower variance games – i.e. slots that appeal to smaller wallets – you’ll find betting starting from as little as $0.01 a line.

Next, pick how many coins you want bet on a particular line. You can usually bet anything from 1 to 10 coins per line. Then choose how many paylines - combination of symbols across the reels – you want to play. You can bet on one payline or the maximum available – simply click on the paylines down the side of the gamescreen.

So, for example, let’s say an online slot has 25 paylines, and betting which ranges from $0.01 to $1.00 a coin. The slot allows you to bet up to 10 coins per line. Therefore, you can play one coin at $0.01 on one payline, meaning your bet per spin is just $0.01, or plump for the maximum - $1.00 a coin, 10 coins per line, and the maximum 25 paylines. This would mean that your bet per spin would be $250.

Look for the ‘Max. Bet’ button – every real money slot has one – to jump to this option.

Other slots, meanwhile, will have fixed paylines, meaning that you have no choice in how few, or how many, paylines you get to play. It can lead to bigger cash outlays over time, but you’ll also have a chance of hitting more winning combinations.

Gamble / Double Up

Slots Strategy

Then, once you’re set, hit the ‘Spin’ button. The reels will spin and come to a rest. Any winning combinations will be paid out, but some real cash slots give you the option to double your winnings (look for the ‘Gamble’ button), usually via a simple ‘red or black’ or ‘higher or lower’ card game.

Slot Game Symbols

You’ll typically find about 10-12 different individual symbols in a typical real money slot, and depending on the theme can consist of anything, ranging from the classic melons and cherries, to superheroes, aliens, bank robbers, cuddly bunnies, mythological characters, diamonds, treasure, gold, poker symbols like jack, queen, king...in fact, if there’s a theme, chances are there’s an online slot invented to cover it.

Wilds And Scatters

Winning combinations of symbols generally pay from left to right, with consecutive symbols contributing to a winning payline. However, every video slot has special images/symbols that result in bigger prizes for the player.

The Wild symbol can substitute for regular symbols in the game in order to create a winning combo. There will also be a multiplier attached to the win, meaning that win may be doubled or trebled if formed with a Wild icon.

Meanwhile, the Scatter symbol pays out if you hit two or more ANYWHERE across the reels. Normally, however, hitting three or more Scatters on the reels will trigger a special bonus feature as well as a special bonus cash prize.

Bonus Rounds

So, you’re playing an real cash online slot and you hit three Scatters or ‘Bonus’ icons on the reels. What kind of bonus can you expect to trigger?
Free Spins

The most common bonus round in a real money slot machine is a straight free games win. You may win anything from 3 to 50 free spins (spun automatically by the computer) and often the spins can be retriggered, i.e. if you manage to hit a further three Scatter icons on the reels during the free spins round, you’ll win a further batch of freebies.

Pick ‘em Bonus

A Pick ‘em Bonus round will occur when hitting three Scatters. You will be taken to a separate game screen and be required to choose from a selection of symbols, each one revealing a different prize or multiplier. The icons will generally follow the theme of the slot (treasure chests for an Aladdin-themed slot, oxygen tanks for an underwater-themed slot). Keep picking icons until you hit the ‘Collect’ icon and you return to the base game screen. Your total win for the bonus round will be totted up and added to your bank.

Click Me Bonus

Slots Strategy

This feature is triggered when three relevant bonus symbols appear on the reels simultaneously. You simply choose from three icons on the reels to reveal a cash prize.

Other Bonus Features

Certain developers will have unique features to their respective game, and you will often find one or more at different slots:

Cascading Reels, or Avalanche Reels, is an interesting feature whereby a winning combination vanishes from the reels and is replaced by symbols above falling down to take their place. This allows for more winning combos and adds to the excitement. Expanding Wilds can appear on one or more reels, and will expand to fill an entire reel, essentially making the entire reel Wild. Sticky Wilds remain in place on the reels while the rest of the symbols spin alongside them. Some of the big-money slots tie-ins will feature more interactive arcade bonus rounds with some skill involved. This could be a battle sequence, target shoot or puzzle round. IGT’s Reel Edge titles, the bonus rounds are modeled after arcade games, so that players can earn prizes based on their performance.

RTP and RNGs

There are two three-letter acronyms that online slots players should pay attention to: RTP and RNG.

Random Number Generators (Rng)

The Random Number Generator (RNG) is responsible for the payout percentage of the real money slot game. That percentage has to be certified by a third party authority to ensure fair gaming. The rules require that a minimum percentage has to be paid back to players.

RNGs work in the same way to online roulette and blackjack games; fair software systems that ensure responsible and random events. When you check the paytable for various winning combination payouts, the amounts reflect the virtual odds of a certain combination; the higher the jackpot is up for grabs, the lower the chance of hitting the right winning combination.

Return To Player (Rtp)

This payout percentage, or Return to Player (RTP), varies from game to game, and developer to developer, but generally in land-based casino slots you could find RTPs of around the 80-90% mark, but that rises significantly for online slots, and further still for new mobile slots.

So, let’s say a slot has a 95% RTP. That means out of 100 coins, 95 go back to the real cash slots player over time. The rest is the online casino’s margin.

How to Find the Best Online Slots Sites

Before you launch headlong into the first online casino site you see, take some time to read up on the best slots, online roulette and other casino games you can experience in the online gambling world, and get some help from people who use the sites, like us.

Visit A Few Sites Before Choosing

It's your money, so spend it wisely and take your time looking into the casino sites available. You can see which sites have the most slots games – some have dozens, others a mere handful – and which offer you free games to test out before you sign up. Some casinos will allow you to try out these games without having to hand over any personal information, so do look around. Only some casinos will offer Progressive Jackpot slots, for example, so if they’re your main aim, make sure your casino has the right games for you.

Look For A High Sign Up Bonus

Get a good bonus

The good news is that, what with all the online casinos available, sites compete for your custom, offering increasingly attractive welcome bonuses for players who are just signing up. With so many new casinos appearing on the market all the time, these offers are very competitive, and this has meant that playthrough requirements are quite relaxed, too. Try out a few online slots sites to make the most of the free money available.

Play Anywhere, Anytime

Mobile Version

The best part about playing online slots in 2016 is that you can enjoy mobile gaming on the move. Online casinos make it their business to offer the smartest technology for gamers, making mobile sites and apps that can accommodate a full range of games for practically any smartphone or tablet on the market. If a site doesn't offer you mobile slots there's really no excuse. Just switch to a casino that does.

Stay Safe Online

Secure

If you want a quick way to find out if you are on a casino site you can trust, check for an eCOGRA seal. The authority regulates sites and audits their games to make sure all's fair. Visiting the best online slots sites will ensure that you get a fair game and that your money is secure with the cashier.

Find Good Customer Support

What sucks more than hitting a jackpot on that online slot but suspecting something is up with the payouts or software? Who do you turn to? That’s why picking the right casino is so important - the best places online will have professional, 24/7 customer support that can answer your questions without delay.

Top Tips To Improve Slots Play

Online slots is not about slamming buttons furiously like you see in a land-based casino. There’s such a vast array of slots on the Internet, with such a wide variety of themes and betting available, that it’s hard to know what to pick in order to make money in the long-term.

1. Bet the Max

It may seem counter-intuitive to wager so much, but as long as you have the bankroll, pick the total number of paylines available and the maximum coin bet. Betting more paylines gives you more chances to win, and you will trigger those lucrative bonus rounds more often too. Those classic 9-payline slots may be simple and fun, but they get boring after a while and you may be better off aiming for the 20-30 payline games for better chances to win.

2. Mind the RTP

Before you play, check the paytable for the RTP%, if supplied. You’re looking for something over 95% if possible. Some online slots won’t even reach 91%, and unless you’re particularly attached to a slot theme, it won’t pay to stick with lower payout games.

3. Don’t Get Attached to One Game

When you start playing online slots, choose a portfolio of games, three to five, and stick to them. Choose one that has good free spins bonuses, one progressive jackpot, one with plenty of Wilds like Sticky and Expanding Wilds, and another low-variance game. By alternating play between the games, you’ll get a better feel of the various games out there, and keep things fresh.

The Different Slots Types

3-Reel/Classic

Slots Strategy

Whatever online slot you find, they will generally fall into two camps: classic and video. Classic slots are a tribute to the slot machines you’d have found in land-based casinos over the past 30 years, with three reels, minimal paylines, and classic symbols like BARs, melons, cherries and bells – a hark back to the early 20th Century machines that used to dispense chewing gum.

5-Reel

Most of today’s online slots are 5-reel games with 3 or 4 rows. This allows for many more paylines, but a 5-reel, 20-payline game is standard among online slots.

3d Video

Some slots have slick animation, interactive graphics and expensive intro sequences that wouldn’t look out of place in a modern computer game. Purists may baulk at the distraction of following a relatively lengthy animated sequence whenever you hit a winning combo, but with computers and tablets able to handle more memory-heavy games, expect the trend to continue.

1024-Ways

These slots are high-variance, but instead of selecting paylines, you automatically bet on all 1,024 paylines available. You’ll normally have to bet about 30 times your coin size, and winning combinations are distributed accordingly.

243-Ways

Similar to 1024-ways slot, 243-ways-to-win slots offer 243 possible paylines.

Progressive Slots

Slots Strategy

Progressive slots are offered by most big developers. Here, part of your bet goes towards a jackpot spread across the every online casino that offers the game. Progressive jackpots are normally triggered when betting the maximum amount, and so are quite rare – and expensive – to hit. Progressives can be won via a bonus round or triggered randomly, and can often run into thousands of dollars before they’re hit. The world record stands at $22,974,400, won by a Finnish player in 2013 at the online slot, Mega Fortune.

Mobile Slots

Many developers are re-launching popular slots, and releasing new ones, specifically tailored for the new generation of smartphone and tablet. They will often feature many of the same aspects as their online cousins, including jackpots and bonus rounds, but the buttons and game screen may vary in appearance.

Five Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know About Slots

  1. Online video slots have been around since the mid-1990s, when Microgaming introduced a basic slot with just three reels and one winning payline.
  2. Online slots have become so popular that big-movie tie-ins have become commonplace. Cryptologic’s extremely popular Marvel Superheroes slots like Iron Man 2 and Hulk featured bonus rounds with arcade-style ‘skill’ elements. Marvel’s new owners, Disney, recently cancelled the Marvel slots tie-ins, distancing themselves from the gambling element of these games.
  3. Progressive jackpots – big-money pots created by players from multiple online casinos – have reached staggering proportions. In 2011, a 20-year-old Norwegian man won an €11,736,375 progressive jackpot playing Microgaming’s Mega Fortune online slot.
  4. Classic slots feature fruit symbols like cherries, lemons and plums. They’re a reference to the very first slot machines that appeared in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. To get round prohibitive gambling laws, the popular machines would dispense flavoured chewing gum as prizes instead of cash, hence the name, ‘fruit machines’.
  5. With the rise in mobile gaming, many of the most popular slots can be enjoyed on smartphones and tablets. The games are specifically tailored for smaller screens but still carry the same great graphics and gameplay as their online cousins.

Major Developers And Popular Slots

Slots Strategy

Microgaming launched the first ever online slot in the 1990s, and they continue to lead the way in making popular online slots. Microgaming boast big-film tie-ins like The Dark Knight, progressive jackpot slots like Mega Moolah, and immersive character-driven games like Immortal Romance, plus boast possibly the most popular online slot of all time: Thunderstruck.

PLAY: Thunderstruck I/II, Mega Moolah, Mermaid’s Millions, The Dark Knight Rises, Break Away, Immortal Romance

Slots Strategy
Playtech

The huge online gaming developer is behind big-name tie-ins like the Marvel superheroes slots – Iron Man 2, Hulk and Wolverine – and their multi-layered bonus rounds continue to enthral slots fans everywhere.

PLAY: Fantastic Four, Iron Man 2, Plenty O’Riches

Slots Strategy
Bally

Another slots developer who have been around for decades, Bally started out in Las Vegas with some of the landmark mechanical slot machines. Their transition to video slots hasn’t been so successful, and compared to some of the 3D video slots developers their games can feel dated. Saying that, Bally’s games still have a huge following.

PLAY: Cupid and Psyche, Pharaoh’s Dream, Cash Wave

Slots Strategy
Betsoft

The pioneers of 3D Video slots, BetSoft’s games boast slick animated sequences, original themes and great bonus rounds. Arguably, they make some of the best-looking slots around.

PLAY: At the Copa, Safari Sam, After Night Falls

Slots Strategy
Cryptologic

An award-winning online casino developer, Cryptologic is a company devoted to delivering the best customer and player experience in the industry. Their games cover all the popular slots themes: superhero tie-ins like Superman, American Indian slots like Native Treasure, and video game crossovers like Call of Duty 4. A respected and trustworthy slots provider.

PLAY: Wonder Woman, Bejeweled, The Amazing Spider-man

Slots Strategy
Gamesys

Gamesys started off offering online bingo to the masses, and they are one of the few online slots makers to never have launched a land-based slot machine. Their games are low-volatility, offering lots of small wins, and they were the first company to launch a social gambling game on Facebook – Friendzy – back in 2012.

PLAY: Buffalo Wild Wins, Valley of the Kings

Slots Strategy
IGT

More recognized for their brick ‘n’ mortar casino slots, IGT’s online versions have proved just as popular with gamblers. Their Cleopatra and Da Vinci Diamonds slots are two of the most popular slots ever released, and most good online casinos will stock them. Solid slots from a well-respected developer.

PLAY: Da Vinci Diamonds, Cleopatra, Rainbow Riches

Slots Strategy
OpenBet

OpenBet have been around since the 1990s, offering top-quality online casino and betting sites. As such, their online slots are second-to-none, and boast some interesting tie-ins, like The Price is Right, Top Trumps and Robocop.

PLAY: Robocop, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, X Factor

Slots Strategy
Novomatic

The popular developer behind land-based ‘Gaminator’ slots has made a seamless transition to online games. Novomatic merge classic slots with slick games and great software.

PLAY: Book of Ra, Book of Ra Deluxe, Lucky Lady’s Charm, Sizzling Hot

Slots Strategy
Sheriff

Another leader in top 3D video slots, Sheriff’s games mix humor, innovative bonuses and slick animation.

PLAY: Alawin, Dr. Magoo’s Adventure, Zoo Zillionaire, The Robets

Slots Strategy
Leander

A relative newcomer to the 3D online slots party, Leander have some really interesting new slots with unique features, with great cartoony graphics and original bonus rounds.

PLAY: Little Pigs Strike Back, Potion Factory, Dragon Slot

Slots Jargon – A Rough Guide

Autospin

A feature that allows you to pre-select a number of automatic spins.

Bet

The amount of money a player wagers on a slot.

Bet Max

Bet the maximum amount of coins possible. Most progressive slot machines require the max bet to be placed in order for a player to qualify to win the big jackpot prize.

Bonus Feature

Additional way to win inside the game, in addition to the standard reel payouts.

Cascading Reels

A feature in some slots developers’ games where winning combinations will disappear to be replaced by the symbols above, forming new combos.

Classic Slots

Traditional slots that consist of three reels and can include multiple pay lines, as well as wild and scatter symbols.

Click Me Bonus

A feature triggered by three or more Scatters on the reels.

Coin Size

The denomination of the coin that you must play with in a specific slot game.

Coins

Units of currency used to bet with in slot games.

Expanding Wild

A special Wild symbol that stretches to fill up the entire reel it appears on.

5-Reel

An online slot with three rows and five reels. Most of today’s online slots are 5-reel.

Fixed Lines

A slot with paylines fixed at a certain amount.

Free Spins

A common bonus round awarding extra games.

Gamble

A feature allowing you to try and double your money after a winning spin.

Jackpot

The highest possible win on a slot machine.

Line Bet

The set amount you bet on each slots line.

Mega Spin

Bonus slots that allow you to play multiple games on-screen in one go.

Multi-Line

A slot machine with more than one payline.

Payline

The line at which the symbols must align to determine a win or loss.

Pay-out

The amount of money paid to the player for a specific combination or win.

Pay Table

A table displaying winning combinations and payouts for each. It may also have details on bonus rounds and RTP percentages.

Pick ‘em Bonus

A bonus feature triggered by three or more Scatters.

Pokies

Australian slang for slot machines.

Progressive Slots

A group of slot machines linked together in a network to form a large jackpot.

Progressive Jackpot

A large jackpot that grows progressively as more people play and more money is deposited. For every spin, another small amount is added to the jackpot total. Generally the progressive jackpot is linked with other machines in a network.

Progressive Ticker

A section on the slot machines that indicates how much the current progressive jackpot is worth.

Reels

The rotating narrow barrels on which the symbols appear. Slot machines usually have between 3-5 reels.

RTP%

The percentage of winnings a machine will pay out in relation to the amount of money put in.

Scatter Pay

Symbols that pay out when found anywhere on the reels, not just in a line from left to right. They can also trigger bonus features.

Skill Stop

Featured in some slots, allows you to manually stop the reels spinning.

Spin

Spins are when the reels appear to be in motion before coming to a stop.

Stacked Wilds

This happens when many wild symbols are positioned on top of each other on the reels.

Symbols

The pictures or graphics on the reels that need to line up in order to win.

3D Slot

New generation of online slot with slick animation and cutaway scenes.

3-Reel

A classic slot that has three reels and three rows.

Trigger

The symbols or sequence required to activate a bonus round.

Video Slots

Slot machines usually operated online, without reels, but rather a video screen that generates a picture of reels spinning.

Wild Symbol

A symbol that will substitute for other icons to form winning combinations in a payline. Wilds can substitute for all symbols, but normally won’t substitute for Scatter symbols.

Wild Multiplier

A wild symbol that not only substitutes for other symbols but also multiplies any win it is part of.

Winning Combinations

The various amount of different ways to win as displayed by the paytable.

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