The online gambling industry is a multi-billion dollar business that has its roots all over the world. Slots have always been one of the most popular games for gamblers. While they are attractive and inviting in appearance, they are hard to master and are a complete mystery to many players. I’m bringing you the ultimate online slots guide, so you can have the upper hand when playing at online casinos and have better chances to win the elusive jackpot prizes.
About Online Slots
This guide is meant for both novice and pro players, and that’s why I'm going to cover all of the aspects of online slot gambling in it. If you are already familiar with all slot game mechanics and features, you can freely scroll down to some of the more advanced parts like best slot playing strategies. For those who are interested in learning from scratch, I'm going to start from the very beginning.
What are the slots? Slots are gambling devices that spin when activated. They have always been one of the most popular casino games, in both land-based and online casinos. In fact, in land-based casinos, slots are still designated to take the largest floor spaces allocated for gaming machines. There are hundreds of different slots variations, and though brick house slots and online ones are fairly different, they do share some of the same characteristics. I'm going to talk about online slots for most of this guide, but a lot of these rules and features can also be applied for land-based games as well.
Online slots are one of the most straightforward games to play, which makes them interesting to all types of players. The mechanics of a slot game are fairly simple. You deposit your money, be that coins, paper or digital currency and load up the game. While playing the slot, your deposited money is represented in coin value when wagering. If you manage to win, the machine will also usually payout in coins, which are then automatically added to your overall balance. The way you play a slot game is that you bet your set amount of coins across an active number of paylines which you chose. Depending on how much money you’ve wagered and the value of your possible combination, you will win a different prize. This is basically how a slot game works. Now, there are also extra features like bonuses, free spins, jackpots, mini-games and many more, and I'm going to touch on all of these subjects in this guide.
Features and Symbols of an Online Slot Game
There are a lot of software providers that make different and complex games. With providers pushing the boundaries with each passing year, some players find it hard to keep up with all of the features and mechanics. I’ll talk about the most important features and symbols you can come across while playing slots and help you understand their purpose and function better.
Reels – No matter if inside a classic slot game or a virtual slot behind your computer screen, reels are always the same. To say it differently, reels are what you spin to make your symbol combinations. They can function in two ways. Most of the reels count from the left to right, though some slot games us reels that accept both horizontal and vertical combinations. Reels contain all kinds of features and symbols, and I'm going to talk about all of them in a moment.
Paylines – Online games that are powered by sophisticated computer software. While original slot machines had only one payline, online slots can have up to 100, so it's essential you know how they work. So I'm going to put it in simple terms, a payline is a winning combination of symbols. No matter how your symbols line up, they always have to cross the same numbers of lines and icons. Knowing how to play the paylines correctly can make a huge difference in whether you win or lose. Later in this guide, I’m also going to explain some tactics and strategies on how to play paylines to be more successful.
Pay Tables – I remember playing mechanical slot games in regular land-based casinos, that had a few simple features that are very easy to grasp and understand. Nowadays, with modern online slots, it's not quite the same. Modern slots have comprehensive and often complicated pay tables that hold all of the vital information you need to know about the game in order to win. It never ceases to amaze me when players just launch up the game, without having any prior understanding of the paytable or the slot’s mechanics. Paytable tells you everything, what the symbols are and how much they’re worth, the combinations, charts, possible bonuses, etc. I absolutely advise you to get familiar with the slot’s paytable before going it, because it will not only give you better odds of winning the game but will also enhance your playing experience. On the other hand, ignoring the importance of pay tables can lead to uninformed decisions, which will in return decrease your chances of winning and lower your RTP.
Volatility – this isn't a feature of a slot game by itself but is a significant aspect that affects the way you play a slot game. Generally, there are three types of slot games. High-volatility, medium-volatility and low-volatility slots. The first one's payout less often, but when they do, it's usually a large amount of money. Low-volatility slots pay really often, but very small wins, with a big win mixed in. The medium-volatility slots are a combination of the two. Low-volatility slots are more suitable for newcomers, while high-volatility slots are prefered by experienced players who are willing to risk more money for a chance of getting that rare big win.
Retriggering – Free spins bonuses can be a very welcome addition when playing online. They prolong your experience and give you a chance to win while playing on the houses tab. They are triggered when you manage to line up a certain amount of symbols on your reels. But what happens if during the bonus spins round you get the same lineup again, could you retrigger the free spins bonus again? Yes, you could. There are even some online slot games that don’t have a limit on much times you can retrigger this bonus, which means that you could, in theory, play as much as you want, if you manage to line up the same symbols over and over. Increasing the number of spins you have at a game also increases your chances of boosting your laying budget. So, you should watch out for games that have these features, as you will have much higher chances of winning.
Wild Symbols – Wild symbols are often the most valuable symbol in a slot game. They work in a similar way as a jocker does in card games. They can substitute all other regular symbols in the game (except the scatter one) and help you line up a win more easily. Wild symbols usually carry the game’s main jackpot with them and come in different shapes and forms. New slot machines implement various types of wild symbols including shifting wilds, sticky wilds and expanding wilds.
Scatter Symbols – To win at slot machines you need to line up a certain number of symbols at specific positions on your payline. This doesn’t apply with scatter symbols, as they can appear in any given area and usually unlock bonuses or free spins when they do. Alongside wild symbols, they are often the most lucrative symbols in the game and are always represented by an image that reflects the overall theme of the game.
Sticky Symbols – These type of symbols have become increasingly popular with modern online slot games. Sticky symbols work in a pretty simple and straightforward way. If a symbol stays in the same place for two or more re-spins, you will get a generous bonus reward.
Multiplier Symbols – this symbol does exactly what its name says. It multiplies your winnings by a certain number of times. While many types of multiplier symbols can be found in slot games, two of them are the most common. The first one is multiplier symbols that are a part of the base game and can occur at any point in the playthrough. The second and more popular ones are the bonus round multiplier symbols. The bonus round multipliers can net you some huge winnings. They can range from 2x to over a 1000x of your initial wager.
How do Online Slots Work?
Video slots can feature from 5 to 100 paylines and anywhere in between. While all of them have their own unique features and gameplay mechanics, they share one similarity. All of them operate on a random number generator.
What is a random number generator? I’ll put it in simple words, it’s a software whose primary purpose is to create random number sequences for each and every spin. The RNG will always create a different and random combination of numbers, no matter if you’re playing with the minimum or maximum wager. The RNG is applied in every online casino to determine the outcome of games because it ensures the validity of the outcome since neither the casino nor the player can affect the result of the spin.
One myth that circulates in the gambling world is that casino games have a memory which tracks playtime and notes results. While I can't speak for other types of casino games, this is definitely not the case with slots. Slot games don’t have a memory and don’t have a clue if you just won or lost big with the previous spin, they will continue to operate in the same way as usual. This busts the theory that you should stick with one slot until you cash out, because the results are not programmed, and you have the same chances of hitting several big wins or loses.
The slot game system quickly calculates complex algorithms and mechanics behind your result to calculate your losses or wins. This all happens in a matter of milliseconds and is automatically added and summed to your total balance. There are some minor differences when it comes to free and bonus spins, but they all operate on basically the same principle.
Types of Slot Games
To be successful while playing the slot game of your choice, you need to understand the differences between various types of slot games. That's why I'm going to talk about some of them and help you find the most suitable type for your playstyle.
Classic Slot Games – This is one of the oldest forms of slot games and one that you would find in a land-based casino. Classic slot games usually feature only 3 reels and have a pretty straightforward and simple While they're not my cup of tea, a lot of players find the joy of the game to be in its simplicity. I would recommend these 3-reel slots to newcomers and inexperienced players, as they are easy to learn and get into, while still being very fun and entertaining. Though the coin value varies from game to game, the maximum wager you could place is three coins so that you won't be risking much playing these games.
Modern Multiple Reel Slot Games – These games are the alternative to the above mentioned simple and classical 3-reel slots. These slot games feature at least 5 reels and can have up to 100 paylines aligned across your screen. These modern games are usually far more complicated and complex than its predecessor. They have advanced sound and visual design, have beautiful graphics and backgrounds designed to immerse you into the game and keep you playing for an extended period of time. Besides being rich in design and art style, modern slot games also offer significant playing benefits over classic slot games. They always feature some sorts of bonuses, mini-games, free spins, multipliers, and wide betting options.
Progressive Jackpot Slot Games – Progressive jackpot games are one of the most lucrative games you can play in an online casino. They offer you as the player the opportunity to cash out big and win prizes that go up into hundreds of thousands, and sometimes even millions of dollars. The progressive jackpot can grow indefinitely, until a player hits the jackpot, upon which the prize pool resets, and the jackpot starts to build up again. These games are one of the most alluring and enticing offers players fall for when signing up, but I have to warn you of something. You can only win a progressive jackpot if you’re playing your slot games on maximum bet spins.
Autoplay Slot Games – Though the autoplay option is provided in many modern video slots, I felt that it could stand on its own as a separate slot genre, due to the specificity it brings to the table. Playing a slot that has an autoplay feature gives you the chance to speed up your game considerably and mix things up if you start to get bored. There also are certain times when you shouldn’t use the autoplay feature when gambling. This, of course, goes when you want to make a change in your bet size or adjust any other features of the game. For example, some players have a strategy of constantly changing the parameters of their wagers, by adjusting the number of active paylines or coin size. You cant do any of these things when using autoplay, as the game will spin its set number of turns, without you having any power to stop or affect the outcomes. Personally, I tend to avoid the autoplay option, because it shortens for the full experience and doesn’t give you the opportunity to enjoy slots in the way they’re meant to be enjoyed.
Free Spins Slot Games - This type of slot game is very popular with online casino players because they believe they have a better chance at winning when playing these games. While this is not true, there are certain benefits in playing free spins slot games. The first and most obvious one being, of course, the more spins you play, the better your chances of winning something will be. There are online slot games available that offer free spins mini-games that can be retriggered for additional free spins bonuses for as many times as you wish, which if you have a little skill and luck means that you could theoretically play as much as you like just by using free spins. When you combine this with the fact that most games come with a bonus multiplier which multiplies your initial wager, you could be looking at some very nice payouts.
Best Time to Play Online Slots
There are a lot of myths and theories how online casino games work, and despite the fact that we know the specific mechanics of online slots, the games are always set so that the house comes out on top. Although I’ve talked about how online slots work, and that they use a random number generator to randomly payout, there are certain things online casinos don’t want you to know. One of them is undoubtedly the time of the week you decide to launch up your favourite online slot game.
It's understandable that casinos are at their busiest on the weekends, more specifically on Friday and Saturday nights. Its when all of us finish work and want to relax and play some casino games. This is the time when the casino rakes in the most money, and usually when your chances of hitting big aren't that good, so I would advise you to try and minimize your playing time during these days. Casinos often have weekend bonuses and incentives to attract more players to play, but if you can, try to avoid playing during the weekend. If you must, try and use the promotions and money-back offers the best you can, to secure yourself from big loses.
The most productive days to play are the days of the week, especially those that come right after the weekend. I’ve found that, during this time, you have the best chances of winning and that the casino is a little bit looser with its payouts, especially if they’ve amassed a nice amount of money during the weekend.
In short, what would I say are the best times to play online slots? Tuesday and Wednesday, especially in the morning. I know these times are inconvenient, but you will have the best chances of winning when playing on this schedule, which I would especially recommend if you’re trying to gamble professionally.
Pros and Cons of Online Slots
Modern online casinos are a great way to enjoy a fun and entertaining night without having to leave the comfort of your own chair. And online slots are one of the best and most engaging online casino games you could play. With this said, all games have their pros and cons, and I’ll list some of the good and bad sides I seem to notice the most when playing an online slot game.
Pros of Online Slots:
There are a ton of slot games available online - I’m not making an understatement, you could make a game out of trying to list all of the slot games available online, and while that won't be a particularly interesting game in itself, it would take forever for you to complete. There is a slot game out there suitable for everyone, no matter what kind of genre, theme or style of gameplay you prefer. This is pretty fantastic because it's hard to get bored with such rich content. Are you a fan of action-adventure-love slot themed game out there? Done. Or maybe you would like to play Egyptian-Roman-Fantasy themed games? Just search for it. You name it, there’s probably a slot game of it out there.
Great bonuses and promotions – the online gambling market is very competitive Software developers, and online casinos are always trying to up one another by creating the best and most comprehensive slot game. This is great for us players, as we have the freedom to pick the offers we like the most. The most common bonuses you can find are free cash or free spins rewards, along with bonus prices for choosing to play a particular game.
The odds favour you – Let me tell you another misconception. Most players still think that online casinos don’t pay as well as land-based one, which is absolutely not correct. You have better odds and opportunities to land a big win in an online casino than a land-based one. Why is this the case? Because online casinos have lower maintenance They don’t pay for space, don’t have as many employees and spend less in general. This allows them to have a bigger budget for payouts, which we can all appreciate.
You can Play Whenever You Wish – One of the most significant advantages of online slot games is that you can play them anytime you wish. Online casinos never close. The best thing about this is that you can play your favourite slot game not only when you want but where you want. You can launch it up on the go, and don’t have to travel anywhere or wait in line to play.
You’re on your own – This ties to the previous thing I’ve talked about. Land-based casinos usually have a specific timetable during which they operate. This almost certainly guarantees big crowds, players shouting, and there’s always someone looking over your shoulder. When you play online, you play in a calm and relaxing atmosphere, which puts you in the best position to play smart and without pressure.
Suitable for everyone - Another great convenience of online slots is that it's approachable and affordable for everyone's budget, no matter if you have a playing budget of $10 or $1000, you can find a slot game that suits you. The betting range in land-based casino slot games isn't as flexible as it is with online slots.
Cons of Online Slots:
You don’t know how the game works – I know I've talked about all of the aspects of slots and how they work, but when you think about it, there isn't a way to never, ever predict a single result of your game. We can never know the odds and cant predict our chances to win.
Withdrawals can be a pain – One of the biggest cons when it comes to online slots is the withdrawal process. By the time you could cash out your money you’ll feel like its been ages. This doesn’t happen in land-based casinos because they cash you out on the spot, but with online casinos, the money has to be directed through a bank first, which means it could take some time while the process is finished.
No direct customer-staff relations - Though online casinos usually have live chat support, a telephone line or at least a contact e-mail, this form of communication is impersonal and resolving your problems can be stressful at times. Trust me, waiting for an e-mail response while our funds are missing is not a pleasant experience.
The good side of you playing in an online casino game from halfway across the world can also be pretty stressful In some countries, they treat online gambling differently, which means your winnings may fall under different rules in your country than those stated on the casino. Legislation and tax issues can be unsettling and a hassle, but if you read up on them before playing, you should have any problems.
Can You Win Money Playing Online Slots?
As a seasoned gambler with many years of wagering behind, I've often come across newcomers who wish to get into the online gambling scene, and all of them have the same question. Can I win money playing online slots? When they approach me with such a straightforward question, I always give them a direct answer. No.
But, think about it for a second, why are so many gamblers playing every day if no one is ever winning? Of course, you have a chance to win online, but it won't be simple nor easy, no matter what the experts are telling you. Results come with experience and practice. In most cases, they come from earning from your own mistakes. That’s why I'm writing this guide for you so that you learn from the mistakes other players have made and know-how and when to play casino games and which strategies to use. This brings me to the next part of the guide. What you should and shouldn’t do when playing in an online casino.
Successful Online Slot Strategies
When it comes to successful online slot strategies, most people are of the opinion that there aren't many things you can do to improve your chances of winning. Albeit it is true that slot games are built-in with an advantage that favours the casino, there are specific steps you can take to make sure you have a more efficient and profitable time playing online. You won't be able to affect the slots mechanics with your strategy in any way, but you will be able to use certain tactics to prolong your experience and have better odds while stacking up against the casino. These are some of the most successful tips and tricks, strategies I’ve found to be the most useful for me over the years.
Have a Set Budget – This seems to be a logical and straightforward strategy, which all of us have to do before even starting to play at an online casino. So why am I mentioning it specifically? Because gambling is a dangerous sport and most players lose control at some point or another. That’s why it's important to set a budget and play with money you can afford to lose. Don’t play with food or rent money and be tactical with your playing budget. Setting a limit for yourself will not only ensure you don’t go bankrupt but will also help you appreciate every spin and help you be more strategic with your plays.
Play Slow – Slot machines are generally one of the fastest paces casino games you can find online. On average, an online slot player makes around 600 spins per hour. Depending on the size of the bets and the amount of money you’re wagering, this can add up to a hefty sum of money when all is said and done. So keep this in mind and try to slow down. I know that slot games work in such a way that the more you spin, the bigger your chances to win big are, but you won't be able to win anything if you blow through all of your playing money. So one of the most important strategies is to pace yourself, play slowly and savour every spin.
Skip the Progressive Slots – If you’re a casual gambler playing mostly for fun and trying to pocket a decent amount of money, you should absolutely stay away from progressive slot Though they offer mindblowing payouts, they pay out rarely. This is reasonable, as they have to in order to amass huge jackpots. Bottom line, it's your choice, but I would advise you against it unless you have a huge bankroll and are prepared to take big-budget hits. You can try regular slot games with progressive features, which offer you a nice alternative, but a much smaller potential jackpot.
Learn the Game – No matter what game you decide to pick in the end, it's important to learn it from top to bottom. Keep in mind the number of reels and paylines of your slot game and tailor your strategy accordingly. Remember, it's better to bet a smaller amount of money across more paylines than to stack huge wagers on fewer paylines. Most people make this mistake, as they only calculate the number of coins they wager, without calculating their odds across multiple active paylines.
Unsuccessful Online Slot Strategies
I’ve shared with you some of the strategies I've found to be the most successful while playing online slot games, and now its time to talk about a few unsuccessful tactics you would want to avoid, because they won't give you any benefits and will only take you away from experience and make you lose focus.
Play Charting – Yes, slots are an unpredictable game that works only through the sheer luck of the spin. This why gamblers from all over the world try and develop tactics that could help them have the upper hand when playing. There’s a well-advertised strategy that has found its place in many online guides, and its called Play Charting. Let me just say it right off the bat. This strategy doesn’t work at all. It can only be helpful if you want to track your wins and losses and keep a score of your total gambling money balance. Slots are a completely random game that cannot be affected in any way, so trying to chart the outcomes to beat the machine is a complete waste of time.
Bet Sizing – This is another viral strategy that players use while playing slots. And while this strategy can have an impact when playing other games, with slots it falls completely flat. The essence of this strategy is finding the perfect wagering amount, which can, in theory, affect the possible outcome of the spin. This, of course, doesn’t have any footing in practice, as the game uses a random number generator, which generates numbers automatically and randomly, without being impacted by your wagers. The machine doesn’t even notice your betting amount and only processes the numbers when its time to payout or take your money. As the first strategy, Bet Sizing can only be used as an effective tactic to prevent you from big loses, nothing else.
Loose Slot Strategy – There are a lot of gamblers who believe that there are online slots that are adjusted to be tighter or looser with the payouts and that if you find the right spot, you will have a more successful time playing. While we all would like to believe this, it's just another broken strategy based on a misconception. There aren't any loose slots. There are only slots that have a higher or lower payout rate, depending on the size of the prizes.
Best Slot Developers
There is a long list of slot providers, and it keeps growing with each passing day. If you’re a beginner, it's especially tough to know what software providers are good and which ones will give you a headache. Picking a slot game from a reputable provider will make sure you have a smooth and enjoyable experience playing the slot game of your choice. I’ll share with you a few software developers I've found to be the best in making slot games and talk about some of their most essential features.
Novomatic – Part of the Novomatic Group and based in Austria, Novomatic is one of the largest if not the largest slot game developer on the market. The company has a long and reputable history dating back more than five decades when they produced slot games for land-based casinos. The company regularly churns out state of the art games, which combine excellent design and latest gaming technology.
Microgaming – Microgaming is one of the most innovative online software developers on the market, and are continually pushing the boundaries of their games. Some of their newest games feature 3D graphics and excellent animations. But Microgaming doesn’t only emphasize the visual and gameplay design of their games. It is one of the most generous software providers, with more than 40 progressive slot games under their belt, they are indeed one of the best choices for online gambling.
NetEnt – Unlike the two previously mentioned casino software developers, NetEnt is a relatively new player on the market. And unlike the two above, it makes exclusively instant play games that can be launched from your browser. You aren't required to download any software to play. What stands out with NetEnt games is excellent visual and audio design, among many other things. NetEnt slots have an RTP of between 95% and 98%, which makes them great if you’re playing to meet wagering requirements.
Playtech – The biggest all-around game provider which encompasses games like slots, roulette, video poker, and bingo. The headliners of their offer are of course the excellently designed slot games, which are very popular among online gamblers, due to having excellent payout rates and fun graphics and gameplay.
These were just a few of the best online slot providers you can find online. If you want to have even more options while gambling online, you can try out games from NextGen, WMS, IGT, Play n’ Go, Ash Gaming and Betsoft, to name a few. You can also find software providers listings online, just make sure you take into consideration all factors, as choosing a reputable slot software provider is as important as choosing the right casino itself.
My Top Online Slot Games
Finding a game that suits you the best, while being exciting and lucrative at the same time can be a tough thing to do. With all of the themes available, extra features, mini-games, and bonuses, it's hard to pick a good game and stick with it. I’ve played a lot of online slot games, from almost all popular software providers and there are a few slot games that I always keep coming back to. I’ll share a few of my most favourite slot games, that are both fun and payout well and I hope you will find them as enjoyable and profitable as I do.
Mega Moolah – This game is a popular first choice for many online gamblers. In the gambling world, it's known as the millionaire maker, due to its huge progressive jackpots that can grow into millions, given enough time. And though I haven't managed to hit that million-dollar jackpot yet, this game has proven to be rewarding for me. It features a 5x3 reel screen with a total of 25 paylines, which gives you a lot of betting options. Besides having a progressive jackpot, it also has free spins games (15 free spins that can be retriggered), bonus games and a regular jackpot. If you’re a fan of fast-paced cartoonish themed games, I recommend you give this slot a try.
Dead or Alive – Made by NetEnt and set in the Wild West, this game can provide you with wild playing experience. I’ve won both big and small playing this slot, but I’m still chasing that elusive jackpot high of, hold on to your seats, 49,000x of your total bet. Besides this main jackpot, Dead or Alive has average jackpot payments of 3000x of your initial bet if you manage to collect five scatter or wild symbols in the game. It doesn’t have a bonus game but is very rewarding with the free spins rewards.
Book of Ra Deluxe – Featuring a relatively small playing screen that consists of only 5 reels and 10 paylines, Book of Ra Deluxe is one of the best-known online casino games in history. It offers a maximum potential jackpot of $500,000 but what will make this game your favourite is the pure fun and immersion you will experience while playing it. Perfect for long night weekend playthroughs, the Book of Ra Deluxe will capture you with its magic and make you stay for a long time.
Starburst – Ever log on into a casino and see a free spins bonus that says ‘can be wagered only on Starburst’? It is one of the most popular online slot games, and for a good reason. Despite having features upon features stacked in it, it is just pure fun. I don’t remember how many times I have sat for a quick playthrough of Starburst and ended up playing through the entire night. The vibrant colours, the energetic and exciting music, and the fast-paced gameplay draw you into the screen and make it next to impossible to stop playing. This addiction doesn’t stop at your computer, as you can enjoy Starburst on any mobile or tablet device.
Playing slot games can be really fun, but I recommend you shop around before choosing one game to play. The market is saturated with thousands of slot games, so you should take advantage of it and see as much as you can before committing and depositing money. Also, I would recommend you to try the slot game for free at first and get to know its features and how it works.
Like most gambling games, slots have had their ups and downs during history. Online slots are a relatively new thing that many gamblers have yet to try. The advancing technology allows software developers to build more and more sophisticated slot machines, that not only have enhanced graphics but more immersive gameplay and interface. Though I can't predict where they are heading for in the future, I can confidently say that online slots are here to stay and will only be better and richer in content as time goes by. I wrote this piece as a comprehensive guide to online slots because I want you to hit that jackpot and beat the house not just by luck, but with knowledge and skill. It's important to keep my tips in mind when playing, and you will have a very successful time playing online. I hope you found my advice helpful and insightful, and that you will use some of my tips and tricks to increase your chances of winning.
Shawna is an ambitious and free-spirited digital nomad with expertise in creating high-quality and SEO-friendly guides and reviews in the iGaming and travel industry. Follow her on Twitter or Linkedin or send her an email.