How to Play Slots
One of the most attractive things about slots is how easy they are to play. And when we say easy, we really mean it. There are thousands of different slots games that you can play, but they all work in much the same way. You select your bet, spin the reels and, if enough symbols land on a pay line, you win a prize. Any prize won is paid automatically. If you don't win, you can simply pay to play again and have another go.
The number of reels that are used in a slots game can vary. Five reels are most common. However, there are also plenty of slots with three reels and quite a few with six or more. The number of reels, rows, and pay lines will affect how many ways you have to win. But all slots are essentially all about spinning and making winning combinations.
Online Slot Types
As we said a moment ago, there are many different types of slots that you can play. While they all work in much the same way, there are some differences that it's good to be aware of. We will therefore take a look at each of the main slot types, in turn.
Video slots was a term that originally referred to physical machines that presented the game action on a video screen rather than via the traditional mechanical reels. In that respect, all online slots can be thought of as video slots. But the term today tends to refer to those online slot games that place an emphasis on side games and bonus features. Such as as free spins and unlockable bonus levels.
Progressive Jackpot Slots
The top prize that can be won in any slot game is known as the jackpot. In many games, the value of the jackpot is fixed and varies from game to game. Some slots will have a jackpot of 5,000 times your bet, some of 7,000 times your bet, and so on.
Progressive jackpots don't have a fixed value. Instead, they have a default base value and then they grow in size over time as people play the game. Many progressive jackpot games are networked across casinos. That means every player at every one of those casinos helps the jackpot to increase in value.
All of this makes it possible for progressive jackpots to climb to dizzying levels. For example, the Mega Moolah slot games from Microgaming have a base progressive jackpot of $1 million. But they have paid out ten times that sum, and more, to those who have been lucky enough to win.
The term classic slots has been coined to refer to those that have a more traditional format. These games are designed to look, sound, and play like the classic 'fruit machines' and 'one-armed bandits' of old. You can therefore expect classic slots to feature traditional game symbols, such as cherries, lemons, bells and BARs. They may also have more mechanical sound effects to accompany the spinning of the reels.
Online Slots Terminology
Despite their simplicity, anyone new to online slots could get confused by some of the terms used when discussing them. To help prevent potential confusion, here are brief explanations of some of the most common terms used.
The reels are the vertical strips of symbols that spin when playing a slot. Originally, narrow vertical reels were used in mechanical slot machines, and the term has been retained in the online game. As stated earlier, the number of reels that are used can vary between games. Five reels is the most common format in currentb use.
Most games normally have around 10-12 standard symbols that have different paying levels. Very often, the playing card ranks of 10, J, Q, K, and A will be used as the lower-value symbols. Other common lower-value symbols are the playing card suits of hearts, diamonds, spades, and clubs. Medium- and higher-paying symbols will usually be a lot more specific to the theme of the game being played.
Paylines are the lines that symbols must match up on for you to win a prize. Some games have more than others, and their arrangement can also vary wildly. In the simplest of games, such as a basic classic slot, you might have one or three horizontal pay lines. At the other extreme, there are games that have hundreds of pay lines in a variety of patterns. Look at the paytable when playing a new slot and the payline arrangement will be presented visually for your reference.
The bet level is the stake that you wish to bet per spin. You can easily adjust how many coins you want to bet on each payline. This makes slot games ones that can be enjoyed no matter what kind of gaming budget you're on. The total cost of a spin will be your stake per payline multiplied by the number of paylines .
A paytable is something that shows you what the various symbols that are used in a slot game are worth. Every online slot game has a paytable that can normally be accessed by clicking a trophy or information icon. Each symbol used in the game will have its own value. This will normally increase according to the number of symbols that appear in a winning combination. The paytable will often also provide information about any special features that can be activated in the game. As well as a visual representation of the paylines, as mentioned earlier.
RNG stands for Random Number Generator. This is a complex piece of software that is used to generate random outcomes for players. The outcome of every spin is determined by the RNG. This means that there is no way of the casino or players influencing whether or not a win will occur. Online slots are therefore perfectly fair and you will have just as much chance of winning as anyone else.
RTP stands for Return to Player and is usually expressed as a percentage. The basically tells you how much a particular online slot game will return to players over the long term. For example, if a game has an RTP figure of 96%, you can expect it to return 96% of bets back to players in the form of prizes.
It is important to understand that the RTP figure is a long-term one and not any kind of guarantee of what will happen in a single session or even in any given month of playing. That being said, the higher the RTP figure is, the better, at least as far as you're concerned as a player.
Many slots have bonus features that can be triggered by special symbols as you play the main game. These bonus features come in a variety of different formats and can give you free spins, enhanced win multipliers, the option of gambling modest wins to try and win an even bigger prize, and more. Bonus features have become a big part of online slot games, and slot developers are always coming out with new types to keep things as engaging as possible.
Normally, when you spin the reels they will come to rest and the symbols shown will be checked to see if a prize has been won. If it has, the prize will be paid and that will be it. With cascading reels, any symbols involved in a win will be removed from the screen and all symbols above will fall into the spaces that have been created. New symbols will then drop into the grid from above. All of this gives you another chance to win, and if you get lucky you'll do exactly that and trigger another cascade, and so on.
A scatter is a special symbol that doesn't need to be on a pay line to help you win. In most games, getting three or more scatter symbols on the screen at the same time - in any position - will either win you a cash prize or trigger a bonus feature. A growing number of games have scatters that will both win you a prize and trigger a feature at the same time.
A wild is a symbol that can substitute for any other regular symbol on the reels, but not usually a scatter. For example, if a slot pays for three cherry symbols, and you land two cherry symbols plus a wild, the wild would count as a third cherry to complete the winning combination. Where several different symbols could help you to win a prize, the wild symbol will substitute for the most valuable one.
Where to Play Online Slots
You can play slots at virtually any online casino you care to visit. Take a look at our state pages to see which online casinos are allowed to operate in your state, then read our reviews of the top online casinos to help you choose one that suits you best.
Are Online Slots Fair?
While it is true that online slot games give the casino an advantage over the player, that is true of all casino games in general. And as far as that house advantage is concerned, slots are much better for players than many other games we could mention. Even better, some slots are particularly better for players than others.
We defined the RTP acronym earlier, and you'll recall that this tells you what percentage of cash a game will return to players over the long term. All online slots have a published RTP that you can check, and it will normally be in the range of 90 to 99%.
An RTP of 94.9% is considered low, an RTP of between 95% and 97.9% is considered medium and an RTP of 98% or more is considered high. It should go without saying that the higher the RTP of a slot, the better it is for you.
Are Online Slots Safe?
The issue of whether or not the slot game is safe greatly depends on where it is you are playing. So long as you choose to deposit and play at a site that is fully vetted and licensed by an international gaming authority, you should be fine.
If the casino is properly licensed and regulated, then it will employ all of the latest security software, making it safe for players to play there. Needless to say, all of the online casinos recommended by ourselves are fully regulated and as safe as they get.
How to Play Slots: Volatility
When exploring online slot games, you will often see that they are described as being of low, medium or high volatility. Low volatility slots are ones that pay out prizes fairly frequently, but those prizes probably won't be too spectacularly. At the opposite extreme, high volatility slots are those that don't pay out as often, but when they do the prizes are bigger. High volatility slots can also go through winning phases where you'll win spin after spin, which is nice. Medium volatility slots, as you've probably guessed, tread the middle ground between those two extremes.
Volatility doesn't change how to play slots in any way. Playing low, medium or high volatility slots is entirely a matter of personal choice. If you have a low tolerance for risk and you want to maximise your chances of winning in a particular session, low volatility slots would be the best choice. However, if you have a high tolerance for risk and you'd rather go for bigger wins, high volatility slots might suit you better. And if you're somewhere in the middle, go for slots of medium volatility.