Welcome to the Thrilling World of Slots
How Slots Actually Work
We’ve all watched too many movies about cons cheating the system and fixing the game – with modern online casinos, that can’t be done. There are extensive licensing requirements that mean casinos use Random Number Generators (RNGs) to control the reels, therefore there’s absolutely no way to predict the next tiles or to “load” a slot.
To win money, you need several of the same symbols to appear in a line together. For old 3-reel slots, this line is horizontal, across the middle of the screen and is called the payline. Newer 5-reel slots tend to have 15-25 different paylines, and the maximum is 243 of them, all interlaced and weaving across the screen. More paylines means a higher chance of landing a winning combination, however for every extra payline you choose to use, you must add to you wager, increasing risk of loss.
There will be a load of different symbols, all with unique values: three lions might be worth a lot more than three salmon, to choose a totally arbitrary example. At their core, slots are exceedingly simple, and that’s part of what makes them so enjoyable to all players.
The main reason is, perhaps surprisingly, not all about money. There are more sure-fire ways to make money than gambling it in a game of chance! Playing slots is actually incredibly fun. Every game has its own unique theme that permeates through the style of the buttons and reels, the music and everything else.
Even when you’re betting 1p a time, there’s a definite sense of anticipation and hype as you wait, hoping for a winning combination. Animations bring video slots to live, and if you’re playing a progressive you can physically watch the jackpot bar go higher and higher.
Types of Slots
Classic Slots (3 reels)
You’ll still find a few physical 3-reel slots around old pubs, bars and casinos, but they’ve been almost entirely overthrown by video slots. These typically have fruit, 7’s and diamonds and a single payline across the front centre.
Video Slots (5 reels)
Video slots mean more paylines, better game design and incredible bonuses. There are special symbols called “wilds” and “scatters” which can activate multipliers (increasing your winnings), create new combinations or open up special bonus rounds. These rounds often involve free spins, where you can play as normal without any extra investment!
Most games have a story about them, like Gonzo’s Quest that follows a man’s travels to El Dorado, or the Marvel games featuring superheroes you already know and love. This adds a level of excitement, and the quality of graphic design and animation can be truly astounding.
Looking to earn the big bucks? Look no further! A progressive jackpot is quite simple: every time someone places a bet, whether they win or lose, a small percentage of that bet goes towards the collective jackpot. And guess what? There’s no ceiling to it!
Progressive jackpots usually reach the millions, offering truly life-changing sums to those lucky few winners. They operate just like any other slot, except that the jackpot is much harder to win.
Free slots are designed for two reasons: to allow players to experiment with games before investing their actual money, and to allow gamblers to get the thrill of playing without losing money if they’ve reached their spending limit for the month. You are given a purse of “coins” which you can use to play the game just like normal – the only caveat is you don’t get to take your winnings with you!
- Coins – The currency used for betting in slots.
- Coin size – The actual value (in Sterling) of each coin.
- Max bet – The maximum bet you can make on this slot. It is usually calculated as the number of paylines x coin size x total number of coins.
- Payline – The line from left-to-right across the reels on which symbols must lie to hit a winning combination.
- Payout percentage – How much money is returned, on average, to the player. If the PP is 95%, then 95p from every £1 comes back to the customer, the other 5% to the casino. Higher is better.
- Pay table – A list of all the different symbol combinations and their value if hit.
- RNG – Random Number Generator, used to keep reel spinning fair and unpredictable.
Reels – The spinning verticals on which all the symbols appear.
- Symbols – Pictures on the reels that must be aligned to win money or bonuses.
- Wilds – This is often a symbol that can be substituted for any other in order to create a winning combination.
Winning Money with Slots
First lesson: slots is completely down to chance and is never guaranteed to make money. If you want to “play like a pro”, you’ll play within your budget and choose casinos smartly. Check out our casino reviews1 to find ones that have the highest payout percentage and jackpot.
Don’t get us wrong: it’s very possible to win big at slots, it just isn’t a guarantee. You could lose money on 30 spins in a row, if your luck was out. Look out for games with a low house edge – this is the mathematical likelihood that the casino will win. Lower the house edge, the higher your chances of winning.
Making use of the plethora of bonuses available to players is easily the safest way to have a go at making money from slots. Welcome bonuses can include free spins with no deposit required, or casinos matching your deposit 100% so that you get extra, free cash to use on the reels. These might help minimise your losses and keep you playing long enough to win something big!
Big Jackpot Winners
- D.P., Mega Moolah mobile player – Won the largest ever jackpot on a mobile device, worth around £7m.
- Anonymous, Mega Fortune player – A Norwegian player claims to have been unable to sleep one night, so played a few minutes of online casino, taking home €11.7m!
- Jonathon Heywood, Mega Moolah player – An English soldier decided to wager 25p on Mega Moolah, the giant progressive. A few moments later, he made it to the bonus round and came away with an astounding £13.2m in his pocket. Unreal!
Where to Start?
There are many games out there. We recommend starting with our game reviews2 and seeing what you fancy – we’re totally impartial and will give you all the details about the payout percentage, theme, jackpot and all the rest. I’d stay away from progressives to start with as they pay out less often. Something fun like Thunderstruck II, which has exceptional and regular bonuses, could be perfect for you!
There’s nothing else for it. Get out there, read a few reviews and try out some demos to see what you like. From there, your improved knowledge and tastes will tell you where to go!