Slots are recognized as the most popular casino games around the world that attract the largest crowds at both land-based gambling facilities and in online casinos. Unlike blackjack or poker, for instance, they are extremely easy to play and require no previous experience, so for many players, they are just a pure, fast-paced fun.
Slots are over 100-year-old and the name of Charles Fey is often associated with the creation of the first slot machine somewhere around the 1890’s. Previously, poker-based gambling machines had existed but the mechanic and inventor from San Fransisco devised a much simpler device with only three reels and a total of five symbols. His Liberty Bell machine became so popular across the United States that a wide variety of games similar to it started popping up in bars, barber shops, saloons and cigar stores. These machines looked quite different from the modern slots we have today – people used to insert a nickel and pull a lever, which triggered the mechanical spinning of the reels. Lucky players received three liberty bell symbols which won them the then-great payout of 10 nickels. Or, the machine would reward them with a bar of chewing gum – this is where the Bar symbol actually comes from.
Today, slot machines have gone through much change and improvement. And although they are much more attractive, colorful and fun to play than they used to be a century ago, they have become much more complex, especially on the inside. Whether it is physical slot machines in brick-and-mortar casinos, or virtual slots in online casinos we talk about, mechanical spinning no longer determines whether we lose or win. The results of each spin are entirely random and have nothing to do with the number of plays, for instance. Random Number Generators have been introduced to guarantee fairness, random results and no chance for manipulation whatsoever.
Video slots, a much more recent creation in the gambling industry, have even more sophisticated appearance – beautiful animations, state-of-the-art videos and even 3D graphics that create a truly unique, immersive gambling experience. More importantly, slots today are much more intriguing and exciting as they have various bonus rounds, lots of special symbols, free spins, and many more. Some of them amaze players with mind-boggling payouts as their jackpots are not fixed, but constantly growing and widely known as progressive jackpots.
How Slots Work
The immense popularity of slots is often attributed to their simplicity. Certainly, they are easy to play and are a wonderful choice for beginner players – they are considered a game of chance, as opposed to poker or blackjack which are typical games of skill. However, slots are governed by extremely complicated computer algorithms which make them more technically complex games than table poker. So, before starting to play slot games, players need to know their basics in order to improve the chances of winning. And to answer the logical question “Is that even possible?” – in short, yes.
Slots function in quite a simple, straightforward way. Unlike other casino games, where you play against a dealer or other players, slots are played against a machine or a computer. Traditional slots have physical levers and reels with several common symbols such as bars, double bars, cherries or sevens. The term fruit machines refers to the various fruit symbols, used in the past.
Tip: Slot machines are also known as one-armed bandits, gambling machines, poker machines or pokies. Video and online slots are modeled after them and have a graphical representation of 3, 5, or sometimes 6 reels on the screen.
Slots Additional TipsIn order to activate the game, players need to insert coins, or in online slots – to place their bets, choosing the number of pay lines and the coin size. The pay lines are the positions on the reels where you need to have certain symbols in order to win. In video slots, you will also have a button indicating the number of pay lines you want to activate. When you pull the lever of a physical, reel-spinning slot or push the Spin button of a video slot game, the reels start spinning and once they stop, you can see whether you win or lose, based on the new symbols appearing on the reels and more importantly, their position. The goal is to get matching symbols across any of the pay lines of the game. The highest payout, or the jackpot, is usually given for a rare combination and in case you are playing the maximum coins.
In the early days of the slots, the number of pay lines was quite limited – up to five. Today, you can find slots with up to a hundred pay lines. Of course, the more pay lines you see, the more opportunities you have for winning in the game. The payout for every line depends on the pay table of the particular game – important factors are the number of matched symbols and the size of your bet. Each slot is different and there are literally thousands of slots, so it is essential for players to understand the game they are currently playing. Sometimes, your winning is doubled, or you receive a higher winning when a special symbol appears on the reels – some symbols act like multipliers, others like substitutes, etc.
In order to learn the basic rules of playing slots, punters need to understand that the outcome of every spin is dictated by an intricate device, called a Random Number Generator. It guarantees that the odds of hitting a particular combination is always the same and you may play a game for days or weeks without hitting the jackpot. Or, if you get lucky, you can win big two or three times in a row. The belief that slot machines are due for a big payout after a certain number of plays is a myth – modern RNG-based slots are never due. But before getting deeper into slot playing, let us explain what RNG is and why it is so important.
Random Number Generator
Random Number Generators are the foundation of standard, modern slot machine design which has drastically changed since the age of purely mechanical slot machines. The Random Number Generator is a microprocessor, much like the ones used in computers. This microprocessor constantly generates random sequences of numbers – in fact, it generates thousands of such sequences per second.
There are two types of RNGs – true random number generators and the so-called pseudo random number generators, or PRNG, which use computational algorithms to generate long sequences of numbers. PRNG appear to be random, but in reality, are determined by a seed value, or a key. Thus, the numbers can be reproduced and predicted if the seed is known. The truth is that true random number generators are rarely used, as they are extremely complex and often fail to produce true randomness in the long term. PRNGs, on the other hand, are practically everywhere from electronic games to cryptography because despite being referred to as “pseudo”, their results are as close to the randomness as possible. The numbers they generate cannot be practically predicted and reproduced when the seed value is unknown.
Tip: Processing random sequences of numbers never stops, even when the game is not played at.
Random Number Generator Additional TipsEvery virtual casino game – slots, virtual blackjack and roulette, or video poker, is controlled by an RNG, or by a pseudo RNG in particular. The numbers that are generated constantly correspond to positions on the reels. The instant a player pushes the Spin or Play button, the most recently generated number is used to determine the result. All this happens in a fraction of the second and it is impossible for players to predict what combination they will hit or count the symbols. Casinos, on the other hand, cannot adjust the machine, so that it pays out its jackpot once in a few months, for example. If the game uses RNG, it cannot be manipulated in any way.
The RNG is often associated with the so-called hit frequency of slots. The hit frequency indicates how often a winning combination will appear in the game and in slots, it ranges from 3% to 40%. A hit frequency of 20%, for example, means that the game will stop on a winning combination about 20% of the time. These numbers can be quite confusing, however, because a 3% hit frequency may sound unappealing, but typically, such a game offers players the opportunity to win a really huge jackpot. Video poker games, on the other hand, often have a hit frequency of 40%-45%, but in half of the wins, the player wins back his or her initial bet.
Another important percentage slot players need to take into consideration when choosing a game to play at is the Return to Player percentage (RTP, or simply return). In indicates what percentage of all wagers made at a particular game will return to the player as winnings over time. In slots, the RTP greatly varies, but most video slot games have a return of around 90%. When it comes to online slots, the return is even more generous and often more than 95%. The house edge is just the flip side of the return percentage if a game has an RTP of 95%, the house edge will be 5%.
Paylines and Bets
Paylines, or the required positions matching symbols need to be for a qualifying payout, are one of the most important aspects of slots. In the past, physical slot machines had a single payline that ran across the middle of the reels. Once three matching symbols appeared in straight line, the player collected the corresponding payout. Today, video slots have more paylines in different forms – in the shape of V, an upside V, zig zag, and more. The most basic video slots have at least 5 paylines but in some games, their number can reach 25 or even 100.
When you start playing a particular slot game, you will see several indicators, one of which is Lines and it shows the number of active paylines. You can change the number of paylines easily – remember, the more paylines you play, the more opportunities for winning you have.
Tip: It is important to know that you will place a bet on each active payline, so if you are playing with $1 on a 20-line slot, your bet per spin will be $20.
Slot Machine Paylines Additional TipsTraditionally, slot machines pay out winnings for matching symbols that appear from left to right. However, many games these have the so-called “win both ways” feature, which means that winning combinations can be made from right to left, as well. For obvious reasons these games have become incredibly popular among players – they give twice as many ways to win. Another recently introduced feature is the “all ways” win system, which, in practice, eliminates the paylines, and allows players to collect winnings for every possible combination. In order to score a win, you simply need to land at least 3 matching symbols on consecutive reels. These slots usually indicate the number of ways you can win and in the following formats – 243 ways, 720 ways, or even 1024 and 3125 ways.
Different games have different coin denominations and unlike the old slot machines, modern video slots allow you to change the coin denomination and the total size of your bet. Many games offer denominations of $0.01 and they are widely known as penny slots. Typically, the maximum denomination is $1, but there are slots with much higher denominations. The total size of your bet per spin is determined by the denomination you choose, the number of active paylines, and the number of coins you wish to wager on every line. This is why you should always take into account these three before playing for real money. For instance, you may bet $0.01 per line, which is almost nothing, but if the game has 100 lines and you activated them all, you will be betting $1 per each spin.
Slot games also have the Max Bet option, which will increase your bet to the maximum number of lines and the maximum coin value. In many games, this option is the only way you can win the jackpot, but be careful, as the maximum bet can cost you several hundred dollars per spin. The Max Bet in some games also allows for triggering bonus rounds or free spins.
Differences between Classic and Video Slots
There is a wide variety of virtual slot games in online casinos today but they can be divided into two basic types – classic and video slots. Even beginner players would easily guess what classic slots are. With 3 reels and a single payline, they resemble old-fashioned mechanical slot machines. They are often inspired by the century-old fruit machines with their fruit symbols, lucky Sevens, or liberty bells. In fact, many classic slots today have 5 reels or even more, which makes gameplay more exciting. Some gaming studios also add more paylines or free spin features, further improving retro-looking classics.
While some players are fascinated by the thrill of classic slot games most punters today prefer the more advanced 5 or 7-reel video slots, which feature captivating themes, beautiful graphics and even three-dimensional animations. Modern video slot games are often based on popular books, films or TV series and from the day they are released, they instantly become hits in the online gambling community. Developers also take inspiration from historical periods, ancient mythologies or fairy tales, creating state-of-the-art games that are more similar to computer games than to classic slots. Captivating story lines reveal special features, bonus rounds and skill games, while the player is immersed in the game thanks to intricately created animations and enchanting music.
The most exciting feature of video slots, however, is the plenty of special symbols, multipliers, free spins and bonus rounds added to them. Some of the games use the “win both ways” or the “all ways” systems, which make them really unique and memorable. Scatter and wild symbols turn playing into a really fun and rewarding experience, while bonus symbols trigger bonus games that sometimes open in a new window. They vary between particular games but most commonly include fortune wheels, box picking games, gamble features, and more.
The first Liberty Bell machines came with five symbols – horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and liberty bells. Later, Chicago-based manufacturer Herbert Mills introduced his Operator Bell slot machine and added fruit symbols. The symbols in today’s video slots are much more diverse and often themed – Greek gods or African animals, for instance. Still, many of older symbols are still here and used widely by almost all gaming developers – lemons, cherries, lucky Sevens, or liberty bells. Most of the symbols in each game are regular symbols. Matching them does not come with any extra payout and they are the lowest paying symbols in the pay table.
In addition, players would often get blank symbols that are not associated with any winnings. There are, however, special symbols which upon appearing on the reels, can bring you greater winnings. Most video slots today feature wild or scatter symbols or both, and they can greatly improve your chances of winning.
Wild symbols act like jokers in a slot game – they can substitute for any other symbol, making winning combinations much easier to form. For example, if the player gets two cherries and a wild, the game will give the corresponding payout for three cherries.
Another type of symbols that can be found in most video slots today are scatter symbols. Usually, they are the highest paying symbols in the pay table, so many players look specifically for games with scatters.
Wild Symbols Additional TipsUsually, two or three wild symbols have several times higher payout. Typically, wilds can appear on any of the reels and in every position, but in certain games, they land only on one or two reels. They cannot replace other special symbols or jackpot symbols but often come with higher payouts.
Often, wild symbols serve as multipliers, as well. Hitting them can also award free spins or trigger bonus games. There are also different types of wild symbols that vary significantly from one game to another and for this reason, players should look at the pay table and the game’s rules before placing a real money wager.
Stacked wilds, for instance, are very common in video slots and unlike regular wilds, they cover the entire reel. Of course, if a second stacked wild symbol lands on the reels, the chances for getting a huge payout increase significantly. Expanding wilds are quite similar – they expand into the entire reel, turning all symbols into wilds.
Sticky wilds, on another hand, stay in their position for several spins in a row and are quite exciting because they almost always form a winning combination. Shifting wilds also remain for several spins, but they keep changing their position, making the game even more intriguing. Trailing wilds are somewhat different – when they appear on the reels, they turn one of the symbols into a wild. They stay for several spins and while one of them remains in its original position, the other moves around the screen.
Scatter Symbols Additional TipsJust like wilds, scatter symbols come in all shapes and sizes, meaning that each game has its own scatters. What is really great about them is that they do not need to appear on any specific position on the reels and in no particular order to score you a winning. When two or more scatter symbols appear anywhere on the screen, usually a bonus game or a free spins feature is activated. In some games, these symbols also act like multipliers, while in others the player needs to get at least three of them anywhere on the reels in order to collect a winning.
With each new release, slot game developers are getting more creative with the special symbols and features. While in the past, getting scatter symbols would award you 5 or 10 free spins, today, online slot games have much more complex features such as bonus games that often open in a new window. There are multipliers, gamble features, jackpot symbols, and many others.
Many games come with the opportunity to get free spins but these spins are triggered in a different way for each particular game. Often, you get free spins if you land 3 scatter symbols.
Some symbols can also act as multipliers in slot games. Usually, these are scatter symbols, but wilds can also multiply your winnings, depending on the slot variation you are playing.
Free Spins Additional TipsThe more scatters you have, the more spins will be activated. One of the most exciting features a slot game can have is the re-triggering of free spins – during a free spin, you can get another 3 or more scatter symbols, which in turn activate another sequence of free spins. Many games would also double your winnings from these spins.
Multipliers Additional TipsHow much your winnings will increase also varies from one game to another – you can get doubled payout, but certain games also offer extra payouts up to a hundred times the original winning.
The gamble feature is quite common not only in online slots but also in vintage fruit machines in land-based casinos. It can be triggered after a winning and gives players the opportunity to double it by guessing the color of a playing card.
Bonus games can be the most exciting aspect of a slot game – they are triggered in many different ways, but most often, by getting 3 bonus symbols, wilds or scatters on the reels. Many slots activate their bonus games only when laying on all paylines.
Slots Gamble Additional TipsGuessing the color of a playing card is the most typical gamble feature, but it can be different in some games – for instance, the player will be required to pick a winning or a losing item, to guess the suit of a face down card, and others.
Slots Bonus Additional TipsBefore placing a bet, you should look closely at the paytable. The variety of bonus games is practically endless – some bonus games require you to match cards, others to open treasure chests which can award you different prizes including cash. There are also fortune wheels, as well as bonus games that have several levels. While many of the bonus games are simple games of chance, others require some skill and are as complex and as interactive as video games. Often, going through all the levels in a bonus game can award you the big jackpot.
There literally thousands of slot games, some of which are available in both land-based and online casino sites, while others are specifically created for the web. The variety of types, styles and genres is immense and the reason for this is the fierce competition between different developers of casino and gaming software. In order to always stay up-to-date and meet the expectations of their customers, software companies constantly improve their offerings, introducing more sophisticated technologies and creating more interesting and interactive games.
There are several large software providers that supply the games at famous casinos. Their classic and video slots are recognized as having the highest-quality graphics and audio effects, the most generous jackpots, and the most interactive gameplay.
Microgaming is undoubtedly the gaming studio with the largest portfolio ever created, despite the fact that many of their titles are already quite old.
Net Entertainment, or NetEnt, is a Swedish developer and supplier of high-quality casino games, many of which are slots, established in 1996.
Playtech is one of the giants in the casino and gaming software development industry, globally recognized as one of the top providers of online slots.
Microgaming Additional TipsStill, Microgaming’s releases are among the best and feature plenty of special features, bonus games, and free spins. The Isle of Man based company is also one of the oldest in the industry – it has been around since 1994, but despite that, continues to be at the forefront of innovations when it comes to the design of slot games.
It has developed some of the most popular progressive jackpot slots today – the Mega Moolah slot series, Major Millions, King Cashalot, and many others. Among its most famous video slot titles are Thunderstruck II, Immortal Romance, Avalon II, and Game of Thrones.
Netent Additional TipsToday, Netent is considered as one of the most successful gaming studios. Their creations are famous for their crystal clear graphics, advanced animations and attractive jackpots. NetEnt also has an extensive collection of touchscreen optimized games which run beautifully on all kinds of mobile devices. The studio provides some of the most sought-after online slots today – Hall of Gods and Mega Fortune, which feature huge progressive jackpots, as well as visually appealing games like Gonzo’s Quest, the Fairytale Legends series, Starburst, Jack Hammer, Aliens, and South Park.
Playtech Additional TipsPlaytech was founded in 1999 just when online gambling and the Internet, as a whole, were booming. The company managed to grow and over the years, it has created hundreds of slots, virtual table games, poker rooms, and virtually everything associated with web-based gambling and casino software solutions. Playtech’s most famous titles remain the outstanding movie and comic book-inspired slots which include The Avengers, Gladiator, Tomb Raider, Hulk, Iron Man, and many more. The software developer also offers interactive progressive jackpots and a total of over 300 games.