Online slots are a great way to while away your free internet hours, especially when there are big money prizes on offer, and plenty of discounts, free spins and welcome bonuses to increase your playing time.
The basic premise of online slots is the same as the typical slot machines you find in a casino — you know, three reels that you ‘spin’, with the goal of matching the symbols or hitting a special combination across the centre line to win — just in a virtual form you can access in the palm of your hand, any time you want.
Brush up on some other key differences and details, before choosing your favourite online slots game, with our quick guide below.
How to Play slots online
Playing slots online is easy once you’ve registered. Most online operators even offer free spins to new members to try-before-you-buy, so your credit card details may be optional to get started.
First, you’ll want to consider which online slots game you want to play, and decide between 3-reel (like classic slots) or 5-reel slots (as Mega Moolah or The Dark Knight slot) , and any character, theme or special feature you might be looking for.
Assuming you have credit, once you’re in the game, your first move is to choose the bet amount (be aware that there may be a minimum and maximum here). Then, the number of paylines you will bet on.
To work out your total bet for a spin, calculate:
Bet Amount x Number of Paylines = Total Bet Amount
So, for example, a $2 (or 2-coin) bet on 10 paylines, will be a total bet of $20 (or 20 coins).
Spin, and the online slot machine will automatically tell you the number of winning paylines and amount won.
Free online slots game
As mentioned, free spins allow new players to try out a new casino or slots game, and some players do build a nice start before depositing. The main advantage is that you will already feel comfortable playing before you commit to a game.
For obvious reasons, no deposit free spins usually feature in online slots welcome packages, offered to attract your patronage. But free spins also come in the form of in-game promotions, loyalty rewards or daily newsletter specials delivered direct to your email inbox.
So, how can you make something for nothing on slots? No deposit free spins, which can be to welcome or reward you, are the closest you’ll get to ‘nothing’, but to claim your ‘something’, chances are you will have to play a certain number of paid spins before it can be redeemed. (At least any losing spins won’t dent your actual wallet as you discover if that online slots game is for you)
The odds of winning in online slots are complicated by the variety of games, and the choices you have as the player.
To explain, classic, 3-reel, centre-line-only slot machines, offer the following odds (note the number of symbols on each wheel comes into play):
20 (symbols) to the power of 3 (wheels) = 20 x 20 x 20 = 8,000 (combinations)
If you have to hit an exact combination, your probability of winning is 1 in 8,000.
Using a similar calculation, your odds of hitting a specific combination with a 5-reel slot machine are:
1 / 20^5 = 1 / 320,000 or 1 in 320,000
Players tend to win more frequently on 5-reel slots, and obviously your chances of hitting a winning combination in a single spin increase with the number of paylines you play. As the odds of hitting a payline are lower in the less complex, 3-reel, single-winning-line version, the payouts offered rise inversely to the probability, and will often be higher, if claimed less often.
The primary short and long term objectives for any slot player are for their winnings to beat the amount they bet to win. With online slots, especially 5-reel online slots, the multiple paylines can be played in relation to how healthy your account balance is. In other words, while you are flush, you have the flexibility to target more paylines on a single spin, to keep your single-spin net winnings positive.
A series of net-negative single spins can bring your overall balance down or negative, at which point, your long term objective of cumulative winnings being greater than the total amount bet, becomes priority. Softening the number of paylines you play on a single spin can allow you to build slowly, while protecting your reserves, until your balance supports returning to more aggressive single-spin plays.
Different types of online slots
Whereas classic physical slot machines are limited to the game, or small number of games, the physical spin wheels can produce, and to that centre line being hit in each game, digital and online slot machines tend to offer greater variety:
- It is easy to find online slots with a 3-reel or 5-reel format
- Winning symbols are not limited to the centre line, with top row, bottom row, diagonal and other combinations able to bear fruit (sorry for the pun!)
Special features in slots online
In a typical 5-reel online slot (using a 5-across x 3-down slot grid), there are many potential straight or zig-zagged line combinations, with as many as 25 or more paylines that could pay out in a single spin if you play them. Yes, some online slots allow you to choose the number of paylines you’re paying for — but remember, you’re being charged per payline for the privilege.
5 tips for slots
- Know what you’re doing before you bet real money. If you are a rookie, try a demo first, at least to learn how to select the bet amount, number of paylines (and therefore total bet amount) you want.
- A higher bet will give a higher winning payout. But it also takes more of your play money in a single spin, so be comfortable with how much you are playing on one. Again, try a demo first.
- Speed is irrelevant in slots. The numbers will be generated randomly, to give you a win or loss, so don’t rush the experience.
- Don’t be down on yourself if you leave a ‘winner’. Slot machine spins are one time events, generated at random. Technically, two jackpots in a row are possible — and at that point you can feel pretty happy with yourself, or at least your luck and winnings.
- The best tip is to set a total bet limit for the session. Learn to spread out your bets so your money fills the time you want to fill. This will help slow your roll early, and give you courage late on. You should soon learn how much courage is foolish.
Online slots are great if you approach them the right way — meaning you have to be comfortable with:
- the casino
- the convenience
- the game play choices
- the payline options
- the total you bet in a session
Match all five of these in a row, and you’ll be having fun, and hopefully celebrating, in no-time.