Slot machines started out as a game developed merely for entertaining purposes. Early slot machines had very minimal stakes, and modest prizes based on the amount of time played. Most early slot machines were also highly mechanized, with three spinning reels and a few other things, and that was about it.
Today, the concept of “slots” has completely transformed. Now, slots have become a multi-line, multi-reel, fully computerized and electronic wave, controlled internally via a sophisticated computer. Modern slots also bring about far larger bonuses, and a wide array of payout schedules, features, themes, and even progressive jackpots.
Before taking the dive into modern slot machines, whether in a physical casino or online, potential players need to be forewarned that, regardless of the individual stakes at play, the speed of play is frequently incredibly fast. This can result in players losing large bankrolls quickly, especially when playing a multi-line slot machine. A nickel slot machine, playing fifty lines, at a ten-times multiple is $25 down every time you spin unsuccessfully.
Tread carefully, though. Slots is a highly addictive game, sometimes causing players to make uncontrollable amounts of bets. Therefore, playing slots, regardless of land based or brick and mortar, requires gamblers to display strong skills of self-control to stop when they start going too deeply into the red.
Is there a method to the madness, or a way to beat the house edge on slot machines? Sadly, there isn’t. There are a small number of players insistent that they’ve beaten slot machines in the past, but common concepts show that it is nearly impossible to “beat the machine”.
The best advice for slot machine beginners? Select your machines and strategies carefully, manage your bankroll effectively, and know when to get out.
The Inner Workings of Slot Machines
Contemporary slot machines found in modernized casinos are not mechanical, but instead digital. The result displayed on the reel is predetermined and as randomized as possible. The result is known as soon as a player presses the start button. The reels spin and land on that value after some animation.
A random number generator, or RNG (also touched upon in the section on Online Roulette) lies inside the slot machine, creating millions of randomized strings of digits. When the player hits start or spin, a single string of digits is selected for each reel. The chances of winning are already determined.
The outcomes of slot machines are not predictable. Players have an equal chance to lose multiple consecutive games, or win a jackpot several times in a row. There is zero method or madness for predictability in slot machines. That being said, there are concepts to be aware of before beginning play on a slot machine.
Slot Machine Inner Workings Principles and Myths
- Prior spins on slot machines play nothing into the result of future spins. Short term actions with slots is not a binding feature for long term player outcomes.
- “Beating the machine” by hitting a jackpot doesn’t mean that a player will lose right after. It also doesn’t mean that a player will win again right after. The concept of “hot” and “cold” slot machines is a myth. Slots don’t have memory banks of jackpots paid, yet instead continually produces randomized sets of numbers, determining a players wins and losses through the RNG.
- Slot machines don’t run from predetermined sequences of results. Each spin of the machine is completely random and unpredictable.
- No machines are further predisposed than others to beat players, or allow players to beat the machine. All slot machines give equal chances to win or lose. There is no connection with previous payouts made by certain machines. In this sense, if another player wins a jackpot immediately after a jackpot has already been won, this is luck not chance. It has nothing to do with the luck immediately prior that won the original jackpot.
- The concept of “play the machine longer to win more” regarding slot machines is absolute bogus. Time spent by certain players at a slot machine has zero impact and is not connected to larger chances of hitting regular or progressive jackpots. In the same vein, it makes no difference which machine in a progressive sequence you are playing. The same concept for brick and mortar holds true for online slot machines.
- The way in which a player pushes the button to spin is completely unrelated to the outcome of the spin. As mentioned previously, pushing the machine’s button is the moment when the random numbers are chosen. However, the player cannot know the exact moment when the jackpot is determined by the Random Number Generator.
- Payouts are unchanged by the casino (house). Payouts can only be manipulated in the casino replaces the chip inside the slot machine’s motherboard with a new one. This isn’t impossible by any means, but a process such as this requires time and expenses, and remains highly unlikely to be profitable for the casino in the long run.
The RNG system previously discussed provides a constantly operating stream of randomized number generation, running through thousands of combinations of strings and digits every second. All a player needs to do is press that spin button to cause the selection to pop up and be selected from the random generation.
Varieties of Slot Machine Game Categories
Machines at brick and mortar casinos can be classic spinning reel style, but are more likely going to be video screen based. The type of slot machine generally does not have an impact or make a difference on payout percentages. The only difference between the machines are in the symbols carried, the game type, and the machine styling.
Classic Slot Machines
The classic slot machine features three reels and one pay line. These slots are traditional, and related to the ones that first appeared in old style casinos in the early 1900’s.
There is a wide variety of symbols that can be encountered when playing classic slot machines. Some are unique to that specific machine, others unique to the manufacturer, others to the specific game type or variant. There are often traditional fruit symbols such as oranges, cherries, and watermelons. Other commonly utilized symbols include triple bar, single double, lucky sevens, and high cards.
Bonus Slot Machines
Slot machines that have bonus options or other bonus related features are generally referred to as “bonus slot machines”. These such machines have a wide array of special features, such as free spins and specific gambling requirements. Some of these features are outlined below.
- Bonus Game Feature: This is incorporated with normal functional requirements of a standard slot machine. Typically, you are taken to a different screen layout to play bonus games, and the result is generally additional credits for use at the same machine.
- Gambling Feature: This comes as a chance for the gambler to select a card. This is triggered once the player has a winning outcome combination at the slot.
- Free Spins Feature: Becoming more common, the free spins feature allows players the chance to win additional spins with no additional credit utilization.
Fruit Slot Machines
Fruit slot machines are the most commonly found machines in the United Kingdom and various parts of Europe, which makes them extremely popular for variants overseas from North America. Fruit Machines are based on the idea of skill over chance more so than other slot machines, and are usually equipped with their own sets of unique features, making them different from other variants.
The fruit slot machine player gets random awards of a “nudge” or a hold over the game, coming in the form of a generous player edge. The hold feature is standard for fruit slot machines. This feature provides the player with the opportunity to hold one or more of the machine’s reels on their next spin. The player also may get the chance to hold multiple reels for multiple spins.
The nudge feature is also standard practice for fruit slot machines. This feature allows the player to nudge either one or more of the three visible reels on their next spin. A certain number of nudges may be awarded by the machine, including random nudges for a multiple amount of spins.
Multiple Pay Line Slot Machines and Other Variants
- Multiple pay line slot machines differ from classic slot machines in that they feature more than one pay line. These are becoming more of a common practice for brick and mortar and online casinos, as the player is enticed with multiple chances of simultaneous winning combinations.
- Video slot machines are a relatively new concept in brick and mortar casinos. They do not have any moving parts, as they are based on a screen and graphically represent a genuine slot machine. There is usually no pull lever with video slot machines, and instead everything is done on screen, to mimic the concept of online slot play.
- Loyalty slot machines generally operate on a single popular theme for that timeframe. Six star symbols need to be collected by the player to obtain the loyalty jackpot. These stars are earned over an extended period of gameplay on that themed variant of slot machines. This carries over from brick and mortar casino gameplay into conceptual online gameplay.
- Progressive slot machines are some of the most popular and sought after for beginner and experienced slot machine gamblers alike. This is due to the perception and capability of larger jackpots over time. Progressive jackpots can inflate to astronomical levels in very short periods of time, yet are rarely won by a single machine en masse.
Special Symbolism Present in Slot Machines
Many slot machines carry specialized symbols, linked back to the theme they are based on. Nevertheless, there are quite a few standard categories of symbols that are used with general, un-themed slot machines, that carries over both into themed games and online variants. In addition to the fruit, card, triple bar, and other symbols previously touched upon, other options include wild symbols and multiplier symbols.
Slot Machine Wild Symbols
A symbol that can be considered “wild” is substitutable for any other symbol needed to develop a winning combination from a randomly generated player outcome. Important to note is that wild symbols n some slot machines, both brick and mortar and online, are specifically stated to not be substitutable options for jackpot symbols, cherries, or symbols that automatically launch some of the features mentioned above.
Slot Machine Multiplier Symbols
Multiplier symbols on slot machines have become increasingly popular on modern and online slot machine variants. This is especially true for those machines whose displays were created to where the user formatting is like that of a classic spinning reel slot. Important to note here is that the higher the multiplier, the less likely that multiplier is to hit in the random number generator. Several types of multipliers exist:
- Double jackpot, double diamond, double trouble, double win, and any other combination of “double” are slot machines featuring double, or 2x, symbols and multipliers. If the player his two double symbols in a single spin, their corresponding win rate is multiplied together, so they receive a multiple of four.
- Triple gold, lucky trebles, triple diamond, triple jackpot, and any other combination of “triple” are slot machines offering triple, or 3x, symbols and multipliers. These slot machines offer three times payout for combinations including one of the triple symbols, and nine times payout for hitting two of them in one spin.
- Five times pay slot machines offer symbols that multiply the player’s win by five times what was hit once the reels stop spinning. As with the above, if a player happens to hit two five multipliers, then they win 25 times what their resulting amount was.
- Ten times pay slot machines offer symbols that multiply the player’s win by ten times what was hit once the reels stop spinning. As with the above, if a player happens to hit two ten multipliers, then they win one hundred times what their resulting amount was! These machines are not common.
Slot Machine Style Variants and Types
There are many different types of style variants present in both online and brick and mortar slot machines. Some of these are outlined below.
Classic Three-Reel Slots with Fixed Jackpots
With this variant of slot machine, players have the option to select between one and three coins per spin. All wins increase in proportion to the number of coins selected per spin. Conversely, jackpots might not increase to correspond to a bump between two coins and three coins.
Other classic three reel with fixed jackpot options include the ability for players to select up to nine coins. Aga, apart from the jackpot, winnings for standard reel spins increase to correspond with the amount played.
Classic Three-Reel Slots with Max Coin Bonus Awards
Payouts offered by classic three-reel slot machines with added maximum coin bonus awards can be for single or double coin bets. Additionally, there are extra combinations for a maximum of three coins, allowing players the opportunity to win additional prizes and increase their overall winnings.
Classic Three-Reel Slots with Progressive Jackpots
Progressive jackpots are popular amongst players since most gamblers are attracted to the constantly increasing jackpot. Such a jackpot is paid when maximum coins are inserted in the machine, and a max bet is played. Slot machines offering progressive jackpots usually have smaller wins for other types of hands dealt, so be careful when choosing such a machine, as the house edge is still present.
Wide Area Progressive Slots (Four-Reel Classic)
Wide area progressive slots mean that the progressive jackpot is not a single-machine static option. Instead, the progressive jackpot is gathered and increased from a bank of machines in a physical or online casino. In some cases, the machines can be linked far wider, with occasional progressive wide area slots being linked out across entire countries.
Most wide area progressive slot machines offering four-reel classic gameplay are not managed by the casinos, but instead by the game manufacturer or distribution company.
Video Slots and Classic Slots with Accumulating Bonuses
These machines are sometimes referred to as variable state slot machines, as they can be more favorable or less favorable for the player, depending on when they are chosen to be played. These slot machines work on the concept that the bonus is paid to the player when and only when a certain number of specific symbols, or combination of symbols, are have been accumulated into a bonus bank.
Three-Reel and Four-Reel Classic Slots with Bonus Games
The three-reel and four-reel classic option containing bonus games is a fixture in many brick and mortar casinos, and a commonplace in online slot machine play. Typically, these are standard classic machines with additional bonus games when a specific symbol or combination of symbols are hit by the player.
Video Slot Machines with Multiple Coin/Multiple Line Functionality
The large chance to win back initial bets has caused an incredible surge in popularity for multiple coin and multiple line variants at many brick and mortar and online casinos. The downside to the multiple selections are that the winnings per positive spin are generally smaller in size than the classic versions based on bankroll put into the machine.
Video slots vary wildly, and each machine is for a single denomination only (i.e. penny slots, nickel slots, quarter slots). Additionally, these machines, when the multiple coin and multiple line options are used, utilize a high number of credits on a per-spin basis. Several standard options for these machines lead to a span of credits used per spin between one and 200 or more!
- Players can play one to twenty pay lines at most multiple coin and multiple line slot machine variants. The pay lines include the top and bottom lines, center line, zig-zag lines, diagonal lines, and lines with drops at the start and finish. This can get incredibly confusing to a lot of gamblers.
- Players can play one to ten coins per spin at most multiple coin and multiple line slot machine variants. They can also decrease or increase the credits bet per spin after each game is played.
House Edges in Slot Machines
Regardless of the prize options, players need to know machines offering bonus rounds, despite how enticing they may be, they are generally extremely difficult to beat.
Typically, the house edge is expressed in terms of a percentage payout made by the individual machine. Payouts vary wildly from machine to variant to theme to style to offerings. Be cautious about machines offering incredibly large returns (such as wide ranging progressive jackpot machines), as the payback ratio may only apply to a single machine in a bank, or to just a few machines scattered throughout the casino.
If you are unsure as to the payback ratio of the machine you are wanting to play, and you are in a brick and mortar casino, it’s bet to track down the slots manager and request further information. If you are unsure as to the payback ratio of a slot session at an online casino, the easiest option is to contact support for clarification on your specific game and variant.
Free Money Versus Real Money Slots
Free Money Slot Machines
One of the easiest ways to get started playing slots is to take advantage of free spin slot machines. Realizing how these promotions work requires some knowledge of the online casino industry and their incentivized promotions.
Online casinos don’t have the resort amenities, entertainment, or restaurants that land-based casinos do to entice gamblers to play slots at their property. They don’t even have a “property”. All they have are the games themselves. Now, for some, this is enough. Some online casinos can attract customer by brand value and game presence alone. But most online casino operators realized that they could attract more players by offering free money upon new player sign-up as an incentive. This usually is a bonus match. Bonuses typically work as such:
- The player deposits a certain amount of money (let’s assume for this case $300).
- The casino provides a bonus equal to a percentage of this deposit (let’s assume 150%, so $450).
- The total bankroll for the new player is now $750 instead of $300.
How is this advantageous to the casino? Gamblers are playing a game where the house has a substantial edge over the player. There are also embedded wager requirements (players must wager their entire bankroll at least ten times before cashing out). For the monetary example above, the player would need to wager $7,500 before being able to cash out. If the casino has a five percent house edge, it is anticipated that the player will end up in the red when it is all done. Some players can beat these odds, but over the long run, the business model has the house winning.
So if a player receives $450 for free on a deposit of $300, then over half of the play in the slot machines cost the player nothing. Unlike other free slots games, players have a real chance of winning money when taking advantage of an introductory bonus of this nature.
As online casinos thrive, so do their player offers. Eventually, online slots casinos realized that they could profitably offer real money bonuses to players without them needing to make a real money deposit. How this works is the casino offers potential customers a single free play chip (generally $25 or under). They can then use that money to try their slots and potentially win real money.
There is a catch. Just as the earlier example had wagering requirements, this example does as well, just higher, as the bonus is far lower. Additionally, there is usually a maximum cash-out, which typically is under $50. This limits the financial exposure of the casino, while also allowing the player substantial free play to test the waters. As players aren’t risking their own money, the machines truly are “free”.
Online casinos took this further by offering free spins on specific games. Some casinos select their most popular slot machine variant and let new players try that game for some spins without depositing a bankroll. These offers work like the no deposit bonuses, but have higher restrictions. For example, the offer is single-game only, and your account is never truly funded. You get free spins, and if you win money, then your account is funded.
There are other options for those with low budgets wanting to play slots online for free. The above are highly recommended though, as they give players a chance of walking away with real money.
Real Money Slot Machines: A Quick Start Guide
There are a few things players should keep in mind when graduating from free money slots to real money slots. Casino software is important to know, as are payment and withdrawal options, limits and fees, and slots bonuses.
Real Money Slots Casino Software
When we state “casino software”, we are likely referring to either specific compatibility or service providers. Regarding compatibility, it’s important to make sure your computer system, Internet browser, or mobile device have the capacity and power to run the slots software. Regarding service providers, this represents the company who developed the slot machine software for the casino. There are dozens of slots-focused software development companies, each with their own unique themes and concepts.
Some players will not get many options for online slots, based on the software company or platform they choose to use. This is more of a use case for players in the United States, as there are very few companies willing to work with offshore casino entities operating in gray areas of legality.
Real Money Slots Payment/Withdrawal Options, Fees, and Limits
Online gambling doesn’t differ much from the online shopping realm. In fact, if players can select a preferred payment method on sites like Amazon or iTunes, they can most likely use it to gamble online. The most common banking options are:
- Online Wallet: PayPal
- Other electronic wallet options: Instadebit, Skrill, Neteller, Entropay, PaySafeCard
- Credit cards: MasterCard, American Express, VISA
These payment methods are highly dependent on both the casino and the anticipated audience. Other than banking options, it is vital to pay attention to cash out limits and fees. Some online slots-focused casinos don’t impose fees or limits, while others have low limits and exorbitant fees.
Additionally, as a player is playing slots, they will want to determine if the casino imposes a weekly or monthly cash out limit. Some online casinos have such low limits that it would become unbearable to win a steady progressive amount. A $1,000 per month limit with a $50,000 win would take over four years to cash out. Some casinos will make exceptions for progressive winners, but it’s important to figure this out beforehand.
Real Money Slot Bonuses
One of the major things online casinos do that land-based casinos don’t is the offering of promotions. Nowadays, even offline casinos are in the business of promotions offering, giving away free spins, comp points, and positions in slot tournaments. However, online casinos offer deposit bonuses, i.e. free money.
Deposit bonuses are a relatively straightforward concept. The casino offers a percentage match on a player’s deposit, up to a specified point. One example is a 50% match bonus up to $500. With this, for every dollar deposited, the casino will provide players with an additional 50 cents, up to a maximum bankroll deposit of $500. So a deposit of the full $500 would give the player a bankroll of $750.
The way the casino can make money off this is by limited players to wager a certain amount of money before they can cash out. For example, the casino might state that slots players are required to wager 35 times the bonus before they can cash out. Using the $500 example above, if a player receives the entire bonus, they would have to wager $17,500 total before cashing out. Otherwise, players run the risk of losing their bonuses or winnings.
The most common bonuses are the welcome bonuses, reserved for initial accounts and deposits. However, there are other types of bonuses as well, for things such as holidays, birthdays, etc. Other bonuses that work in a similar fashion are:
- Free spins: The casino gives players free spins to use. Sometimes for specific slot machines, sometimes on the machine of the player’s choice.
- Comp points: Comp points are points the players receive for every specific number of dollars the player spends. The point is to save up points to exchange for cash back later.
- VIP programs: Comp points determine VIP status for players. The larger the status, the most additional comps, offers, and perks can be claimed.
- No deposit bonuses: No deposit bonuses are given to players without the need to make deposits.
More importantly, the above offers have terms and conditions that players will need to follow. These conditions vary from the amount of money to wager, to the max amount wagered per spin or line, to what and when players can cash out.
Real Money Slots: Location, Location, Location
The location of the player is a highly important aspect. Players from all over the world can gamble online, however the legalities are sometimes in a gray (or even black) area. It’s up to the player to figure this out.
The country being gambled from will impact many other aspects of the game. This includes: which casino can be joined, which types of slots the player can play, accessibility to banking options, whether the player can take advantage of bonuses, how much of a bonus they can get, and more.
Free Money Versus Real Money: Pros and Cons
Free slot machines don’t cost any money. If your bankroll is limited to nonexistent, this might be the largest contributing factor to your playability. Player’s don’t need to budget money for free slots. They cost nothing to play, but players might pay a cost to deal with advertising onslaughts.
Free slot machines pass time for bored players. The graphics and sound effects are top notch, leading to an overall visually appealing experience. However, players can’t win any money, since they don’t deposit any money. Some believe the entire purpose of gambling is to walk away with a profit, not to mindlessly press a button.
Additionally, it can be argued that there are far better uses of time. Also, some game types are not available in the free versions of slots across various online casinos. Some progressive games that are popular online are only available to play in real money mode.
Basic Slot Machine Strategies
Slots is a fickle game. There is a good amount of randomness (more so than table game variants such as blackjack, keno, roulette, and craps. We have distilled the three main strategy tips available. Follow the tips, along with some basic bankroll management, and players will be in the strongest possible position to minimize their losses and hold onto the strongest percentage of their bankroll.
Always, Always, Always Bet Max
Slots allow players to select how much they would like to wager on each spin. Not only can players select their denomination, players can also choose how many units to wager on each spin of reels. In exchange for larger bets, players receive access to larger prizes and more valuable bonus rounds/side games.
If a player plays thirty lines, they may only pay maximum prizes and provide access to valuable jackpots for players who wager a single credit on all thirty lines. This being the case, the smart idea is to place the maximum wager on every spin.
If a player lands a combination of results leading to a large jackpot, but that same player only bet on a single line, their winnings will be miniscule compared to what they could have been. Slots are randomized, so players have no way to know when they are likely to hit these winning combinations.
Simpler Games Provide the Best Odds
Decide what kind of slots player you are. Are you looking for the strongest possible odds, or the best possible entertainment? If you are only in it for the entertainment value, hopefully you have a strong bankroll to run through. The games with the strongest entertainment value are also the games with the worst odds, and higher per-spin costs.
However, if you’re the player looking to squeeze every cent you can from the slot machine and online casino, it’s more effective to stick to the simplest slots you can find. Skip any game with bonus rounds. Stick to games with just one or three pay lines. Find the classic-style slots on the floor and plant yourself there. Whatever you do, make sure you’re playing a game that other people might consider “boring”.
Avoid Progressive Slot Machines
Progressive slot machines attract gamblers with promises of payouts into the millions. Unfortunately, these prizes also draw in those gamblers with no sense playing long-odds contests with larger risks, such as progressive games. If you are looking to make your bankroll last forever, don’t use progressive slot machines. They cost quite a bit to run, as part of each wager is added to the progressive jackpot, altering the gameplay to make it less advantageous per player.
Concluding the Greatest Gambling Game Guide: Slots
Slots is a very high stakes and very high impact game, albeit somewhat repetitive. There are strategies to gain an advantage over those not using them, but in the end, the house is meant to always win, and everything is too random to do anything truly “strategic”. Regardless, workarounds exist to make a thin attempt to put the odds in the favor of the player.
In this guide, we explained the inner workings of slot machines, as well as principles and some myths surrounding how they work. We went into varieties, styles, symbols, variants, and game types, touching on some of the most popular. We also explained how house edges work in slots.
We went into detail on how real money slots versus free money slots works, and which is preferable when looking to profit from the machines. We also dug in a little on a few of the main pointers for strategy when it came to slot machines.
Slots is a dangerous game. However, we are confident that you now have a good amount of necessary information to get started in the world of slot machines, whether real-world or online gameplay, and come out the other side looking better than when you entered. Happy gambling!