Of all the games in the casino, slots are the most popular. It’s easy to see why – lots of wins, the chance of winning some huge sums of money, tons of entertainment value, and the mesmerising spin of wheels on thousands of machine variations.
But the reality is – as with all casino games – that the odds are against you. If you play slots, those odds are heavily stacked in favour of the casino. Yes you may win big, yes you may have some good value wins or lots of small ones, but over the course of a playing session it’s highly likely that you’ll end up losing your bankroll.
All that said, there is a possibility you’ll win. And it’s that possibility, that dream of hitting a big winning line, that keeps slots fans coming back for more.
On this page we’ll be looking at slots games in some depth. How to play, where to play, and any strategies you can use to get the best chances of a positive return.
Playing slots can give some great entertainment, but remember always be careful when gambling. Make sure you read the responsible gaming page before depositing any of your hard earned cash.If there’s one type of game you’ll want to be trying out, slots definitely fit the bill. Fast paced, plenty of variety, low or high value wagers, and plenty of wins with the possibility of striking lucky with a big one.
Be cautious though, there’s a reason why the online casinos regularly release new titles, and a reason why if you walk into a land-based casino the first thing you’ll see are slot machines……
…and that’s because they’re actually among the worst possible casino games for making a long term profit. In fact, you’re very likely to lose.
But the entertainment value is high, and the fact that’s it’s difficult to walk away with more cash than you started with does not deter millions of slots fans from having a go at landing that big jackpot.
What Are Slot Machines?
You’ll almost certainly remember playing slots in those holiday amusement parks for a penny a spin, and if you’re a lot lot older may even remember when they were first introduced into casinos and gaming halls. Very basic back then, often with just three reels where only one line counted as a winning line.
Those older slots are still popular now, but the latest versions are a long way from those old models of yesteryear. Playing slot machines is one of the most popular ways of trying to win money in the casinos, getting very close to the popularity of online poker games. And it’s stood the test of time.
Nowadays the term slot machines actually covers a wide range of games which encompass a number of different types, from the symbol reel versions which we’ll cover on this page through to video poker, keno, bingo, and even video roulette.
We’ll look at all of those in different sections, but for now the focus is on how to play slots on the well known devices where you need to match a number of symbols to win varying amounts of cash.
Designs have improved, and the versions you’ll find in most online casinos are feature rich, bright, high-tech devices with stunning graphics and multiple ways to hit a winning line. The casino software companies have turned the design of new slots games into an art form, perfectly designed to provide high quality entertainment at the same time as taking your money and (almost always) keeping it.
With such a wide number of varieties, the slots section here on RealMoney.games is destined to be a big one. We’ll be looking at various types, with the aim of highlighting new and intriguing titles plus in depth coverage of all those that have already become great favourites.
And don’t forget those jackpots! Progressives is the key word to watch out for if you want a tilt at a big – and sometimes life-changing payout.
When Charles Fey invented the very first slots machine in 1895 – a 3-reeled affair with diamond, heart and spade card symbols plus the ubiqitous bell – little did he know that he was the forerunner of thousands of versions of the machine. The 50 cent jackpot at the time being a far cry from some of the multi million dollar jackpots found today.
Bells of course are regularly seen symbols on various slots now, but within 25 years of that first machine players were also watching the spins to line up the fruits we also know, which of course also coined the term ‘fruit machines’ which many regular UK players will know very well.
As the Las Vegas gambling industry began to take shape in the 1940s the interest in slots really took off. Casino operators recognised their money-making potential and they began making appearances on the casino floors.
This was the start of the innovative lifecycle of the video-based slot machine as we know it today, with ever more increasing sophistication being introduced into the gameplay.
Even so, it wasn’t until the mid 1970s before we began to see the first true multi-reel, multi-payline, so video slots.
Since then it’s really been more of the same, but of course becoming increasingly complex with improved graphics and various innovations like bonus rounds, special symbols, and free spins.
It could be said that early 2017 saw the first real change in the way that slots operate with the arrival of skill-based machines. Designed to attract those video gamers of the late 1990s and early 21st century who were brought up on a diet of console based video games, these have introduced an element of skill into determining whether you win or lose.
It seems likely that the next generation of machines will take this skill factor and enhance it, most likely reaching the highest success levels in combination with virtual reality technology. The slots of 2020 onwards are set to create an immersive experience for players where you’re actually in the game, or at least feel like you are.
Why Play Slots
At high level, people plays slots mainly for two reasons : to win money or to get entertainment.
They’re one of those games which can be hugely addictive, you only have to visit a casino and watch someone with a bucket of coins feeding the machines for evidence of that. As with any repetitive action, the subconscious takes over at some point and the action continues almost without rational thinking.
There are some huge progressive jackpots on offer, with one of the benefits of playing slots being the chance (albeit a slim one) of landing a massive prize for a few coins.
Additionally many of the machines are built round popular films, TV programmes, or games – all of which can increase the interest.
But the real appeal may actually be working more on a psychological level…
As humans, we’re programmed to levitate towards things that reward us. The slots manufacturers play on this in the designs, deliberately attempting to focus our interest with flashing lights and sounds of coins falling. This psychological aspect is an interesting one and is covered in some depth on this page about the psychological drivers for playing slot machines.
Types Of Slots
Essentially there are a few main slots types under which there are a myriad of variations and different titles.
1 Line Slots
One Line Slots (the 3 reel slots we all know) are the most basic types of slot machines, especially suitable for beginners. In these there will be 3 reels and you’ll win cash prizes if the middle line gives you winning symbols in the correct order – normally all three the same, but may be two or even one.
5 Line Slots or Multi Line Slots
These are a little more difficult to understand, but still easy to play. You can normally choose how many winning lines you want to play, giving you many chances for a winning line. This can be as many as 20 or more different winning lines. Of course, your outlay rises the more lines you choose to play with. Paylines can run in various ways – in a straight line straight across the reels, in V shapes either upright or inverted, or even in zig zags.
Multi-line slots are more exciting than both 1 or 5 line slots because of the bigger and more often obtained payouts.
Progressive Slot Machines
Here’s the most important thing to know about progressive slot machines: You will not win the big jackpot unless you bet the maximum credits needed to qualify for it. While you can win smaller prizes based on that particular games payout table, you must bet the maximum credits to win the big one. Every credit played, that does not win, adds to the jackpot’s “progressive” amount.
Now there are a couple of different types of progressive games that can help the jackpot get to lottery type levels. The first being the Multi-Location Progressive jackpots. Just as described, these jackpots are made up by hundreds of machines that can be located at different casinos, and even across state lines, being linked together.
A smaller version of the same concept would be the Linked Progressive jackpots. These linked machines are usually contained within one casino. The most basic of the progressive jackpots will be the Individual Progressive machines. These machines are self contained with no connection to other machines, and do not contribute to, or receive from, other jackpots.
Straight Slot Machines
These machines are very basic and easy to play. You put your money in, start the spin, and win depending on the outcome of the spin. With these machines the payout schedule will be prominently displayed letting you know what you win.
An added feature of straight slot machines to look for is the Multiplier. With the multiplier, you can increase your payout just by betting more credits. The Bonus Multiplier basically works the same way with the added chance to enter a bonus round. A player can realistically double or triple their payout with this feature.
3 Reel or 5 Reel – What’s Best?
Basically this is going to fall down to what you want from a game – big or multiple wins, features, and enhanced graphics from the multi-reeled slots or a more sedate and traditional experience from the 3 reelers (although some 3 reel versions do offer up plenty of winning spins too).
If you’re a beginner maybe the best idea is to start with 3 reeled slots and work your way ‘up’. Get a feel for what happens in the gameplay. 3 Reelers are simpler to use with less paylines and staking options.
With either 3 or 5 reel, unless you’re playing one of the newer skill-based machines (only available in land-based casinos at time of writing) then there’s nothing you can do to influence what the outcome of any spin will be.
It can get more interesting as you move up to the high performance 5 reeled slots where free spins, scatters, gambling on wins, multipliers, exploding symbols, multiple or combination payouts, stacked reels, wilds, and other bonus features introduce a more interactive feel to the gaming.
Remember also that the really big jackpots – either networked or single game – will be more likely to come from the 5 reeled versions.
Slot manufacturers are constantly trying to beat the opposition with combinations of new features, but essentially features fall under a number of types which you’ll find variants of in different titles:
You’ll normally hit a bonus round by landing a combination of specific symbols. This is where the normal game pauses and you enter a special round which either gives a number of free spins or different ways to land cash prizes.
You can normally expect to come out of a bonus round with a nice amount of cash added to your balance.
Either as part of a bonus round or a standalone feature in their own right, free spins are always great to get. Again, it’s fairly normal to come out of a group of free spins with a nice cash balance.
In a free spins round it’s also possible to land a new free spins feature, adding to the fun!
The gamble feature allows you to choose whether to gamble all or part of your winnings from a spin. You may get the chance to double it or even multiply a number of times.
The gamble may be activated by pressing a button that gives yes or no, or for example there may be a numbered wheel which spins separately. Your gamble may be to choose whether the wheel would land on a higher or lower number than that shown on the next spin.
You don’t have to gamble of course if offered the option, but the risk is you could be letting an enhanced win get away. It’s pure luck though whether you do land it successfully.
These are designated symbols which act as substitutes for other symbols. Landing a wild in any spin could allow the completion of a winning line, even though you don’t have all the same winning symbols showing.
On some machines landing the wild symbol across three different reels may also result in a separate win.
These are special symbols that can result in what’s known as a scatter payout, the value of which is often a multiplication of the predetermined scatter value times the amount that was bet on the original spin.
As the name implies, this is where one symbol stacks up on multiple reels resulting in more winning chances.
This is a symbol that expands to cover each of the displayed positions on one or more reels. Again, this clearly results in the potential of making extra winning symbol combinations.
How To Win At Slots
Slots are designed in the same way as all casino games – to make money for the casinos. If you do decide to play slots, the most likely outcome is that you will lose. They’re built and configured to pay out less money that they take in over a period of time – normally returning anywhere from 95% upwards depending on the slot itself and the casino you’re playing in.
Winning (or losing) spins are determined by what’s known as a Random Number Generator, or RMG for short. It’s this that manages the payout performance of the slot over time, with the RMG running permanently even when the slot is not in use and generating thousands of potential combinations of reel positions each second.
All of this means that it’s equally possible to get two wins in a row for example, just as it is to spin two losers in a row. Equally there are chances of landing a jackpot twice in reasonably short succession, given that the payout of that jackpot is based on what the casino can expect to pay out over time.
The bottom line is, if you play long enough you will get some winning spins. Maybe even a biggish jackpoy style one. But the reality is you can’t play slots with any confidence of winning, a least not in the long term. The best bet is to play fun and walk away with the cash when you hit a winning line.
What Are The Odds Of Winning?
The odds of winning on slot machines vary across different games, different coin values for the bets you place, and sometimes the same machine titles across different operators.
The random nature of results means it’s impossible to predict these odds. If the odds of hitting a jackpot are 1 in 5000, they’re always 1 in 5000 for every new spin just the same as the odds of flipping a head on a toin coss are always 1 in 2.
So the only thing you can go on is the RTP figure. This means Return To Player, and is expressed as a percentage which indicates how much of the wagers made on the machine is given out as winnings over time.
RTP figures tend to be higher the higher value you go to in bets, hence for a 5c a spin slot the RTP may be 88% for example, but for a $5 spin slot it may be 96%.
The term given to this discepancy in expected payouts is known as volatility, with lower bet titles being less volatile and giving out more low value wins, while higher bet value machines are more volatile giving the expectation of bigger wins but on a less frequent basis.
RTP, or Return To Player, is one of the most important aspects of slots gaming. It can serve to give you an idea of what you can anticipate to see as a return, but only that. To explain, let’s look at a couple of examples:
You put $100 into a machine with an RTP of 88$. That’s $1000 in total. So you could expect to see $880 returned across those 10 players.
But consider this:
Player 1 hits a jackpot of $1000 on his or her first spin!
Now you can see that in effect all of the $880 that would be returned on average for $1000 of play has all been used up.
Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean that all other players would end up losing every spin, and in fact all of their starrting banks, but it is a good illustration of why RTP can only be used as a guide.
Are There Any Strategies To Improve Chances Of Winning?
The short answer here is no. Spins on a slot are entirely random and totally unpredictable. There is no way of telling where the reels will end up.
But you can slightly improve your chances by searching out specific types of slots – mainly those provided by a casino operator that runs at a higher payout percentage rate than a competitor.
Although slots are designed to take your money, they’re also programmed to pay out a specific percentage of the amount they take in. These percentage payouts vary from machine to machine and casino to casino.
Clearly if you play slots at a casino with a % payout of 96%, you’re less likely to walk away winning than if you play at one with a payout of 93%. Either way you can see easily that the odds are against you, but some casinos operate with higher payout rates than others. It makes sense to aim to play at a casino with the highest percentage payout rate you can find.
The main money management strategy you can employ is to limit losses, in the hope of extending playing time and giving more chances to hit a useful win. You can do this by playing the lowest coin value per spin, but remember that this also reduces your win values when you do hit a good line.
Playing slots with smaller jackpot values can also help. The progressives with huge jackpots are designed to payout less frequently in general.
Alternatively play in slots tournaments where the outlay can be low, you get plently of spinning entertainment, and the potential of some good value prizes.
Following on from these basic tips, the only other thing you can do is to always look for and read the rules of the game before playing. These rules will include information on winning symbols, how many coins you must bet to win the big jackpots, and the payouts in general. This will help you determine if you even want to play a certain machine. You can always move on to the next machine if you feel it is out of your budget, or you want to go for the big payouts.
Playing Slots Offline
Outside of the online casinos your chances of winning get worse. This is because of the ‘captive audience’ factor. Take cruise ships as an example. You’re on the ship, in the onboard casino. You have nowhere else to go, and the cruise casino has no competition. It can set whatever percentage payout rate it likes, knowing that there will always be more players eager to feed the machines.
In the UK, slot machines can be found in a variety of high street bookmakersh, clubs, cafes, and pubs. They’re equally difficult to win with in the long term, and the advice would be to avoid playing them. If you want to play slots, do it in an online casino. Or in Vegas!
How Easy Is It To Play Slots
The answer to this is going to depend on the complexity of the machine itself. The answer is it’s straightforward to play slots, you just put in your coins, choose how much you want to bet (based on the number of winning line payouts you want), and spin. But it pays to be aware of the way that each machine operates – the winlines and bonus features for example.
Choosing A Slot
The chances to play slots are so widespread that there are plenty of options for trying out different titles and types. In fact so widespread that it’s almost not worth thinking about what’s best to play. You may as well go practice at a few of the free games sites to get a feel for what’s best for you.
But there are some points worth considering oince you’ve got some practice in:
Interests : With many different genres covered in the available titles, it’s easy to find one that appeals to an interest you already have. For example superheroes fans may want to try their hand at a Spiderman machine.
Budget : Your gaming budget might determine what’s best to start out with. For a lower budget you may want to consider the machines that will take the lowest denomination bets, for a higher one it may pay to go stright to the big jackpot progressives.
Experience : Clearly previous experience plays a part here. If you know what you like and have had some good winning experiences on a particular type or title, it’s human nature to want more of the same if you can get it!
There are a whole bunch of reasons why spending some time investigating slots tournamemnts can pay dividends. They’re a great way of playing your favourite casino games. Low cost and offering chances of some big value wins.
To get the best chances of successfully negotiating a tournament you’ll need to be fairly well clued up on how they work:
- What they are
- The Rules of engagement
- Where to find them
- Any strategies, tips, or tricks we might use for playing slot machines in tournament conditions that will help hit the top positions on the leaderboard.
This all deserves a page of its own, so visit the RealMoney. Games guide to slots tournaments for the lowdown.
Pros and cons
Slots might be popular, and there are a number of reasons why. But there are some drawbacks to consider before you pile in and play…
There are three big problems:
1. You don’t know – and are not told – the odds about winning on individual machines
2. The odds about winning are not good, in fact nowhere near the levels you’d get with other casino games (and even those are stacked in favour of the house)
3. The nature of the games is that they can be played fast. That means there’s a risk of using up lots of cash in the pursuit of those lucky spins. Consider that a player spinning at a reasonable speed can go through 600-800 spins in an hour and you’ll have some idea of just how fast your cash could disappear.
We’ve said it before – great fun, high octane entertainment, anticipation, and the chance of some big wins, all wrapped up in hundreds of different slots titles of all shapes and sizes.
They’re easy to understand, easy to play, and provided you set a budget for what you’re prepared to lose, you’ll be able to sit down to a session and enjoy it.
The Future Of Slot Machines
The future of slots is inextricably linked with general advances in technology. In principle, slots are video game machines. They deliver high technology visual effects. So the best way to think about potential future developments in slots is to consider developments in the general video technology world.
3D visuals are of course a good example. Already some casinos are giving access to machines that work in 3D. Some better than others. As 3D technology advances – and we’re close to seeing no glasses 3D TV models available at a reasonable price and quality level – we’re likely to see further advances in how the graphics in 3D slots are presented.
The next step on from 3D is likely to be in the holographics field. Holographic TV may not be more than a few years away, and it’s easy to see how a casino game of any type might be enhanced if played in a close to real life way but actually from the comfort of your home surroundings.
Recently there’s been a burst of interest in social TV and gaming. That’s with us right now in the new breeds of Smart TVs, where you can watch and enjoy action on the TV screen that’s synchronised with social activity on websites like Facebook.
Hopefully this page will have answered most of the questions around slots you’ll have come up with, but there are plenty of other websites where there is some strong info:
The first recommendation is the WizardOfOdds guide to slots, one of the most concise and well presented you’re likely to find.
The Wikipedia slot machines guide is a good place to go if you’re a beginner.
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We’ve seen that playing slots is unlikely to make you money in the long term. You’re always playing against a casino that has a built in edge that ensures they keep more money than they pay out.
So why do we play? The answer of course is that we play in the hope of hitting that elusive jackpot, and there’s no harm in living with that hope as long as you’re playing with money that you can afford to lose and can keep the right perspective. Treat slots as they should be treated – a fun and enjoyable way to pass an hour or so with the potential (however limited) to win a nice prize.
As always, please be careful with your gambling. Have fun!