Slots are some of the most popular games in the online casino world. They are versatile so anyone can enjoy playing them, from the simplest 3-reel fruit machines to the most complex multi-line video slots. The quantity of different slots types available can often be confusing, especially with the introduction of the latest 3D slots and the upcoming launch of virtual reality slots.
In the early days of slots, players would play the games to win gum not money and the machines were simple mechanical structures. The games had only a few reels and no bonus features. From these humble beginnings, slot machines have developed to include complex video slots and are one of the most popular types of gambling machines around today. No casino would be complete without an online slots section.
Read on to explore the history of slot machines, how the different types of slots work, the difference between video slots and video poker and an explanation of volatility and strategies in online slots play.
The History of Slots
Slot machines began as one-armed bandits in games arcades and the earliest versions could be found back in the 19th Century. The early slot games were simple machines all based on Charles Fey’s Liberty Bell slot machine, first created in 1895. Fey probably had no idea what a goldmine he had created.
In the USA, slot machines originally dispensed flavoured gum and every convenience store in the country had one. In these early days, the line between vending and gambling machine was a blurred one.
When Walt Fraley’s slot machine, Fortune Coin, was introduced to the world in 1975 as a gambling machine, it didn’t go down too well with the people as they distrusted handing their hard-earned money over to a virtual machine. It was only in the 1980s that slot machines really became universally popular with the dawn of video poker.
Reel slots are different from video slots and each have their own distinct features. What makes these machines so popular and attractive to players is they don’t require any element of skill, they’re completely based on chance and they’re incredibly easy to use. There are also so many variations out there that players are bound to find something to suit even the most particular of tastes.
How Do Online Slots Work?
Originally, fruit machines used mechanical parts for movement but nowadays video slots are graphically represented on the screen. Each slot has an inbuilt random number generator or RNG to replicate the spinning of the reels in live machines. More reels have been added to the standard three to create all sorts of unique reel layouts, providing more fun and variety for players.
Microchip technology has allowed game developers to have free artistic rein over their games and there are now no boundaries as to what they can create. The symbols on these games are highly animated with an array of themes to choose from, compelling graphics, video clips and soundtracks. When you land a winning combination, the icons can move, light up or provide the player with a nifty animation.
Providers are even including story-telling into their machines with the addition of an animated intro clip before you launch the slot. The games themselves are even telling a story through their supplementary features which have been designed to keep players engaged for hours. There are also thousands of winning lines and some exceptional interactive bonus games which take you away from the reels for some sizable wins and substantial progressive jackpots.
This increases the hit percentage and provides players with a more entertaining gaming experience compared with the original three-reel games.
How to Play Online Slots
Playing online slots is really simple. To begin the game, you select the size of your bet and how many paylines you want to play, then hit the spin or play button. That’s it – you’re off to winning some lovely cash prizes. Some slots are designed with fixed paylines, which means that you don’t get to choose which ones to activate, as all of them are constantly active on every spin. This gives you the maximum number of ways to win every time, but will cost a set amount of money, therefore fixed paylines give you less flexibility in betting.
The most popular video slots come with five reels and can have hundreds of unique features like bonus symbols, free spins, wilds, scatters, multipliers and exciting gamble features. For those who prefer the classic 3-reel slots of old, there are plenty of these types of games to give players that retro feel. Similarly, there are fruit machine style slots which provide users with a vintage gaming experience (remember those flavoured-gum-dispensing machines?) and plenty of fruit symbols, bars and lucky sevens.
Whatever your taste, every slot machine has something unique to offer and with so many different themes and new features coming out all the time, you’re guaranteed to find something you love in the online slots world.
The Volatility Ratings of Slots
Slots all have a volatility rating, which indicates how risky they are to play. A high volatility rating means you won’t see many payouts from that game, but when you do hit a win, it could be huge. In contrast, a low volatility slot means it gives frequent payouts, but they’ll be much smaller in value.
The type of online slot you might prefer depends on your attitude to risk and your bankroll. For riskier play, you might enjoy high volatility slots which give you the chance to win massive prizes. If you have a large bankroll that can support going without a payout for a long time, then high volatility slots could be the way to go.
On the other hand, if you have a smaller bankroll and get nervous when you don’t see a payout for a while, you’ll probably prefer playing the lower volatility slots. Although you won’t hit a huge payout, you’ll see more regular winnings to top up your balance. This kind of play can mean a longer gaming session without the chance of having your bankroll wiped out from a long dry spell.
Another consideration when thinking about your winning chances is the return to player percentage (RTP). This percentage tells you the percentage of money returned to players in winnings when they play a particular slot. For example, if you wager £100 on a slot game with an RTP of 95%, this means that £95 will be won on average by players. Remember this doesn’t give a guarantee of winnings during your play, it’s only an average across all wagers over an infinite number of spins.
Video Slots and Video Poker
Video poker is a cross between video slots and the traditional card game, draw poker. You get many different types of video poker with slightly different rules and payouts. Some of the most popular types of video poker at online casinos include Jacks or Better and Deuces Wild.
Video poker games work in a similar way to 5-card draw poker in that players are dealt a 5-card hand and then will get the chance to swap a card in the hopes of improving their hand. Payouts are paid according to a paytable distinct to that game. For example, in Jacks or Better you have to get a pair of Jacks of a higher-ranking hand to receive a payout.
Video poker is played using special software, but instead of clicking play to spin reels, you click to deal the cards. It’s a great choice for players who love playing real-life poker but want to have the influence of slot machines and rely on a little luck.
Slot Types and Features
Online slots vary hugely in style but there are some common slot types that you’ll come across in all casinos. The main slots you’ll find available to play are 3-reel and 5-reel slots. You can also get slots with more reels, such as 7-reel slots and other amounts, but these are rarer. The simplest slots use three reels and the aim is to match symbols across a single payline to receive a payout in accordance with the paytable.
Classic slots are as close as you can get to playing the original land-based slot machines. They generally always use the traditional fruit icons on their reels and offer a retro appeal to players looking to enjoy old-school slots play.
Many online casinos also offer 3D slots which use 3D imagery to provide a gaming experience that is a cut above using incredibly realistic graphics. These are great when combined with a movie theme as players can really feel transported into their favourite films.
As online slots get more sophisticated, they increase the numbers of paylines. The usual number is 20, but this can be lower and also much higher. Other slots don’t use win-lines at all to determine winning spins but use clusters of symbols or matching symbols on adjacent reels. One famous type of slot uses the 243 ways-to-win feature, which gives you 243 different ways to win on every spin.
Other exciting features you’ll find when playing slots online include tumbling or cascading reels, which can award multiple wins from one initial spin. Any matching symbols on a payline disappear to be replaced with new symbols – and more potential wins. Slots can also have various bonus games which are launched by special combinations of symbols, usually three scatters. The scatter icons can pay out wherever they land on the screen and don’t need to land on a payline to award a win.
Other features include wild symbols, which can substitute for other icons to create more winning combinations. Free spins rounds are also common features of online slots, which can be launched by a certain combination of symbols and give players a number of free spins, often with extra multipliers on top of their payout.
The gamble function is another popular slots feature. This is a mini game that can be launched after any win, giving you the chance to gamble your winnings (or half your winnings) on a 50/50 game of chance, often a card game. If you win, you double your cash, but losing means you forfeit your winnings from that spin. This is a tough call but a great way to boost the excitement of a slot – and your potential cash haul.
Another modern invention that is soon to arrive at online casinos is the virtual reality slot. This will provide users with a whole new experience, letting you immerse yourself thoroughly in the world and storyline of the slot game. Virtual reality is sure to be the next big thing in gaming.
Slot Game Providers
There are many slot game providers, each with their own catalogue of slots. Some of the most famous names include: NetEnt, Microgaming, Novomatic, Playtech, IGT, Real Time Gaming, Next Gen, Blueprint, Evolution, Endorphina, Yggdrasil, Amaya, Play’N go, Merkur, Betsoft and Aristocrat.
Each of the big software providers have their own popular online slot games. For example, Playtech are known for their branded series of slots from Marvel and DC Comics, based on the superhero stories from comics. These have linked jackpots, giving you the chance to win massive amounts of money. Another big name right now is NetEnt, who is famed for its immersive 3D slots with amazing graphics and animations, including popular video slots such as Gonzo’s Quest and Jack and the Beanstalk.
Real Money, Free Slots and Progressive Jackpots
Slots can be played for real money at all betting sites, while they can also often be played for free. Free slots can be found online on social networking sites, while they are also often available at casinos as part of a welcome bonus package. Often you can play slots for free as a practice run at casinos, but you won’t usually be able to win real cash as you’re playing with fun money. However, if the free play is part of a sign-up offer, you can keep your winnings and go on to cash them out, after having completed any wagering requirements, as stipulated in the bonus terms and conditions.
In addition to winning money on the slots by matching symbols and completing bonus rounds, you might also get the chance to play for a progressive jackpot. This means a small portion of all players’ bets are put into the progressive pot which will steadily grow until someone triggers it. The Marvel slots by Playtech have a famous staggered progressive jackpot linked across all the games. There are different levels of jackpots and the biggest progressives can award millions to the lucky winner.
Slot Game Cheats and Strategies
Winning at slots is completely down to luck. These games use a random number generator so every spin is unrelated to the previous spin, meaning there’s no guaranteed winning strategy. However, there are some general guidelines that make sense when playing slots online and can boost your winning chances. Firstly, you should know the rules to the game you’re playing and be aware of all the bonus rounds and jackpots to look out for, so you can judge your winning potential.
Take note of the slot’s RTP so you can pick a game in line with your attitude to risk. Also, study the paytable so you know the best-paying symbol combinations. It usually makes sense to play at the highest betting level you can afford as this can sometimes unlock more paylines and therefore improve your winning chances. It also means the payouts will be the highest possible from any winning combination.
Another cheat for maximising your winning potential when playing online slots is to steer clear of the most popular video slots with amazing graphics and huge progressive jackpots. These might look great and feel exciting to play, but they have so many other players chancing their luck, it’s unlikely you’ll be the one to hit a big win. The less popular machines give you less competition for the big jackpots.
Another reason to stick to the less fancy slots is that they tend to have a higher RTP because they take less time to load up – and to the casino, time is money. The more sophisticated slots have video animations, which take time to load, so the casino lowers the RTP to make up for the lost potential earnings from players through this lost time.
Slots are some of the most exciting games at the casino and their simplicity and lack of skill required means they’ll always be hugely popular. By taking note of a few of these strategies, being aware of your own attitude to risk and browsing through all the fantastic slots and themes out there, you’re bound to have great time spinning the reels.