How to Play Slots Online

Easy Guide on How to Play Online Slots

Playing slot game on a mobile with text saying How to play online slots

Slots are the easiest games you can play at the casinos. They require no real experience and in a very short time, you can play slots like a pro. All you need to do is choose a game, set your bet and hit the spin button. From there on it’s all up to lady luck whether you win or lose.

In general, this is how slots are played. There’s nothing complicated about them and it’s all up to luck how you will do. But despite being games of chance slots are complicated machines. There’s a lot you can learn about online slots and use that knowledge to your advantage.

In this article, we will try to cover everything there is on how to play online slots and eventually how to win on them. If you want to learn more keep on reading this article.

Slots VS Other Casino Games

A common expression you’ll hear at the casinos is that real players are at the tables, while the newbies are at the slots. But is this really true and what drives players to the tables, while others are at the slot machines?

Well first of all you need to understand that every player has their own preferences when it comes to casino games. Some like to watch the roulette wheel spin all day long, while others crave the commotion at the craps tables. The main reason why gamblers go with table games rather than slots is the odds. If you consider the house edge on table games, yes, it’s much lower than the ones on slots. So in theory you have a better chance of winning at the tables than you would at slot machines. But how does this work in real life?

Every experienced player will tell you that if you are down on your luck you can lose just as much at the tables as you would playing slots. Another thing to consider is the payouts. Table games like blackjack and roulette have a smaller house edge, but the payouts are also smaller. You stand to win 1:1 on the standard bets where the house edge is the smallest and your chances of winning are the highest. This means if you are betting $1 you will make a profit of $1.

On slots, things are a bit different. The gameplay is fast-paced and you stand to win much bigger amounts. Depending on the slots you play for 100 hands you can lose around 30-40x your stake. But if you hit a bonus round you have a chance to score big payouts, sometimes in the thousands of dollars.

This is the main reason why many players, including myself, prefer to risk their money playing slots. You will definitely have fun playing the games and one lucky bonus round can bring you a massive payout. Not to mention the payouts you stand to win playing some of the most popular jackpot slots in the industry. No table game in the world can award a payout of $1 million or more while playing on a minimum bet of $0.20-0.25. Yes, the house edge is much higher, but the payouts can be massive.

Online slots 101

If you’ve never played slots before in your life opening a game for the first time can be confusing. You have no idea what is going on in front of you or how you win or lose. So in this section, we will explain the basic mechanics of how online slots work and how to play them. This is pretty basic knowledge that you can master in no time.

Basic controls

The first thing you need to learn about every slot is what all of the buttons on the screen do and how to use them. You need to learn how to adjust your bet, where the Spin button is, how to use the Auto Play feature, what is bonus buy and so on. All of this will help you better understand how to control the game and how to eventually get a more enjoyable gameplay.

Bet Size

How to set bet size on online slots

Two step guide on how to set bet size

The bet size button is the first thing you need to click on when you play slots. It usually comes in the form of a Coins button or simply + and – buttons next to your bet. You can use them to adjust your bet size or simply click on the coins button and choose your bet from the list. Once your bet is set you are ready to play.

Spin button

To play the game you need to click on the spin button. The location of this button depends on the slot design. On most, it’s on the right side of the reels, but for some, it can be below the reels. Once you click on the Spin button the reels will spin once.

Auto Play option

Showing the spin button and the auto play button on video slot game

Showing the spin button and the auto play button on a video slot

The Auto Play option comes in handy when you are aiming to play a bigger number of spins. This works the same as the spin button, but you’re not hitting it on every spin. You just click on the Auto Play button and choose how many spins you want to play. On most slots, you can play from 5 to 1,000 auto spins or even an infinite number on others. Well, that is until you decide you want to stop playing or your balance hits 0. After you set the auto spins you can sit back and relax as the reels spin in front of you.

Turbo Play

The turbo play option is perfect for impatient players like me who want to cover as many spins as possible in a short period of time. This button increases the speed at which the reels spin. On many slots, you have one or two turbo play options, while some even have a Super Turbo option available. With the latter, you can barely see what is happening on the reels in every spin.

Setting Turbo Spin on a online slot machine

How to set turbo spin on a online slot machine

Bonus Buy Feature

The Bonus Buy button is one of my favourite buttons to use in slots. With this button, you can instantly buy the bonus feature for a predetermined price. On most slots to buy the bonus, it costs 100x your stake. But on some slots, it can be lower like 50x or much higher like 400-500x. This is a great option to have if you are playing with a higher balance. Some slots like on the below image has several buy bonus options you can choose from:

The Bonus Buy feature

On above image you can see example of an slot that has the Buy bonus feature.

Check out our list of recommended buy bonus slots

Ante Bet

The Ante Bet button is an extra bet that you can turn on before you start playing the game. In most cases, it increases your bet size by a quarter or half of your original stake. But with this option on you have a higher chance to trigger the bonus round.

The ante bet feature on a slot machine

On the image above, the green button on the left-hand side is the ante bet feature. Click the button to activate the ante bet.

Volume controls

The volume control buttons are available in pretty much every slot, but not too many players use them. It allows you to increase or decrease the game sounds, as well as mute the background music. On most slots by default, it’s set to the max, so you can bring it down if you are listening to some tunes while you are playing.

System and Graphic Settings

Settings Icon on slots

Settings Icon

On the slot screen look for this settings icon to go to settings. The graphic details button is not available on all slots. Usually, it’s found in games with higher visual details and big animations. Here you can choose to turn off the animations or bring them down to a lower quality, so they don’t affect the speed of the game. This option comes in handy if you are playing on an older laptop or PC. On the slot screen look for this icon to go to settings.

Graphic Details Settings on online slots

Above images shows the system settings on the slot game

Slots Design

Now that you know how to adjust the slot and what all of the buttons do it’s time to move on to what you are actually looking at and how slots work. You will also notice that some slots have a different design than others, so if you’re a newbie player it might be confusing. In this section, we will explain everything there is to know about the slots design.

Slot Reels

No, these are not reels from Facebook or YouTube featuring fun videos. The simplest way to explain reels is that they are vertical columns where symbols land. Today most video slots come with 5 reels, but on many of the modern slots you can have 6, 7 or more reels.

A five reels online slot, with arrows showing each reel

Above is a five reels online slot, with arrows showing each reel

Slot Rows

If reels are vertical columns then rows are the horizontal ones. The first classic slots featured a single row, but most slots today come with 3 or 4 rows. On many newer slots, the number of rows is higher, up to 8 or even more.

Showing the rows with arrows on a slot game

Image above showing the rows with arrows in a 3-row slot game.

Paylines

Each slot comes with a predetermined number of paylines. You can think of them as trails across the reels and rows where matching symbols need to land for a win to be formed. The number of paylines varies from one slot to another. You can have slots with a single payline, while others can have 100 of them or even more.

Showing the paylines on a slot game

Above image is an example of a slot game with 20-paylines. Paying from left to right

Ways to Win

The Ways to win design was the successor of the paylines. With this design, you need to land 3 or more matching symbols on the first 3 reels and rows for a win to be formed. But there is no predetermined position where the symbols can land. All they need is to be on the first 3 consecutive reels. The higher the number of reels and rows the higher the number of ways to win is. Slots with a 5×3 design have 243 ways to win, while the ones with a 6×4 design have 4,096 ways to win.

Megaways

The Megaways design was the next step in the ways to win design. Here providers added a bigger number of rows and reels in the games, allowing for a massive number of winning combinations to land. On most Megaways slots you can have up to 117,649 ways to win, but there are slots with a million of them or even more. You can check out our list of the top Megaways slots

Slot Theme

When it comes to slot themes providers are very creative. The slot theme is what the game is based on. You can play a slot where the theme is the Wild West, another one inspired by Ancient Rome or go for slots with mythical animals like dragons. One of the most exploited themes in the online gambling industry is Ancient Egypt and Cleopatra. I think that every provider has at least one Cleopatra slot in their ranks. Some other heavily exploited themes are Chinese legends and animal-themed slots.

Branded Slots

An interesting category when it comes to themes are branded slots. These are games inspired by popular movies, singers, actors or historic characters. What makes this slots attractive is the popular theme. If you’re a newbie player and don’t know which slot to try the sight of a popular character like Batman, Superman or Gordon Ramsay will pop up. This is why many providers have exclusive contracts to use a branded theme in their slots. The thought here is that these slots tend to attract more players to their reels, because of the easily recognizable theme.

Slots paytables and rules

Before you start playing a game it’s a good idea to go over the paytable and the game rules. This gives you a chance to get acquainted with the game, the payouts it can produce as well as the bonus features you can trigger. To access them you usually need to click on the Help, Rules or Paytable buttons. They vary from one provider to another. Once you reach the rules make sure to read through them. This is also where you can see the maximum payouts each game can produce. On some, it can be 1,000x the stake, while on others it can be 10,000x the stake or even more. If you’re playing slots based on luck, you are better off playing a game that can pay more.

Showing example of online slot info & game rules page

The image above shows how to navigate to the ‘Slot Games Info & Game Rules’ page, where you can see the games’ RTP (Return to Player) and Volatility.

Special symbols

The special symbols in slots are what you want to see the most. These symbols are responsible for triggering the bonus round and awarding the biggest payouts. They vary in shape from one slot to another following the slot theme, but they usually have common functions.

Wild Symbol

The Wild symbol is also referred to as the Joker symbol, usually by older gamblers. The Wild has a common function where it replaces all other symbols from the paytable. In most cases, this excludes special symbols like the Scatter and Bonus. The Wild usually has the highest payout in the game. Landing 5 of them on a winning pay line brings in hefty payouts. The Wild can also have extra functions attached depending on the slot in question. Below we will cover some of the most popular ones.

Expanding Wild

The expanding wild function is pretty self-explanatory. When the wild lands on a reel it will expand to cover the entire reel. For me this is the most attractive function of the wild, as you can get 5 wilds on each reel, resulting in a full screen of wilds. Usually, this also means that you get the top payout in the game per spin.

Roaming Wild

This function is also quite interesting. When it wild lands on the screen in each following spin it will move to a different location. Usually, in the features with roaming wilds, you can get a big number of wilds in the feature resulting in big wins.

Multiplier Wild

This is an extra feature attached to the wild that can pay big. In addition to the classic function the wild also has a multiplier attached. The multiplier is applied to all payouts where the wild contributes, significantly increasing the payouts.

Doubling Wild

The doubling wild usually means that instead of a single wild it will double into another one, usually in the square next to it. This way you can get many wilds on the screen, again resulting in big wins.

Scatter Symbol

In most online slots the scatter symbol is the one responsible for triggering the bonus round. Usually, the bonus round comes in the form of free spins. In most cases, you need to land 3 scatters anywhere on the screen to trigger the feature. On many slots the higher the number of triggering scatters is the higher the number of free spins is.

Bonus Symbol

The bonus symbol has a similar function to the scatter. Usually, you see the bonus symbol in slots where there are 2 bonus rounds. The scatter triggers the free spins, while the bonus symbol triggers another bonus. Usually, the bonus symbol is responsible for the pick-and-win bonus. Here you make picks on the screen and each one awards a cash prize.

Jackpot Symbols

Jackpot symbols are found in jackpot slots. In most cases, you need 3 of them to trigger the feature or 5 of them to directly win one of the jackpots. If you are playing a jackpot slot with a high top prize then the jackpot symbol is definitely something you want to see the most on the reels.

Bonus rounds in online slots

By now you should have a solid understanding of how to play slots. You can easily adjust your bet and all the other functions available in the slot, as well as learn the game rules and the payouts it can produce. Now it’s time to explain a bit in detail how the bonus rounds in slots work. This is where the biggest payouts in the game can land, so every player wants to trigger a bonus round as fast as possible. Below are some of the most common bonus features you can come across in online slots.

Free Spins Bonus

The free spins bonus is the most popular and most common feature that you can come across while playing online slots. Even though the free spins bonus differs from one slot to another the general premise is basically the same.

In most online slots you need to land 3 or more scatters to trigger the free spins bonus. Once this happens you are awarded a number of free spins, usually 10 or 15 for 3 scatters on the screen. In some slots triggering the bonus round with 4 or 5 scatters brings you 20 or 30 free spins. Again it all depends on the slot in question and you can learn the rules of the feature simply by reading them

What’s attractive about the free spins bonus is that in most cases you get extra features. There are many of them, even too many to cover. In general, you can have a win multiplier applied to all of your payouts. The Wilds can land stacked during the feature or even come with a multiplier of their own. There are many combinations that can occur depending on the slot, resulting in an interesting and lucrative bonus round.

Cash Pick and Win bonus

The cash pick and win bonus is usually referred to as the baby brother of the free spins. In most slots, this is a side feature, usually resulting in smaller payouts. The way this feature works is that you get a number of picks on the screen corresponding with the number of triggering bonus symbols. Behind each pick is a bonus prize usually in the form of cash money. The winnings from the bonus are summed up and added to your balance once the feature ends.

Learn about all the different slot machine featured

Jackpots

Jackpots are the most lucrative feature you can get at online casinos. Jackpot slots are exciting to play as you always have a chance to win the top prize. These slots can be divided into two categories, fixed and progressive jackpots. In the first ones, the jackpot prizes are fixed and correlate to the bet size. In most cases, the top jackpot stands at 5,000x the stake.

On the other hand, progressive jackpots don’t have a fixed value. They have a starting value and are pooled over a network. This means that every bet made on the same game across all online casinos affects the size of the jackpot. This is why progressive jackpots can rise to incredible amounts. You stand a chance to win tens of millions of dollars while playing on the minimum bet. This has happened before on some of the most popular jackpots in the industry Mega Fortune and Mega Moolah.

Check out our list of the biggest slot jackpots online

RTP, RNG and Volatility Explained

Another list of common phrases you will hear about online slots is RTP, RNG and Volatility. First, we’ll explain the RNG, which stands for Random Number Generator. This is what drives slots and is at the core of every game. The RNG makes sure that each spin is unique and in correlation to the next one. This is why slots are considered to be games of chance. You can in no way affect the outcome of the next spin and the results are all up to lady luck.

Next on the list is the RTP, which stands for Return to Player. This is the opposite of the house edge. If the house edge on a slot is 4%, this means that the RTP value of the slot is 96%. This is the standard RTP value of most online slots. The majority of them differ by just a few decimal points. But there are slots where the RTP is lower than the standard, like 94% and where it’s higher, like 98%. So why is this important to you?

Well in theory slots with a higher RTP value should pay more in the long run. This is the amount the game is projected to pay back to the player in the form of wins over millions of spins. However the RTP and RNG work side by side with the volatility.

To put it simply the volatility of a slot is the frequency of payouts the game produces. Slots with low volatility produce frequent payouts, as opposed to slots with high volatility. However low volatility slots produce smaller payouts, while the ones on highly volatile slots are much bigger in size. Just for comparison, many low volatility slots have a top payout of 1,000x the stake, while on many highly volatile games, the max payout is capped at 50,000x or even more.

You can find all the different slots RTP(Real Time Payout) here, that’s a good way to find the slots that pay back most to players.

Instant Play VS Mobile Slots

You may come across terms of instant play and mobile slots. Some players even go as far as to say that mobile slots pay better than instant-play ones. But that’s not true they are all the same games, and you can play instant slots on your mobile as well.

Instant slots, put quite simply, are those online slot games you can jump right into, no downloads needed and you play directly from your browser. It’s all about getting into the game fast, without any fuss over installing software.

Most online slot games today are instant play slots.

See our list of our recommended mobile casinos that offer a 1st class selection of slots.

You can also practice and play all our free instant slots.

Basic slot strategies

When you are playing games where skill is not a factor you can’t really employ any proven strategies. It all depends on luck whether you will win or lose. But there are some strategies you can use to stretch your gameplay and increase your odds to make a profit.

The first thing you should know is not to chase a bonus round and your losses in a single game. If a slot is cold it can eat away thousands of dollars without paying anything in return. Most slots have a hit rate from 50 to 200 spins. So you better play a slot for up to 200 spins and move to another one, rather than chasing the feature. It doesn’t mean that the slot has to land a bonus round and pay big. I’ve chased features for over 500 spins without landing them or won peanuts when they finally did land. On the other hand, you can hit a bonus round in the first 50 spins on another game that can pay 1,000x or more.

Another thing to remember is to always plan your bankroll. You want to cover as many games as possible. So make sure to have enough for 100 spins to try as many slots as you can. The chances are at least one of them will land a good bonus round that will pay big.

You can also use the RTP and volatility of slots to your advantage. Playing low volatility slots on higher bets can be lucrative in the long run, gradually increasing your balance. Also, it’s a good idea to go for slots with a high RTP value since in theory, you have a better chance to make a profit.

Many experienced players also suggest that you should try popular slots. The premise behind this is that they are played by a large number of players on a daily basis. So this should give you a better chance to score some big wins.

You can also read our guide on how to win when playing slots

FAQ

  • Can you affect the outcome of slots?

No, as I explained before slots are run by a Random Number Generator, ensuring that you can in no way affect the outcome of the spins.

  • Can I play slots with a bonus?

Yes, most online casinos have regular bonus promotions that you can claim with your deposit. Just make sure to check the bonus terms to see which slots are forbidden for play with bonus funds.

  • Does the bet make a difference?

This is a classic superstition, but the bet size does not affect the outcome of the spins. Betting higher doesn’t mean that the slot will be looser.

  • Where can I find reliable online casinos to play slots?

We have a list of reputable online casinos tested and vetted by our in-house casino experts. Visit our list, follow the link and create an account.

  • Can the casino adjust the RTP of the slots?

No, all the games at an online casino are played on the provider’s server. This ensures that the casino can in no way affect the games.

  • Are slots fair games?

Yes, all slot providers are licensed and their games are tested by independent testing agencies to make sure they are fair and random. So you can rest assured that each time you play a slot it’s up to lady luck whether you win or lose.

You might also want to read:

How to sign up and play online casinos

10 Best online slots for beginners

30 Best online slots ever made with ratings

Nicky Smith, Editor at OnlineCasinos.net, also fact-checked this page.

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