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Managing the User Interface

As slot games are inherently simple to play, the user interface retains that simplicity. Different development studios tend to have a framework they stick to, although most tend to keep to the same core layout. While one provider may choose to stick the Play Round button in the bottom center of the game screen, others may choose to put it in the corner instead. Naming conventions may also change, as the button may instead be labeled ‘Spin’ for example.

Keeping in mind the above-mentioned, most slots tend to stick to a relatively simple formula. The bottom portion of the game screen is usually dedicated to changing up your betting options and other settings, such as volume and animation speeds. Game settings can also be contained in a separate screen, accessible by a cog or wrench icon. The main real estate is filled with the game itself; reels, symbols, and all the important gameplay elements. Your balance, bet amount, and payouts will usually be displayed at the top or bottom of the game screen. 

Placing Your Bets

Most of the player agency in slot games comes from deciding between the various betting options available. A big part of learning how to play online slots is determining how the different betting options each influence your potential payouts. The layout here can change from game to game. You’ll often see your total bet somewhere on the lower portion of the screen. This can be made up of different options, such as bet per line. Some slots will also use coins and coin value that can be adjusted to make up your total bet amount. Your total bet is what matters the most. However, be mindful that additional paylines may need to be activated in your betting decisions.

Your chosen bet amounts will be carried over once the round is complete, meaning you can instantly press the spin button again without having to input all of your decisions again. You can of course change your wager at any time between spins. Auto-spin features are also very common, which allows you to set your wager and the number of spins to play. The game will then automatically start spinning after each round is complete. You can also pause or stop this at any time, which it will do after finishing the current round. You can even change some settings so it automatically stops when you've won or lost a set amount of money, when a bonus feature round starts, or when you hit a big win. You can even stop the auto-spins for every win you get if you so wish, all though that would mean a lot of stopping – hopefully!

Game Terminology In Online Slots

Before we begin breaking down the game into its basic mechanics, we will first go over the terminology that players will be expected to be familiar with. This will allow us to more effectively explain all of the different rules and features present in each game.

Reels

The backbone of every fruit machine since the Liberty Bell was first released. Each reel represents a column that can consist of various symbols (more on symbols below). Most online slots feature either three or five different reels, although some games can feature seven or even nine reels. A single reel isn’t able to achieve much on its own, but it is the combination of results on the different reels that create win potentials.

Spin

Every round of a slot game is referred to as a ‘spin’. After you have confirmed your bet amount, you can press a button to initiate a round, which will randomly spin the reels into various new positions that can potentially lead to a payout. Each spin will deduct your balance according to your betting decisions and any winnings resulting from a spin will automatically update your balance at the conclusion of the round.

Symbols

Each reel is populated by a number of symbols, which vary from game to game. The spinning of the reels serves as a function to randomly generate a new combination of symbols. A list of predefined combinations of symbols provides varying levels of payouts, dependant on your original bet amount. Most games include some special symbols like Scatters that can affect the game in big ways, such as unlocking bonus feature rounds and other additional mechanics. In essence, the combination of symbols is the biggest determining factor of whether you lose, win or win big.

Scatters

Scatters are symbols that can vary in their appearance and mechanics from game to game. The name comes from the fact that they are generally not required to land in a proper sequence to trigger. It is essentially a catch-all term for symbols in a slot game that usually benefit the player via opening up bonus features, win multipliers, and other special mechanics the slot may have up its sleeve.

Wilds

Wilds are special symbols that can come in several different variations. The most commonly featured wilds are those that can take the place of any other symbol within the game. In most instances this only accounts for standard symbols and not any other special features like a bonus or free spin round. Other commonly featured variants are sticky wilds and expanding wilds. Sticky wilds remain in place for at least one additional spin, while expanding wilds move out to cover an entire reel in wilds. There are also other types of attributes for wilds and even scatter symbols can act as wilds.

Megaways

Megaways slots use a special mechanic that randomly determines the number of symbols appearing on each reel. This is calculated every game round and can vary in amounts from game to game. One game could for example randomly generate between two and seven symbols in a reel. This can also affect the number of active ways to win if the game uses them.

Progressive Jackpot Slots

Progressive jackpot slots, also sometimes simply called progressives, feature a jackpot that dynamically grows as players wager real money. This is in contrast to fixed jackpot slot games that have sets of predetermined jackpot amounts that can be won. Progressive jackpots can vary in size depending on the network it is being run on. Some progressives take in wagers from only one casino, while others can extend to every casino that supports the game. These larger networks allow for jackpot amounts to reach millions of euros enabling them to provide some of the biggest payouts in history.

Random Number Generator (RNG)

A random number generator (RNG) is an algorithm that ensures each game round is verifiably random. This is an incredibly complex piece of coding that provides the backbone of fairness to every virtual casino game online. The RNG ensures that each result comes about independently from any other and is backed up by third-party verification. You can always double-check the certification that a game provider has received from any testing labs.

Paylines and Other Ways To Win

Paylines operate in the background of each round but can either be found displayed on the game’s user interface or the rules section. Each payline is a unique possibility to win, as they determine what constitutes a combination of symbols. If you get lots of the same symbols, but they do not align on a single payline, they will not be counted towards a win. You will often see developers promoting the number of paylines in their games, as it alludes to a stronger chance of winning in each round. Some games come with fixed paylines, while others allow you to adjust the amount active along with your other betting options.

Cluster pays or Pays Both Ways is a more unique payout layout available in some online slots. The Cluster pays method does away with paylines and instead looks for a collection of symbols connected to one another. It can be in any order and the payout is determined by the exact symbol and the number of them combined together. Pay both ways is similar to paylines, although symbols can be matched from right to left, as well as left to right. These are just a few examples of the different ways a slot’s payouts are triggered. There are others out there, but most don’t deviate too much from the standard formula.

Payout Table

The payout table functions much in the same way as a key on a map. The table shows the different values of each symbol, as well as any special modifiers that a symbol may carry. An identical winning combination of cherry symbols may pay out less than one containing gold bars for example. This can change wildly from game to game though. It is therefore always recommended that you first check the payout table of any game you are playing for the first time before committing any funds to it.

Coins

These represent the universal currency used in most of the older slot games. While betting you can set the value of each coin against your respective currency. This system was put into place to provide a much clearer image when explaining the game and its payouts, as exchange rates do not need to be taken into a win. It is also what determines how your bet is distributed amongst the various active paylines. Nowadays currency support is much more seamless, allowing for players to use their own currency to wager with instead of the more old-school coin approach. 

RTP

The Return To Player (RTP) is an average expected payout of a specific slot game over an extended period of playtime. An RTP in the mid 90 percentile is the common industry standard. A 96% RTP represents a €96 payout for every €100 wagered. Again, we cannot stress enough that these percentages are averages drawn from huge sample sizes and each player’s experience may vary.

Volatility

Also known as variance, this determines the frequency at which you can expect to be paid out. Again, these metrics are based on extended averages, just like RTP. Games will usually feature either High, Medium or Low volatility. Low volatility brings about more frequent wins of generally smaller payouts. The opposite goes for High volatility, which dishes out larger payments on a less frequent basis. Low volatility favors players with smaller budgets, as they are less likely to come across payout droughts. 

Common Online Slot Bonus Features

Most of what we have explained so far is pretty much universal across all games. Where they tend to differ from one another is in their thematics and special features. Audio and visual themes are all down to subjective preferences and are mostly just cosmetic additions to make the game more appealing to the sense. Bonus feature rounds and the like tend to have a much more impactful presence that differentiates the gameplay in a rewarding way. Here we will take a look at some of the most common and popular online slot bonus features.

Bonus Rounds

Bonus rounds come in all shapes and sizes. They tend to play into the visual themes of the title and are unlocked by landing on a specific combination of symbols. Landing three Scatter symbols is a common way of unlocking a bonus round. These rounds can open up an entirely new game window or expand upon the current one. Charge up meters and guessing games are also possibilities. Many titles also feature several different bonus rounds with different ways of unlocking them. In some instances, the game will allow players to purchase their way into a bonus round with a buy-in mechanic that takes a fee from your player balance. 

Developers are constantly innovating on old ideas and coming up with new ones meaning that there is always something new to discover. Keep in mind though that it is especially important that you double-check the rules for entering and playing a bonus feature.

Free Spin Rounds

Some slots offer up free spin rounds as a bonus feature, while others incorporate multiple features. Free spin rounds come in batches that usually range from 3 to 20. They do exactly what they say, as unlocking them allows you to keep playing without staking your balance. They are valued the same as the bet you placed when unlocking them and in some titles are tied into additional bonus features for even greater rewards. Any winnings gained from these rounds are accumulated until the entire batch of spins is played through. It is entirely possible to unlock further free spins during a free spin round, although not for every game. These are also a mainstay in many casino promotions, which when active, immediately credits your free spins when entering the corresponding game.

Re-Spin Rounds

Re-spin rounds can be activated in regular gameplay or in bonus features, depending on the slot game. They act by spinning only a specific set of symbols or reels. This could potentially keep some high-value symbols in play while respinning the rest for a better combination. The re-spin feature could also trigger again after this, which will also depend on the slot in question. The game rules will clarify what symbols are needed to trigger re-spins and what stays in place when triggered.

Win Multipliers

When checking the different rules on how to play slot machines, you will no doubt stumble upon win multiplier mechanics. These are pretty straightforward on paper, as they apply a predetermined multiplier to your winnings in specific circumstances. You could have a lucky round winning €100, but a 5 times multiplier gets added on due to the game rules, resulting in a €500 win instead. The different multipliers and ways to trigger them are dependent on the specific game in question and many only unlock these features within a bonus round. 

Gamble Feature

Some slot providers have a large catalog of games that incorporate the gamble feature. This allows you to go double or nothing on a winning round. Players who opt into the feature are usually given a 50/50 shot between two choices; red and black for example. Picking correctly doubles your win and lets you opt-in again or walk away. Picking incorrectly removes any winnings generated from the round.

Jackpots

The ultimate prize and dream of any slot player. Jackpots come in two different variants; fixed and progressive. Standard fixed jackpots have a set value that pays out the same, no matter the time or place. These fixed jackpots can come in different tiers for the same game, each with its own chances of going off. Any game with a fixed jackpot will usually present it loud and proud, as it presents an opportunity for players to win amounts that go beyond the payouts typically found in bonus feature rounds.

Progressive jackpots take the concept one step further by having a jackpot that is constantly growing. The progressive nature is possible due to the fact that each bet made by every player on the specific jackpot title will be contributing towards the pot. This allows progressive jackpots to completely eclipse fixed ones, as they are constantly accumulating value. The downside is that they tend to be even more unlikely of occurring for a player. It is here that world records are made though, as the record win for an online slot game stands at above €18 million, achieved from a €0.25 bet.

Finding The Right Online Slots For You

Now that we have gone over the core rules and mechanics of slot games, an important decision you will have to make is deciding on the right game for you. The first thing you should always consider is your budget. Having a separate budget dedicated to your gambling action is an important aspect to effectively manage your bankroll and helps to prolong the enjoyment. Whether your budget is large or small, there is sure to be something for you. Games with high volatility and jackpots typically favor larger budgets, as they require extended periods of play in order to get the most potential out of them. Smaller budgets are best suited for low volatility games that feature a lot of paylines and a diverse range of possible bet amounts.

While the theme of a game isn’t really crucial when it comes to the actual gameplay, it is nonetheless important that you find something that you like. It doesn’t matter how good a feature is if a theme makes you annoyed or uncomfortable. Also, with thousands of choices out there, it is good to use visuals as a good starting point to filter out titles uninteresting to you. For example; you may have a fondness for ancient Egyptian themes, of which there are many different slots to choose from. From there you can look at the choices available and see which ones have the features you are looking for, whether it be jackpots, three-reel slots, or something else.

Before You Get Started - Slots Tips & Strategies

There is no better way to learn a game than playing it yourself. The issue with this is gambling games don’t come for free. Well, that’s how it used to be anyway. Today, most online slot game providers have a fully functional free-play feature built into their titles. This allows you to play the game exactly as it was intended while having an unlimited balance of fake funds to play with. No downloads or account registration is required and you can usually find these directly on the provider’s own website.

Play Online Slots For Free Using Demo Mode

Playing online slots doesn’t require that you sign up at an online casino. You can play for free at various places online, including the game developer’s websites in some cases. Most slot games have a demo or free-play mode that allows players to take the game for a spin using an unlimited balance of fake funds. Gameplay occurs as normal and all of the odds and payouts remain the same. The only difference is that you are playing with fake bonus funds. This is, without a doubt, the best way to test a game and get comfortable with all of the elements in play. It is highly recommended that you always try a slot in demo mode first before playing with any real money, as this will help cement your knowledge and understanding while mitigating the possibility of disappointment.

Online Casino Registration

Much like walking through the doors of a land-based casino for the first time, you will need to keep some things in mind before you can start playing. First, you will need to decide on the right online casino for you. There are lots of factors that can change in relevance, depending on what type of player you see yourself as. Some universal factors include; the site’s game selections, promotional availability, localization options, as well as licensing and security policies. Finding all of this information would be quite a hassle if it wasn’t for our casino reviews that you can find right here at GoodLuckMate. There we look at the value and trustworthiness of each site, as well as the strength of their game libraries.

The Odds

You should already have a good understanding of the odds in different slot games based on their volatility and RTP. A good rule of thumb however is that the more complex a game is the higher the odds tend to be. When a developer mixes in lots of mechanics and different ways to unlock big wins, it tends to also complicate the payout tables. If you see a title with a lot of different rules and mechanics, it may be best to hold off and look for another title, at least until you are more comfortable with all of the mechanics.

Nerijus Grenda
Nerijus GrendaUpdated: 16 Aug 2021
Nerijus is one of our top writers here at GoodLuckMate, and he knows exactly what casino players want to read about. He got started in the iGaming industry as a player, more specif...

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