Ever wanted to get into online slots, but not known how to? In this beginner's guide, we'll run through the basics of which elements make up online slots, what they all do and how you can use them to win.
We'll even provide some examples of great online slots to put you on your way to enjoying everything that the world of online slots has to offer.
The Basic Rules of Slots
The main aim of slots is for the player to spin reels to line up rows of the same symbol. Slots differ in numbers of reels, but the main input is always the same. Players will spin the reels by clicking a spin button and then betting money on each spin.
They win money if they match up 3 or more of the same symbol along a payline (which we'll get to a little later). The amount they win depends on how much they bet and how many points each symbol is worth. Different slots have different symbols and different values for each symbol.
The number of points each symbol is worth based on how many in a payline
Remember to read the paytable before starting any slot to find out this information. The more a symbol is worth, the less chance there is of it appearing. The paytable is available on the main menu of all slots and tells you the rules of the slot and the worth and function of all symbols in the game.
The rows of a slot are what are known as the reels. In physical slot machines, these reels spin. Now, in video and online slots, reels only have the appearance of spinning, whilst an RNG (Random Number Generator) selects which symbols will appear once the reel has stopped “spinning”.
Most traditional slots have 5 reels, but this number can be greater or smaller depending on the slot. Reels are made of varying columns of symbols. Some reels may contain just 3 columns, whilst others can contain many more.
The number of reels and columns on a slot can have a drastic effect on the probability of what symbols you can receive, potential winnings and all sorts of things. Always be aware of a slots reel and column number before playing it, if you're looking for a certain type of slot.
Paylines are the way slot machines work out if you’ve made a row of symbols or not. It’s best to imagine the old version of a slot where you had to make a line of 3 symbols across the middle row. This would be one payline. The line is read from left to right and if all the same symbols are found at each point of the line, then it counts as a win.
Modern day slots can calculate many more paylines than this. Modern slots now offer from 1 to several hundred paylines depending on the slot. After every spin, it checks to see if you have made a line of 3 or more symbols along these lines, and then pays out based on the paytable and how much you’ve bet.
Each coloured line related to a payline. Whichever symbols are crossed by the line, will be included in the payline
It differs between slots, but usually with paylines like this, as long as 3 or more symbols are present along this line, then it'll be counted as a win. The symbols have to be next to each other along the payline. Every payline is read from left to right.
As a side note, it'd be a good juncture to explain how betting works. When you bet money, you're not betting the entirety of your stake on whatever payline you may win. You bet a certain amount of money on each payline. So if you're total bet comes to 10p and you have 10 paylines active, your real bet is 1p per line. If you get a match on any line, you only win on the 1p bet for that line; not the total 10p bet.
The other 9p would not be counted. Of course if you win on 2 different lines, then your total win would be whatever the total win was from that original 2p, with the other 8p, not being counted.
- Face Symbols – The are the standard symbols of the game. If you match a certain number of them, then you win your bet. It's that simple.
- Wild symbols – They substitute for any other symbols except for Scatter symbols.
- Scatter Symbols – Predominantly used to activate bonus rounds. Can also sometimes substitute for all symbols.
Wild symbols are the substitutes for any of the Face symbols. These symbols allow you to create combinations of symbols, even if you have too few symbols, or your symbols are dispersed across a payline.
Wild symbols will often be confined to only certain reels of the slot, or be fewer in numbers, so that it doesn't destroy the balance of the slot.
Also note, you cannot create lines of Wild symbols. Wild symbols are there to fill the gaps of other symbols. You cannot win money from Wild symbols alone. Wild symbols will have a value, but it only applies when it is in a complete line, sandwiched by two of the same Face symbol.
Scatter symbols are used to activate bonus rounds. These can be anything from free spin modes to other more inventive minigames. If you see Scatter symbols, it usually means there’s a bonus game. Land 3 in one spin and you get a bonus round. The chance of getting this is much lower, which is why bonus rounds are so different to the base slot game and usually have a higher payout.
Scatter symbols have sometimes been used in the same way as Wild symbols, substituting all symbols, including Wild symbols. Though this is a rare implementation.
Bonus rounds are the secret weapon of any great slot. The basics just won't cut it anymore. We've played a regular slot too many times for it to feel good anymore. The really great slots are the ones that surprise you with a little extra.
Bonus rounds are usually activated by spinning a certain number of Scatter symbols, usually three. Once this has happened the bonus round may begin. Of course a slot may have no bonus rounds. It may have one or it may have several, which are activated by different means. Traditionally though, Scatter symbols are the way a slot activates its bonus round.
The wonderful thing about bonus rounds is that they are separate from the base game of the slot. They can be as different as they want to be. Some bonus rounds are like playing entirely different games.
Here are some of the bonus rounds you can expect to find.
Free Spin Mode
You then have a set number of free spins and then get to keep whatever the total is of what you won at the end of the round. Some slots may throw in extra Wild symbols or multipliers in order to make your free spins worth a lot more than normal.
Wheel of Fortune
This is effectively the same as spinning the reels, but now it's in a Wheel of Fortune style. You'll have a wheel with certain prizes on it. These could be anything such as multipliers, free spins or just instant cash prizes.
You spin the wheel once, or a few times and then collect your winnings.
Dice Rolling Board Game
Instead of spinning reels, you'll now be spinning a dice. On the screen will be a layout much like a board game. The objective of the game will be to get your character to certain spaces on the board.
Some spaces will have negative effects, while others will have positive effects, such as free spins and cash prizes. You just have to roll the dice and see if they land on the correct position.
To The Limits of Imagination
Bonus rounds can be anything. The rarest slot makers will put in the time to offer something really special when you access a bonus round. If you're lucky, it won't even feel like you're playing a slot at all. You'll have to dig hard for these slots, but when you do, they'll quickly become your new favourite.
Razortooth by Quickspin – Interesting Paylines
Razortooth is a great starting slot for those who want a slot that's both great to look at and fun to play. Razortooth has some very vibrant animations and graphics to entertain the eyes, while some fun free spin modes entertain the rest.
Not only that, but Razortooth forgoes paylines entirely, instead opting for a win to be counted as any 3 of the same symbol adjacent to each other. To learn how slots can vary from one to the next, this one would be a good place to start given its interesting approach to payouts.
Cheese Chase by Pocket Win – Great Bonus Games
Cheese Chase is just straight up fun. It's charming, playful and is designed from the bottom up to be a great and simple slot experience.
Cheese Chase's greatest success is in its bonus games, which are of the board game variety, which we mentioned earlier. If you want to see a slot and a bonus game done right, then head over to play some Cheese Chase. It's exclusive to Pocket Win as well, so you won't just find it anywhere.
Viking Storm by mFortune – Varied Bonus Games
Viking Storm‘s greatest success is when it comes to bonus games. Wheel of Fortune, Board game bonus and a free spins mode; Viking Storm goes for the whole hog in its gameplay.
Every spin can bring about a whole new mechanic of play. It's one of the most varied play experiences you'll find in slots, so go and give it a shot to get the full scope of what a slot can be. Viking Storm is also exclusive to mFortune, so you'll have to head over there to give it a go.
Slingo Riches by RealNetworks – Slot/Bingo Hybrid
Slingo Riches is the perfect example for new players about how diverse slot games can be.
Slingo shatters the format of the slot, by adding in an entire Bingo mechanic to it. You're playing two games at the same time, where the success you have in one game, improves your chances of winning in the other, but never allows for certain victory. It's gripping, original and strategic. We recommend it highly for new players looking to see how far slots can go.
Gonzo's Quest by NetEnt – Avalanche Slot
Gonzo's Quest is an avalanche slot. An avalanche slot works similarly to Tetris. Whenever you make a line, blocks within that line will break. Then more blocks will fall in to replace the gaps they've left. If these new blocks create lines, then they will break allowing for more blocks to drop it.
And so the cycle continues.
You can create huge combos in Gonzo's Quest and every time it happens, it's incredibly satisfying. Combine that fun gameplay with great looking visuals and we'd recommend it to any new players looking for a high octane slot.
Our Top 5 Slots
Check out our video where we run through our Top 5 slots, for even more ideas of where to start.
The Real Fun Starts Here
So that’s the basics to slots. The rules to every slot is basically the same, but as with most things, the most interesting things lie in the exceptions. You'll find a whole host of slots that go from tweaking the rules to completely disregarding them.
There's a lot of slots out there to play, so the last piece of advice we can give is to just go out there and play them. We've got plenty of resources, ‘How To's and guides to point you in the right direction, so dig in and get playing.