How to Play Slots Online
New to playing slots online? In this guide, our team of experts explain how slots work including looking at what makes a slot game, how they work and the terminology used.
Stakes, Autoplay & Settings
Before you fire up an online slot game, you should consider whether you can afford to play it. The stakes or bet is important as the minimum bet per spin may be out of your price range. Every slot game offers a minimum and maximum stake.
Whilst most players play using minimum stakes, you need to determine what you can afford to play with. Having £10 in total to play slots with and spinning at £1 per spin is not advisable as your bankroll will disappear pretty quickly. Start small and increase the stake if on a winning streak or you’ve built up substantial winnings.
Playing slots is meant to be fun so don’t increase your stake in order to chase losses. Keeping your stake amount low will also ensure your bankroll lasts as long as possible. Adjusting the minimum stake is simple to do too.
Many online slots have a default bet/stake which will be around the £1 or £2 a spin mark. Make sure you change the stake to suit your pocket before you start spinning. If you don’t, you could realize after a few spins that your bankroll is gone or seriously depleted.
Newer slot games offer a Feature Buy. Known as Bonus Buy, you can enter the main bonus feature (normally the free spins) by paying a certain amount. In most cases, it’s 100 x your total stake. Whilst this can come in handy if the bigger payouts are available in the feature, it’s not permitted in the UK due to regulations set out by the Gambling Commission.
A common function is Autoplay. This allows you to spin the reels automatically. Available on most games nowadays, you can set between 10 and 100 autospins normally. The spins just play out without you having to press the button. You can also customise the Autoplay function in a number of ways. This allows you to play more responsibly. They are:
|Number of Autospins||normally between 10 and 100|
|Balance increase||autoplay stops if you win a certain amount (so you can withdraw winnings)|
|Balance decrease||autoplay stops if you lose a certain amount (so you don’t lose more)|
|Stop on feature trigger||autoplay ceases when you trigger the bonus feature|
|On any win||autoplay stops on any winning combination|
|On a single win exceeding||if you hit an amount (like 50 x stake), you can stop it|
All slots will have a settings section. This allows you to customise your playing experience further via a number of ways:
|Quick/Turbo Mode||you can speed up the speed of spins|
|Sound Effects||play with or without sound effects|
|Soundtrack||play with or without a backing track/music|
|Spacebar Spin||spin the reels by using the spacebar key on laptop/PC|
|Graphics quality||use the best possible or low quality graphics depending on internet speed|
Reels & Paylines
A reel is a vertical position on the game which spins and contains symbols. A classic slot has 3 reels and 1 payline. Video slots as they are known normally come with 5 reels whilst more complex slots can have a lot more.
If you take a 5 reel slot game, you will see 5 vertical positions on the game. Each position (or reel), will contain a certain number of symbols.
A payline is the number of ways you can win on a slot game. If you take the example of a 3 reel, 1 payline slot, you can form a winning combination by landing matching symbols across the single payline. With 5 reel slots, there can be 1000s of paylines. It all depends on how many reels appear on each reel.
If that 5 reel game has 10 paylines, it means there are 10 opportunities to land a winning combination. The more matching symbols across the reels, the bigger the payout. Winning combos are normally formed when you get 3 or more matching symbols across a payline, beginning from reel 1.
If you like a classic 6 reel Megaways slot, between 2 and 7 symbols can appear on each reel. Seeing 7 symbols per reel will result in the maximum number of ways to win which is 117,649.
On the reels, you will see a certain number of symbols. Getting a certain combination of symbols will result in a win. In classic slots found in Las Vegas for example, symbols include fruits like cherries, plums and lemons. Modern video slots have various types of symbols to match the slot’s theme and graphics.
Many casino slots do have royals or card fillers. These comprise of A, K, Q, J, 10 and 9 royals or diamonds, spades, clubs and hearts. Whilst they feature in a lot of games, the graphics and themes are more expressive meaning symbols are customised to the particular slot. If you take NetEnt’s Dead or Alive II slot, all symbols have a Wild West feel to them.
There are also wild symbols which can fill in for any other symbol or act like a joker. If you were to get a lemon symbol on reels 1 and 3 with a wild on reel 2, the wild would act like a lemon giving you a 3 of a kind win. This is why wild symbols are very important. However, wilds normally substitute/replace all symbols except scatters or bonus symbols.
How the reels and paylines reward you depends on a lot on the slot’s engine or mechanic. In a classic 5×3 setup with 10 paylines, you will have 5 reels with 3 symbols on each. You will need to land matching symbols from left to right on any of the 10 paylines.
If the slot is an all ways slot, it will have 5 reels and 3 rows but will offer 243 ways to win. This is because matching symbols can land on adjacent reels rather than across paylines. Adjacent reels meaning getting matching symbols on successive reels – i.e. on reels 1, 2 and 3.
Some slots use win both ways pays. This means that winning combinations can start from reel 5 as well as reel 1. The win both ways engine applies in the popular Starburst slot from NetEnt. If you were to get 5 matching symbols across the middle of the screen, you’d benefit from double payouts as you began a win from reel 1 and 5.
Another popular term of scatter pays. This means symbols will pay out even if they don’t land on adjacent reels. Many scatter symbols (the ones that trigger the bonus features usually) will pay in any position across any reel. This means you can land a scatter on reels 1, 3 and 4 and get a 3 of a kind win instead of the usual 1, 2 and 3 reels.
A hugely popular mechanic in the last few years is the Megaways engine from Big Time Gaming. As mentioned above, a Megaways slot typically has 6 reels but every reel can have between 2 and 7 symbols randomly on each spin. The more symbols per reel, the more ways to win.
Touched on briefly above, wild symbols are the most important kind in modern slot games. Wilds are like jokers in a deck of cards. They replace or substitute for normal symbols to help your comprise winning combinations. If you were to get 2 matching symbols on reels 1 and 2 as well as a wild symbol on reel 3, the wild would act as the matching symbols to give you a 3 of a kind winning combination.
Whilst they perform substituting duties, wild symbols have evolved in recent years. With many types of wild symbols now featuring in online slots, they can give you so much more than just a winning combination. Here are the most common types of wilds you can expect:
- Standard wild: a normal wild symbol that replaces symbols to give you a winning outcome where possible
- Multiplier wild: a wild symbol that multiplies the win by the multiplier value – i.e. 3x wild multiplier would multiply the win by 3
- Expanding wild: a wild symbol that expands to give you a fully wild reel
- Spreading wild: a wild symbol that spreads in various directions to give you more wilds
- Random wild: a wild symbol that randomly appears in various positions on the reels
- Colossal wild: a wild that is bigger in size – i.e. 2×2, 3×3, 4×4 or even 5×5 in size (like in Push Gaming’s Fat Rabbit slot)
- Replicating wild: a wild symbol that duplicates on other positions on the grid
- Stacked wilds/wild reels: wilds that appear in 1×3 or 1×4 in size normally to occupy a reel fully or partially
- Locked/sticky wilds: wild symbols that land and remain in place until you get a winning combination or throughout the whole free spins feature
Another popular type of symbol found in an online slot is the scatter symbol. A scatter is a special symbol that appears along with regular symbols and wilds. A scatter symbol can be referred to as a bonus symbol or a free spins symbol. This clearly indicated what the purpose of the scatter is.
Acting independently normally, 2 or more scatters will result in a winning combination. However, landing 3 scatters or more normally will trigger bonus features. In some online slots, scatters act as both a trigger for a bonus feature as well as a wild symbol. This is the case in Play ‘n GO’s Book of Dead slot where the Book of Dead is both the scatter and wild symbol.
More importantly, the scatter is used to activate a bonus feature where a slot’s bigger payouts are up for grabs. The more scatters you land, the more free spins you’ll typically play with in the Free Spins feature.
Every online slot is different in terms of scatter requirements. Some will require you to get 3 or more anywhere on the reels whilst others will require you to land 3 scatters on reels 1, 3 and 5. You can see how many scatters, and where they need to appear, in the slot’s paytable (more on this below).
Most online slots come with bonus features or bonus rounds. These are games within the slot that give you more opportunities to win. With so many variations, the most common feature is free spins whilst you’ll find respins, pick me style games and jackpot rounds.
In order to trigger these bonus features, you will need a certain amount of scatter, bonus or free spins symbols. Other slots require you to get a certain number of consecutive winning spins or to land wilds on specific reels. Find out what you need to unlock a bonus feature is found in a game’s paytable.
They are many bonus feature variations available. Here are the most commonly found in online slots:
- Free Spins feature: you’ll get free spins in order to accumulate as many wins as possible
- Pick Me feature: you pick from objects on the screen to win cash prizes
- Trail feature: you roll a dice or make picks to work your way around a trail. The further up the trail you go, the bigger the prizes on offer
- Jackpot feature: making picks can lead to winning fixed or progressive jackpots
- Avalanche Reels/Cascading Symbols: also known as cascading reels, dropdown wins or tumbling reels, a winning combination will see winning symbols removed and replaced by new symbols. This gives you the chance to win again and again from each spin
- Gamble feature: you can choose to gamble your win or wins from the free spins
- Multiplier Wilds feature: wild symbols with multipliers that appear in a Free Spins feature
- Respins feature: a win can lead to respins where new winning symbols are held. The respins continue until you don’t any more winning symbols or you fill the reel with a certain symbol for bigger prizes or even jackpots.
- Bonus Bet feature: buy your way into the free spins for a fixed price. This is actually banned in the UK due to regulations by the Gambling Commission.
Slot providers are always trying to stand out a create a unique experience for players. This is why a free spins feature can incorporate other features like multiplier wilds, respins, avalanche reels and jackpots for example. The possibilities and combinations are endless making online slots an attractive and enticing proposition for players.
Paytable + Rules
To find out all the elements that make an online slot, you’ll find a paytable or rules section. This normally is found by clicking on an ‘i’, ‘Info’, ‘Paytable’ or ‘?’ button on the slot. This will then display all the rules, the number of reels and paylines, the bonus features, symbols, payouts and RTP of a particular slot game.
In the paytable, you can find out exactly what a particular symbol pays or how many free spins you’ll play with when you trigger the Free Spins feature.