How to Play Online Slots

How to Play an Online Slot Machine

Playing online slot machines is simple and fun. Free demos help you to learn the principles of gameplay and features of individual slots. These versions operate exactly the same as the paid versions of fruit machines. Slots today are very diverse, allowing you to choose any theme or style you like. Slots by NetEnt, Yggdrasil or Microgaming have nice graphics, jackpots, unusual gameplay and a lot of bonus games. Slots by Novomatic, IGT or EGT will suit those who appreciate traditional gameplay. Learn at NeonSlots how to play an online slot machine for free or for real money.

Online Slot Machine Structure and Interface

On this page the NeonSlots team have prepared a short explanation the general format, controls and gameplay an archetypical online slot machine, its structure and user interface as well as the function of special symbols encountered in most games such as the wild, scatter and conus symbols. We'll also discuss how winnings are calculated before provide an introduction to Bonus games and risk games, otherwise known as 'double up' games. Finally, we'll talk briefly about the relationship between variance and the theoretical return to play (RTP).

When you launch an online slot game you will see a screen that has:

  • Reels with symbols on them
  • Buttons to control the slot which are either located in a control panel or on the sides of the reels depending if you are using a pc/laptop or mobile device
  • Information windows that show the status of your game account or the amount of the previous win

The interface depends on the manufacturer and model of the slot machine. For example, slots for mobile devices are configured for touch screens and contain a minimum amount of buttons.

Generally the reels have paylines running through them which are used in the creation of winning combination. There are also slots that do not use paylines, instead they have "ways to win". These slots are distinguished by an inscription on the screen that reads 243, 1024 or 4096 ways to win.

All slot machines create winning combinations using a Random Number Generator (RNG). Land-based slots have a chip inside them or online slots have the RNG written into their program. The RNG produces hundreds of random numbers every second and it is these random sequences that determine what symbols will appear on the reels. Combinations are generated the very moment that you hit the start button. Due to the use of RNGs, there is no strategy for slot machines. You can only determine the limits of money and time that you spend playing slots.

Slot Gameplay

To start to play a game, you just need to set the bet size and spin the reels. The total bet for a spin is calculated using the following information:

  • The cost of a coin - you can select how many credits there are in 1 coin
  • The number of paylines - some slots allow you to choose how many of the available paylines are active, whereas others used a fixed number of paylines
  • The line bet - the number of coins or credits that are bet on a line

You then multiply the number of coins that are bet on a line by the number of lines that are active. Some slots allow you to directly change the amount of the total bet, but these usually have a fixed number of paylines.

After the bet is determined, you will need to select the spin (or start) button to set the reels in motion. A lot of slots also have an autoplay or autospin function. This allows you to select the number of spins that occur automatically and the circumstances under which they will stop (such as a loss limit).

Symbols and Payouts of Slots

Slot machines use symbols to form winning combinations and trigger bonus rounds. If identical symbols land on adjacent reels, usually starting with the leftmost reel, along an active payline, or in one of the "ways to win", they will create a winning combination. You can view the paylines or "ways to win" in the paytable of the slot or they are sometimes shown by numbers to the left and right of the reels that you can click on to see their individual path through the reels.

Symbols can be divided into regular and special. Regular symbols form combinations which produce prizes and special symbols are images with additional functions. They include Wilds, Scatters and Bonus symbols.

Wilds replace other symbols to complete combinations that otherwise would not have formed due to gaps. Often Wilds have multipliers or behave in a special way. They sometimes become "sticky" and remain fixed on the game screen, or they can expanding and fill the whole reel. Both of these features increase your chances of winning.

Scatter is a symbol that can create a combination regardless of its position on the game screen. Often the Scatter will trigger free spins, re-spins or other bonuses. Bonus symbols launch additional bonus games, that also increase your chances to win bigger rewards.

Calculation of Winnings on Slots

All slot describe their winning combinations in the paytable which can be opened by a button on the game screen. The table shows the lists of payouts or multipliers for combinations of each symbol. It also shows details about the special symbols, free spin and bonus rounds. Generally combinations can be both high-paying and low-paying and the top multipliers can often payout amounts that are many times higher than the bet made.

The most common algorithm is multiplying the line bet by the corresponding multiplier and each manufacturer creates their own scheme for calculating wins. Many developers show the actual payouts you will receive based on your current bet settings in the paytable, instead of listing multipliers and others use denomination or bet level (like NetEnt) to make calculations.

Bonus Games and the Risk Game

Most modern slot machines have bonus games and features. Bonus games include interactive mini games or pick and win games. Features can include rounds of free spins, re-spins that use symbols with special features.

Bonuses like pick and win allow you to select several objects to receive the rewards that are hidden beneath them. These rounds are usually associated with the theme of the slot. For example, bonus games in slots themed to Robin Hood often ask you to shoot an arrow at a target.

A risk game is a game that allows you to double or quadruple the prize for a winning spin that can be activated after every successful spin. The most common form of risk game is one where you have to guess the colour and/or suit of a playing card. Other slots have a risk game that has a pyramid design with rapidly flashing blocks. You need to hit the button exactly when the block of the higher value is highlighted. Then you get an increased reward.

The common feature of all risk games is that the correct answer will double your win and a wrong answer will zero the prize and return you to the main game. This is why they are often referred to as double or nothing rounds.

Variance and RTP (Return To Player)

Additional information that can be useful to you are the variance and RTP of a slot game. Variances show how often and in what amounts you will receive prizes. Slots of low variance often award you small wins, but the prize does not cover the bet for a spin. Slots of high variance pay out rarely but in large amounts which will cover the stake amount.

It is important to decide on a bet size that will ensure you have enough funds to play quite a few rounds without losing your total balance, before you land a big prize.

RTP is a theoretical Return To Player that shows what percentage of the sums invested in the slot will be returned to you in the long run. RTP does not guarantee that you will get a part of your funds back. It only describes the general percentage of how much you will get back from the slot machine. However, the higher the RTP, the greater the chance to get a prize. The RTP of modern slot machines start from 92%. Usually, variance and RTP are mentioned in the reviews of slots that are published on information website and some manufacturers indicate RTP in the paytable.

FAQ Slots Online

For the most part, online slots are designed in such a way as having span the reels on one slot machine two or three times, it should be obvious how to do so on just about any slot machine. Just as games consoles have a vast array of games and gameplay accessible with a standard controller, slot control panels differ mostly in style not functionality. Having said that, there are still a few more questions worth answering relating to the specifics of how slot machines work.

What are paylines?

Traditional fruit machines had a single payline, being the horizontal area along the center of the reels upon which matching symbols from three spinning reels had to match up to win a prize. Modern slots have versions of the classic slot machine but most now have 25 or more paylines which can, according to the rules of each game, run left to right, right to left, horizontally as well as zigzag up and down the reels (as opposed to a simple horizontal line). This all makes for more dynamic gameplay. You can chose to bet on a single payline or multiple paylines.

Does playing more paylines at once increase my chances of winning?

In a word, yes. Imagine you placed a given number of numbered balls into a sack and you were to place a single bet on a ball being drawn from the bag bearing a named number. You would have a single chance of winning. But if you bet on 10 numbers, you can see that there are increased odds of the number drawn being one of the ten and therefore you have an increase chance of winning that bet. Of course, your total bet for a given spin is increased for each additional payline but so are your chances of winning.

What are wild symbols?

Wild symbols can function as a 'joker' might in some card games, in that it really means 'any symbol which completes a winning combination'. It's a bit like the old school maths problems. If you need 3 bananas and you get two bananas and a wild, how many bananas do you have? The answer in this case is three as your wild will transform into the symbol you need to complete a winning combination, here, a banana.

What are scatter symbols?

A scatter symbol can take whatever form best suits the game's theme. Generally 3 or more scatter symbols can generate a prize, occasionally just 1 or 2, anywhere on the reels, irrespective of paylines, count towards the winning of prizes. What prizes? Free spins and if you're lucky, they will trigger a bonus round. So, are you feeling lucky?

History of the Slot Machine

The very first slot machines were created in the late 1800´s. They were fairly small and had a slot that you put coins in, a viewing area where you could see the symbols spinning, a panel which showed the prizes for combinations and a small dispenser tray where your prize was delivered. To operate these machines players would have to pull a lever that was located on the side, to spin the reels, this is when the term one-armed bandit started to be used. The first was produced by Sittman and Pitt in New York and was based on a game of poker that used playing card symbols to create winning hands which awarded beers or cigars as the prizes. The next and most famous model was developed by Charles Fey who used 3 spinning reels with symbols of horseshoes, diamonds, hearts, spades and Liberty Bells and winning combinations would award cash prizes. These machines became so popular that the level of demand was greater than the level of production. Subsequent models used fruit symbols and were often referred to as fruit machines, they would reward players with fruit flavoured chewing gum or tokens to avoid developers being prosecuted by laws against gambling.

Since then technology and mechanics have changed dramatically and game creators Fortune Coin Company produced the first video slot machine to use a screen, in 1976. The first video slot to use a second screen for the bonus game appeared in Australia in 1994 and WMS Industries developed the first one for the American market in 1996. It took a while before players began to accept these types of machines as they enjoyed seeing the actual reels spinning. More game creators began to produce this style of slot machine and they are a constant feature in all land-based casinos to this day.