How to play Slots Machines online

3-wheel slot machine art
Single-coin 3-wheel slot machine art

A player bets and spins a set of reels with symbols. Each of these spinning reels stops at a random position. The player wins if the reels stop in a way that they make a line of the same symbols. The rarer the winning symbols, the higher the amount of the win. The size of the win for each winning combination is defined in the paytable.
Simple, yeah? Let’s try to dig in it.

The History of Slot Machines

3-wheel slot machines at real casino
3-wheel slot machines at real casino

Slot machines are the most popular casino games ever made. The basic rules of this game haven’t changed since 1899 when Charles Fay assembled the first slot machine.

Some people say, that the first slot machine was developed by the New York based company, Sittman and Pitt in 1891. The game had 5 drums with a total of 50 playing cards.

Charles Augustus Fey is often named as the inventor of the first slot machine. There is no concise detail regarding the date his first machine was created, although it is believed to have happened between 1887–1895. Fey created a machine that would allow automatic payouts. In order to do this, he reduced the complexity of reading a win for the machine.

Despite slot machines being officially banned in 1902, the Liberty Bell continued to be manufactured. In 1907, Chicago based manufacturer Herbert Mills produced a slot machine called the Operator Bell. By 1908, the machine was found in most tobacconists, bowling alleys, shops and salons.

In 1964, the first fully electromechanical slot called Money Honey was released by Bally. The reels were operated entirely electrically, yet the game was still started by pulling the lever.

1976 was the year in which the first true video slot was developed. The slot was manufactured in Kearny Mesa California by the Las Vegas based company Fortune Coin. The game used a modified 19 inch Sony TV for the display.

Every few seconds it changes - up an eighth, down an eighth - it's like playing a slot machine. I lose $20 million, I gain $20 million.

Ted Turner

The next milestone in the history of slots came in 1996, with the release of “Reel ‘Em” by WMS Industries Inc. This was the first video slot to feature a second screen bonus round. They were responsible for around 70% of a casino’s income, and also took up 70% of the available floor space.

5-reel online slot machine
5-reel online slot machine by Play'n GO

The boom of the internet in the mid 90’s brought with it the development of the first online casinos. At the start, only the classic casino games, such as roulette and blackjack were available, but it was not long until slots were added too.

Read more about slots on wikipedia

Slot Machine Basics

Every slot machine is composed of a series of reels. The number of reels is always odd, with machines having three, five, seven, or even nine reels. Each reel has various icons or symbols on it. You win money if, after the reels spin, they stop and align in a manner that results in winning combination on one or more paylines.
The payline of a slot machine is composed of rows going across the reels from left to right. Paylines may be comprised of symbols that are all in the same row, or they may be in rows that fluctuate across the reels. Machines have from one to more than 50 paylines. A pay line also called a bet line, is a pattern drawn across the game screen. These can be straight across, vertical, horizontal, or even in a funky zigzag shape. If a combination of symbols land on one or more of these lines it counts as a win. The amount you win will depend on the symbols and combinations which appear.
The symbols on a slot machine, which in essence align to make a winning combination of images across a payline, are in some way related to the theme of the machine. As an example, a machine with an adventure movie theme will include characters and other images from that movie, while one that is based on a sport will include images associated with the particular sport’s theme.
Some symbols have specified properties and include free spin, scatter, wild, and bonus symbols. Often machines will offer a certain number of free spins if two or three of the designated free spin symbols appear on one turn. Wild symbols are used to complete paylines, as they can become any other symbol that’s associated with the payout table.
Bonus symbols will usually send you into the bonus round and scatters may work in various ways. Scatters often influence the start of bonus rounds or your ability to win free spins.
In order to qualify for the maximum payout on a progressive slot machine, you have to make the maximum bet. It’s unwise to play a progressive if you cannot afford to make the top wager.
For many players how much they can win on one hit is a big factor. The size of the elusive jackpot can certainly attract a slot lover. Usually, the higher the jackpot, the less often a machine pays off and the more expensive it is to play. Thus, the size of your bankroll once again becomes a factor.
If you are driven to win a progressive jackpot, you will need the cash to do so. That’s because with most progressive machines you must make the maximum bet in order to qualify for the progressive. If you don’t make the max wager and you do manage to get the winning combination, you’ll win a smaller amount.
Check how much money you have in your account, so you know what you can bet on your next game.
Payout table
Pay tables in slots is a tool in modern online slots where you will find all the vital information about the game like paylines, prizes, payouts, and symbols. Before playing any slot machine, read the associated payout table that tells you what combination of symbols will result in you going to the bonus round, hitting a winning combination, or capturing free spins. It will also inform you of how much you will win on a given turn depending on the combination of symbols and how much you bet.
RTP rates
Return to Player % stands for the return to player percentage and it determines how many online slot machines are programmed to pay back over the long run. It is always advisable to go for a game with a higher return to player rate.
A Random Number Generator often referred to as an RNG, is the clever software that powers slot games behind the scenes. It helps to ensure that any game has a totally fair and random outcome. RNGs are used across many industries for a whole host of applications which require completely unpredictable outcomes.
Volatility, also known as variance, describes the estimated size of your wins and how frequently they occur. It refers to the overall frequency and size of payouts you can expect from a specific slot game.
Slot games are usually classed as having either low, medium or high volatility. Lower variance slots will pay out smaller amounts on a regular basis making them ideal for casino newbies. Whereas high variance slots will pay out bigger amounts but less often.

Slots Gameplay

A slot machine's standard layout features a screen displaying three or more reels that "spin" when the game is activated.


All you have to do is place your bet, spin the reels, and try to line up the winning symbols.

There's a big difference between playing one payline and playing 25. The more paylines you play, the more often you're going to win and hit special bonuses. You also have more chances to hit a jackpot. It comes with a price, however, since you have to place a separate bet on each payline you're playing.

Single line slots bet
Single line slots bet
Multi line slots bet
Multi line slots bet

A lot of players like choosing a lower denomination coin that allows them to max out the paylines while keeping the total bet at a manageable level. Other people prefer to play a smaller number of paylines with a bigger bet riding on each. The truth is, it's more exciting to hit lots of winning combinations which is why you see new machines pushing the limits with more and more paylines.

Choosing a game with a good RTP will make the gameplay more captivating and fun. This is because you know that you stand a better chance of winning the jackpot. It is very important if you want a good chance of winning.

Casinos give away free spins so promote new games, reward you for playing or as part of a larger loyalty scheme. Make sure to research your options and take advantage of them when they're available.

Slot machines symbols

Symbols are the basis of all slot games. They appear on the reels and rows, creating winning combinations to reward players for their spins. Slot game symbols often fit with the theme and feel of a game and help to bring it to life.

Slot symbols
Slot symbols example
Low-value symbols
Looking at the paytable will show which are the low-value symbols in any video slot. They are usually ranked in order of value. The royal suit symbols of A, K, Q, J, 10 and 9 are often used as low-value symbols in many games.
High value symbols
These symbols are the ones you want to land as they are worth a lot more when combined on a spin. They could be pretty much anything which depicts characters or features from that specific slot theme.
Scatter symbols
Scatters are sometimes referred to as bonus symbols. Their main use is to trigger special feature in a slot game such as a Free Spins game or similar. It’s pretty rare for scatters to be substituted by wilds in a game.
Wild symbols
Wilds are one of the most popular special symbols around and are a mainstay of the majority of slot games. They can come in several different flavours which act in various ways to mix up the gameplay.
Regular Wilds
This symbol stands in for any other symbol once it appears. Other special symbols like Scatters might not be affected by a Wild. They can have their own value assigned or can assume the value of the symbol they are substituting for.
Reel covering Wilds
These stacks of Wild symbols can be very good news for a lucky player as having a reel filled with Wilds will increase the likelihood of hitting a decent win.
Expanding Wilds
Unlike the Wilds that cover a whole reel, Expanding Wilds will land as a single symbol but will grow to cover more reel spaces once the spin is complete.
Moving/Wandering Wilds
Once a spin is complete, a Wandering Wild will shift position in a certain way, as outlined in the game’s paytable.
Sticky Wilds
The polar opposite of their cousins the Wandering Wild, Sticky Wilds just want to stay put. These Wilds will remain locked in place for a specified number of spins or until a feature is complete.

Types Of Slots

  • 3-Reel Slots

    3-Reel Slots
    3-reel Mega Joker online slots by Play'n GO

    3-Reel Slots are the most classic type of slot on the market and are based around the original fruit machines which were found in land-based arcades and pubs. 3 reel slots are a great introduction in the world of slots, particularly when it comes to playing online slots for the first time, as they are simple to understand and to play. 3-reel slots offer a classic game-play experience, and while this may not include the glitz and glamour of newer, more technically advanced slots, 3-reel slots do offer a higher number of opportunities to win. While betting options can be limited, 3-reel slot machines are ideal for players who are on a limited budget and they are likely to pay out more often than slots which feature a large number of paylines.

  • 5-Reel Slots

    5-Reel Slots Gonzo's Quest
    5-reel Gonzo's Quest online casino slots by NetEnt

    5-reel slots are exactly what they say on the tin – slots that have 5 reels. These slots are much more advanced than the 3-reel slots and are quickly becoming a much more popular option. Not only do 5-reel slots offer an increased number of betting options, but these types of slots offer much more in terms of graphics and immersive game play opportunities. These types of slots also often feature a number of different bonuses and other extras such as bonus rounds, wild symbols, scatter symbols and free spins, alongside other exciting features such as mini games which can even feature a progressive jackpot bonus within it! The interface of these games tends to be far more inciting; however, they often have very classic themes.

    They are the new breed of slot machine-colorful, fancy, exciting, wonderful...and deadly.

    Frank Scoblete
  • Video slots

    Free Fire in the Hole online casino slots
    Fire in the Hole, 6-Reels online video slots by Nolimit City

    Video slots have had a huge impact on the slot machine industry as a whole and have changed the way people interact and enjoy these casino games both online and offline. When video slots were first introduced in the 1980’s they were met with skepticism right up until the rise in popularity of video poker. Video slots have continued to evolve since, with animated symbols, story lines displayed through high resolution videos and a huge number of bonus games. The dynamic graphics found on these slots is what truly sets them apart from traditional 3-reel and 5-reel slots.

  • Progressive slots

    Twin Spinner Sizzling Hot Deluxe online casino slots
    Twin Spinner progressive online slots by Novomatic

    Progressive slots are the slot machines for the people, providing an exciting experience for all players who are looking to win big money. On the majority of other slots, the jackpot is fixed, however with progressive slots, the jackpot will rise every time a player puts coins in the machine and spins the reels.

  • 3D Slots

    Twin Spinner Sizzling Hot Deluxe online casino slots
    Virtual Reality 3D Slots
    3D Slots bring about the next generation of gaming, offering rich visual effects and in many cases animated gameplay to further improve the overall experience. There are also often a number of entertaining intros and video interludes for the users to enjoy. There are a huge selection themes to choose from including romantic stories, thrilling adventure, cute character stories, and exciting action.

How to Start Playing Slot Machines Online

Genie Jackpots Megaways slots by Blueprint Gaming
Genie Jackpots Megaways slots by Blueprint Gaming
  1. Decide the type of slot you want to play

    There are a lot of different variations to the humble slot game available right now. Online slots have evolved way past simple bells and fruit symbol but they are still there if you want them! There is no one-slot-fits-all out there and one player’s favourite may not be another’s cup of tea.

    Think about the type of game you want to play before you dive in. Using the advice in this guide you can get a feel for the options such as Jackpots or slots with complex features and bonuses.

    Do you want high volatility with bigger potential payouts but less often or something at the lower end of the variance scale? The beauty of playing online slots is that you can make your play as simple or as advanced as you want to. The power is in your hands.

    It's important to think about what type of slot game you want to play before you start. With so many different variations of slot games available, it's important to find the one that suits your preferences. Some people prefer games with bigger potential payouts, while others prefer games with more frequent wins. By considering the type of game you want to play, you can make your playing experience more enjoyable and rewarding.

  2. Play for free

    Many online casinos give you the option to play the games for free. Obviously, this means that you won’t get to keep any winnings and the coins shown are just for fun. It’s a great way to try out a game to see if you like the look, feel and features before you put any of your own money in there.

    Choose best slots game and try it for free!

  3. Set a budget

    When you are ready to play with your own money, it’s a good idea to set a budget before you start. That way you don’t start spending what you can’t afford to at the casino. Playing slots can be an expensive hobby and things can quickly get out of control.

    Setting a budget also helps you to know how much you want to spend per spin to make the fun last longer. Most online slot games start from £0.10 per spin and go up into the hundreds.

  4. Check the paylines and paytable

    Look for the information icon in any slot game and it should lead you to the paytable. This is where you can get the lowdown on the value of the slot symbols, both high and low.

    The paytable will also show you the paylines of that specific slot game so you can decide if it is the one for you. You might even get the option to choose how many paylines are active on each spin. Be aware that the more lines you select, the higher the bet will need to be per spin!

    Slot paylines
    Slot machine paylines
  5. Check the slot features

    It's important to check the special features of a slot before playing it. You can find this information in the paytable, which will vary from game to game. Some players might prefer slots with simpler features, while others might enjoy more complex games with a variety of features, such as multipliers or bonus rounds. Take your time to learn about the features as you play. The paytable will also show you the value of the slot symbols and the paylines, so you can decide if it is the right game for you.

    The paytable will also have info on the special features of the slot. These vary massively from game to game and it might be a good idea to pick a slot with pretty simple features if you are new to playing at online casinos.

    You might find that you prefer slots which focus on a specific feature such as multipliers. There’s a full list of the types of the slot game features you can expect to find. Things can get pretty complex in some games so take your time and learn the features as you play.

    Slot paytable
    Slot machine paytable

Luck is believing you’re lucky.

Tennessee Williams