There are thousands of slots at casinos and online, with new slot titles being dreamt up all the time. While millions of people enjoy these games, few know how they work behind the scenes. On this page, we explain how slot machines work and the essential playing concepts that can make a difference for your bankroll.
Slots have evolved drastically from the first mechanical three-reel devices. These days, most slots are electronic, showing animated symbols on HD screens. Many have elaborate themes, some tie-in with popular music, TV or movie franchises. Bonus games might vary widely, though the underlying technology based on random number generator (RNG) software is standard for all games.
Below, you’ll find out more about how RNG software works, key factors like return-to-player (RTP) percentages and the many varieties of slots available.
Also, we share how to take advantage of bonuses and loyalty schemes to get the best bang for your bucks from slot play.
Each time you press the spin button, the slot machine will generate a random sequence of numbers that determine the outcome of that spin. The RNG happens independently every single time you play.
While it can seem that sessions go in streaks, this is not the case. Each spin is an independent and random event. If you had hit the spin button a split second later, the RNG would have given you a different outcome. Both online slots and live casino slots use RNG software.
Auditing companies test the software to ensure the spins are fair and that (over the long run), the returns from each game are equal to the published amount.
Mechanical slots use a different system, which involves “stops” on each reel. Lower paying symbols will have a lot of stops, which means they occur (along with blanks) more frequently. Those with higher-paying, jackpot symbols will have the lowest number of stops, making it rare to line them up.
Slots return most of the money put into them to players; however, this varies from 90% to 97%. You will often find “return to player %” in the help information.
The primary factor affecting the RTP of a slot is its denomination, which is the size of your stake per line. The range goes from penny slots up to dollars. While the stake might be the same (30 lines on a 10 cent slot equals $3, and three lines on a $1 slot also equals $3), the higher the denomination, the better the returns and all else being equal.
While this is a useful guideline, it is not enough information on its own to check whether a slot is worth playing.
What you can’t tell from the RTP% is how volatile an individual slot is. Some games give you regular, smaller payouts, while others pay big prizes though do it infrequently. This is known as the “variance” of a game.
The highest variance slots have big jackpots.
If someone wins a million occasionally, then the overall returns (to non-jackpot winning players) naturally need to be smaller to balance this. You’ll find a lot of casino slots that pay small prizes of less than your spin amount, as well as bigger wins. These lower your variance, though not necessarily the overall returns.
Both live and online casinos have bonuses and promotions to attract new players. Taking advantage of these is a great way to top off your bankroll.
Live casinos offer free play or matched play when you sign up for their loyalty schemes. You can then track your gameplay and get further rewards depending on the amount you gamble.
Online casinos offer a greater range of bonuses. Look out for some of the following:
Over the years, many tales have emerged regarding slots. If you visit any casino, you’ll find people trying to win at slots by rubbing or tapping the screen for luck or saying that a particular title is their “lucky game.”
Below are 5 common myths that people believe will help them win:
Regulation for online gambling is rapidly expanding on a state-by-state basis. For most states, only sports betting is currently on the statute books.
If you live in New Jersey or Pennsylvania, you will be able to enjoy online casino games, too. These casinos have hundreds of slot options. They range from versions of classic casino titles to brand-new games developed for online use.
However, if you live outside of a regulated state, you can play online slots legally via sweepstakes gambling sites. These include the popular Chumba Casino and LuckyLand Slots. Both use laws designed for sweepstakes contests (used by many businesses for marketing) to let you enjoy colorful and unique online slot games.
In order to play, you buy “gold coins.” Gold coins are for entertainment only and don’t have any redeemable value. The casinos give you free sweeps cash alongside this purchase. You use this to play slots and can swap any winnings for dollars and cash out to your bank account.
Sweepstakes is a popular model that works in most states. You can even get sweeps cash for free. Chumba Casino gives players $2 simply for registering. Both casinos have promotions on social media and give you extra sweeps coins for mailing a letter, too.
New slots are being created all the time. As technology improves, new formats, new gameplay and ever more immersive production become possible. Each generation of games sees classics emerge.
Here are some popular slots, which have stood the test of time:
While the slots of the past were all about lining up those “7s” or bars, today’s games pay their biggest prizes via bonus features. Creative slot studios are coming up with entertaining variations of these games every month. They can include on-reel features, e.g., expanding wild symbols or separate bonus games.
Here are some of the types of bonus games to look out for:
Slots are elaborate machines these days. Many have multiple on-reel features, impressive animations and second-screen bonus games.
When you strip away all the fancy features, slots work similarly. RNG software generates a string each time you hit spin, and this determines how the symbols land and how much you win or if you win at all. Returns are calibrated in advance to hit a specific percentage of the money put in.
RTP is usually between 90%-97%. Games are tested over millions of spins to ensure that the real returns match the percentage that is published. What is harder to judge is the variance of a game, which describes whether the payouts come in bigger though less frequent chunks or smaller (more regular) ones.
There are a lot of slots to choose from in live casinos and online. With plenty of competition between the studios to create the next big thing, those of us that enjoy these games can only benefit.
Slots will make money for the house over time. You have a fair shot at winning money based on the return-to-player percentage of the game and variance levels. Slots are not coded to start you off winning and then take all your money. Any perception of this is simply the brain’s attempt to fit a narrative to random events.
As a rule of thumb, the bigger the denomination of a slot, the better the return to player. As an example, Nevada breaks down the take from different slot denominations. These show that penny slots hold around 8% to 9%, while games in the $25 bracket have holds closer to 4%.
No, slots are created by independent studios for both live and online casinos. Online, these include IGT, Bally and NetEnt. These studios then license their titles to many online casinos. With slots now available via your browser window, there are many new and innovative smaller studios now producing games.