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How to Play Slots – A Beginner’s Guide

Slot machines have become the most popular form of casino games both online and at land-casinos. There are a number of reasons for this, chief among them the games’ simplicity and the huge winnings on offer.

While the games are very simple, there is more to them than first meets the eye and it is worth taking a bit of time to learn how to play them properly. In this guide, we will teach you everything you need to know to start playing online slots, from the very basics to a few tips and tricks to help you on your way to success. 

The How to Play Basics

Whether playing online or offline, slots are simple. In both instances, you essentially need to set your bet, click or press the spin button, and then hope that the right symbols then land on the reels.

Depending on the game you are playing, the way in which you set your bet will vary slightly. Some games will have a fixed number of paylines, while others will require you to set how many paylines you want active. You will need to set your bet per payline, regardless of whether the paylines are fixed or adjustable. However, on games with fixed paylines it may just ask you to set your total bet, in which case you will have to divide the bet by the number of paylines to work out the bet per payline.

However, some games may ask you to set a coin size, which may start at 0.01 and go as high 5 or even more, and you are then asked to set how many coins you wish to set per payline. Further confusing the matter, some games will deal with credits rather than monetary values, and this is particularly true if you are playing at a land casino. For example, you may enter your money into the machine and it will then convert it into credits. You then need to use the buttons to adjust the credits until you arrive at the bet you want to place. The credits will have a specific value, for example, pennies, nickels or dollars.

If you are confused about how the betting works on your chosen game, you will normally be able to find more information either in the slot’s paytable or in the rules.

When you are happy with your bet, you simply need to hit the spin button to start the game. With a bit of luck, you will then land the symbols needed to be awarded a payout or trigger one of the bonus features. All the information you need about this can be found in the slot’s paytable, and it is always worth taking some time to study it.

Understanding The Different Types of Slot Machines

The principles described above will remain true for the vast majority of slot machines that you come across. However, there are a few different types, and it is worth making sure that you understand them all.

Classic Slots

This is a term that is generally used to refer to slots that have three reels and very few paylines. The games are sometimes also referred to as fruit machines, as the symbols often include cherries, lemons, watermelons, and so on. Traditionally, these games have very few special features and no advanced bonus rounds. However, today this distinction has become slightly blurred. There are classic style slots with numerous paylines, various different themes, and many of them offer the same range of bonus features as found in video slots.

Video Slots

This term is mainly used to refer to games that have five reels and numerous paylines. However, today there are video slots with six reels or even more. Video slots tend to have very wide-ranging themes, such as travel, adventure, nature, history, and so on. They are visually advanced, often with enjoyable animations and even 3D graphics. Furthermore, the games offer a huge range of different features, which may include free spins rounds, payout multipliers, expanding symbols, bonus games, and so on.

Progressive Slots

These are games that give players the chance to win progressive jackpots. When playing these games, a small amount of every bet is contributed to the jackpot pool, so with popular games they can grow to be enormous amounts. Some progressive jackpot pools are local to a casino, which means only bets from that casino contribute to the jackpots. However, others are linked to from numerous casinos, which means that there may be a huge number of players contributing to the jackpots, and that is why you find many jackpots that are worth millions.

Arcade Slots

This is a very modern style of slot that is becoming more and more popular at online casinos. These games do away with the traditional concept of reels and paylines entirely. Instead, the game takes place on a grid, which may be a square, such as 5x5, or anything else, such as 6x8. The games still use symbols, but players do not have to land them along paylines. Rather, the aim is usually to land groups of matching symbols horizontally and/or vertically on the reels. Due to these games’ unique structure, there are a number of different possibilities when it comes to bonus features, which can make the games highly enjoyable.

Mobile Slots

These are slots that have been specially designed to be played on smartphones or tablets. However, today nearly all online slots are developed to be playable on both computers and mobile devices, so you will likely be able to play your favourite games on the device most comfortable for you.

Mega Spin Slots

This type of slot machine is rare, but they can be a huge amount of fun. They allow you to play four, five, six, or even more games simultaneously. The games all take place on the same screen so it is easy to keep track of them, and often they will come linked to progressive jackpots, so the potential winnings are huge.

Understanding Slot Payouts

It goes without saying that you are playing slot machines with the hope of hitting a big win. However, understanding the way that slot machines award payouts is not always straightforward. While the basic principle of aiming to land matching symbols along a payline is easy enough to grasp, before playing a game you need to make sure that you have understood the paylines and the way that the different symbols payout. In this section, we shall explain the basics of each.


Paylines are simply paths that can be traced through the reels, from the leftmost to the rightmost, that only pass through one symbol on each reel. Slot machines are comprised of a number of reels and each reel has a number of visible rows, with one symbol displayed per row. As such, you can think of the reels as a grid. If a machine has five reels with three rows visible on each, then it is essentially a 5x3 gird.

Very basic machines will have just a few paylines that go straight through the reels. For example, it may start in the middle row of the first reel and pass through the middle row of each reel until the last. This can be repeated on each row. However, paylines can also zigzag across the reels, and this way a game can have many of them. For instance, if may start at the top row of the first reel, go through the middle row of the second, back to the top of the third, the bottom row of the fourth and end on the middle row of the fifth.

Some games will have a fixed number of active paylines, while others may allow you to set how many you want active. The more you have active, the more chances there are of landing a win, but the more expensive the game will be to play.

Today you will find games that have hundreds or even thousands of paylines. In fact, you will see games that are marked as all ways win. This simply means that every possible path through the reels is active. Using the above example of a 5x3 grid, this means that there are 243 paylines (you can calculated this as the number of rows to the power of the number of reels, i.e. 35).

In the vast majority of games, the winning combinations have to go from left to right across the reels starting from the leftmost reel. However, in some games, the combinations can also go from right to left, and in others, they may be able to start from any of the reels. As such, it is important that you first check the payline structure in the game’s rules or paytable.


The paytable is where you find all the information about what a game has to offer. It will show you the different symbols that are found on the reels together with information about how much each one pays for different sized combinations, e.g. three of a kind, four of a kind or five of a kind. In some games, the potential payouts are displayed as monetary values that change as you adjust your bet, in others they may be displayed as what multiple of the payline bet or total bet it pays, e.g. 100x.

The paytable will also have information about a game’s special symbols and bonus features. That is why it is important to study a paytable carefully before playing, so that you know exactly what the slot offers and to make sure that you are giving yourself the best chances of winning.


A slot’s RTP, or Return to Player, is the percentage of money bet on a game that is returned to players. For example, a slot with an RTP of 96% will return €96 of every €100 bet on it. However, this is calculated over a huge number of spins, so you can never be sure that you will win that amount.

In nearly every regulated market, casinos are obligated to make the RTP available to players and you should be able to find it in either the slot’s paytable or the games rules. Of course, the higher the RTP is the better, but you will find that games offering huge progressive jackpots often have the lowest RTPs.

Volatility and Hit Frequency

A slot’s volatility refers to the way in which it pays out and it is always worth looking it up before you start to play. If a slot is low volatility then you can expect to receive small payouts on a very regular basis. If it is high volatility then you can expect larger wins on a rarer basis. It is important to understand so that you can adjust your playing style accordingly. For example, when playing a high volatility slot you may want to bet less per spin so that you can play more spins.

Hit frequency refers to how often a slot pays out in terms of number of spins. For example, a slot with a hit frequency of 1 in 3 or 33.33% will normally award a payout from every one in three spins. While it is not difficult to find out a game’s hit frequency, it is important to remember that you are gambling and that there are no guarantees. For instance, you could play 30 spins without winning a thing only for the next ten spins to award something.

Types of Slot Symbols

There are a number of different types of symbols found on slot machines, each with a different function. The most basic symbols are the ones that award standard payouts when enough land on the reels. However, there are a number of other types of symbols that you should be familiar with, and here you can find a brief explanation of the most common of them.

Wild Symbols

These symbols will substitute for the regular symbols to complete winning combinations. In some games, they are present on all the reels at all times, in others they may only be able to land on specific reels or during bonus features. Very often, the wild symbols are the slot’s most valuable and the key to hitting the biggest payouts and the jackpots.

Scatter Symbols

Scatter symbols will award payouts regardless of where they land on the reels. In other words, they do not have to land along a payline, they can land scattered around. Normally scatter symbols will offer payouts that are multiples of the total bet per spin and very often, they will also trigger bonus rounds, such as free spins, or award other special prizes.

Bonus Symbols

These are symbols that do not award payouts but can trigger special features. For instance, they may trigger a second-screen picking game or a progressive jackpot game. You will find all the information you need about a slot’s bonus symbols in its paytable.

Multiplier Symbols

These are symbols that will boost your payouts by multiplying them by a certain number, e.g. x2, x4 or x5. Sometimes multipliers do not arrive in the form of symbols but are applied to a larger bonus feature. For instance, you may find a game that offers free spins during which all payouts come with a x3 multiplier, in other words, they are tripled.


You can find a full guide to slots tips and tricks elsewhere on this blog, but here are a few to help you get off to the best possible start.

First, look for games that have a high RTP. If you are not interested in a particular slot’s features, such as a progressive jackpot, then it always makes sense to try to play those that offer the best returns.

However, you also have to balance this with enjoyment. Slots have a huge range of themes, so you want to ensure that you find one that appeals to you. Often the slots have highly impressive graphics and you are bound to have more fun if you find the theme engaging and entertaining.

It goes without saying that you should always stick to your budget. Remember that slots are very fast games and you can theoretically play hundreds of spins an hour. Make sure that you consider then when planning how much you want to bet per spin so that you can be sure of not running out of funds too quickly if you are unlucky enough to hit a losing streak.

Finally, make sure that you fully understand what a slot has to offer before you start playing it. Take the time to study the paytable and the rules carefully. There would be nothing more frustrating than to land a combination that should award a huge jackpot only to discover that you haven’t met the minimum betting requirements. Never rush into playing, wait until you are comfortable that you understand the game, and hopefully this will ensure that you are always having fun.

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