A Complete Guide to the Best Online Slots
All About Online Slots Why Play Slots?
Whether you're on a casino floor or an app, there's no doubt that slot machines have an unprecedented charm about them when it comes to casino games. But what makes them so popular? How have they managed to dominated entire casino floors and how has their popularity translated to the online casino world?
The History of Online Slots
When you think of a casino, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? Maybe a blackjack or roulette table, but most likely it's a slot machine. The "one-armed bandits" have become one of the most enduring icons of gambling.
Perhaps that's because they represent betting in its purest form; your fate is up to random chance with every spin. Unlike most other games on the casino floor, there is no strategy to learn to get an edge at a slot machine. Sharp gamblers can help their own case by picking their machines wisely, making good use of bonuses and knowing a few tricks about how to wager. However, the actual game requires no work or special knowledge whatsoever. Just spin until you win!
Slots are actually relatively new as far as popular casino games go. The first ones appeared in the late 1800s, but these actually bore more of a resemblance to today's video poker games. The traditional three-reel slots first became popular in the early 1900s. For a long time, they were entirely mechanical, not incorporating electronic elements until the 1960s.
Video slots emerged in the late 1970s, but it was the late 1990s when they began to almost entirely take over casino floors. Coincidentally, that was when internet gambling was also taking hold. Video slots were perfectly suited for the future of gaming because they could be developed for and deployed at both online and offline casinos at the same time! These days, you can find many of the slot games you see at brick-and-mortar casinos available online for real money play as well.
Why Play Slots?
Slots are easily the most popular game at both online and offline casinos. But why would they be the most popular if they are also among the most random?
It's because not all gamblers have the same preferences, and many punters just want to have fun and relax. It's true that they would get better odds playing something like blackjack or poker, but that involves a lot of learning of the game and practice time. A lot of people don't want to have to do homework before they start playing. The more skill-based games also aren't the greatest for players prone to anxiety in stressful situations.
The slot machine doesn't require any learning of strategy - just step up and start having fun. Find the ones that you enjoy the most and just spin the reels. You're free to enjoy a drink or two while playing because being 100% focused isn't really going to help improve your chances at all.
Slots are also tantalising because they offer big wins and jackpots beyond what nearly any other casino game can offer. Even the most humble slots usually have a major prize that is beyond what you could win at most other games with just one single play. Moreover, then there's the monster "progressive jackpot" games, which can stretch into the millions of pounds in rewards and are like hitting the lottery if you win.
Finally, slots players get treated the best by the casinos. They tend to be the best customers and the most reliable repeat business, and as such, they get the benefit of the most generous rewards and bonuses. When slot players make smart choices about their games and make good use of all their rewards, they often do better on the balance than the average, mediocre blackjack or video poker player (and have more fun along the way as well).
Different Varieties of Slots Different Online Slot Types
There are many different varieties of every casino game available, and online slots are no different. But with so many different types and varieties available how do you know which ones you should be playing? Find out what the best the online slot varieties are to suit your gaming needs.
What Are the Different Types of Online Slots?
Just about every type of slot game you see on a casino floor has made the jump to online casinos at this point. The following are the major categories of slot machines, with a little about what makes them unique.
When an online casino has a "reel" or "classic" slot section, they're usually referring to video slots in the style of the older mechanical three-reel slots or five-reel slots. Aside from nostalgia, the appeal of these games is that players hit wins more frequently.
They usually don't have the mega-jackpots that the video progressives do, but players tend to hit smaller wins much more often. Another characteristic of these is that they generally don't have bonus rounds, which can actually be a benefit in that it means the theoretical return to player (more on this later) can be calculated if it isn't already displayed.
The "pay lines" on these slots are also the easiest to understand. Usually just right down the middle and diagonal, possibly with vertical lines implemented in some models.
Video slots expand the traditional reel slot format. They tend to stick to five reels since they fit neatly onto a screen; they usually don't expand to more than seven. However, the sequence of symbols per reel is theoretically infinite. Read More »
One hallmark of the video slot is a lot of different pay lines, as many as 1000 at some games! In addition to the usual horizontal and diagonal lines, you get lines that zigzag all over the screen.
Another hallmark of video slots is the bonus game. When the player collects enough bonus symbols, they may be taken to a separate mini-game that offers big rewards without any further wagering. Some examples include hi-lo card games, matching games or spins on a "wheel of fortune."
So if video slots have all these paylines and bonus games, how do players ever lose money at them? Well, the deal is that many of the paylines pay smaller amounts than your wager. You have to combine a number of them to win money, but hitting one or two of them at least reduces your loss on that spin. The goal with many video slots is to hang in there until you get to the bonus rounds or an assortment of free spins, which is where the big money comes rolling back in. « Show Less
Progressive jackpot slots
Progressive jackpot slots are usually video slots, but with a twist. Each wager that doesn't hit a progressive jackpot feeds a little bit into it, and these jackpots just keep growing until they are hit.
Progressive jackpots often have a structure in which there is one "major" jackpot and a number of smaller "minor" jackpots, all of which grow over time. The biggest major jackpots at UK online casinos reach into the tens of millions of pounds. Even the smaller jackpots are usually big enough to be a life-changing win if you hit one.
Progressive jackpots can be linked between different types of games, and in some cases, they are linked across different properties!
Terminology, Bonuses and Requirements Understanding Online Slots
The great thing about casino slots which makes them different from other casino games is that they don't require any in-depth knowledge or expertise in order for you to be able to play them. However, it does help your game if you have a good understanding of the terminology. Read the following section to get to know all the essential slot vocabulary.
Slot Machine Terminology
While you don't have to learn any strategies to play slots successfully, it helps to learn the game lingo. You'll be more informed when choosing your games if you know what common terms mean, especially those related to types of bonuses!
Paylines are simply the lines along which you can win money. Video slots will usually show you all their possible paylines if you let them sit without putting any money into them, with the value of each line listed at one horizontal end (or both).
The wild symbol is simply like a wild card. If it can be used to complete a winning line, it will. This usually includes being used as different symbols for different paylines that it's in the middle of.
Usually, a wild symbol disappears with each new spin. Sticky wilds are the exception. Chance upon one and it will stick around for some amount of future spins. Read More »
Stacked wilds cover one entire vertical reel. With some games, hitting stacked wilds on every reel simultaneously gets you the biggest possible prize.
An expanding wild simply grows beyond its initial position when it pops up. It might expand to cover that entire reel, or it might spread over to adjacent symbols.
A "scatter" symbol is one that doesn't have to be on a specific payline to win you something. Getting three or more scatter symbols on a spin is very often the way that you get into the bonus game or get free spins. Wilds can sometimes multiply their effects.
(X) Ways to Win, All Ways or All Pays
Slot games that use these names are unusual variations that may not use traditional continuous paylines. They may instead have some unique non-connected patterns throughout the playfield that are winning combinations.
A UK-specific term for slot machines. Though it can be used as slang for any type of slot, it most accurately refers to a type of basic reel slot commonly found in pubs that is notorious for not paying out well. Online slots are much better than the traditional fruit machine!
The small chart that shows how much each winning combination pays out. Most common on older-style reel machines with limited winning combinations, but some video slots that declare their theoretical return to player may have it displayed on a pay table. « Show Less
What Kind of Slot Bonuses Are There?
Slot players are in the best position to get bonus offers from online casinos. Here are some examples of what you can expect.
A matching bonus is an enticement to deposit some money with the casino. Most online casinos in the UK market offer a sizable matching bonus when you create a new account. This gives you an amount of free play (usually 100%) equal to whatever you deposited.
Online casinos also often give you partial deposit bonuses when you add more money to your account. 25% to 50% is a more common range for these "top-up" bonuses.
"No deposit" bonuses
As it says on the tin, a no deposit bonus is provided without needing to deposit money. This is a form of bonus most often given to you just for creating a new account with a casino. Most of the time it will consist of some free spins at certain specific slots or a very small amount of free play.
Free spins let you spin the reels with no risk. Each spin is worth some fixed amount, such as £0.25 or £0.50, and the winnings you get from them will be transferred to the bonus funds in your account. Free spins are often granted as a promotion for new slots or for those the casino feels could use some more attention. Read More »
Slot tournaments can be one of the best ways for slot players to win money. The way they usually work is that you pay a small entry fee, and are then given "play money" to try to build upon over the course of the tournament. If your entry ticket is free, however, then any tournament prizes you win are pure profit at no risk! Free entries to tournaments are a common perk for regular slots players and one that they should definitely take advantage of.
We touched on bonuses for refilling your account above, but only in the context of matching funds. Instead of (or in addition to) doing this, casinos might offer you some free spins or other perks.
In order to attract players in the highly competitive mobile market, some online casinos are offering slot bonuses that are only available through smartphones or tablets. These might be sent only by push notification to the mobile device, or by email only to those who are using the casino's mobile app. That doesn't mean you can't use your desktop or laptop if you want these bonuses, but you'll need to use your mobile device to access the casino at least part of the time.
Payment method bonuses
Likewise, some casinos offer slot bonuses for using a particular payment method to refill your account. Be sure to check the terms and conditions carefully, however, as some casinos also will disqualify you from certain bonuses for using certain e-wallet services.
Real world bonuses
If the casino you're playing at has a VIP program, you can expect all sorts of neat "real world" goodies when you get accepted to it. It's not uncommon for these programs to ply their biggest players with trips to vacation destinations, event tickets and all sorts of nice gifts.
You don't necessarily have to be at the VIP level to get these sorts of benefits, however. If the casino has a connection to some sort of brick-and-mortar properties, however, you're likely to find benefits rolling in that are redeemable in person at said properties.
Some casinos give you a special code or web link that you can send to friends and acquaintances who might be interested in an account. When they sign up and meet certain wagering requirements, you get some bonus money as a sort of finder's fee.
What Are Slot Bonus Wagering Requirements?
It's important for online slots players to be aware that many of these bonus offers come with wagering requirements attached. These are in place because casinos could not afford to simply offer every new customer free cash with no strings attached; they would go broke in a week if that were the case.
A wagering requirement simply means that you have to play through either the bonus amount or the amount that you win from the bonus a certain amount of times before it can be withdrawn. If you happen to lose it all during this phase, no worries, you won't be out any actual money.
For example, if you get a matching bonus on your first deposit, you might have to play through the bonus funds 20 times before you can make any withdrawals. If you get some free spins as a no deposit bonus and you win £100 from them, you'll be asked to play through that £100 some amount of times before you can withdraw it as actual cash.
Theoretical Return to Player (RTP)
The return to player (RTP) of a game is the amount that you can expect it to give back over its lifetime of play. Another way to look at it is the amount that a casino expects to profit from it over the long haul.
So let's say you're playing a slot with a 95% RTP. That means that as long as the casino is running the game, they expect to keep about 5% of all the money players put through it. On your end, if you play it for long enough, you can expect to get back about 95% of your money.
Of course, you can win or lose much more than 95% at any given session. That's what's called "variance." With a large enough sample size (millions of spins), periods of variance in one direction or the other balance out and give the game its estimated RTP.
RTP can be tricky to calculate when it comes to slots. At most other casino games it's pretty straightforward math, but slots often have bonus rounds that the player doesn't know enough about the inner workings of to get an accurate RTP number. So unless the software developer opts to make the RTP public, it may not be available at all.
You do have a small advantage by picking games with higher RTP, but it's only really crucial for slot games that you plan to play hours and hours at (for example, if you're chasing progressive jackpots). If you're just going to play a slot for a short time, the whims of variance are such that the RTP probably isn't going to matter much.
"Slots" and "skill" are previously words that did not belong together, but some software developers are trying to change that. Noticing that slots fans tend to be an older demographic and that the millennial and younger demographics aren't picking them up in the same numbers, designers have started to add skill-based video game elements to try to entice them.
The most common pattern so far is to have a standard slot but to give the player a chance to win extra money at a skill-based bonus game. Adaptation of retro video games has been a big early trend in this area. Slots like Frogger, Space Invaders, Pong and Galaxium have bonus rounds that reward players with good reflexes.
Software developers and casinos are treading slowly and carefully in this area, since they want games that have predictable returns. But they're also taking their chances will skill-based slots, because the market for them is just too promising to pass up. « Show Less
Online Slot Playing Strategies Strategies
Everybody wants to win big, that's a huge part of why people frequent both online and land-based casinos in general. Having a strategy can help you improve your chances of hitting the jackpot, so are there any strategies should you employ when it comes to playing online slots?
Are There Online Slot Betting Strategies?
There isn't really any strategy in actually playing slots, but there are some strategic choices you can make that can help your chances of extending your bankroll and hitting that big payday. Read More »
In brick-and-mortar casinos, the biggest and most elaborate slots usually pay out the worst. That's because they cost the most to buy and maintain (and may take up more floor space to boot). That shouldn't matter with virtual slots that are online, though, should it? Well, it actually just might. If an online slot has an elaborate cabinet on casino floors, the software might be a direct conversion - in which case the RTP would be the same.
You also usually get the best odds by playing the maximum amount of lines at the minimum bet per line. While this isn't true 100% of the time at every game, it's true very often and is a good default strategy when you aren't sure what to do. The one big exception is progressive jackpot slots, which might require a bet at or close to the maximum to qualify for the main jackpot. There is no point in playing a progressive if you aren't betting enough to qualify for the jackpots.
Finally, the biggest tip we can give is to not waste money on slot machine "betting systems" of any sort. There is no betting system that can consistently beat the house edge or the random nature of the game. « Show Less
Online Slot Myths Debunked
You've probably heard a lot of rumours regarding online slots. A lot of people believe that online casinos manipulate their online slots programme to ensure that the jackpot is unobtainable. In this section, we will see whether claims like this actually hold any weight.
Slot Machine Myths
Perhaps more than any other game in a casino, slots are a centre for myths and urban legends. We'd like to dispel a few of these here.
You'll hear players talk about "tight" and "loose" slots a lot. There is a lot of misunderstanding behind these phrases. Some people believe that casinos can tighten or loosen the payouts at will, while others believe the machines change on their own according to a schedule (or even just by magic). The truth is, slots have a preset payout rate that isn't adjusted while you're playing or even in between games. Some slots are looser than others in the sense that they have a better expected RTP, but individual slots don't go through arbitrary "tight" and "loose" phases. They certainly don't change their likelihood of paying out on the fly just to manipulate you!
Some people also believe that the casino can remotely control slots to change the outcome. This is next to impossible to do without being caught at a land-based casino. While it's more possible at an online casino, this is the sort of thing that government regulation and third-party testing agencies are for. Random game testing ensures that there is nothing goofy going on in the slot code. Also, keep in mind that online casinos generally license their slots from an independent software developer and do not have any direct control over things like RTP and the results of spins. Rigging games for one casino would make absolutely no sense for a software developer, as they would lose the hundreds (if not thousands) of other clients they have if they were caught doing this.
Some of the misunderstandings about payouts may stem from the way certain progressive jackpot slots work. Some of these games are guaranteed to pay out before the jackpot hits a certain amount. When it rolls over to that amount, usually the next spin wins it automatically. Some progressive jackpots advertise the exact amount, but at others it is kept secret and changes between wins. Some people may errantly believe that all slots work the way the guaranteed progressive jackpots work; there's a secret amount of spins or time that they have to hit by. This isn't the case, however. Outside of progressive jackpots with guaranteed hit amounts, slots never work this way. Every single spin is a random and isolated event with an equal chance of landing on a winning combination.
"Hot" and "cold" slots are also cases of variance, which we touched on earlier. Individual players will inevitably have hot or cold streaks where they win or lose a lot. This is a completely random event that is normal along the lifetime of a game. But people tend to see someone's hot streak of variance and incorrectly attribute it to a "hot machine." Likewise, they may see someone losing many spins in a row and errantly think it's somehow a machine setting. Or they may believe that if a big jackpot was just hit, a machine may not be "due" for a while. All of this is a case of the brain writing in patterns that aren't actually there. It's all just random chance and natural streaks of variance.
There are also no special techniques for timing the wheel stop to guarantee a win. This was possible back in the very old days of slots, and there was a brief fad in the 1970s of "manual stop" slots (which had very poor payouts) as a gimmick. But all slots are electronic now, and all online slots are essentially a type of video slot. All video slots use random number generation to determine results rather than actual reels. That means the result is actually determined before the reels even stop moving; the only reason reels are even still present are for visual entertainment and due to the tradition of the game. « Show Less
Finding The Best Online Slots Tips And Rewards
All good online casinos will be more than happy enough to offer their newest and loyal customers rewards for using their casino. As you would with any type of reward, it is vital that you have all the tips and tricks to ensure that you get the most out of your rewards, so read on to find out about all the bonuses you could earn.
Rewards for Online Slots Players
Online casinos often have a loyalty club that gives you points and benefits as you play through money on the slots. You're usually automatically enrolled online, which is a big benefit. At land-based casinos, you have to remember to sign up for and always bring your loyalty club card, remember to insert it into the machine and remove it every time you play, and keep it up to date and keep the magnetic stripe from getting scratched! Read More »
The main benefit of loyalty programs is cash back. You can usually exchange the points you earn for cash, which can either be cashed out directly or put back into play.
All sorts of other benefits can come from loyalty programs, however. Things like free spins, free play, free entries to tournaments, enhanced deposit bonuses and more. Some online casinos have a tiered loyalty program that clearly spells out the benefits you get when you reach each new level.
In addition to the published benefits, expect online casinos to surprise you with periodic gifts as well. These can come by way of email, push notification or may just appear directly in your casino account. The more you play the slots, the more likely a casino is to shower you with random gifts. And of course, if you can get accepted into the VIP program you can expect these bonuses to be even bigger and better! « Show Less
Finding the Best Online Slots
The best online slots are a combination of all of the things we've discussed here. They're fun to play and give you a reason to keep playing again and again. They offer an adequate RTP to keep your bankroll intact over the long haul or provide you with the chance to hit a huge jackpot of riches beyond your wildest dreams. They also give you great rewards for your loyal play and are regularly tested to make sure they are fair and operating without problems.
The best online slot for you depends on how you like to play. It all basically comes down to how much volatility (in other words, risk) you enjoy. If you want small steady wins and to really stretch out your bankroll, check out classic reel slots. For the ultimate thrill ride, look for the mega-jackpot progressives and really let it rip!