All About Slot Machines

Whether you’ve bet on them or not, slot machines have a reputation for being the easiest games to play in any casino, whether in person or online.

Try Them Out

Free SlotsHere’s your chance of knowing what you’re getting into before joining a casino and playing slot machines for real money. You can both read our reviews (if you want to know our opinion of certain online slots) and try these free slot games out by yourself.

Even better, you can do it on our website for free without having to sign-up for anything:


Casino Slot MachineAnd, yes, it’s true that skill level doesn’t come into play very much except for some relatively new internet slots (Rival gaming) that incorporate some dexterity-based games into bonus plays.

But, there are some things players can do to increase their winning potential.

While the overall game interaction is about as basic as it gets on most slot machines, strategic decision-making still comes into the equation. There are so many different games these days whether you’re in person pressing the spin button or doing the same thing on your computer, smartphone, or tablet, so you have to figure that not all of them are alike.

We’re about to provide you with the differences in the types of machines, what kinds of new features are now available, and a few tips and tricks that actually could increase your eventual payout.

Slot Guides

The Evolution of the One-Armed Bandit

777Today’s biggest software providers include IGT, Microgaming, Rival Games, Betsoft, Playtech, NetEnt, and Yggdrasil. Casinos may select one company and stick with their dedicated slot line-up or, they could take a different approach, like LeoVegas, which incorporates many different types of software into its 670-game slot area.

But if you think that slot machines came to be with the evolution of the computer age, you couldn’t be more wrong.

Slot machines are celebrating their 130th birthday as they were first introduced in the United States in the 1880s. In 1898, a small countertop machine called the Card Bell, quickly transformed to the Liberty Bell, made its way into taverns through small mass production.

The Liberty Bell was a three-reel machine that featured bells, stars, horseshoes, diamonds, hearts, and spades. The payout was an 86% return (low for today’s standards), and the Bell represented an overall slot machine design that remained relatively unchanged for almost 100 years.

In 1931, when Nevada became the first US state to legalize gambling, the first casinos like the Red Rooster filled their gaming space with one or two table games, mainly Blackjack, and the rest was devoted to slot machines.

The Money Honey game was introduced by Bally in 1963 and was the first fully electromechanical slot machine. Up to 500 coins could be automatically paid out via the bottomless hopper, thereby eliminating the need for a slot attendant for those jackpots.

Bally pioneered electromechanical games, but the Fortune Coin Company (purchased by IGT in 1978) launched the first video slot machine in 1976, with the first machines available for play at the Las Vegas Hilton.

In 1994, the Three Bags Full game was introduced in Australia. It had a “second screen bonus” that allowed the display to switch to different action entirely, “the bonus round,” providing players with the opportunity to win additional money by the new play that can be triggered.

The second screen bonus was the first real slot enhancement that came around since the Bell machine, and it kick-started explosive innovations using the very best in graphics, video, and audio. There are now multiple bonus rounds, spinning wild cards, random multipliers that pop up out of virtually nowhere, touch screen player interaction, and theme-based mini games and free spins that vary depending on the theme of the game.

You can still find a slot that lines up three cherries or three lemons, but they’re high-tech graphics that look almost realistic, a far cry from the very first Bell machines in the late 1800s.

How Do I Play?

As opposed to a “how to” on blackjack, baccarat, or any number of other games, instructions for slots are succinct. Slot games are primarily self-driven by the machine. The player’s job is to select a game, decide on a denomination and how much he or she is willing to risk per game, and then the result is randomly generated by the computer.

We used the term “randomly generated” purposefully as that’s how slot games are controlled, by a random number generator. Every time the play or spin button is pressed, a sequence of arbitrary numbers controls the symbols that appear on the reels. The numbers are produced at a rate of hundreds per second and any variation in the timing of press play (or spin), will result in a different sequence.

Getting back to your role as a slot player, you just press that play (or spin) button and watch the reels do their thing. Now, depending on the machine, you may then participate in other types of activities. For example, some bonus rounds will have the player pick boxes to open or wheels to spin with random prize amounts that are revealed depending on the choices. Usually, this is accomplished by touch screen if you’re interacting directly with a machine or, on your computer you can make your selections via mouse clicks. Online casinos take into consideration the devices used by their players and adjust the games accordingly.

After the round and any subsequent payouts are issued, you decide if you want to play again. It’s that simple.

The only exception to slot play would be with the newer i-slots that we referenced earlier. These are an online innovation by Rival Games and incorporate skill-based activities in with the regular slot game. If you receive a bonus round, you may be asked to click as many items as you can, with the more clicks resulting in a higher payout. Or, there could be other types of interactive games, but with i-slots, those bonus rounds are not only left to chance or luck. The better you are at them, the more cash you’ll accumulate.

Game Selection

Slot games continue to impress players as new and more intricate versions are consistently added to the casino floor, physical and virtual.

Video slots opened the door to endless possibilities for players. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of themes and each one has a slightly different structure. For a brand new customer going online to give them a spin, simply reading through the names of the games may be enough to peak your interest in several possibilities.

Wheel of Fortune, Superman, Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Wizard of Oz, the list goes on and on with many recognizable brands.

Overall, slot games are categorized into the following:

Video Slots

The most recent and innovative of all as these provide video, high-quality graphics, 3D options, as well as the best in audio and other custom features. Most of the screens resemble flat screen TVs, and these games have interactive bonus features and a storyline that carries through. Video slots can also be progressive jackpot games.


Three-reel slots would be considered to be the closest to the Bell slots as it gets for today’s players. There are three reels, and pay lines usually range between one and five. The average top bet per line is three credits so, on a five pay line machine, the maximum wager is 15. Three-reels are the choice of many slot purists who don’t want to spend a lot per spin and also don’t want to take the time to go through extensive video presentations or extended bonus rounds.


These days, if you’re not playing a video slot, you’re probably playing a five-reel as there are much more five-reels than three-reels. There is a carryover between the five-reels and video slots as most current games are produced as video as well, even if it looks like a traditional version with spinning reels and basic symbols. So, a five-reel can also be considered to be a video slot as well as a progressive slot when those jackpots are integrated. Five-reels can have anywhere from five to over 100 pay lines so be sure you know what you’re playing before selecting max bet.


Progressives are another area where game type crosses over, as they can be any of the types as mentioned above. There are three main types of progressive games, though:

  1. Stand alone progressives – smaller jackpots determined by play on the one game alone.
  2. In-house progressives – linked machines, but all within the same casino.
  3. Networked (wider area) progressives – available throughout multiple locations either online or in-person; the expansive reach provides for the highest top prize potential.

One thing we do want to mention about progressive games is that most require players to bet the maximum amount to win the advertised jackpot. Be careful to look through all game requirements before spinning the reels. Betting one credit per line or betting three could make the difference between receiving a payout of 1,000 or 1,000,000.

Fruit Machines

Fruit Machines are UK-based games and are slightly different than the slots we’ve already described. They allow players to hold the reels or nudge them and then a win can be multiplied in the Hi/Lo game after the primary win has been determined.


We’ve already mentioned these, so just a quick reminder that i-Slots incorporate skill based play within traditional slot interaction so, the more a player accomplishes in the bonus round directly increases his or her payout potential.

Random Jackpots

Random Jackpot slots are relatively new and what makes them different is that some of the jackpot prizes aren’t issued during regular game play. They pop up “randomly” after the round is complete. On the one hand, it’s a benefit because players don’t need to bet the max to participate, but on the other, the higher the bet, the greater the chance for the extra prizes. These machines are set up like an electronic raffle so larger bets equal more tickets into the prize pool.

Some casinos label their games a bit different such as using terms like “Classic Slots,” but they all are now primarily video based and start with the three-reel or the five-reel set-up and then expand out from there.

How to Win More (or Lose Less)

We’ve discussed the randomness of slot spins and how it is a game of luck, but there are some actual things you can consider to up your bottom line potential.

  1. If you’re not interested in playing the maximum, look for fixed pay machines. You’ll be able to tell as the payouts are divided up equally without additional benefit to playing the highest amount of credits. For example, a one-credit top payout of 5,000 and a three-credit top payout of 15,000 is a fixed pay. If a one-credit prize is 5,000, and the prize issued to someone playing three credits for the same result is something like 10,000 (or a progressive amount), it’s not a fixed pay as the maximum bets provide more benefit.
  2. Betting low? Look for bonus features. As long as the particular game you’ve chosen activates all of its bonus features for smaller bets, they can improve your success as they offer multipliers, free spins, and games that could result in additional credit payouts.
  3. Video slots typically pay less. Versions that have a lot of enhancements such as video introductions or extended play bonus rounds take more time to complete between spins, so they are usually set at a lower RTP (return to player) rate.
  4. Review pay tables for similar looking machines and games. Online, these tables are found in the Help and Rules menu area and provide the exact amount awarded for successful spins. Not all payouts are consistent though. You could have two very similar looking games with higher prize potential on one over the other.
  5. Progressives provide lower overall payouts but higher top prizes. There are two schools of thought here. If you’re someone that just wants in on the biggest action, progressives are the only way to go. Some games like Mega Moolah or A Night with Cleo can well exceed one million in posted jackpots. That money needs to come from somewhere though, so, as some of the proceeds are being allocated to the progressive amount, regular play duration could result in smaller overall wins.
  6. Smaller jackpots are easier to win. As a segue from the progressive information, games that offer smaller jackpots are providing more of them to the players, so they are easier to win in the long run as the odds of winning some bigger payout are increased.
  7. Switch games if you aren’t having success. There are some loose machines mixed into slot banks and are usually located in high profile areas where everyone can see. Even online, leaving and re-entering a game may change your result. Some gambling experts advise that if you do not see any payout on a slot machine within every ten spins, it’s probably a good idea to leave the scene.

Should I Play Some Other Game Instead?

Internet SlotsA player’s decision on their game(s) of choice should be made through one of two deciding factors or a good balance of both.

First of all, unless you’re a professional and the bottom line is your only consideration, you should choose a game that you find entertaining. That’s one of the reasons why there are so many slot players. The games are just too enticing to pass up. When you see video reels spin and multipliers pop up out of virtually nowhere, and then you’re also awarded ten free spins out of the blue, it can be a lot of fun.

If, on the other hand, you’re not even sure what you prefer or you’re open to trying a lot of different gaming opportunities, it’s time to look at the math.

There are two terms that we want to define and they should be helpful to slot players or potential ones.

1. RTP = Return to Player

The RTP is the theoretical amount that a player should win based on results from a million spin plus sampling. For example, if the RTP is set at 90%, with all things being equal, a wager of 100 should result in 90 back to the player and ten to the casino. Now, of course, this isn’t consistent, it’s an overall average. So, where you may have lost right away, another player may have recouped your losses and then some.

Slot RTP Range – usually runs anywhere from 82 – 98%

90-94.99% is the “OK” area. Anything less is not good for the player and anything higher is a cherry on top.

How do you find the RTP? RTPs are usually posted somewhere on or within a machine if you’re playing in person. For online play, most software providers do offer their RTPs per game if you search on their site.

2. Variance

The variance is the risk associated with each particular game and can be generally defined as follows:

High variance = bigger jackpot potential; lower overall hit (win) frequency
Low variance = higher number of wins overall, but smaller value prizes
Medium variance = has the potential for both

How can you determine the variance? If the information isn’t publicly posted, a good way to determine the variance is to look at the pay table for that particular machine/game and compare the payout amount for three identical symbols to the payout for four or five identical symbols. If it’s a big difference, it’s a high variance.

To Spin or Not to Spin?

You now have the general things to look for, some overall tips for more successful play, and can compare one slot game to another to figure out the best opportunity. Corresponding slots to other casino games is a new subject, though.

Slot games, in general, provide the lowest RTP and the highest casino edge. If you look at a slot game in the acceptable RTP range of 90-94.99%, that would be considered extremely low in a game like video poker, or table games like Blackjack.

Some video poker games come in at 98, 99, even 100% for the RTP and traditional Blackjack, played with the proper strategy, has just a .5% house edge.

Looking strictly at the numbers, your chances of winning are higher away from the slot banks. However, you’re never going to become an instant millionaire playing video poker or Blackjack. There are a few tables like Caribbean Stud Poker or Let ‘em Ride that may offer some progressives, but not nearly as many as slot games.

What Should I Play

We wanted to give you a few names of some current games out there so, if you’re brand new to the world of spinning reels, you’ll at least have a place to start. You can usually search for a specific game right from a search bar on the casino’s site, or if you just look for a particular game or type of slot online, you’ll get a whole host of possibilities.

Jackpot Progressives

There are numerous smaller progressives opportunities in casinos and out in cyber land, but the big online money is usually centered around games like:

In 2015, an online player in England became a millionaire 13 times over through Mega Moolah’s record-breaking jackpot award. £13.2 million to be exact by a British soldier from Cheshire.

Higher RTP Games

  • Cosmic Quest – Mystery Planet – 98.95%
  • Future Fortunes – 98%
  • Good Girl, Bad Girl – 97.8%
  • Slotboss – 97.60%
  • Zombies – 97.20%

Although you can look up any of these games and find a place to play them, you’re probably better off finding a dedicated casino first so you know you can register there as well as quickly deposit and cash out your big winnings. Then, have fun reviewing all of the options. Some websites provide more than 600 different slot games!

In Conclusion

It can be called a pokie, a puggy, a one-armed bandit, fruit machine or simply slot but, whatever you call it, you don’t have to look far to find one. A few clicks of a button or a visit to your local casino and you’re looking at spinning reels, ringing bells, scatter wilds, free play action, and so much more that beckons you to invest some money simply for the joy of playing. Of course, looking up to see that more than a million is up for grabs and will eventually be given to one lucky player, is certainly no deterrent.

Someone has to win, why not you?