How Do Online Slots Work?
One of the reasons why slots are so popular is that they’re based on luck. Winning isn’t down to skill or strategy. Once you’ve spun the reels, it’s luck that determines whether you win or lose. The way slots work is pretty straightforward. Each slot has a grid with rows and reels (or columns), with all positions on the grid filled by symbols. Most slots have three rows and five reels, giving you a total of 15 positions. Once you’ve decided how much you’re going to bet with, you click to spin the reels. All of the slot’s reels then spin and come to a stop, with a new assortment of symbols displayed on the grid.
In order to win, you need to have a minimum number of matching symbols land on one of the slot’s paylines. A payline is a line of symbols that runs from one end of the grid to the other and covers one position per reel. Slots have around a dozen symbols: some award payouts, some trigger bonus features and some do both. When playing slots, there are three factors that determine the size of your payout: the size of your bet, the number of matching symbols on the payline and the value of the symbols you’ve landed.
Above, we’ve described how a standard three-row, five-reel online slot works. Part of what makes online slots so appealing is that they can vary greatly. Some slots, for example, have more than five reels, while quite a few of them have just three – these are often known as classic slots because they’re inspired by physical, three-reel slot machines. Other things that can vary in slots include the number of paylines, the size of the payouts and the bonus features. Then there’s the theme. Have a look through any slots collection at an online casino and you’ll see the slots come in a diverse range of themes. You may even come across some slots themed after popular movies, TV shows and brands.
What About Progressive Jackpots?
Most online slots have a fixed jackpot. This means that there’s an upper limit on how much you can win. Some slots, however, don’t have an upper limit. These slots are known as progressive jackpots and thanks to the way they work, they have the potential to offer some very huge cash payouts. Whenever you place a real-money bet on a progressive jackpot slot, a portion of your bet is added to the jackpot. This jackpot grows in value every time a bet’s placed and keeps on growing until it’s won. Some progressive jackpots can get as high as six or even seven figures before they’re won. A small number of incredibly lucky players have become millionaires, or multi-millionaires, thanks to progressive jackpot slots.
It goes without saying that the chances of winning a progressive jackpot are very slim indeed. The way you win a progressive jackpot varies. For some slots, the jackpot’s won at random, with any bet qualifying; some slots, however, require you to bet the maximum amount per spin to qualify. For other slots, the jackpot may be won once you’ve triggered a bonus feature. Once a progressive jackpot’s been won, the jackpot will be reset to a set value, e.g. £1,000, with all subsequent bets making this new jackpot grow. There are a few slots that actually have more than one progressive jackpot, each one of which starts of at a different amount of money.
How Do Bonus Rounds Work?
For many players, it’s the bonus rounds that make slots so much fun to play. One of the most common slot bonuses is the free spins round. If you trigger this, you’ll get to play with a number of free spins that come at no extra cost; you may be able to earn additional free spins and keep the bonus going on for longer. Even though you’re not actually paying for these spins, if you land the right number of symbols in the right place, you can still win real money.
Pick-me rounds are also available in many slots. These are usually played on a separate screen and are designed to fit in with the slot’s theme. The screen will display several options that you have to pick to win prizes, though you only have a limited number of picks. If you’re lucky enough, your choices will win you some pretty valuable rewards.
If you happen to receive a respin, you’ll get an extra chance to win. One or more of the slot’s reels will spin again, while all others will remain completely still. Once the respin’s complete, if you’ve formed any new winning combinations, you’ll be paid accordingly. Some slots have respins features where you can get several respins – sometimes, you may even keep on getting respins until you win!
While slots are mostly about luck, some more modern slots have bonus features that involve a slight element of skill. These can include things like shooting at enemies or throwing things to hit a target. With skill-based features, the better you perform, the higher your payout will be.
Bonus rounds usually launch if you manage to land certain symbols. For some slots, however, features may be triggered completely at random.
What Bonus Symbols Are There?
Most online slots have special symbols with bonus features. Wild symbols can help you win since they substitute for all standard symbols, i.e. all symbol that just pay out and don’t have any features. Scatters can offer payouts, though unlike other symbols they ignore the paylines; you just need to land a minimum number of them anywhere on the reels to win. These symbols typically trigger a slot’s free spins round, with separate bonus symbols triggering any other bonus features. Expanding symbols fill the entire reel, while walking symbols move across the reels, landing in a different position with every spin. Then you have sticky symbols, which are typically during bonus rounds and remain locked in place until the round’s over. A particularly lucrative symbol is the multiplier, since it’s capable of increasing the value of your winnings.
What Do RTP And Variance Mean?
RTP and variance are two terms to do with slot payouts. RTP, or return to player, is displayed as a percentage and represents roughly how much of your money, on average, a slot should pay you back over long-term play. Most online slots have an RTP in the high 90s. If a slot’s RTP is 97%, for example, you won’t get 97% of your money back with every bet you place. However, if you place lots of bets on this slot, your average payout per spin will average out and should keep getting closer to 97% the more you play. Those who are keen to make money from playing online slots stick with slots that have a higher RTP.
As for variance, this refers to how often payouts occur and how big they are. There are three main kinds of variance: low, medium and high. Low variance slots tend to pay out quite frequently, though the payouts are on the smaller side. With high variance slots, the payouts are much higher, though they’re a lot more uncommon. Medium variance slots are somewhere in between low and high variance slots, regarding both the size and the frequency of the payouts. Most online slots have a medium variance. You may also see the term variance referred to as volatility.
Can I Play Online Slots For Free?
If you’re looking to play online slots for free, you can do so very easily indeed. In fact many of our slot reviews also contain the free demo version of the slot, so you can try the slot first to see if you like it, before deciding to play with real money. Pretty much every online casino offers free play (also known as demo play), though most of the time you need to create an account (which doesn’t cost anything) before you can play for free. With free play, you can get some practice in and gain a better understanding of how a slot and its features work without having to spend a penny. There’s no actual money involved at all – it’s virtual money that’s used instead. This means that when you play slots for free, you can’t win or lose any actual money and your casino balance doesn’t change. Free play is ideal for beginners; it’s also good for anyone who simply wants to play slots without risking their money. Thanks to free play, you can spin the reels as many times as you want without having to pay.
There’s one other way to play slots for free and that’s with casino bonuses. Practically every online casino has some bonuses waiting to be claimed. These include welcome bonuses for new players, limited-time offers, loyalty rewards and exclusive promotions for VIPs. The two bonuses to look for if you want to play slots for free are bonus money and free spins. Bonus money is casino credit that can be used on most of a casino’s games, only it can’t be withdrawn; it has to be converted into cash (which can be withdrawn) and can only be converted once you’ve met certain requirements. As for free spins, these are spins you get to use on slots for free.
While bonuses do sound great, it’s worth pointing out that they nearly always come with a catch. Free spins bonuses, for example, usually have an upper limit on how much you can win. There may also be restrictions on which slots you can play with your free spins.
So if you want to play slots for free without any risk, sign up to an online casino and try free play. If you fancy playing for free but with a chance of winning, take advantage of casino bonuses.
Playing Slots Sensibly
There’s no denying that slots are loads of fun to play. After all, they come have all sorts of exciting features and come in lots of creative, imaginative themes. Some people find it easy to get carried away when playing online slots with real money – or any other casino game, for that matter. What’s important to remember about all casino games is that they’re designed to take money away from you. Yes, there’s a chance you’ll make a profit, but you’re much more likely to walk away having spent all your money and not made a return.
Before playing slots with real money, come up with a budget and stick to it. Don’t go chasing your losses – in other words, don’t keep gambling hoping that a big win will come around to net you a profit, because it probably won’t. Once your money’s all used up, log out and do something else. You should only ever gamble with money that you can afford to lose.
You’re bound to have a brilliant time playing online slots, whether it’s for free or for real money. Just remember to be sensible if you spend your own money playing slots. So long as you don’t overdo it, playing slots can become an enjoyable hobby. If you’re lucky enough, you may even score some nice wins every now and then.