How to Play Slots

05 May 2009 | 10:59

The basic rules of slot machines are simple. Put a coin in the machine and press spin. But when we look a bit deeper, there are a number of variations and features in slots you may not be aware of or understand.

Slots Basics

Before we start looking at slots features, let’s quickly go through the basics of playing slots

First of all, slot games are usually played with coins and not “real money.” These coins are a little bit like chips in poker – they have a monetary value that is decided before the game starts.

In online games you can decide the coin value yourself. If you set it to $0.25, a five-coin bet equals $1.25.

When you’ve set a coin value you decide how many pay lines you want to play. You will pay the same amount on each line. So if you bet five coins of $0.25 like in the example above on 10 paylines, the total bet equals $12.50.

This sounds like a lot, but remember, in online games you’re allowed to bet very low. In fact, you may wager just a couple of cents per spin and still cover many lines.

Slot Variations

The original slot machines worked with actual mechanical reels that spun when the handle was turned and landed with three random symbols going across the middle. If the three symbols matched, the player won.

Many of today's slot machines work digitally, with a video screen showing the symbols and a random number generator determining where they land. Online slot machines also work on a similar random-number generator.

There are many different types of machines that you can find both in live casinos and online, but much of the differences are cosmetic; they may have different backgrounds or symbols, but the principle is the same.

The variations you find online include:

Multiplier Games

In a multiplier game, the more coins you put in (up to a maximum which is often five coins, but can be more) the more you can win.

Each extra coin multiplies the payout, so that if three bars pay 10 for one coin, it will pay 50 for five coins.

Sometimes, however, the payout is multiplied by more than the amount of coins when you bet the maximum amount.

Multi-Line Games

In a traditional slot machine, you only get paid if the three symbols on the center line match (or if you get some kind of special symbol that pays off without having to match all three).

Although you are able to see three lines in most machines, the top and bottom lines do not offer any return.

In a multi-line machine, you can activate those lines by adding extra coins. Some machines allow you to play 20 or more by having, for example, five symbols across with payouts for horizontal, diagonal and angled lines.

Progressive Machines

These are some of the most popular types of slots, both live and online.

The progressive machine takes a portion of the amount invested and puts it in a progressive pool with a large, hard to hit jackpot. Everyone who plays the machines that participate in the progressive pool contributes to this jackpot, and when it is hit, it can be for $1 million or more.

You must play the maximum amount of coins per spin that the machine allows in order to be eligible for the progressive jackpot.

Slots Features

In old slot games, there aren’t many rules to consider. You spin and hope to win. In new online slots, however, there are some more advanced features you should know about.

Have you ever read a slot-game review and seen terms like scatters, progressives, wild symbols and bonus rounds without knowing what they really are?

Let's go through these different game features. When you've read this you'll be ready to play the most entertaining slot games online casinos have to offer.

Scatter Symbols

Many think that the scatter symbol always multiplies your winnings. Although they're often used that way, it's not what "scatter" means.

Scatters are simply symbols that activate a certain feature or payout no matter where on the reels they appear.

But as we said, scatters are often used to multiply your winnings.

In many games, two scatters anywhere on the screen double your prizes on that particular spin, three scatters quadruple, and four scatters give you nine times the original payout.

In other slot games, scatters may trigger a bonus game and in other games there might be a fixed prize for combining, say, three scatter symbols.

What you need to remember is that scatters don't say anything about the type of prize they generate, only that they generate a prize no matter where on the screen they appear.

Slots Bonus Game

An online slot bonus game is a game that you reach when you hit the required combination. It can be three scatter symbols, three specific bonus-game symbols or perhaps a certain symbol on, say, reel three.

The important thing is that online slots with bonus rounds are not played on the "normal" machine. Either the regular reels are altered and other symbols appear or they normal symbols change value.

On some machines an additional reel is added.

However, on new advanced video slot machines, you're usually taken to another game altogether.

Free Spins

Free spins are just what they sound like. If you hit the required combination, a number of free spins will start.

Usually, the payout for certain combinations is increased during free-spin mode, and if you manage to hit new free spins during the game, they're added to your running spins.

Wild Symbols

A wild symbol can substitute for other symbols to create winning combinations.

Usually though, wild symbols can't substitute for the bonus symbols or scatters, but that differs from machine to machine.

In some cases, a series of wild symbols also generate payout.

Slots Rules – Conclusion

Slots is a simple game, no doubt about that. But you really benefit from studying the rules of the specific machine you’ve chosen.

Look if there’s better value in betting a certain amount of coins and make sure that you understand the features the game offers.

From an odds point of view, it usually doesn’t matter whether or not you know all features, but it sure is more enjoyable to know what your opportunities are.

And in the end, enjoyment is what this game should be all about.

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