You’ll never want for advice on how to play and win at online slots. Countless websites offer such advice. The problem is, much of it is outdated, incorrect or worse, purposefully misleading.
Below, I’m going to give you everything you need to know about playing slot games online, and having a blast doing it. This is a realistic, practical guide. I’m not going to make any promises regarding whether you’ll hit jackpots. I’m not going to give you a “foolproof” system for winning at slots (such a thing doesn’t exist).
Instead, I’m going to give you a crash course on how to enjoy yourself while playing slot games, make smart bets, and maybe, just MAYBE, make a little money along the way.
Let’s start with a quick primer on how online slots work.
Understand How Online Slot Games Work
If you’ve read my slots tips tutorial, you already know the games operate with random number generators (RNGs). RNGs are computer programs that randomize the manner in which the symbols land. They’re the reason slot-winning systems always fail.
The RNGs guarantee that no spin influences the following spin.
You’ve probably heard that a particular slot game is due to pay out if it hasn’t done so for awhile. But this is actually untrue. The RNG makes it untrue. While most slots have a predictable payback percentage – for example, 95% of the bets wagered – there’s no way to tell when they’ll pay out.
This is good news because it means you can sit back and enjoy playing without worrying about making the right strategic decision on every spin.
Why Is It So Hard To Win Consistently At Slots?
Some players manage to win big jackpots. They’re the lucky ones. Most folks find it difficult, if not impossible, to win on a consistent basis to the point that they’re able to make a profit.
Consider a simple, 3-reel machine with 7 symbols (oranges, lemons, grapes, etc.) on each reel. Let’s assume this machine has a single payline. It pays out whenever you line up the same symbol on all three reels. Let’s also assume, for simplicity, that you must bet $1 per spin.
The odds of lining up oranges on all three reels is 1/7 x 1/7 x 1/7, or 0.29%. But because there are 7 symbols on each reel, your odds of winning a payout are actually seven times higher, or 2.03%. Another way to think about those odd is that you have a 1 in 343 (7 x 7 x 7) chance of winning.
If the casino wanted to break even (the game is programmed to offer a 100% payback percentage), it would set the game to pay out $343 whenever the symbols line up. But casinos want to make money. So they set the amount of the payout lower – for example, 95% of the wager intake, or $326.
You might sit down, set your bet amount, and line up the symbols on your first spin. It’s possible. It happens all the time. If you were to stop playing at that point, and bank your win, you’d earn a tidy profit.
But if you were to keep playing, spinning the reels thousands of times, you’d be certain to lose money. Why? Because the casino has set the game to pay out 95% of the amount of wagers it takes in.
That gives the house an indisputable edge.
Should You Play Online Slots Given The House’s Edge?
You might be wondering, “Why play online slots if the house is guaranteed to win over the long run?”
That’s a fair question. But it’s important to realize that ALL casino games give the house an edge. No rational person walks into a land-based casino, or sits down at their computer to play online, with the expectation that they’ll get rich.
Some people DO land huge jackpots. They get lucky and win life-changing sums of money. Some even have the presence of mind to walk away, locking in their profits.
But most don’t experience that level of good fortune. That’s not the reason they’re playing slots. They’re playing to have fun. They enjoy the thrill that comes with the possibility that they’ll win big, but they don’t expect to do so.
Is It Possible To Find High-Paying Slots Online?
I mentioned above that casinos set the payback percentages for their slot games. They typically set them between 90% and 96%. Some casinos set them lower (some MUCH lower) to maximize their returns. Some set them higher to entice people to play.
You’ll occasionally stumble across games that have a very high payback percentage – for example, 99%. On such games, you can expect to win back $99 for every $100 you wager. This means your bankroll will last longer. And if you’re lucky, you might make money if you happen to hit your paylines early and have the discipline to walk away.
But finding these games is nearly impossible. Why? Because online casinos seldom post the payback percentages for each of their slots. They might post the payback percentage for ALL of their slots combined, but won’t list each one individually.
(Note that the regulatory agencies that oversee gambling in each state impose minimum payback percentages on slots hosted by land-based casinos. Most online casinos operate outside the U.S., and comply with the rules set by the regulatory agencies of their respective locales.)
Familiarize Yourself With The Basics Of The Game
Every slot game is different. Each one offers different features, has a different pay table, and different numbers of reels and paylines.
Some showcase videos, complete with fleshed-out storylines and in-game challenges that give you a chance to win bonuses. Others offer 3D animation and high-quality sound, together which provide a uniquely engaging playing experience. Still others feature progressive jackpots, bonus symbols, multipliers, and an autoplay function.
Know the game you intend to play. Learn how it works. If it offers bonus rounds, find out how they’re triggered and what you stand to win by playing them. If it offers multipliers, familiarize yourself with how they affect payouts. If there’s an autoplay function, note how to use it (and how to turn it off).
If you learn the mechanics of the game, you’ll have more fun playing it. You’ll also be better able to take advantage of its features.
Avoid Betting On Progressive-Jackpot Slots
Many slot games have jackpots that grow in size with each bet wagered by gamblers. These are called progressive jackpots.
The most important thing to remember about progressive-jackpot slots is that they have lower payback percentages. This is due to the fact that a portion of each bet is put into the pot. That means there’s less money available to pay out to each individual gambler. If you want your bankroll to last, there are better options.
To be fair, someone is going to win the progressive jackpot. But the chances that it’ll be you are slim.
If you’re willing to throw caution to the wind for the chance to land a massive payout, by all means, play slots with progressive jackpots. But if you’re a conservative gambler, I recommend avoiding them. You’ll find higher payback percentages on slots that aren’t tied to progressive jackpots.
Play Low-Denomination Slot Games
The reason for playing low-denomination games is simple: the less you wager per spin, the longer your bankroll will last.
Suppose you have $500 to play with. If you were to bet $10 per spin, you could potentially burn through your entire bankroll in five minutes. If you were to “slow your roll” and limit your bets to $0.10 per spin, your money would last much longer.
The top-rated online casinos, such as Bovada and Slots.lv, offer slots that allow you to wager as little as a penny ($0.01) per spin. You can wager more if you desire. But take advantage of the option to bet in micro denominations, especially if you’re working with a small bankroll.
Bet The Maximum Amount
This advice might sound contradictory to the advice given above regarding betting in small denominations. But it’s not.
Most slot games allow you to bet multiple “coins” or credits, and bet on multiple paylines. The more coins you bet, the larger the payout you stand to win if you hit your lines. That’s because the potential payout increases geometrically with the number of coins you bet. The more paylines you bet on, the greater your chances of winning.
Let’s say you’re playing a game that allows you to bet a maximum of 10 coins on 20 paylines. Here are some of your options:
- Bet $5.00, 1 coin, 5 paylines. Total bet = $25
- Bet $1.00, 5 coins, 5 paylines. Total bet = $25
- Bet $0.25, 10 coins, 10 paylines. Total bet = $25
- Bet $0.10, 10 coins, 15 paylines. Total bet = $15
- Bet $0.05, 10 coins, 20 paylines. Total bet = $10
- Bet $0.01, 10 coins, 20 paylines. Total bet = $2
Your best option is to bet the maximum 10 coins on 20 paylines.
The total bet amount per spin doesn’t matter beyond what you’re willing to risk. Whether you bet $2 or $25 is irrelevant (again, aside from your tolerance for risk). What matters is that the payout rises geometrically with the number of coins you bet, and your chances of winning rise with the number of paylines you bet on.
What Are High-Variance Slots?
Online slots can be categorized into 3 basic camps:
1. low-variance games
2. middle-variance games
3. high-variance games
The level of variance describes the range of jackpot amounts you stand to win while playing the game.
For example, a high-variance slot typically pays out large jackpots on an infrequent basis. A low-variance slot will pay out smaller jackpots on a more frequent basis.
Gamblers who want their bankrolls to last tend to gravitate toward low-variance online slots. Those who are willing to take larger risks while chasing larger payouts gravitate toward high-variance games.
If you’re going to play high-variance slots, I strongly recommend following the advice given in the previous section. Bet the smallest denomination possible while betting the maximum number of coins and paylines.
Watch Your Bankroll
If you’re betting the smallest amounts possible, you’re already managing your bankroll. But you can do more to ensure your money lasts. Here are four quick tips:
First, set limits on your net losses. For example, commit to walking away once you lose a net $20 for the evening.
Second, pocket your gains. If you happen to score a big jackpot, set a large portion aside. That way, you’ll lock it in as profit. Use the rest to have fun playing, confident that you can lose it and remain in the black.
Third, don’t get emotional if you suffer a losing streak. Letting your emotions overwhelm you will only prompt you to chase your losses, which will result in BIGGER losses.
Fourth, set a limit on the number of spins you make per night. Commit to walking away after hitting your limit, even if you’re on a winning streak. Doing so will make you a more disciplined gambler.
If you suffer a losing streak and hit your net loss limit before you hit your maximum-number-of-spins limit, the former takes precedence. Walk away.
5 Best Online Slots For Beginners
Some slots are complicated. There’s so much going on that it’s sometimes difficult to know whether you’re winning or losing. If you’re new to playing slots online, I recommend starting with the following five games. You can find all of them at Bovada and Slots.lv.
All five are basic, low-to-middle variance games. As you gain experience, experiment with slots that offer more advanced features.
This game has 3 reels and a single payline. It’s the perfect primer for beginners because it’s easy to play and understand. It also features multipliers, providing a simple introduction to how they work.
#2 – Gold Rush
Here’s another 3-reel, single payline slot game. Like Diamond Cherries, it has a limited pay table and offers multipliers.
This is a relatively new slot game at Bovada and Slots.lv. It comes with 3 reels and 5 paylines. It’s a simple game that allows you to see firsthand how betting on multiple paylines works to your advantage.
#4 – Best Of Luck
This one is a bit more complex. It has 5 reels and 20 paylines. It also offers bonus rounds, free spins, and scatter symbols. It’s a great introduction to playing with these features.
#5 – Cosmic Quest 1: Mission Control
This game is known as an I-slot. The “I” stands for “interactive.” I-slots feature a storyline that progresses as you play the game.
This slot features scatter monkeys, wild rocket rides, and bonus pink pilots that trigger a bonus round called “Asteroid Blasteroid.” Cosmic Quest is a good introduction to this type of slot game, which continues to be one of the most popular draws at online casinos.
5 Signs You Should Take A Breather
There are telltale signs that you’ve been at the slots for too long. Learn to recognize them. Doing so will not only preserve your bankroll, but also help you to ENJOY playing rather than becoming disheartened when the symbols fail to line up for you.
If you notice any of the following signs, it’s time to take a break.
- #1 – You’re starting to chase your losses.
- #2 – Your losses are beginning to irritate you.
- #3 – You’re betting more than you can afford to lose.
- #4 – You’re mentally exhausted.
- #5 – You’re no longer enjoying yourself.
Remember, gambling is supposed to be fun. It’s an enjoyable, leisurely activity that’s supposed to help you unwind and destress. If it’s causing you stress, take a breather. The games aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be there when you’re ready to return.
7 Other Online Casino Games To Play
Taking a break from playing slots doesn’t mean you have to stop playing altogether. There are many other casinos games to enjoy. The following seven games can pose a welcome breath of fresh air. (Follow the links to learn how to play them.)
- #1 – Blackjack
- #2 – Roulette
- #3 – Pai Gow Poker
- #4 – Craps
- #5 – Baccarat
- #6 – Let It Ride Poker
- #7 – Three Card Poker
Where To Play Online Slots (And Other Casino Games) For FREE
You can play all of the above games online for free. That includes dozens of slots, from the classics to the new I-slots. To do so, visit Bovada and Slots.lv.
I recommend that you register an account at both online casinos. After you play these games for free, you’ll definitely want to start playing for a chance to win real-money payouts!
Keep On Reading