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A Beginner’s Guide to Online Slots

You see the flashing lights, the spinning reels, and the quirky symbols, and online slots can all seem a bit confusing, but they’re easy to play once you understand how they work. That’s one of the reasons why they’re so popular. Take the time to learn a little about the workings of an online slot, and you can enjoy games just as much as all the other online game players out there. 

Enjoying a variety of slots

Before getting into it, it’s worth knowing that no two slots have to look the same, and, indeed, they don’t. Game designers, developers, and makers create them with different themes so that players don’t have to play the same old slot day in, day out, if they don’t wish to. Playing NJ online slots, for instance, you’ll find themes including history, wildlife, movies and music too. 

How do online slot games work?

If you’ve played slots in an arcade, bar, or brick-and-mortar casino before, the good news is that online ones are generally much the same. It’s still a game of luck, and you have to get three winning symbols in a row on a payline to win. Although some online slots will follow the traditional style and have three reels, many have four or five. Some of the symbols on the reels will be low value, whereas others will be high value. To win more money, you want to land on the high value ones.

You bet money on each spin — the wager, which you can increase or decrease — and the game represents the wager in the form of a coin. Note that coins don’t correspond directly to the wager itself, which means a single coin doesn’t equate to a wager of 1 cent or just 1 dollar. Games move fast, too, so it’s best to set a budget and then keep a close eye on it while you play.

The slot will display a paytable which indicates features of the game. This could include scatter symbols, which can trigger a win even if they’re not on a payline; wilds, which combine with other symbols to create winning combinations; and multipliers, which, as the name suggests, multiply the amount you win.

Often slots feature free spins or (free) bonus games, too, to add to the game-playing experience. Some games will place a progressive jackpot up for grabs as well. This is a jackpot that keeps increasing until someone wins it.

Understanding the tech and terms

The first major term you need to know when trying to understand how online slots work is “random number generator (RPG)”. The RPG is computer software which generates thousands of numbers per second, each one connected to a different outcome on the reels on every spin, and makes the game fair. The moment you press “Spin,” the RPG generates a number, and that will be the outcome you get on the reels. Previous spins have nothing to do with the spin, so even if you win the jackpot, the odds of winning on the slot again don’t change. It’s all completely random, which is part of the fun.


The next term you need to know if you’re going to play an online slot is “variance”, also referred to as “volatility.” Basically, the term refers to the size of the payout and how often the game pays out. If a game has a high variance, it will pay high winnings but pay out less often; if it has a low variance, it will pay out small amounts but regularly.

Return to player (RTP)

The “return to player” is another term you need to know. This is the average percentage of payouts over a significant number of plays. Normally, this will be calculated over a number such as 10,000 or 100,000 plays. If a game has an RTP of 85%, it doesn’t mean you’d win 85 cents for every dollar you put down as a stake in a session.

House edge

Used more in casino games than slots, but still important to know, is the “house edge.” This is the other side of the RTP and refers to the amount of initial player wagers the (casino) operator expects to earn in the long run. 

Tips for winning

You should learn the terms above and how the game works so that you can choose the right game for you and feel confident when playing. Here are a few more tips to tip the odds in your favor when starting out:

Play for free

A lot of operators allow players to play for free before asking them to put their own money into the games. This gives you a chance to get to know how a game works and get confident with it. Make the most of it.

Start with low variance

You might not feel comfortable with placing high wagers or playing high variance games. Start off with low variance games once you’re happy enough to start betting. It’s more likely to pay out. You can experience what it’s like to win and lose, and get comfortable with both.

Check the paytables

Check the paytables of games to find the best game for you. Each game’s paytable will be unique, and although the differences between them may be small, they can soon count when it comes to managing your bankroll (the money you set aside for gambling).

Trust other players

You can’t trust the other players at a poker table. When it comes to slots, however, it’s a different story. Chat to other players. Read reviews. If an online slot offers a poor gaming experience or doesn’t pay out, they won’t keep it to themselves. They’ve got nothing to lose by telling you, unlike at the poker table.

Don’t let the spinning reels and flashing symbols and lights confuse you. Just learn the terminology and how online slots work, and then you can get in on all the enjoyment. They’re very straightforward once you understand them. 

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