Playing Slots Online Guide

Playing slots online is a popular past time for people around the world — and as online gambling continues to be legalized throughout the U.S., it’ll grow in popularity. This guide will cover some of the strategies and tips associated with playing online slots.

Playing Slots Online

Playing Slots Online | Your Guide to Playing Online Slots

Slot machines are the biggest, flashiest part of any brick-and-mortar casino. They’re colorful, and they pump out great little musical notes when someone gets a big win. Plus, slots are easy to learn and play, not requiring any complicated betting strategies.

Slots are the most popular game in online casinos, too. Some casinos will offer maybe half a dozen online roulette games but then have a hundred or so slots in all sorts of themes and designs.

While slots don’t require the same strategy as poker or blackjack, it’s still important to know how to approach online slots, especially if you’re new to playing the game. We’re going to do a deep dive into how to choose the best slot for you and the intelligent methods of betting your money.

Understand Slots’ Random Nature

Slot machines are built on the concept of random chance rather than skill. While plenty of gamblers try to calculate patterns in the results of a particular slot, these are exercises in futility. Casinos do everything they can to ensure the randomness of their slots, and it’s important for players to understand how that side of things works.

Random Number Generators (RNG)

Casinos utilize software called random number generators in every slot machine they operate, whether they’re physical slot machines inside a live casino or strictly online slots.

RNGs work by using complex algorithms to calculate a variety of numbers. Each number it calculates is then able to be expressed as a particular combination of symbols across all of the slot’s reels. Every spin takes a random number from that collection of thousands of numerical sequences. Sometimes, that number gets expressed as a winning combination.

Software designers and casino establishments work hard to make sure that their RNGs are truly randomized and unbiased. Independent agencies test the software before it’s launched as well as after it’s been in use to check for bias. Other licensing and regulating authorities regularly test the software, as well, to guarantee that neither casinos nor players can tamper with the program.

In short, RNGs are how players like you know that you’re gambling on a completely randomized game. You don’t have to worry about the casino trying to unfairly take more of your money, and you also don’t have to concern yourself with learning any special betting systems or calculating potential outcomes. You can just press the “spin” button and watch the screen light up.

Read Reviews

You can find so many casino blogs out there where people share reviews of their favorite online casinos. Read reviews of the different casinos as well as the specific slots that you’re interested in to see how people like them. Are those slots tight or loose? What’s their gameplay actually like? Also, how good is the casino’s technical support if a player encounters a problem?

You can also browse through forums dedicated to discussing online casinos or spend some time on Reddit looking at which online slots people recommend the most.

There are even Facebook groups out there for people to share details about online casinos. Basically, use the plethora of resources out there to see how other players feel about a particular casino or slot and see which ones are the best options for you.

Check the Casino’s Licenses

Stay smart and make sure that you’re depositing your money at a legitimate online establishment. One way to be sure of this is to check the licenses and/or certifications of the casino.

A license shows that an online casino has met predetermined guidelines and minimum standards related to fair gameplay and policies to protect players’ identities and sensitive data.

Online casinos should show their licensing seals right on their websites. Sketchy online casinos might put up a phony seal, so make sure that the seal is clickable. The embedded link there should bring up a page on that licensing authority’s website allowing you to look up that casino’s license or even disclosing the details of their license.

Different jurisdictions have their own licensing authorities, so a casino that’s based out of Gibraltar will answer to a separate regulating body than one based out of New Jersey.

This is also where reading reviews can help you once again. If an online casino isn’t above-board, people will be very vocal about it in their reviews and forum posts.

Pick a Slot and See If You Can Demo Play

This is where you get to have some fun. So many slots are themed around different concepts or licensed properties. Popular TV shows and movie franchises often have tie-in slots you can play that feature favorite characters.

Maybe you love motorcycles or muscle cars you’ll find plenty of slots based around those themes. Or maybe you love fantasy, so you’d be more interested in playing a slot with a mythological motif or even one that’s covered in unicorns. Honestly, the sky’s the limit when it comes to finding a slot that aesthetically appeals to you.

Many, but not all, online casinos let players try out slots for free to test it out. Think of it as playing on “practice mode” because you’re looking at all of the game’s details and giving it a literal spin without wagering any real money yet.

This also allows you to get a feel for an individual slot’s gameplay. Maybe you don’t like how the symbols are animated or you think the spins resolve too slowly for your personal pace; now you know that you won’t enjoy that game and haven’t wasted any money trying to figure that out. On the other hand, maybe you’ve fallen in love with the theme and play style, so you’re ready to look more deeply at the paytable.

Look at the Paytable

Beyond just appearances, though, you should look at the paytable to help you choose the right slot.

You can glean quite a bit of information from a slot’s paytable. You can typically find it by opening up an online slot and looking for the “information” icon, usually near the bottom of the screen. This is why it’s especially great to choose an online casino that lets you demo play different slots before dedicating your money to any one game in particular.

The paytable will open in a new pop-up window, and it will list all of the winning combinations possible along with the amount that will be paid out if you get one of them. The table will also tell you which symbols are wilds and which ones are scatters, plus their functions throughout the main game and any bonus games.

In addition, the paytable should tell you about bonus rounds as well as minimum and maximum prizes. If the slot has a progressive jackpot, then the table is where you can find all the details on how to play for it. This is important because some progressive jackpots require that you play on all paylines or to make a max bet to be eligible.

Make certain that you check through every page of the paytable to catch every detail about which combinations you’ll want to hit and how you can expect the extra features to work.

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Use the Paytable (and Maybe Additional Sources) to Dig Deeper

So you think you might have found a few different slots that appeal to you and you’ve looked at how they pay out. But are they really worth your time?

Experienced slot players like to make sure that they’re playing on slots that give them the best advantages and greatest opportunities to win big. They accomplish this by researching aspects called the return to player, hit frequency, and volatility.

Return to Player (RTP)

While every slot is calibrated for true randomization, there is still an inherent risk in playing. Because casinos need to make money, the RNGs make it so that the casino has a slight edge when it comes to how many numbers it comes up with that result in winning combinations.

As a result, you’ll almost never see a slot with a 100% RTP rate because the casinos need some sort of advantage to make a profit and keep their doors open. Instead, you’ll probably see online slots with RTPs in the 90-95% range (though some may go as high as 98%).

What does this mean for you as a player? If you bet $1 for every spin and play for 100 rounds, you’ll have spent $100 on the game. If that slot has a 95% RTP, then on average you’ll win back $95 of that $100. If you’d like to play on a slot that gives you a better overall chance of not losing a significant amount of money, look for one that has a high RTP.

Keep in mind that the RTP doesn’t indicate how often you can expect to win. It relates more directly to your long-term chances of winning.

Many slots list their RTPs in the game settings or in the “Help” section, but you may have to dig around online for a particular slot’s RTP. Just Google the slot’s name with “RTP” to see where it’s listed amongst other slots’ percentages.

Hit Frequency

Tied into all of this is also the concept of hit frequency. This is a percentage of how often a slot’s reels stop on a winning combination: basically, how often the machine pays out. Hit frequency refers to the average percentage of winning spins from the total number of spins.

If a slot has a hit frequency of 15%, then it will stop on a winning combination 15% of the time. However, do keep in mind that a higher hit frequency also means a lower potential jackpot. Slots that have lower hit frequency percentages will have higher jackpot amounts.

How can you know a slot’s hit frequency? Slots won’t offer up that information directly either. Look for these details:

  • Jackpot size: When a slot offers a large progressive jackpot, your chances of frequent wins go down. A jackpot that’s seeded at $100,000 or more will offer fewer average payouts.
  • Multipliers: More multipliers can be exciting in the moment, but big multipliers typically signal lower hit frequencies. If you want a higher hit frequency, look for small or no multipliers.
  • Payout sizes: Take a look at what the lowest prizes amount to if the lowest payout is just one or two credits, then you’re probably looking at a slot with a high hit frequency. On the flip side, if a game has a “low” prize of five credits or more, you’re dealing with a lower hit frequency.
  • Bonuses: Bonuses are fun and add to a slot’s entertainment value, but lots of free spins, second-screen bonuses, or scatters often equal a lower hit frequency. Meanwhile, a slot that offers only some free spins will probably pay out more often.


Some people refer to the concept as volatility while others call it variance, but the idea refers to how a slot rewards its players. This is tied very closely to hit frequency, but rather than referring to overall payout averages, volatility is about how often and how much a slot pays out on a smaller level.

A high volatility slot is one that goes for a long period of time without paying out any rewards until finally a successful spin offers a considerable payout (and so, the hit frequency is lower).

A low volatility slot offers payouts more often, but they’re at a lower monetary value in order to compensate for the higher win rate (which means that the hit frequency is higher).

It’s rare, but some slots do provide their own volatility rating, like the Golden Nugget online casino.

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Mostly, you’ll have to determine a slot’s volatility the same way you would the hit frequency. Look at the paytable for details like the jackpots and max bets. A sky-high jackpot would mean a high volatility slot; a large max bet often means a lower volatility slot.

You can also try the slot in demo mode to get a sense of its volatility. If you get a lot of low-value wins, then you’re playing on a low volatility slot.

Another option is to always look up the slot’s reviews online for all of these ratings.

Learn About Betting and Paylines

While you might be playing on a retro slot that uses only one payline across three basic reels, that’s highly unlikely. Most slots now have multiple available paylines that you can bet on to increase your odds of hitting some sort of winning combination.

Here’s what it would look like if you were betting on only one payline:

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You’d be looking at simply that one horizontal line for a winning combination.

But if you’re playing on a slot that lets you choose how many paylines you want to bet on, then things start to look more complicated:

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With nine active paylines, you have to keep an eye on all three horizontals but also some diagonals and zig-zags.

And if you select 20 paylines?

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That’s a lot of options for ways to win. Just remember that you’re betting on each of those lines. So, if you’re betting 1 credit per line and you want to bet on 20 paylines, you’re wagering 20 credits per spin.

Not all slots let you choose your paylines, so if you want to try this type of slot, look for a section called “Lines” near the “Spin” button when you’re trying out the slot in demo mode.

Set Limits For Yourself

Slots can be tons of fun to play, but it is easy to lose track of time when you’re looking for that jackpot combination.

Decide for yourself how much time and money you’re willing to spend playing online slots, and hold yourself to those limits. Maybe you want to limit yourself to 30-minute sessions, so set an alarm for yourself before you start spinning so that you don’t waste several hours of your time.

Or perhaps you have only so much money from your budget that you can afford to lose if you have a bad streak. Write down the amount that you’re okay with losing and keep it next to you after you’ve deposited your money. This way you’ll be able to easily see it and keep yourself honest. When you see your credits dwindling away, stay true to the promise you made yourself and log off when you get close to zero.

Another way to calculate your limits is to look at it as an hourly expense. Usually, people can clock about 500 spins per hour. If a slot has a 95% RTP and you’re paying $1 per spin, that’s an hourly cost that you can calculate as so:

5% x 500 spins x $1/spin = $25 per hour to play

When you break the cost down by an hourly rate, you can better determine how much of your time (and wages) you’re willing to dedicate to online slots.

The Power of Slots

Like we said, slots are fun, popular, and easy to play. Whether you enjoy the classic, retro slots or something more fun and flashy, you’re going to find a slot that appeals to your tastes.

If you’re looking to play slots online for fun and maybe some profits, be sure to incorporate these tips to find the best bang for your buck. Do your research, pick a favorite, and make a deposit to start playing for real money.

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