Basic Guide to Playing Online Slots

Interested in playing online slots? Then this Basic Guide to Playing Online Slots will talk you through the getting started.

Slot machines have come a long way from the days when they were only seen in shadowy corners of pubs and clubs, being punched and kicked by exasperated punters hurtling towards ruinous divorces.

Most of the slot gaming now takes place online and gamblers seeking their fix find themselves dazzled by a dizzying array of fancy graphics and bonus games.

Video slot machines have come a long way since their introduction in 1976 and they can be quite intimidating for novices who have no idea how to play them.

First Video Slot Machine

But with a little practice and patience you can quickly become accustomed to the nuances of each game and take part in an entertaining, and sometimes lucrative, pastime.

What king of slots are available to play online?

Classic slots: These are similar to the fruit machines or one-arm bandits you see in pubs, clubs and arcades. They typically feature just three reels and players can win by lining up three symbols in the reel.

Video slots: The most prevalent slots found online. These are far more complicated than Classic slots and offer more ways to win. Instead of three reels, they typically feature five or seven, with some machines even having 10 reels.

In video slots you can win by matching three or more successive symbols but they don’t necessarily have to be in the same line. Some machines offer payouts on zig zags, diagonals and a variety of other options. In some cases, there are thousands of ways to win.

Progressive slots: These can offer huge jackpots as they are usually linked to other games in a network. A percentage from each game in the network goes towards the jackpot so it can build up huge sums of money.

Pioneered in 1986, Progressive slots have grown in popularity as punters chase a big win but they can also cost you a pretty penny as the stakes are higher.

What slot should I play online?

Classic slots are good for beginners as they are far easier to understand but video slots are generally more exciting and rewarding once you get to grips with them.

It’s hugely important to check the paytables for each game as this will explain what rewards you get for certain combinations. You can find out which symbols will give you a jackpot and which symbols will lead to smaller payouts.

The paytable will also explain if the game pays out on diagonals, corners, zig-zags, etc.

Starburst Slots Paytable

When choosing a slot you should check if the game is low, medium or high variance as this will determine your chances of success and what the jackpot will be. A low variance game will offer smaller payouts on a regular basis while a high variance game offers bigger prizes far less frequently.

Most people opt for medium variance games, which fall in between these two extremes.

You should also try to find out what the Return To Player (RTP) percentage is for each game. This determines the long-term payout from a machine and for video slots it ranges between 80-99 per cent, with most machines offering an RTP in the mid-90s.

With an RTP of 96 per cent, for example, the machine will theoretically pay out £96 for every £100 bet, keeping £4 for itself. This might not seem like a big number going to the machine but when you consider that millions of pounds are spent every day on slots, it adds up to a monumental profit.



It is really as simple as that.

Every slot machine runs via Random Number Generators so each spin is completely random and to chance. It’s a common Casino Myth I have already debunked.

These number generators have no memory of each spin so those who claim a machine is ‘due’ a payout because it hasn’t delivered in four or five spins are wrong.

There is no way to predict what a Random Number Generator will do next so slots are the ultimate game of chance.

This also means there is no successful strategy for playing a slot machine but you can boost your chances of increasing the size of your payout by learning more about the bonus features offered in each game.

In-game Quirks and Bonuses

There are several in-game quirks and bonuses in online slots and I will examine them in the next section.


These symbols will bring a smile to your face as they boost your chances of a payout. A wild substitutes for another symbol so they can create winning combinations.

For example, if a wild lands between two cherries and another cherry, it will create a winning line of four cherries. The only symbol a Wild can’t replace is a Scatter.


These symbols activate bonus rounds and features such as free spins. They usually lead to a payout if you have three or more scatters on screen and a bonus game will also start.

These bonus games will vary from machine to machine and some of the more sophisticated video slots will have arcade-style bonuses.

Make sure you check the paytable to see what combination of scatters trigger different payouts.


These symbols can double, triple or boost your payout by much larger figures, with some games even offering multipliers of up to 1000. They are more commonly found in bonus features.

Freefalls or Cascades

This feature in video slots boosts your chances of winning more times in one spin. If you have a winning line then the symbols will disappear from the game, with the rest of the board dropping down to fill the empty spaces.

When this happens, new winning lines can often be created. If you’ve played games like Candy Crush you will be familiar with this feature.

One of my personal favourites of “freefalls” is Big Bad Wolf which you can see below.

Bad Bad Wolf Playing Online Slots
Big Bad Wolf Online Slots – Freefall

You can play big bad wolf at a large range of online casinos and the best bookmakers such as 888Casino & Bet365 Casino to name just a few.

How much should I spin on slots?

When you are playing for real money, you will exchange cash for coins to play with during the game.

These coins can range in value from 1p up to £1 and it’s important that you pick a value you are comfortable playing with.

When playing most video slots, you have to choose how many paylines you want to bet on. Some machines have a fixed number of paylines so you don’t have to choose how many you will bet on.

But many video slots have a huge number of winning paylines and you have to pick how many you want to be in play.

Again, you should check the paytables to see what paylines you wish to activate.

If a machine has 100 paylines then if you are playing with coins valued at 1p it will cost you £1 for a spin with all the paylines active. Make sure you set a strict budget for each session you play and that you don’t end up exceeding it.

 If you wager on every payline with each spin it can be an expensive business if you embark on a losing run.

This is often the case with Progressive network slots as you usually need to play with every payline and place maximum bets each time to have a chance to win that big jackpot.

General Tips for Playing Online Slots

As always, you should get some practice in on free slot machines before opening an account and wagering real money. This is vital if you are a novice as it will give you a feel for the game and let you familiarise yourself with features such as wilds and scatters.

The world of slot gaming is hugely competitive so there are lots of bargains to be had when it comes to picking a site.

You can get great sign-up offers from most firms and huge numbers of free coins and other bonuses. It might be an idea to register with several sites to take advantage of the sign-up offers then settle on the one you prefer after your initial deposit has been spent. Make sure you pick a reputable and licensed firm. There are countless shady website out there looking to rip you off with fake games.

Also, remember to check the fine print of any welcome offer or bonus. They generally have what is called a wagering requirement and these can be quite high. 

This is the amount of money you will need to bet in order to release your bonus winnings into your main cash balance. For example, if you have a welcome bonus of £100 with a wagering requirement of 25, you would only be able to access the bonus once you have a bet a total of £2,500.