Everyone is familiar with the sounds of the video slots—the crank of the lever, the sounds of coins rolling and of course, the mesmerizing music. Today video slots have come a long way from the original American invention that populated drinking establishments in the early 1800s. Online casinos recognised the popularity of slot machines, and today they’re some of the most well-loved games both online and in live casinos. Game developers made sure that video slots came a long way from their simple beginnings to the intricate games of chance they’ve become, and as the landscape of online gaming evolves, so will video slots.

Today, players can play online and have unprecedented access to video slots at the tips of their fingers. Deceptively simple, video slots appear to be purely a game of chance—after all, you just press a button and the game does the rest of the work for you, right? Well, that part may be true, but there’s more to this visually transfixing and satisfying game than you think. In this review, we will take a look at the history, rules and strategies of video slots.

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How to Play Video Slots

From 3D slots to Fruit Machines, there are so many different options available to players when it comes to video slots. The beauty of video slots is how accessible they are to the new player and the seasoned gambler alike.

Many online casinos offer demo plays so you can play without betting in order to familiarise yourself with the game. This is a great way to hone your skills before betting real money. Players win when matching symbols happen to fall on to a specific set of paylines across the reels.

There are thousands of video slots available online, but their whole premise is quite simple and can be explained in 4 easy steps:

  • Read about the payouts, symbols and bonuses—each game is slightly different
  • Make your bet and spin the reels
  • When the reels stop, different symbols will appear in the rows
  • Do the symbols in the rows match the payline symbols from the paytable? If yes, you win!

There are also games called Fruit Machines. When playing these machines, you have the option of holding or nudging reels. A nudge means a player can move reels downwards and possibly create a winning payline. A hold allows the player to hold reels in place to trigger a winning payline.

Not quite sure what some of the above means? Don’t worry! We will walk you through some of the most common online video slots out there and explain some basic terminology below.

The Rules of Video Slots

While the rules of video slots are simple—bet, spin, win—there are things players should know before starting to play. Each game has slight variations that affect bonuses, payouts and betting maximums. We recommend learning as much as possible about each game before placing bets. We’ve also explained some of the most common terms you’ll come across when playing below.

Reels: Way back when, when slot machines were mechanical, rotating barrels were used and were called reels. The name stuck, and in video slots, these virtual spinning rings are also called reels.
Payline: This is the line on which the winning combination of symbols in video slots will appear. Basic games have one horizontal line across the screen, while more complex games can many paylines branching across the screen. The number of paylines per game can vary from 1 to as many as 25. Each game has its own unique set of paylines, and because they can get quite complicated, online casinos offer a paytable that players can refer to that lists all the possible combinations.
Wild Symbols: As the name implies, this is like the wildcard of video slots (the equivalent of a joker in a deck of cards). It can replace any other symbol in the game and give players a winning payline. For example, cherry+cherry+wild symbol is the equivalent of cherry+cherry+cherry in a video slots game. Wilds are a part of most, if not all, video slots, and each game assigns them different values. In some slot games, wild symbols will have additional values and features. Expanding wilds can draw out across the reel and complete more than one payline, while those lucky enough to get a set of wild symbols may receive a bonus round. Again, it all depends on the game.
Scatter Symbols: These symbols can appear anywhere on the reels, and unlike wilds, they don’t need to be on a win line to give players special things like bonus rounds, extra spins or other goodies. More often than not, scatter symbols are found on the 3 x 5 gridded video slots. They offer rewards like free spins or bonus games.
Multiplier Symbols: These symbols may appear randomly and multiply the payout by a predetermined amount which is displayed on the symbol. For example, should a symbol with a multiplier of 25 appear, it will increase a bet of £100 to £2500.
Freefalls / Collapsing stacks: Ever play Candy Crush or any other game that has a domino effect when you win? Freefalls are just like that. When you win on a payline, new symbols begin to fall onto the screen and may result in compounded wins. This is totally new in video slot technology, but we have to say, it’s one of the most fun types of games/bonuses we’ve seen yet.

Types of Online Video Slots

3-reel slots: This is the original slot game. It’s based on the mechanical slot machines that still stand in some bars and drinking establishments today! It features a 3 x 3 grid, so a total of 9 symbols will appear at any time on the screen, and there is usually only one payline. All modern video slots are based on this original concept.
5-reel slot: This video slot has a matrix of 3 x 5, so a total of 15 symbols will appear on the screen. These video slots add a bit more excitement, as the number of possible combinations increases with the added reels. The paylines also function differently than those on 3-reel slots and can be vertical, horizontal or several other shapes, depending on the game.
3D slots: As the name implies, these video slots have a 3D component, adding another level of visual entertainment to an already titillating game. There are 3D characters along with settings and storylines that add to the experience, giving these slots a novel twist on an old classic.
Progressive jackpots: Normally, each video slot game’s jackpot is decided at the start of the game and remains the same. In progressive jackpots, however, the jackpot increases every time a new player starts playing. This works by adding a very small percentage of each coin that’s played to the jackpot.

Once someone wins the jackpot, it resets. Video slots are the most common games that feature progressive jackpots.

Feature slots: Not all video slots will have cool features like scatters, wilds and freefalls. Some are geared towards the more traditional player. Feature Slots, however, are jam-packed with variations and elements like gamification, storylines and animations that take video slots to the next level of online gaming.

Video Slot Probabilities

Before diving into formulas and statistics, it’s important to understand that online video slots are based on a technology called RNG, or a Random Number Generator. This means that the computer behind the game generates random sequences every millisecond. Numbers produced by the RNG are always random, and the combination of algorithms determines the outcomes of the game. This software is meticulously tested to ensure that the outcomes are truly random and fair.

Video slots are a type of game called a negative equity game, and unlike games of skill like poker, it’s very difficult to make money in the long term. Though if you’re lucky, it is possible to win money in the short term.

Let’s take, for example, a 3 x 5 configuration of an online video slot game. The chance of getting the same symbol on one line is 1/5 and the chance of getting the same symbol on the second line is also 1/5. So, the math for the chance of hitting five of the same symbol in a row is:

1/5 x 1/5 x 1/5 x 1/5 x 1/5, or 0.032%

However, video slots have more than one symbol in them, so your odds increase depending on how many symbols a particular game has. For the sake of the example, let’s pretend this particular game has 5 symbols in total. So, your odds are actually:

5 x 0.032%, or 0.16%

This means that you’ll win once out of every 625 spins. Of course, no one knows when a player will hit a jackpot—video slots are truly a game of chance, and that’s one of the qualities that makes them so attractive and popular. Some players can spin all night and never win, while others can get lucky and win the jackpot on their third spin. Ultimately, your odds of winning are completely random.

Know your RTPs

It’s also important to mention Return to Player, or RTP. This is the term used to describe the percentage casinos will pay back to players over time. Traditionally, casinos have been loath to release this information online, but today there are extensive resources online and sometimes even on the websites of the casinos themselves that detail the exact RTPs of their slot games. It is worth doing a little research and choosing to play the games that have the highest RTP to increase your chances of winning.

Land-based casinos tend to have RTPs of around 80-90%, but in online slots that percentage increases to an average in the low 90’s. For example, if a game has an RTP of 75, it means that out of 100 coins, 75 of those coins will be won by players.

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Top Video Slot Strategies

Mere luck plays a huge part in video slots, but even in this game of chance, there are things players can do to increase their chances of winning. Factors like bet size, self-management and choosing the right casino can all have an effect on your game.

Bonus Rounds

The more bonus rounds, the higher the chance of winning. So, if you choose a game that gives you more than one bonus round, this will increase your chances of winning and getting a payout. The bonuses can vary vastly from game to game, so make sure to shop around and find the best ones. Betting the maximum during these bonus rounds can mean getting the best payout, even if that means lowering the coin values. As online casinos get more and more competitive, the bonuses they offer also get better, so do your due diligence when searching.

Compare Paytables

Progressive slots will often pay less for the base game than their standard video slot counterparts. This means it’s better to play video slots with a lower progressive jackpot. Looking at paytables is a good idea even if you’re not playing for a progressive jackpot. Slots have this info readily available, so take a few minutes to study before placing your bets.

Consider Your Bet size

How much do you want to bet on each spin? The three components of betting on video slots are coin size, number of coins and the number of paylines. You are free to adjust these, but obviously, this affects the jackpot and your winning potential. The formula for calculating the cost of a spin is:

paylines x coins x coin size

Confused? You always have the option of placing the maximum bet. Do this and the computer will set all of the three components (paylines, coins and coin size) to the maximum.

Grow Your Bankroll

Building up your bankroll may not seem like fun at first, but this strategy works in the long run. Commit to adding a certain percentage (for example, 30%) to your bankroll and keep going until you have a nice little nest egg. Betting on the minimum first means that later you’ll be able to increase your bet while keeping your bankroll safe. Ultimately, this strategy will allow you to make bets that aren’t so risky because your bankroll will protect you from large losses.

Change Games Often

Winning at a particular video slots game? Great! But don’t forget to diversify and change games, especially when you’re on a winning streak. Remember to change your strategy as you switch games because what works in one game may not necessarily work in another.

Self-Control

This is one strategy that can be applied to all video slot games. Know your limit and stay within it. Gambling, whether online or not, is a leisurely activity and should be fun, so definitely enjoy the experience and the rollercoaster ride that is online video slots. But, don’t forget to keep it real. Deciding how long you’d like to play and holding yourself to it is important for your health and your bankroll. Many casinos offer features like self-imposed time-outs and self-set betting maximums to help players control themselves.

High-Limit Video Slots: Spin It To Win It

For the high-rollers, high-limit video slots allow players to place large bets on each spin. One obvious benefit is the larger payout, so while you may need a bigger bankroll, the results of a big win like this can truly get the adrenaline pumping.

These usually have multiple paylines, and the cost to play the maximum bet reflects that, meaning you have to bet more to win more. Different casinos offer varying limits, but usually, the max bet is £100, giving high-rollers plenty of chances to try their hand at high-limit video slots.

In today’s busy world, going to a brick-and-mortar casino is not always an option. But online casinos can offer the same excitement and glitz of a real casino. In fact, regular slots, even though they may have high limits, may seem a tad repetitive and dull after trying your hand at some of the high-limit video slots that are available online today.

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The History of High Limit Video Slots

The story of the slot machine begins in 1891 when two men named Simon and Pitt invented a gambling machine that would go on to be developed into the modern slot machine we know and love today. This machine was based on poker and used card symbols. Remember, this was all based on mechanics, and it soon became obvious that it was impossible to make this machine give out an automatic payout for all possible winning combinations.

Then, somewhere between 1887 and 1895, a San Franciscan named Charles Frey came up with a simplified mechanism and replaced the card symbols with spades, diamonds, hearts, horseshoes and the Liberty Bell, which gave out the biggest payout. By the 1900s, these machines were everywhere—stores, bowling alleys, barber shops and even brothels. These original slot machines were affectionately known as “one-armed bandits” due to the lever that players had to pull to spin the reels.

In 1963, the first electromechanical slot machine was developed, and nearly a decade later, the first true video slot machine was born in 1976 in Kearny Mesa, California. Of course, as online casinos began springing up, they couldn’t ignore this historic game, and today, it’s fully integrated into the online portfolio of most online casinos, albeit with a lot more features than the slot machines of yesteryear. The graphics, game options and payouts all evolved and are still evolving today as online casinos and game developers tirelessly improve their products.

The Thrill of Video Slots

Today’s video slots are full of gorgeous graphics, immersive sounds and gamification features like mascots, mini-games within the game and hidden surprises. Online gamblers expect unprecedented levels of entertainment, and video slots offer a well-rounded, online gaming experience for both novices and experts.

Themed video slots are all the rage from superhero motifs and animations to slots based on popular movies. If a theme exists, you can bet there is a video slot based on it. There are literally thousands of themes to choose from! The imaginations of game developers truly know no limits.

Online casinos caught onto the mobile trend pretty early on, so most video slots are available on smart devices as well as desktop computers. Developed to have fast loading times, quick rounds for easy pauses and immersive graphics, online video slots are an adventure in online gaming. Take the plunge and spin the virtual reels to try your luck at this fascinating game.