Slots Online: The Basics

Wild Reels

Slots are some of the most popular games found at both real-life and online casinos. Most people new to gambling start off by playing slots online because they’re fun, exciting, require no skill and they’re easy to learn. Slot machines date back to around 1887 when a man named Charles Fey from San Francisco made one of the first ever machines called The Liberty Bell. It featured one payout line, three reels and five symbols of horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and a Liberty Bell.

Over time the machine changed and with it, the symbols used. Fruit symbols began appearing on slot machines, and the game became a hit with gamblers. They soon became a staple at real-life casinos where they featured three reels and several pay lines. However, online slot games now feature more pay lines, amazing graphics, and sounds as well as licensed themes from Hollywood films or popular television shows.

For example, most games can have as many as 25 payout lines and up to five reels. However, users can still find the traditional three-reel classic slots at online and real-life casinos.

Online Slots: At A Glance

Online slots are one of the easiest gambling activities to learn as all you need to do is press a button. The game involves you spinning a set of four or five reels to try and land a combination of symbols to make wins or unlock special features. However, symbols must land on what is called paylines, a series of lines that stretch across the reels and highlight where matching symbols must land in order to qualify as a win. If just one of your symbols fails to land on the correct payline, you won’t land a win and will have to spin again.

Slot games are all based on different themes but they all feature high-quality graphics and sound effects. All slots will have an autoplay feature, allowing you to select how many spins you’ll want the game to automatically play for, as well as options to change the number of paylines and bet sizes. In addition, you’ll notice that all slot games follow similar sets of rules, having wild and scatter symbols along with ordinary symbols and they offer various special features which can include free spins or bonus rounds, though it depends on the individual game.

But how exactly do you play online slots? Let’s take a look.

How To Play Slots Online

The Rules

Slot games are easy to play. As mentioned, the aim of the game is to match a certain number of symbols to win. At traditional casinos, this involves pushing a button and pulling a lever while inserting coins into the machine’s dispenser. At online casinos, it isn’t much different. After loading up the game at your favourite slot site, whether on desktop or mobile, you are required to bet a certain amount and tap or click ‘Spin’ to start the game. The reels will then spin before stopping, causing symbols to land in various positions across the reels. If your symbols landed on a payline in a correct order you will be awarded money.

In addition to all of that, many UK online slots also feature special symbols such as wilds, scatters and multiplier symbols. Each of these has a different effect on the game, making it easier to land winning combinations or trigger special features, but it depends entirely on the game.


So, to win, you need to get a correct number or specific combination of symbols to appear on one of the game’s paylines. Most slots require the symbols to go from left to right, but some allow symbols to land in either direction. Ordinary slot games feature 25 to 30 pay lines which can be straight, diagonal or zig-zagged. However, a Big Time Gaming’s Megaways slot engine allows for a higher number of paylines that changes per spin, but more on that later.

Slot Symbols

All video slots (the successor of classic fruit games) feature symbols based on the theme of that slot along with generic letters and number symbols. In addition, slots will generally have symbols that can help you win more money or trigger special events. For example, wild symbols replace other symbols on the reel, making it easier for a player to create a winning combination. There are also scatter symbols which can trigger a win even if they aren’t on the same pay line and multipliers which multiplies your payouts.

On top of that, there are special features, such as free spins or bonus rounds, which can only be unlocked by landing a specific set of the above symbols. Most games will require you to land three or more scatter symbols to trigger the free spins feature, but other slots will also have bonus symbols which, when you’ve landed three or more, will unlock a special feature or mini-game.

Online Slot Payouts

We’ve gone through the basics and revealed everything we know about the rules and gameplay. Now it’s time for the important part; learning about the payouts and what is referred to as ‘payout schedules’. Online slots have a high payout rate compared to the machines found at real-life casinos but what most people don’t know is that the payouts are controlled by a payout schedule which is built into the device and later updated by technicians on a regular basis.

These payout schedules, which can sometimes be referred to as a pay chart or table, basically explain how the slot game will pay each winning combination. The schedule reveals the ratio between the number of coins bet and how many coins the better will win. The calendars are generally printed on each machine at real casinos but can also be accessed online when the player taps or clicks on the ‘Pay Table’ or ‘View Pays’ button.

The schedule determines the size of various payouts, when payouts will be made (Such as when making specific combinations) and the RTP and house edge. Ultimately, payout schedules are there to ensure that everyone feels like a winner.


RTP and RNG are two abbreviations players should try to remember when playing at an online casino as most online casino games feature them. RTP stands for Return to Player, which means the payout percentage for each casino game. It varies depending on what game users are playing but is generally much higher than the RTP rates found at real-life casinos. For example, most online slots have an RTP of 96% (Though some do go higher or lower) while slot games at brick-and-mortar casinos often have an RTP of 80-90%.

The RTP basically states the percentage of all the wagered money a slot or casino game will pay back to players over a long period of time. The higher the RTP of a slot, the likelier you are to win. A common misconception is that you can work out the RTP of a slot and guess when it’s going to pay you for an easy win, however, this is actually incorrect as RTP rates work over long periods of time and include wagers made by other players.

RNG, meanwhile, stands for Random Number Generator and is the software that runs the entire game. The outcome of each spin within a slot game is based on a random number generated by the RNG which effectively tells the reels when to stop. RNGs are also used in games such as Keno, Roulette, and Bingo.

Many people accuse online casinos of “fixing” their RNGs but all casinos must ensure that their RNG is safe and secure. To help, governing bodies such as eCOGRA regularly test the technology, helping to keep you safe when playing your favourite online slot games.

Free Online Slots & Real Money

Many online casinos offer players a chance to play free slot games without having to spend a single penny. These online slots can sometimes be played without having to register at the online casino, though some casino sites will require you to create an account before you can do this.

Demoing slot games can be extremely helpful for anyone interested in playing that particular game or for a first-timer who is worried about spending real money. It’s a great way of testing new features to see if you’d enjoy them or not and can also make for great fun without having to spend any more. However, it’s important to understand that you cannot win any real-cash since the game is completely free to play. If you do want to win money, we suggest you try playing real money games, though, as suggested, that requires you to deposit and spend real money.

We highly suggest that you demo and play a slot game for free before spending any of your real money on it. It will help you make a decision and get familiar with the game’s mechanics before you actually start playing.

Online Slot Bonuses

After browsing around at the numerous online slot websites available, you may have noticed that many online casinos offer you a reward known as extra or free spins. These are basically extra spins you can use on your game. Most online casinos award you these spins for completing registering or making a deposit. However, you can also claim spins without making a deposit, through various promotions and even through your casino’s loyalty programme if one exists.

It’s important to note that many online casinos will cap the amount of winnings you can withdraw from your spins. In addition, you’ll be required to wager the winnings a few dozen times before you’re actually able to withdraw anything. Most casinos will require you to wager your winnings 20-35x, though you may spot some casinos with higher wagering requirements. On top of all of that, some spins bonuses will need to be used (And the wagering requirement completed) within a specified about a time, usually 48-72 hours. Failure to use the spins and complete their wagering requirements will mean you lose the spins and any associated winnings.

Slot bonuses can be great and can help you make larger wins, though it can be incredibly difficult to use them and complete the wagering requirement in time. If you do manage to complete this, you’ll find that the maximum cap means you won’t be able to withdraw much at all. So is it actually worth it?

Slot Game Variations

Just like other casino games, there are numerous variations of how you can play. They feature different rules and gameplay, which can make the game more exciting. Before you start playing any of the slot variations below, we suggest you try playing an ordinary video slot and get accustomed to the rules, you’ll thank us later. If you’re already comfortable with slot games and their rules, check out some variations below:

Video Slots

This variation is like an ordinary version of the game, but it generally features fun graphics and sounds effects. Players can find video slots based on all sorts of licensed Hollywood, gaming or television themes including Jurassic Park, Game of Thrones, Hitman and even Lord of the Rings. These fun versions of slot machines are designed so players can bet on multiple pay lines in any pattern.

Jackpot Slots

Jackpot slots are essentially video slots. The main difference between the two variations is that jackpot slots will offer you a huge prize of cash. Unlike progressive jackpots, the sum of ordinary jackpots does not grow with each bet and remains the same no matter how many people play or wager.

Virtual Reality Slots

Though this is still a fairly new technology, anyone with a VR headset can play VR games. Virtual reality technology places the player in a fully-interactable 3D environment. VR Slot games are no different, and the player is set in an interactive environment based on the game’s theme. While there aren’t many VR games out, the available ones include Jack and the Beanstalk, Starburst, and Dracula.

Progressive Jackpot Slots

Probably the most popular variation of online slots available. Progressive slots feature a jackpot linked to a gaming machine which takes a small percentage of every player’s bet and places it in a large pool of money. There are different types of progressive jackpots Standalone Progressives, which only affect the single game, Local Progressives, which are linked to other progressive jackpots at a casino or operator, and Wide Area Network Progressives, which are linked to other progressives within the same state or country.

Everyone who plays the progressive slot game or machines adds to the jackpot and has a chance to win from it. However, players who want to be eligible to win the giant sum must play the maximum amount of coins per spin the game or machine allows. Unsurprisingly, it’s actually rare that you will win a progressive jackpot and far more likely that you’ll win either at a regular jackpot slot or a video slot. However, wins from the progressive jackpot, particularly if its a Local or Wide-Area Network jackpot can be huge!


Slingo is a new variation of slot games. It’s a combination of slots and bingo, taking features from both activities to create something new and exciting. Slingo games require users to match numbers on their slingo ticket (Like a regular bingo game) but instead of the balls being automatically drawn for you, you must spin the reels to draw numbers.

Slingo games feature symbols which affect the game in different ways. There are evil symbols which prevent you from matching numbers and good symbols which negate the effects of the bad symbols or award you with extra spins. The game is becoming incredibly popular in the UK and numerous variations have already been released. You can find out more by clicking here.


Big Time Gaming is an online slot provider which became famous for creating the MegaWays game engine, a special slot engine which offers thousands of more paylines. What’s unique about MegaWays is that the number of paylines present on the reels changes with every spin, which makes the game incredibly exciting.

At the time of writing, Big Time Gaming and Blueprint Gaming are the only two firms to have created games using the engine. Popular slots using built on MegaWays include Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, Vikings Unleashed, Bonanza, White Rabbit, Extra Chilli, Buffalo Rising, Diamond Mine, Genie Jackpots and many more.

MegaWays has been incredibly popular in recent months because it can help you make larger wins due to the number of extra paylines. Despite this, the RTP remains similar to ordinary video slots. If you want to find out more about MegaWays, just click here.