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Slots Guide

From basic fruit machines and one-armed bandits to video slots with animated features and computer graphics, there is a slot machine for all tastes.


    Research by the Gambling Commission showed that in 2016 online slots accounted for 39% of casino play.

    It’s for this reason that slots vastly outnumber all other online casino games with some casinos having more than 400. Slots come in all shapes and sizes with themes, bonus features and payouts all varying. One other factor that makes them so popular is that they offer the chance to win big from a relatively small bet.

    To see what all the fuss is about for yourself, have a look through our online slots guide. As well as the bits and pieces below, the following pages have been created to provide you with specific help and info.

    It All Started with Liberty Bell

    Since the first slot machine was created by Charles Fey in the 1890’s the look, gameplay and variety of slots have come a long way. Whereas the Liberty Bell, which was created by Fey in San Francisco, had just one payline, three reels and five different symbols, modern online slots can have up to 243 winning combinations.

    As slots continued to grow through the early 1900’s more features came into existence. More reel symbols were added as well as more paylines. Then in 1963 came the first electronic slot machine which was, unsurprisingly, founded in Las Vegas.

    Little more than ten years later, another huge step in the development of slot machines was made when the first video slot machine was created. This slot was called the Fortune Coin and was actually fairly unpopular at the time. People didn’t trust video slots as they thought they were rigged. It wasn’t until video poker machines became popular that video slots were accepted by the majority.

    Jackpots and the Internet

    On 6 March 1986 the world of slots changed forever as the first slots jackpot was set free on casino floors. This first progressive slot was named Megabucks and could originally be found in nine different Nevada casinos. The success of Megabucks was immediate with makers claiming within three years that it had “paid off many jackpots between 2.2 and 6.8 million plus more than 600 Mega Mini jackpots”.

    Since then, progressive jackpot slots have gone from strength to strength and the advent of the internet has only allowed them to be even better. The first internet slots appeared around 1996 along with the first online casinos. Taking slots online opened up even more possibilities for bonus features which is something that developers have taken advantage of.

    Slot Features

    With all of the animated graphics and flashing lights slots can become more complex than they should be. However, the most important stuff is the ways to win. Payline payouts are the basic form of slots wins but there are many extra features to enliven gameplay.

    Wild Symbols

    Notes: Wins that include a wild symbol are sometimes multiplied.


    Notes: They start at 2x your win and can be as high as 5x.

    Free Spins

    Notes: Winnings during free spins are sometimes multiplied. Ten free spins is a normal prize.

    Scatter Symbols

    Notes: They don’t need to be on the same payline to create a win.

    Bonus Rounds

    Notes In 1996: Reel’Em In was the first slot to include a second screen bonus round.

    Things to Remember with Slots

    • Online slots are a far cry from the old ‘one-armed bandits’ with average payout percentages of 95%-96%.
    • Progressive jackpot slots provide huge payouts but the possibility of wins across the rest of the slot can suffer.
    • Money management systems and selecting the right slot are the closest things to slots strategy.
    • The bigger wins are often created by extra-game features while second-screen bonus rounds are often the highlight of slots.

    The Anatomy of a Slot Machine

    Slot machines are comprised of various components. Let’s take a look at them…

    1. Symbols

    Cherries, lemons, 7’s, and liberty bells, have been basic slot machines symbols dating back more than 50 years. Online you are likely to encounter an amazing range of symbols, there are no limits!

    2. The Reels on the Slot Go Round and Round!

    The symbols on a slots machine are printed on spining mechanisms called reels. Typical online slot machines contain three reels, though there are also four reel machines and novelty type slots with as many as eight or ten reels, these monster machines often referred to as Big Berthas.

    Most reels contain 20-24 steps or stops. Each step is a place where the reel can end up when it is spun. This step may contain a symbol, such as a cherry or lemon, or a blank, a step with no symbol, just a blank. Blank is bad, symbol is good!

    3. The Payline

    Example paylines from Ladbrokes Casino

    The most important part of any online slot machine is it’s pay line. The window in front of a slot machine’s reels is marked by one or more horizontal or diagonal lines, these are called pay lines. Basically this is the visual display that shows if you have scored a winning spin or not. Winning combinations must line up directly behind a pay line to be considered a winner.

    4. The Payout Display

    Apart from the pay line on a slot, the payout display is the most important display on the machine because it shows you what combinations are needed to have a winning spin and how much each of these winners will pay. On a straight slot machine, all winning amounts will be posted on the display itself. These are typically expressed in number of coins to be won as opposed to dollar amounts (Now and then, some displays will give you a £ amount that can be won for a specific combination).

    For example, a winning combination might show a payment of 50 coins or 100 coins. On progressive jackpot machines, ‘Progressives’ might be indicated next to the payout for the big jackpot hand. The progressive jackpot total is usually posted above the slot machine and is continuously rising.

    The Lowdown: Buttons on Slots

    There are a few buttons that you will interact with at the machine. We’ll take a brief look at them here.

    Play Max Credits/Bet Max Coins

    Pressing the PLAY MAX CREDITS button bets the maximum amount of coins allowed and automatically spins the reels. If the machine accepts five coins as a bet, pressing PLAY MAX CREDITS will deduct five coins from your credits. Similarly, if three coins were the maximum bet, then three coins would be played and that amount would be deducted.

    This button may also read as BET MAX COINS or PLAY ALL CREDITS, or may have another similar designation which would amount to the same thing.

    The PLAY MAX CREDITS button only activates the reels if you have credits available.

    Play One Credit

    You can also play one coin at a time by depressing the “PLAY ONE CREDIT” button. In this case, the reels will not spin until the handle is pulled or the SPIN REELS button is pressed. You can also play two credits by pressing the “PLAY ONE CREDIT” button twice, or three coins by pressing it three times, or the maximum number of credits by pressing this button until the full allowance of coins is reached.

    Credits Played or Coins Played

    The Credits Played or Coins Played display shows how many coins are being wagered on the current spin. If three coins are played, the display would indicate the number “3” in the area provided.


    The Credits indicator shows how many credits you have accumulated either through winning spins or through money entered into the machine. For example, placing a £20 note and playing it on 25p single line slot will give you eighty 25p credits into your account. The indicator in credits will display the number “80”.

    Playing the PLAY ONE CREDIT or PLAY MAX CREDITS button will automatically deduct one credit in the first case, or the max credit amount, whatever that might be on the particular machine being played, from your credits. Be careful when selecting the PLAY MAX CREDITS as it could wipe out your whole balance.

    The Cash Out Button

    You can use your credits by either playing them through until the total is down to 0 (which means you’ve lost them all!), or hitting the CASH OUT button, which will convert credit into actual coins and send them tumbling into the well below and into your virtual account.

    How to Play Slots

    Playing slots online can actually be trickier than it might appear.

    While the clicking of a spin button and watching the reels come to a stop is simple, there are many things to take into consideration before you should do this.

    The issues listed below are optional but we’d definitely recommend that you spend a bit of time investigating. After all, if you want to maximise your profits as well as your entertainment then it’s important that the slot is set up correctly for you.

    Selecting a Slot

    Before you even get to a slot there’s the process of choosing one to play. This is more time consuming than it sounds, simply because there is so much choice.

    The temptation for many online slots beginners is to select a slot that they recognise the name of. In most cases these slots are the branded ones such as the Spiderman slot or the Lord of the Rings slot. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that these slots often have lower payout percentages than others. They may have fewer winning opportunities, less features and, most importantly, a smaller or even non-existent jackpot.

    Online Slots Advice

    • Pick a slot that suits your budget. This is determined by the minimum and maximum bet allowance.
    • Select the number of paylines you want to use. The general rule is that as the number of paylines increases, so does your chances of winning. However some people prefer the traditional one payline slots.
    • Find a theme that entertains you. You want to enjoy your online slots play so pick one that you find exciting/fun/amusing.
    • Decide what bonus features you want to be available. This may sound strange but some people have theories about certain features such as free spins and would rather not have them. On the other hand, some slots have every feature imaginable.
    • Don’t be afraid to dive in. With the huge choice on offer it’s easy to get bogged down with looking for your perfect slot. In order to remedy this just take the plunge and try a slot that you like the look of. If you don’t enjoy it then there’s plenty more fish in the sea!

    Guide to Playing Slots

    Once you’ve selected a slot that’s right for you then there’s not much else left for you to do except play it. But before you can hopefully start counting the money as it rolls in, there are a few aspects that you should be aware of.

    In order to help first-timers through this process we’ve created a step-by-step guide to playing an online slot – call it an ‘online slots beginner’s guide’ if you will.

    • When you land on an online slot, take a quick look to familiarise yourself with the paytable. Take note of scatter icons, wild symbols and what you need to reveal to launch bonus features.
    • Set the number of lines and the bet per line. While the amount that you bet is entirely up to you, we recommend that you play the maximum number of lines – even if this means decreasing your bet per line.
    • Select whether or not you want the slot to play automatically and leave you to watch it all take place. If you don’t select this option then…
    • Click on the ‘Spin’ button or any alternative.
    • Watch as the reels come to a stop and reveal any payline wins and triggered bonus features.
    • If you do receive a bonus feature then instructions are usually displayed so simply follow them and enjoy.
    • Following the completion of your bonus feature or spin repeat the process until satisfied!

    We must stress that this guide isn’t 100% accurate for every online slot as they do differ greatly. However it should provide a solid basis for you to learn how to play slots. If it doesn’t then feel free to get in touch and complain!

    Tips for playing slots

    • Selecting the right slot from the vast range of available games can impact significantly on your likelihood of winning
    • Pick a slot with maximum and minimum bets that are suitable to your budget
    • Remember some slots have many pay-lines, so you should select the amount of these which you want to play
    • Familiarise yourself with the pay-table, that way you know which symbols unlock bonus features and which trigger the jackpot
    • To actually play a slot is a simple matter of choosing a game, placing a bet and clicking ‘spin’

    Slot Jackpots

    When it comes to online casino game jackpots, slots jackpots are the most common and by far the most popular.

    It’s easy to see why when you consider that they turn players into millionaires in the blink of an eye.

    The phenomenon started back in 1986 when the Megabucks slots were rolled out in nine different Nevada casinos. They had been created by International Game Technology and were 3-coin slots. They were the first ever progressive jackpot slot and allowed players to win bigger prizes than ever before.

    The Megabucks slot is still going to this day, although it has had a couple of updates along the way. Most importantly the Megabucks jackpot itself continues to reach new heights –regularly handing out more than $10 million to lucky slots players.

    Ways to Win a Slots Jackpot

    • Match the predetermined symbols on a payline. This will require revealing the rarest symbol on every reel, sometimes on a specific payline too. This is the most common way to win a jackpot.
    • Randomly. Some jackpots, such as the Marvel jackpots, drop at random following the completion of a spin.
    • In a second screen bonus round. Once in a bonus round the top payout can be the progressive jackpot. This form of winning is quite rare.

    Online Slots Jackpots

    Bringing slots jackpots online has meant that they’ve been able to grow much larger than those that existed in land-based casinos. This is thanks to wide progressive networks that allow players from all over the world to add to the jackpot pool. Basically, every time the reels of a progressive slot are spun, a bit of the wager goes into the progressive pot. So, the more players that play these slots, the larger the jackpots are going to get.

    They increase so fast that you can actually watch the total increase before your very eyes. If this doesn’t encourage you to keep playing and win it for yourself, then nothing will. Online jackpots are also seeded, which means they start at a set level and increase from there once the jackpot has been hit.

    This can be a great benefit as Leah A can testify. She won a £275,000 jackpot on Major Millions back in 2006. But, after the jackpot was reset she won it again just hours later and banked herself an extra £160,000.

    Things to remember with Slot Progressive Jackpots

    • Some jackpots are randomly triggered, so by betting a small amount you can still end up winning the jackpot – although it is generally recommended to play the maximum bet to ensure you get the full jackpot.
    • Online jackpots increase rapidly thanks to large numbers of people contributing to the pot.
    • Many casinos have dozens of slots jackpots, it’s important to choose the right one as some offer more chances to win than others.
    • Arabian Nights, Mega Moolah and Millionaire’s Club often offer the highest online slots jackpots.

    Slots Tournaments

    Slots tournaments are becoming more and more commonplace in both land based and online casinos.

    For just a small cost they provide players with something a little different from the usual slots experience.

    Online, slots tournaments can often form part of promotions, with the top players receiving huge prizes. Take Microgaming’s The Grand Slam of Slots for example. This slots tournament lasted for just ten days in the summer of 2011 and offered a £1.5 million bonus prize in addition to the prize pool of £294,850.

    Slots tournaments can take on a few different variations but there are two main ways in which they vary. These are scheduled or sit’n’go tournaments and cash or chip tournaments.

    Scheduled Tournaments

    • Larger prize pools and special prizes
    • Start at a specific time
    • Perhaps take place daily or weekly
    • Can last weeks and even longer

    Sit n Go Tournaments

    • Smaller prize pools
    • Start as soon as they’re full
    • Very frequent (many take place every day)
    • Tend to last less than an hour

    Cash Tournaments

    • Players use their own money
    • You keep winnings at the end and any additional prizes won
    • Often form part of a featured promotion
    • Rankings sometimes decided by the amount you wager rather than how much you win

    Chip Tournaments

    • Players receive a set amount of tournament money
    • Receive prize if you finish in one of the designated prize spots
    • Are more associated with sit n go tournaments

    Find a tournament to suit you below in our feed of the upcoming online slots tournaments.

    Slot Tournament Notes

    • Slots tournaments are increasing in popularity both online and in land based casinos
    • Sit n Go Slots Tournaments are most common
    • Chip tournaments are less risky
    • In cash tournaments, you play with your own money and keep your winnings in addition to the prize if you win