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  • Writer's pictureAnon

All About Slots

Updated: Mar 21



How online slots work

Online slot machines work a lot like the old ‘one armed bandits’ found in land-based casinos. But instead of pulling a lever, you click spin in the game. It then uses a random number generator (RNG) to generate a different result. The outcome of each spin is predetermined by the slot - it knows what the result will be, but the animation you see when you click spin will usually be different – providing variety and excitement. It is the great sense of the unknown which provides the thrill to players – you could win nothing or you could win a life-changing sum.

Slot machines exploded in popularity since they became available to play online back in the early 1990’s. Today their mechanics have evolved in design and complexity to include grid slots, cluster pays, paylines, ways, MegawaysTM and many more besides.

These games are designed with one single purpose: to relieve you of your money. Ok they are providing some ‘entertainment’ along the way, but you should always remember that their sole purpose is to take money off you. The makers of these games come up with more ingenious ways to do this all the time – using techniques garnered from human psychology to encourage you to keep playing, even if you know that you really shouldn’t.



What is an RNG?

Great question! And it’s something you should really try to understand before deciding if you want to play any online slot machine. This Wikipedia article provides more info about it than I ever could, so I’d encourage you to go there first. A good way to think of an RNG is with the rolling of a die. There are 6 possible outcomes, but when you roll it, there is no way to be certain which of these 6 outcomes will play out.

The RNG in an online slot machine works in a similar way, but instead of there being just 6 possible outcomes, there could literally be billions. When you click spin, the game will choose from one of these billions of outcomes and the animation will play out to show the corresponding result. Your spin could pay zero, the game’s max win or any value in between.



What is RTP? And why should I care about it?

RTP stands for return to player. It is usually expressed as a percentage, so you might see something like RTP: 94.08%

The RTP of an online slot machine refers to the theoretical player payout percentage. Using the example above - 94.08% - if you play €100 worth of spins on this game, it should pay you back €94.08. Note the use of the words theoretical and should. The RTP value is generated out over billions and billions of spins on the game. Some of these spins will result in a player receiving nothing, other spins will pay out big. But over the lifetime of a game, the advertised RTP will become evident.

I myself have been sceptical of these RTP’s being accurate, but I know they are accurate having worked in a gaming company. I was able to access the game’s back-end to witness the overall amounts wagered and won on a game, and I can confirm they are accurate. It’s very hard for a player to see this for themselves. They have bias based on their own experience playing a game – sometimes they’ll win lots and think they have landed on a broken game! Other times, they’ll be cursing the game and going mad that it’s unfair and has cheated them because they lost so much. But you have to remember that the RTP is calculated over those billions of spins, so while you might have a poor run of form on a game, someone else has won big also.

It is always worth paying attention to the advertised RTP of a game, since this informs how much the game will theoretically return to you, the player. There are even multiple versions of the same slot game available for operators to choose from. This means that you could play the same slot game across two different operators and have a different RTP% on each site. Sounds crazy, but I promise you it’s true.



What is volatility?

Volatility refers to the games payout frequency and size of win. This is a relatively controversial topic but the easy way to think about it is by looking at the difference between a low volatility and high volatility game. A low volatility slot will pay out frequently but the wins will also be lower in value. Conversely a high volatility slot will pay out less often, but the wins will be higher value.

Which type of game you choose is obviously up to you. It is fair to say that game providers are making higher volatility slots in recent years. These games are designed to appeal to thrill seekers since the possible wins are significantly higher. If you are familiar with slot streamers, you will notice a lot of them playing higher volatility slots. This is because they provide the opportunity for ‘viral’ moments – where the streamer wins big.

Game providers will usually provide a range of slot games that include both lower and higher volatility. But there are some providers who focus on more volatile slots than others. PlaynGo and NetEnt slot games are generally lower in volatility, while No Limit City games are more volatile.



So what types of slot games are there?

There is a huge spectrum of online slot games available out there these days. They have different styles, themes and mechanics. Providers are always looking to innovate and find the next big mechanic out there.

Originally slots were simple, line-based games, where you had to match symbols across a defined payline in order to trigger a win. A lot of the earlier games would have between 1 and 10 paylines, including the classic and much-loved ‘book’ games (Book of Ra, Book of Dead etc). Before long, there were 25 and 50 line games.

It was getting more difficult to know if you had won with these increased line games, so some providers simplified by offering games with unlimited ways of winning instead. It is the same idea, but instead of you having to match symbols across a specific payline, now you just needed to match symbols across the reels, from left to right. In a traditional line-based game, you might have 3 symbols appearing on 5 separate reels. There could be 20 paylines for this game, including diagonals, horizontals and more. With ways, there would be 243 ways (3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 = 243). 

Then we saw the arrival of grid slots. These types of games usually paid out based on matching clusters of symbols, rather than traditional ways or lines. You might have a game with symbols appearing in a 7x7 grid where you had to match 5 symbols appearing horizontally or vertically.

More recently we have seen the huge success of the MegawaysTM mechanic. The MegawaysTM mechanic was created by Big Time Gaming, an Australian game provider who have since been brought under the Evolution umbrella. Instead of their being a fixed number of ways, you could now have up to 117,649 ways of winning. Each spin changed the number of ways of winning, so you could have the minimum number or the max (117,649). This mechanic exploded after the release of their monster hit: Bonanza. Other game providers even licensed the right to use the mechanic on their own games, so popular did it become with players. It is probably fair to say that the introduction of this mechanic led to the trend towards increasing volatility in online slots.




What is a bonus round?

A bonus round is a feature of an online slot where the player triggers a special bonus game. This is often where the game pays out bigger wins. Bonus rounds generally provide the most exciting experiences for the player.

There are lots of different bonus round mechanics out there. A standard example would be a free spins round - where the player is awarded free game rounds with enhanced mechanics – theoretically enabling them to win bigger amounts than in the standard base game.

Bonus rounds are usually triggered by landing bonus (or scatter) symbols in the normal, base game. But there are of course lots of other ways to trigger them.

Once a player has landed these special symbols, they enter the bonus round where they might find enhanced multipliers, instant cash prizes etc. It is generally understood that a games RTP% is higher during a bonus round, but in truth a bonus round is just another spin to the RNG. Cruelly, a bonus round could even pay out zero!



What is a max win?

Most, if not all slot games will have a predetermined maximum win. If a player reaches this max win, they are awarded that value and the current game round will end.

Lower volatility games might have max wins of less than 5,000x your stake. In this example, if you were betting €1 per spin and got a max win, you would receive €5,000 and the game round would end.

Games that are more volatile tend to have higher max wins. Games like Tombstone RIP by No Limit City have max wins where you can win hundreds of thousands of times your stake. This isn’t always the case however, there are plenty of extremely volatile games out there with 10,000x max wins.



What games have the highest max wins?

As previously mentioned, providers like No Limit City and Relax Gaming have some extremely volatile games. Tombstone RIP by No Limit City has a max win of 300,000x your stake while Relax Gaming’s Money Train 4 pays out up to 150,000x. Accordingly, the chance of landing these types of max win is akin to your chances of winning the lottery.



What is Bonus Buying?

Being able to buy the bonus round directly is a relatively new phenomenon. The pioneering Big Time Gaming team were one of the first providers to introduce the mechanic. It means you can now skip spinning in the base game altogether and just pay a higher amount to enter the bonus round instantly.

Bonus buying is quite controversial since some providers allow you to buy not just a regular bonus round, but the super-duper special bonus round which in theory pays out huge wins. Of course entry to these ultra bonus rounds will cost you. No Limit City’s recently released game; Fire in the Hole 2 has a bonus round that you can buy for 3,600x your bet. That means if you’re betting €0.20 per spin, this will cost you a hefty €720 per go. Not for the faint of heart I’m sure you’ll agree!

Buying bonuses is a particularly volatile way to play slots because players can win big via the enhanced mechanics and features of the bonus round, but they can also still pay out a very small amount or in the worst cases nothing at all. Due to their extreme volatility, bonus buys are very popular with slot streamers. It means they can buy their way straight into the most exciting part of the game, without having to sit through hundreds or thousands of spins first.



What is a bonus hunt?

A bonus hunt is when a player goes into multiple games to hunt for a bonus. If the player gets into the bonus round, they will close the game and move on to the next game. At some point (usually when their balance has gone!) the hunt ends and the player goes back and opens each game to play out the bonus round.

Again, this is a very popular method of play with slot streamers because they can show the player the most interesting parts of the game, without all the base game play. The Bandit is a very well known proponent of this type of play. The majority of his videos are essentially just bonus hunts.

One important thing to note here is that bonus hunting is forbidden for most players across most sites, if you are using bonus money. There is a very simple reason for this; the operator doesn’t want you to wager through your funds using the bonus money, then when all the wagering is completed, you can go in and collect your wins from the bonus rounds. If you have an active bonus on your account, you should be very clear about the operators rules on this style of play, before you decide to embark on it. They can and frequently do shut accounts for this type of behaviour. They will even remove all winnings and just return your initial deposit amount.



What are the best slot games?

Well this is obviously a very subjective topic. Some people like highly volatile games that can pay big, while others prefer less volatile games where they expect to win more often. Certainly, higher volatility games have grown in popularity in recent years.

Some of the more popular slot providers include:

·        Avatar UX

·        Big Time Gaming

·        BluePrint

·        Elk Studios

·        Evolution Gaming

·        GreenTube (a.k.a Novomatic)

·        Hacksaw Gaming

·        IGT

·        Inspired

·        Merkur

·        Microgaming

·        NetEnt

·        No Limit City

·        Nyx

·        PlaynGo

·        Pragmatic

·        Print Studios

·        Push Gaming

·        Red Tiger

·        Relax Gaming

·        Scientific Gaming

·        Slingo

·        Thunderkick


It’s really up to each player individually which type of game they like. For anyone interested in playing slots, I would highly recommend visiting the game providers site and having a go of the free / demo version of the game first, before committing to playing it with your own real cash. You may well find that the game just isn’t for you. Better to find this out for free first!



Who are the best slot game providers?

This is another highly subjective question and will be different for each person. As someone who enjoys higher volatility games, I personally prefer the likes of No Limit City and Relax gaming. I do have a soft spot for some of the more innovative providers like PlaynGo, Big Time Gaming and Push Gaming.

As advised in previous topic, I would encourage anyone interested to visit the providers site and have a play around first, before playing with their own real cash.



What are jackpot games?

These are games that incorporate a jackpot feature. There are many different types of jackpot available, from fixed jackpots which trigger in the game just as any other, regular spin would to must go and progressive jackpots.

There are too many to go into in any great detail, but I will be looking at ‘must go jackpots’ in more detail in a topic below and in future blog posts.

Most jackpots work in a similar way – every spin on the game, by every player will contribute something towards the jackpot. In the example of Relax Gaming’s progressive ‘DreamDropTM’ jackpot series, for every €1 spin on the game, an amount ranging from 0.0001%-6.85% will go towards the jackpots. The jackpot then triggers randomly or at a predetermined point / amount and a lucky player takes home the ‘pot.

Jackpots are very popular with players because they add an extra layer on top of the regular slot game – giving the player a chance of winning big while enjoying their regular slot experience. Of course they pay more - by way of jackpot contributions - for the privilege of playing with the enhanced jackpot feature.



What are Must Go Gackpots?

A Must Go Jackpot is exactly what it says on the tin; a jackpot that must be won before it reaches a certain amount. Again, we can look at the Relax DreamDropTM series here. There are three smaller jackpots that go frequently, but there are also two higher value ‘pots that must be won before they reach a certain amount. The Major ‘pot must be won before €50,000 while the Mega ‘pot must be won before €3,000,000. Obviously these higher value ‘pots don’t drop often.

There are players who target these games when they think the ‘pot is more likely to drop. So they might start playing the €50k when it has gone above €49,900 for example. The logic being that it has to drop within the next €100. Usually if you play at this level, you will see the pot moving quickly as more and more players join and pump money into the game in hopes of taking out the big prize.



The Must Go Jackpot Affair

I will write a separate blog post on this specific topic. Check my blog again for more info on this one. It’s not to be missed!



Which slot games should I play?

Like earlier topics, this is purely subjective. I would reiterate my advice to try these games out for free first, before using your own cash. Once you have decided which games you like, you need to find a casino that offers them. I will talk about Casinos in a separate topic and again in more detail in a separate blog post. Watch this space.



What slot games should I play to make money?

I mean… you already know what I’m going to say here, right?!! Don’t play these games if you want to make money. It is possible to win and even to win big on them, but only occasionally. The reality is that even players that do win are far more likely to give their winnings back to the casino, over time. This is because of the house edge (the other side of the RTP% equation). So, no matter how well you do, over time these games will just return the RTP as advertised.

I must admit that before I worked for a gambling company and saw it with my own eyes, I didn’t believe the advertised RTP% was legitimate. I always thought the games just paid out much lower amounts. But having worked in a company and being able to look into the back end platform of each provider, I could easily see that they do in fact play to the RTP% almost exactly. Of course there are fluctuations as you should expect, but over time, the payout percentage does indeed return to the mean.



What online casino should I play at?

Once upon a time, this question would be much simpler to answer because there were only a handful of operators out there offering these games. But today there are huge numbers of them out there and this number is only growing. I’m based in Ireland and there are all the big name players here; William Hill, Ladbrokes, SkyBet, Paddy Power, Bet365 etc. These sites are really Sports Betting sites that have added Casinos and other gambling products over time.

Then there are sites like Mr Green, Casumo, LeoVegas and Rizk who focus on Casino games, almost exclusively. They may have a sports section, but this is not the main pull for players.

In recent years there has been an explosion in Crypto Casinos. Since Bitcoin went mainstream, these sites have provided Bitcoin owners the chance to gamble their Crypto funds. Some of these sites are enjoying huge success. However, they are controversial due to the fact that they are unregulated. In fact, Crypto currency itself is not regulated, so gambling with Crypto funds cannot and is not regulated in the same way as Casinos which use fiat currency.

My personal suggestion would be to use a Casino that is regulated by a trustworthy regulatory body, such as the MGA (Maltese Gaming Authority). While Crypto Casinos can be appealing due to their lack of regulation – enabling UK players to circumvent some of the more draconian restrictions placed on them by the UK Gambling Commission – they also don’t provide players with any recourse in case of an issue arising.

Finally, I would advise against playing at Casinos with a Curaçao license as these tend to be less scrupulous as they do not sit under the stronger protective umbrella of the European Union.



I see slot streamers winning large amounts of money. Why can’t I do this?

Slot streamers will be discussed in greater detail in other blog posts, so look out for those. But to answer this frequently asked question – the simple answer is that they are given more favourable terms and conditions by their affiliate partners. Also, it is worth noting that your experience of that streamer may be very biased. If you watch them playing all day, every day, they are just as likely to lose as everyone else is. It may not seem like this if you only watch highlight videos of theirs (where they are of course going to highlight the big wins they’ve had and not look at any of the losses).

The terms that they are given by an operator are completely different to what you or I could hope to get. It is not unusual to see 100%, 200%, 300% or even higher match bonuses on deposits ranging from hundreds to hundreds of thousands of €.

While they might have to wager through these bonuses at a rate similar to what you and I get (industry standard is c.35%, more on this in the section covering promotions), they are often allowed to break rules that we must adhere to. For example, you will probably find that you are not allowed to stake more than €5 per spin when you have an active bonus, you will not be allowed to engage in ‘bonus hunting’ and you won’t be allowed to buy bonuses either. Streamers on the other hand seem to be allowed get away with all of these things. And usually without any scrutiny.

I personally enjoy watching some slot streamer content, but I must admit that I find some of their practices abhorrent. They are clearly giving a misleading example of what it is like to gamble with an online casino. Regular punters will not be able to avail of the generous offers and terms that they get, so in a way they can be said to be glorifying gambling to the masses.

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