A Beginner's Guide To Playing Online Slots

online slots

Slot machines have been enjoyed for decades in land-based casinos and, in particular, gambling havens like Las Vegas. So, when the internet took off in the 1990s, software developers were quick to commence manufacturing online versions. But, did you know that the very first “slot” dates back to 1891?

The first mechanical slot

The Liberty Bell was created by an American called Charles August Fey, and it was the first slot that allowed for automatic payouts. The game looked similar to the one-arm bandits that we know and love today, and used three reels. Because Charles Fey didn’t apply to get his invention patented, the design was swiftly copied by other manufacturers who continued to make mechanical slots of its ilk up until the 1960s.

Rise of the video slot

When Bally released Money Honey in 1964, it was heralded as the first fully-electromechanical slot, but it was only in 1976 that a company called Future Coin created what is considered to be the first true video slot, and that company was quickly acquired by one of the biggest online slot developers in history, IGT.

Understanding the lingo

Compared to fruit machines and land-based slots which often only require the player to press a few buttons and insert coins or credits, online slots can prove to be quite complex. When you’re playing at online casinos, you’re highly likely to encounter terminology such as paylines, scatters, RTP, and bet levels which, if you’re new to the scene, can leave you feeling flummoxed.

Below, you’ll find a brief explanation of what the most common terms mean:

  • Bet – allows you to pick from a selection of bet sizes;

  • Bet Max – lets you place the maximum allowable bet with all paylines enabled using a single click, so be very careful not to click it by accident;

  • Free Spins – a bonus round that awards a series of free games (i.e. you don’t have to pay for them);

  • Multipliers – multipliers enhance the published paytable values of winning combinations. For example, 3x multipliers triple your win;

  • Paylines – paylines are lines that connect winning combinations across the reels. Online slots can come with as few as five and as many as one hundred or more paylines, and each one requires a bet. If you see a “Line Bet” setting on an online slot, this refers to how much you’re staking per payline;

  • Pay Table – the paytable is a list which displays all of the different winning combinations that are possible, and how much each one is worth;

  • RTP – RTP stands for Theoretical Return to Player and may also be referred to as Payback Percentage. As far as online slots are concerns, the higher the percentage, the better. The number (e.g. 95.0%) indicates the amount of money that the game should return to players over a period of time;

  • Scatter Symbols – Scatter symbol can often be used to trigger bonus features, and do not need to be connected via a payline to reward you;

  • Wild Symbols – Wild symbols can substitute for other symbols to help make winning combinations, and usually award the most valuable wins.


  1. How do I know that a slot game is fair?

Online slots use a special kind of algorithm software called a Random Number Generator or RNG. The RNG ensures that every spin provides a fair and totally random result.

  1. Am I more likely to win money if I play with higher bets?

While some progressive jackpot slots have a higher chance of awarding their jackpots to people who are playing with higher bets, the majority of online slots are equally likely to pay out regardless of stake size.

If you want proof of this, just look at GoWin Casino, where one player landed £102 in a single spin while playing Great Wild Elk with the minimum bet of 10p while another scooped £420 on Jack & The Beanstalk with spins worth just 20p each.

  1. How do I choose which slot to play?

Considering how many online slots are now available at online casinos and online bingo sites, it might be hard to work out which one to try first. A top tip is to look for games that can be played in “demo” or “fun” mode as they won’t cost you any money to test-drive, and if you like them, you can then play them with real cash.

Other factors to consider when deciding which online slot to play is how much it costs (i.e. does it fit within your budget?) and the maximum you can win (i.e. is the top jackpot worth a decent amount?).

You should also think about what kind of themes you might enjoy (e.g. animal, action, fantasy or Egyptian), and what kind of bonus features you’d ideally like to see (e.g. free spins, tumbling reels, and wild symbols).  

  1. Is it worth using the Gamble Feature?

Some slots come with a gamble option that offers you the chance to double or quadruple each win via a simple guessing game. While the concept sounds attractive, an incorrect guess can cost you your prize. With this in mind, we suggest you avoid using the gamble option unless you’re a high-stakes, high-risk player who can afford to lose.

  1. What does volatility mean?

Volatility is a word that’s used to describe the level of risk associated with a particular game. High-volatility slots carry a greater risk, and often require you to pump lots of money in but in return for bigger prizes. The opposite is true of low-volatility games, which are more likely to award small wins more often.

  1. Is there a “good” time of the day to play?

As online casinos are open 24/7 and don’t have overpopulated rooms with lots of players all vying for the same prize, as can be the case with online bingo sites, it doesn’t make a difference what time you play. Also, unlike pub fruit machines, online slots don’t determine the outcome of your playing session based on previous players’ sessions.

Where’s a good place to begin playing online slots?

Here at OnlineBingo.co.uk, you can read in-depth and honest reviews of many of the UK’s online casino and bingo sites. And, in each review, there’s a section that mentions what kind of games are available, so you may find these a helpful starting point.

Another tactic is to look for free spins offers and no deposit slot bonuses for non-funded players when signing-up, as they can give you the opportunity to try out many slots free-of-charge.

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