Deconstructing a Slot Machine
When you go to play a new slot, the most important thing is to first understand its structure and the way in which the game works. Luckily, the vast majority of online slot machines are built upon very basic principles.
The central component of slots are reels. These are the columns of symbols that spin round and round. Classic slots tend to have three reels while video slots will have five or more. Each column will have a number of visible rows or reel positions, as such, you could think of a five-reel slot with three rows on each reel as a 5x3 grid.
Paylines are paths that can be traced through this grid, starting on the first reel and passing through one row, or symbols, on each reel. Some slots may have very few and basic paylines, such as a payline that goes through the middle position on each reel. Other slots may have hundreds of paylines that zig zag across the reels and go through every possible path. You will also find games that are simply described as all ways pay or list hundreds or thousands of ways to win. This just means that every possible path through the reels is a payline.
When you spin the reels of a slot, the aim is to land matching symbols along a payline and if you land enough of them, then you win a payout. In the vast majority of games, winning combinations must start on the leftmost reel and then continue on adjacent reels (e.g. a symbol on the first reel, a symbol on the second, and a symbol on the third). However, there are some games that allow winning combinations to be formed from right to left starting from the rightmost reel, or even winning combinations starting on any reel.
In some games, the number of paylines will be fixed. However, some slot machines give you the option of how many you want active. If a payline is active it means that you have placed a bet on it and winning combinations can land on it. If a payline is not active, then you will not win a payout from it regardless of what symbols land. As a result, it is worth always betting on all paylines, even if it means betting less per payline.
When you place your bet on a slot with fixed paylines, you will normally just have to set your total bet per spin. You can then divide that number by the number of paylines to work out your bet per payline. However, some games will require you to set a coin denomination and then set how many coins you wish to bet per payline.
There is a type of slot machine that does not use reels. Arcade slots make use of a grid of symbols, such as 5x7. In these games, the aim is usually to land clusters of matching symbols horizontally and/or vertically on the grid.
You can find all the information you need about a slot’s paylines in the paytable. It is always worth checking before playing so you that you know exactly how the game works.
Understanding Slot Symbols
There are a few different types of symbols found on slot machines and you need to be aware of how they all function.
The most basic type are the regular symbols. These will normally relate in some way to the game’s theme, for instance an Ancient Egypt themed game may include ankhs, hieroglyphics, statues, pyramids, and so on. Very often slots make use of royals as the lower value symbols, i.e. A, K, Q, J, 10, etc. These basic symbols are what award the standard payouts. Most of the time slots will payout when three or more matching symbols land on a payline, but you will find games that offer payouts for just two symbol combinations. You can find full details of the symbols and their respective payouts in a slot’s paytable.
Wild symbols are also very common. Wilds will substitute for all the other regular symbols to help and form more winning combinations. They can come with various other bonuses attached to them, for instance they may also multiply payouts or be able to expand to fill entire reels.
Many slots also feature scatter symbols. These are symbols that will award payouts as long as enough of them appear anywhere on the reels. In other words, they can land scattered across the reels and still award wins. Most of the time scatter symbols will payout multiples of the total bet rather than multiples of the line bet.
Finally, many slots will also have bonus symbols. These will normally trigger a bonus feature of some kind and it is important to read the paytable carefully so that you understand exactly how they work.
Common Online Slot Bonus Feature
Slot developers are hugely creative and come up with innovative bonus features on a regular basis. However, some bonus features are very common and it is important to understand them.
The most common bonus feature is a free spins round. These are simply spins that you do not pay for but that can still award real money wins. In most slots, the free spins begin when enough scatter symbols land on the reels. In some games, they may come with additional bonuses, for instance all the winnings may be doubled or tripled. Furthermore, often it is possible to retrigger the free spins by landing additional scatter symbols.
Another common bonus feature is picking games. In these, you are required to choose form objects on screen to reveal prizes. The prizes will normally be cash amounts but they may also include payout multipliers or extra picks. Some picking games will give you a finite number of picks while others will allow you to keep going until you uncover ‘Collect’.
Some of our slots offer progressive jackpots. A progressive jackpot is a prize pool that is contributed to by every bet on a game. In other words, when you spin the reels, a small portion of your bet goes to the prize fund. If it is a popular game then the jackpots can grow to truly life-changing amounts. The way in which the jackpot is won will vary depending on the slot, it may be as simple as landing the right combination of symbols or it may require a separate bonus feature to be triggered. The one thing you should be aware of is that some games will have minimum bet requirements in order to qualify for the jackpot, so you should make sure that you meet these.
There are many other small types of bonuses often found in slots. For example, a game may feature payout multipliers that are awarded either through a special symbol or through an additional feature. These can multiply your winnings by x2, x3, x4, x5, x10, x50 or even more. Games may also have special expanding symbols, which means that they will grow to occupy the entire reel when they land. Another common feature is sticky symbols, which are symbols that remain in place on the reels for a certain number of spins.
Other bonus features include cascading reels, which is a game mechanic that sees winning symbols removed from the reels after a spin to allow more symbols to fall from above and potentially form additional wins from the same spin. You may also find slots that offer gamble features, which give you the chance to increase your winnings.
Normally you will find a combination the above features on offer in a slot. Before playing a game, be sure to look at the paytable and rules carefully so that you understand exactly what is on offer.
You will find details of a slot’s potential payouts in the paytable. It will show you how much each symbol can award for different sized combinations. The other aspect you should be aware of is the slot’s RTP. The RTP, or return to player percentage, is the theoretical percentage of money that a game pays out to players over time. For example, if a game has an RTP of 97%, then €97 of every €100 bet on it is returned to players. However, the RTP is calculated over a vast number of spins, and there is never a guarantee that you will win any money.
Finally, you may also want to be aware of a slot’s volatility, which is the way in which it pays out. A low volatility game pays small amounts on a regular basis while a high volatility game pays larger amounts but less frequently (and there are medium volatility slots as well). You should be aware of this as if you are playing a high volatility game you will need to budget for many more spins and may need to have patience before you land any wins.