There’s never a bad time to revise your education. And, no longer how long you’ve been playing slots you need to check yourself for overconfidence and be sure you know what you’re doing.
So, in this guide, we’re going to go over the absolute basics of the slot game – games that you’ll see in slots casino sites and fundamental building blocks that apply to almost every game.
The Screen – This is What you See
Slots are visual games, and they are understood visually. These visuals deliver a mathematical result but through the apparent operation of a machine that doesn’t really exist, but to us is the slot.
The screen will consist of: Reels – reels are the random element that delivers the result of the wager. You may not even know the number of symbols on each reel, and the reels may be presented as tumbling blocks, or exploding bubbles, or anything.
All you need to know is that the reels are the central device of the game, that their operation is random. The reels contain symbols. When matching sets of these symbols are delivered the player wins a prize. And that prize is decided by the unlikelihood of that set of symbols being delivered. The reels deliver prizes along pay lines.
Paylines are what they say they are: lines across the reels along which sets of symbols can be assembled. The oldest slots had a single pay line running along the middle of three reels. These days machines can have dozens of pay lines, running at all sorts of angles, and possibly in both directions.
Paylines may be completely replaced by winning “clusters” that pay for groups of adjoining symbols, or “ways to win” which are more complex, paying for non-adjoining symbols and sometimes delivering thousands and thousands of possible winning combination.
This is explained in the:
Paytable – The paytable is usually opened with a cog or “?” or “I” for the “information” icon. There you’ll find a list of the symbols on the reels and how much you’ll win for snagging sets of them.
You’ll also find the explanation of the: Bonus games – all slots (well almost all) have bonus games. Bonus games are where the big money is usually to be found. The commonest form of bonus games is the free spins round.
Free spins rounds are commonly awarded by sets of “scatters”.
Scatters are symbols that award prizes whether or not they are adjoining on the reels – three scatters anywhere awards a prize, they don’t need to be in a line.
Bonus symbols – scatters are bonus symbols but not the only ones. Most slots also include wild symbols of some sort. Slots are derived from poker, and like poker, you find wilds that stand in for any card in order to complete winning sets.
Back on the reels, the rest of the controls are:
Betting controls. Bets are made in multiples of a single stake. You can either set a total stake or set a stake per pay line. It is important that you understand how the betting controls work, so do read up on this, because this is what you spend. If you can select pay lines and stake separately the two are multiplied together to give your total stake. A max bet button is a common option on most games, allowing you to bet at the highest allowed level.
Balance – another important figure to be aware of is put front and centre in the control panel. Your balance will be the amount in your casino account. If you’re playing on demo mode you’ll be shown a massive, hypothetical figure. Keep an eye on this figure.
The spin – usually green, the spin button sets things off. Hit this and you’ve made your bet and you’re in the hands of the random gods. Spin buttons are usually closely adjacent to a high-speed option, usually called turbo mode and an auto-spin button.
Auto-spin functions can be quite controversial. They allow players to play many games without ever pressing the spin button. These days they’re quite sophisticated, allowing players to set all sorts of limits on spins, losses, or wins, but they should still be treated with caution. The game will probably also offer a set of options controls including a cog symbol to give you some sound and display options. There will also be a rules button to open up a full set of the rules.
Thinking about Slots
That’s everything you need to know to play a slot. Most players are way beyond thinking about this stuff and are happy to rock up to a machine and start mashing the green button. We’d advise you to slow down and go back to fundamentals.
For a start, you can make sure you’ve read a review of the game in question to see what sort of value it offers. This will be recorded as a theoretical return to player (RTP) figure. Almost all of these figures these days are close to 100%, usually between 95% and 97%. The higher the figure the more money you are more likely to see going back into your balance.
You might also be able to find a hit rate calculation that will tell you how often the machine will deliver winning spins. More common is a volatility or variability rating (low, medium, or high) that records the game’s risk level – low volatility games pay out more often, but pay smaller prizes; high volatility games pay out less often, but the prizes are larger. These ratios will simply play into how the RTP figure is delivered.
And read the rules fully. You can play most games without thinking. But why not understand the game and really get into it? That way you’ll have a slower and more involved experience, and you’re more likely to make good decisions when you are called on to make them. Playing slowly is also safer. Knowing your balance and your bet levels is a great way to start staying safe.