How to Play Slot Machines | Full Guide to Rules and Features

Written by: Aaron Kim , Online Casino Writer & Specialist in Slots

Slot machines are like video games where you spin reels to match symbols and win credits. Everyone stops by them at casinos, hoping to win big. The factor that makes them so appealing is the jackpot prizes they offer.

To play, you just have to pick a machine you like, check how much you win for matching symbols, put in money, choose how much to bet, spin, and see if you win!

Casino sites offer hundreds of titles with various themes and ways to play, so this slot machine guide can help beginners understand it all.

Below, I’ll cover everything from how slots work to the rules and strategies to make the most of your time at the reels.

Table of Contents

Everything You Need To Play and Win Online

How to Play Slots in a Nutshell

Once you know the anatomy of the game, you can start to put it all together. Below is a quick step-by-step explanation of how to play casino slots.

  1. Find a Slot Machine Game

    Browse around the casino floor or online gambling site and choose a fun slot that offers bet limits that suit your budget.
  2. Get to Know the Rules and Paylines

    Read the game rules before you put money in or press the spin button. When playing slots online, you can hit a button that gives you the rules, but in person, they should be printed or scrolled across the screen.

    Some modern machines have touch screens that will take you to the rules page with paytables.
  3. Set up Your Play & Make Your Bet

    Designate your wager amount and the number of paylines you want to employ. Your bet and payout per spin will depend on how many credits or coins you play per payline.

    The old machines may take coins, but most newer ones work with bills or tickets you purchase at a window.
  4. Hit the Spin Button or Pull the Arm

    You can spin one at a time or sometimes auto-spin multiple times.

    Your balance will change with each spin, displaying the win amount as you go. Old machines will usually spin out coins in real-time.

How Slots Work

Craigslist Slot Machine

Slots are the most popular casino game worldwide. 

Nowadays, when you walk into a casino, you will find two types of machines: Mechanical slots with plastic reels that spin mechanically and simulated slots presented in computer graphics.

Slots are kind of the enigma of the casino. This special machine randomly spits out money after rows and columns of fruits and dragons spin around in circles. So, what is the deal, and how do slot machines work?

The dawn of these games was entirely mechanical, and they worked much more like pinball machines. A pull of the arm would trigger tubes, wires, physical reels, and motors into action, and where they stopped, nobody knows.

If they landed just right, you’d get a payout.

Today’s digital or video slots, both in-person and online, run on random number generators (RNG) that calculate the outcome of a spin using an algorithm.

The second you press the button or pull the arm, the outcome is determined, and the rest of what you see on the screen is all for show. It didn’t always used to be that way, though.

Types of Slot Machines

Below is a description of the types of slots you’ll find at the best online casinos.

One game might be described as two or more of the sub-types listed below. For instance, a video slot might be progressive and interactive as well.

video slot icon

Video Slots

Video slots require a video screen to play the game.

3d animated slots icon

3D Animated Slots

These are video slots that use 3D animations.

skill based slot icon

Skill-Based Slots

These types have skill elements that mimic online games.

progressive slot icon

Progressive Slots

The jackpot increases with every spin from a pool of players.

multiple paylines slot icon

Multiple Payline Slots

These machines have dozens of paylines you can select.

reel slots icon

Reel Slot Machines

The more traditional slots are the reels. There are usually 3 to 5 reels in classic slots.

penny slot machine icon

Penny Slot Machines

These are games that accept the smallest bets.

interactive slot icon

Interactive Slots

These are games where the player interacts with the game.

Slot Machine Symbols Explained

Understanding slot symbols can help you make the best of your gameplay.

The games offer bonus features that give players a sense of accomplishment and the idea that something special is about to happen.

Below, we included the most common symbols so you can start getting familiar with them.

Standard Symbols

The standard symbols essentially act as fillers in a slot machine.

Many times, the face card symbols, fruit, or 7s make up this category. Each pays at different rates.

Wild Symbols

Wilds substitute for other symbols in the game, making it easier to hit winning combos.

They usually don’t replace scatters or other special symbols.

Scatter Symbols

Scatters are special symbols that have specific functions according to the game you’re playing.

In many games, they trigger various special features.

Bonus Symbols

Games may have one or several bonus symbols that unlock special rounds or payout in some unique way.

Look for sticky symbols, bonus rounds, and symbols that fill an entire reel to help create big wins.

Multiplier Symbols

Multipliers are unique features that multiply your winnings by a predetermined figure.

If this symbol lands on a winning line when you spin, it increases your winnings. Multipliers can go anywhere from 2x to over 100x.

Free Spin Symbols

The scatter often covers free spin rounds, but occasionally, you’ll find games with unique free spin symbols.

As few as one can trigger the game to turn the reels a preset amount automatically.

Understanding Slot Machine Paylines

The earliest 3 reel games only had one pay line. However, as features evolved, so did the number of paylines, to the point where some games have dozens or even hundreds.

Here’s what you can expect with slot machine payouts based on the number of paylines.

slot machine payline - single payline

Single Payline Slots

You must land symbols directly in the center reel to win in single pay line games.

slot machine payline - 20-30 icons

20 to 30 Paylines

Many 5 reel games feature 20, 25, or 30 paylines. This offers more chances to win.

slot machine payline - 243 ways to win

243 Ways to Win

A 243 ways game allows 243 paylines to be created as long as they’re in adjacent reels.

slot machine payline - 1024 ways to win

1,024 Ways to Win

These are the same concept as 243 ways slots, except they create 1,024 ways to win.

Top Casinos to Play Slot Machines

The best casino sites have slots that you can play for real money. They support the most common forms of payment, including Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Bitcoin.

Let’s take a closer look at the sites we recommend.

RANK ONLINE CASINO BONUS # OF SLOTS RTP START
1 DuckyLuck Casino Logo DuckyLuck Casino BONUS 500% up to $7,500 # OF SLOTS 600 RTP 97.43% Play Now
2 Bovada Casino Logo Bovada Casino BONUS 125% up to $3,750 # OF SLOTS 435 RTP 96.98% Play Now
3 SlotsandCasino Logo SlotsandCasino BONUS 500% up to $7,500 # OF SLOTS 594 RTP 97.12% Play Now
4 BetUS Logo BetUS BONUS 150% up to $3,000 # OF SLOTS 367 RTP 96.83% Play Now
5 Cafe Casino Logo Cafe Casino BONUS 350% up to $2,500 # OF SLOTS 176 RTP 96.95% Play Now

How to Beat Slot Machines

Slots are the simplest of casino games to play. You just bet and spin.

But learning to play the right way is a matter of money management, discipline, and taking advantage of things that give you the best returns. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1

Use Bonuses

With bonuses, casinos can start you off with money to spend while finding the right slot game.

You can also earn rewards at land-based casinos if you join the casino’s complimentary club.

Take these deals when you can.

2

Use Free Spins

You can pick up these freebies when joining online casinos or with a land-based operation’s loyalty membership.

Often part of a bonus, these deals give you a designated number of spins at no cost.

3

Try New Slots

Don’t play on slots that recently won. A machine that recently hit big won’t pay well again soon.

Find one that hasn’t hit big in a while. You may even watch another player play out and give up.

Factors That Determine How Much Slots Payout

Use the guidelines below to find the slot machines with the highest chances of winning. We divide slots into two sections: those with the highest payout percentage and those with the biggest jackpots.

Highest Payout Percentage

Big Icon Payouts

One method is to choose machines with the highest payout percentage.

But where can I find these slots? As a general rule, Classic 3-Reel games with a fixed jackpot have a higher payout percentage.

Also, ensure the game has the highest coin denominations you can afford.

The bigger the coin denomination, the lower the house edge, and casino owners want to encourage high-stakes players to gamble at their venue.

Largest Jackpot

Progressive Jackpot Icon

Progressive slot machines are going to be the games with the largest jackpots.

A progressive jackpot accumulates over time. Each spin that does not trigger the progressive feeds the pot by a little bit more.

These games can be any size, but the most famous ones range into the millions (or tens of millions) of dollars.

For example, when you hit a MegaBucks slot, it will pay out anywhere between $10 million and $40 million.

Slot Machine Odds

The slot machines with lower jackpots have better odds. Progressive jackpot machines are likely to have a high house edge. Classic 3-reels with small fixed maximum wins are likely to have a low house edge.

But, how can I find them? Return-to-player (RTP) and Volatility are essential for determining odds. Let’s take a look at the concepts to calculate better the chances of winning.

What is RTP and Slot Volatility?

The RTP (Return to Player) is the expected payout expressed as a percentage.

If a slot machine has an RTP of 97%, you can expect to win back $97 for every $100 wagered. If the RTP is 101%, you can expect to win back $101 for every $100 wage.

Volatility is how much a game tends to deviate from the RTP. In less volatile titles, you’re more likely to have winning sessions and hit the jackpot more often.

Playing games with high volatility, you’ll have more losing sessions but tend to win bigger jackpots when you do win.

Online Slot Machines with the Best Odds

RANK GAME RTP Casino Bonus Our Review
1RTP 96%Casino Bonus DuckyLuck Casino
$7,500
Read Game Review
2RTP 96.18%Casino Bonus Bovada Casino
$3,750
Read Game Review
3RTP 95.50%Casino Bonus SlotsandCasino
$7,500
Read Game Review

More Games We’ve Recently Reviewed

At OnlineUnitedStatesCasinos.com, we constantly try and review the top slot machine games at the best casino sites. We cover everything you need to know, including pay lines, bonus features, themes, and return-to-player (RTP).

Only with our exclusive reviews will you be able to watch video tutorials and play the best titles for free. Below you can find a complete review guide of all the titles available.

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    Common Slot Machine Myths

    New to slots? Don’t get tripped up by these common myths. Here are some of the biggest misconceptions out there.

    • Slots Go Through Hot and Cold Streaks: The reality is that slot machines use Random Number Generators (RNG), making each spin completely independent and random. Past spins don’t affect future outcomes.
    • Online Slots are Less Fair than Land-based Slots: Both game types use RNGs to ensure randomness, making them equally fair. Regulations are in place to ensure online casinos operate fairly.
    • Certain Times of Day Are Better for Winning: Slot machines work the same way all day, every day. There’s no better or worse time to play if you want to win more money.
    • There are Proven Tricks to Win More Money: There’s no magic button or sequence of bets to trick the slot machine. The result is completely random and independent of anything the player does.

    Are You Ready to Spin the Reels?

    Playing slot machines is all about simple, exciting gameplay and a bit of luck.

    Just pick a machine that catches your eye, check the payout info for matching symbols, put in your money, choose your bet, and spin the reels.

    Always keep it fun and set a budget before you play. Slots are about the thrill of the spin, so enjoy the ride and play responsibly.

    FAQ

    Here are a few common questions that slot machine players ask.

    Are slot machines rigged?

    No, slot machines aren’t rigged. Gaming commissions and casino auditors regulate the casinos to make sure that games are fair.

    What is a progressive slot machine?

    A progressive slot is a machine that offers a top payout that climbs as more players play the game. The game adds a portion of each wager to the progressive jackpot, and it keeps rising until a player wins it.

    Can I play slots for free?

    Yes! You can play slots for free. Many online casinos offer free-play demos of their games. You can’t win money, but it’s a good way to try different games. You can also play slots through social casino apps using free virtual currency.

    Additional Resources

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    Aaron Kim

    Aaron Kim Online Casino Writer & Specialist in Slots

    Aaron Kim is an author and online gambling expert who covers all aspects of casinos and specializes particularly in online slots. He's a well-travel sports fan who also loves video games and technology.

    Learn More About Aaron