A Guide to Playing Online Slots

Online slot games are without a doubt one of the most popular types of casino games that players can enjoy. Be it 3 reel slots, 5 reel slots, classic or more modern themes, straightforward gameplay or heaps of bonus rounds, there is a type of slot for every casino player.

The first slot games can be traced back to very simple mechanical games that operated in pubs and generally offered a single winning payline. Even though mechanical slots did advance significantly and are still available in most land-based casinos, online casinos have made it possible to reimagine the way slot games can be designed.

In this Betfair Casino guide to playing online slots, we will be covering quite a bit of technical but useful information for avid slot players. Our guide will focus on:

  • key features of slots
  • different types of paylines
  • 3 reel slots vs 5 reel slots
  • some popular names of slot machines

How do Slots work?

Online reel casino games are designed in line with original mechanical games that are still present in the World’s most famous casinos – a bet is placed, the reels start to spin, and a combination of symbols make up a winning payline to give the player a payout.

This simple premise is characteristic for all types of casino games, but online slots also come with a wide range of special features and bonus rounds that make gameplay more interesting. Digital technologies have allowed game developers to further enhance the slot experience for players and create better types of casino games - Betfair Casino offers over 200 different types of slot titles to choose from!

Key Design Features

Despite this, the majority of online slot games come with a series of key design features that are essential in understanding how slots work:

  • BANKROLL: sometimes also referred to as the balance, this shows a player the funds available in their account for placing bets on the next slot spin.
  • PAYTABLE: every slot reel casino game will include a paytable that displays the winning symbol combinations for that game, and the payouts for each of them. In general, paytables are accessed in the information or help sections of slot games.
  • SLOT REELS: this is by far the most prominent and important feature of all types of slot games. Traditional games and some classic theme modern titles are classified as 3 reel slots, while 5 reel slots have become quite prominent for more feature-heavy games. Some of the newest slot games also come in 6 or more reels!
  • BET PER LINE: depending on the types of casino games, some slots have fixed paylines while others have variable ones. In the cases of fixed paylines, bets are placed on all the paylines available in the game. In the case of variable paylines, players can adjust the wager they want to place on each line.
  • NUMBERS OF LINES: as per the above, in the case of variable paylines, players can also choose the paylines that they want to place their bets on.
  • TOTAL BET: irrespective of whether the reel casino slot has fixed or variable paylines, the game will always display the total bet. In the case of variable payline games, this will be calculated as per the bet amount per line multiplied by the number of lines selected.
  • SPIN BUTTON: the last and most important button on any slot game is the spin or play button to start a new round.

Key Gameplay Features

The visual components of a slot are not the only important things that players should understand about the different types of slot games. This article will also cover some important gameplay features that frequently show up in all top slot machine games. We have already covered slot symbols and other tips in another one of our blog posts, which we strongly advise you to also read through for more information.  

  • PAYLINE: the winning lines in slot games are referred to as slot machine paylines, the number of which varies significantly between different types of casino games.
  • WILD SYMBOLS: Wild symbols or Wilds are an interesting feature of modern online slot games that are often designed specifically for the theme of a given slot game. Wilds generally substitute for other symbols during gameplay, and when they fall on a payline alongside other symbols, they can give players decent payouts.
  • FREE SPINS: a very popular gameplay feature in some of the top slot machine games is to give players free spins – potentially winning spins at no extra charge. These can be triggered during the main game by players when they meet certain specific criteria, and the number of free spins varies from one game to another.
  • RTP: This is the Return to Player, a measure that is used to calculate the number of casino payouts that the online slot will give back to players for each unit that is wagered over time. This will be covered in more detail in a section of this article below.

Slot Paylines

For players to win a payout from a reel casino slot game, they need to land a specific combination of symbols along with one of the game’s slot machine paylines. These can come in a wide variety of directions and patterns, each of which varies depending on the different types of slot games.

Classic slot games will have one or a handful of slot paylines, while modern titles can feature multiple paylines that can also run in the thousands! As such, it is highly recommended that players discover the different slot machine paylines offered by a game before placing any bets.

Slot paylines can be both fixed or variable, depending on the game. They can also follow simple straight lines, can zig-zag across the reels, and can also run from different sides of the reels. No matter the type of slot paylines, this feature is key to a fun experience when playing reel casino slots.

Fixed Paylines

Online slot games that make use of fixed slot paylines are a very popular choice for players, as these are classified as being all-or-nothing games. In slot terms, this means the wager placed on a single slot game is distributed across all the available slot paylines. Therefore, if a given slot has 20 fixed slot machine paylines and a player wages 20 coins for one spin, they are effectively betting one coin for each payline. This translates to one coin wagered for every winning combination landed.

Depending on the types of casino games, slots with fixed paylines will provide players with additional opportunities to land winning combos through bonuses. These can include wild symbols that create more winning combos, free spin bonus rounds, and even re-spins. Such features increase the chance of a larger payout from these types of casino games, while also retaining highly entertaining gameplay.

Adjustable Paylines

There are quite a number of online slots that make use of variable or adjustable paylines. In general, such slots are preferred by players that enjoy a more flexible approach to placing their bets. As implied, slots with adjustable paylines will have a maximum number of possible slot machine paylines available, with the player being able to choose the amount to wager on before a spin.

Before starting a new round in such slots, players can adjust the number of slot paylines to wager on, as well as the bet they want to place per line. The total bet for each spin will always be displayed on the reel in such slot machine games. Adjustable paylines are a very useful feature for players that want to manage their bankroll effectively. In terms of payouts, such slot paylines carry a higher element of chance. Naturally, players that place a big wager on a payline and land a winning combination will receive a high payout. On the other hand, winning combinations that land on inactive paylines will give no payouts.

Multiple Ways to Win

A growing number of modern types of casino games are offering players multiple ways to win, that include what appear to be multiple slot paylines in a given slot game. This has become possible as a result of the all-ways-win system, where every possible line across the reel is transformed into a payline. Taking 5 reel slots with three rows as an example, they can offer up to a possible 3x3x3x3x3 paylines, or 243!

These types of slot games are becoming increasingly popular as they do not offer a set number of slot paylines to win, irrespective of whether the paylines are fixed or variable. Instead, payouts are awarded to players when they land three or more matching symbols starting from the leftmost reel.

Slot games that have more than 5 reels will offer even more ways to win. In addition, some slot games make use of the Megaways slot mechanics, which offers reels with a possible minimum of seven different rows across 6 reels for an incredible 117,649 ways to win!

3-reel vs 5-reel slots

When it comes to slots, these types of casino games are generally distinguished by the number of reels. 3 reel slots are associated with classic titles, while 5 reel slots are more often linked to modern games. There is no clear set of rules when it comes to these different types of slot games, but there is a general trend that players should be aware of.

  • 3 reel slots are the preferred titles for players that enjoy simple games and that have a strong nostalgic feeling towards classic games with fruit symbols, diamonds and bar signs. In general, these games have a handful of slot machine paylines and include slower-paced gameplay. These features make 3 reel slots an ideal choice for first-time players who are looking to start dabbling in the world of online slots.
  • On the other hand, 5 reel slots are the preferred choice for players that are after games with a large number of paylines, high-quality graphics, and a lot of bonus features. In general, 5 reel slots have a higher capacity to support intricate designs and complex themes. As such, there are thousands of interesting titles on the market, some of which are also available at Betfair Casino.

Slot RTP and Variance

When it comes to playing online slots, RTP and variance are very important features for players to understand when approaching these types of casino games. The Return to Player, or RTP, is a measure in all types of slot games that is used to calculate the payout amount that the slot will give back to players for each unit that is wagered over time. This is generally presented as a percentage, and it varies from one game to another. For example, in a slot game with a 95% RTP, if a player places one hundred bets each having a value of 1, the expected payouts for that player should be around 95.

When it comes to slot variance or volatility, both terms which are generally used interchangeably, this measure is used to help players understand the likelihood of a spin landing winning slot machine paylines and what the payout could be. Online slots are generally referred to as having a high, medium, or low volatility. Highly volatile slots will entail a higher risk with a potentially high payout, while low variance slots have less risk and more modest payouts.

At Betfair Casino, we have covered the concepts of slot RTP and variance in greater detail in one of our articles. While there is no direct correlation between RTP and variance for any one slot game, both measures will allow players to make a more informed decision as to which slots suit their gaming needs.

RTP is a measure that helps players identify which are potentially the best payout slot games, while volatility allows players to better manage their bankroll for a more effective gaming experience.

Top Slot Machine Games

In this guide to playing online slots, we have covered quite a wide range of topics that will be of benefit to players looking for detailed information about reel slot games. To give players some more practical examples, we have compiled a shortlist with popular names of slot machine games, some of which are also available at Betfair Casino.

  • MEGA FORTUNE: one of the top slot machine games by NetEnt. This 5-reel slot features 25 slot paylines and includes symbols that show luxury items such as cars, yachts, and expensive jewellery, and a massive jackpot.
  • CLEOPATRA: the Egyptian theme is one of the popular choices for online slots, and this title by IGT is by far one of the most recognised. With classic symbols such as scarabs, pyramids, and the Eye of Horus, players can land several free spins across 5 reels and 20 slot machine paylines. Cleopatra is currently available at Betfair Casino.
  • STARBURST: the simplest concepts often make for the best ones, and this is what best describes NetEnt’s Starburst. This title has become iconic in the online gaming industry, with 5 reels, 10 paylines, futuristic music, and its custom Starburst Wild feature, which can also be enjoyed at Betfair Casino!
  • GONZO'S QUEST: Another incredible title by NetEnt which is also available at Betfair Casino, Gonzo’s Quest is one of those top slot machine games that just never ages! Played across 5 reels and 20 paylines, this slot includes interesting features such as avalanche multipliers, free spins, and more.
  • AGE OF THE GODS: Players at Betfair Casino looking for an adventure with Ancient Greek Gods must check out Age of the Gods. One of the best names of slot machines on the market, this game by Playtech is played over 5 reels and 20 slot paylines and can be played in 4 free game modes each inspired by the Gods Athena, Zeus, Hercules, and Poseidon.

FAQs

How do I play slots?

Online reel casino games are designed in line with original mechanical games that are still present in the World’s most famous casinos – a bet is placed, the reels start to spin, and a combination of symbols make up a winning payline to give the player a payout.

What are some key slot design features?

All top slot machine games have a box displaying the player’s bankroll, a paytable with the different symbols and their payouts, the reels, available betting options, and a spin button to start the game.

What are the key gameplay features in slots?

In general, all slot games will come with a set amount of paylines, can include Wild symbols that increase payouts during gameplay, and can also have bonus rounds that give free spins.

What is the difference between fixed and adjustable paylines?

When a game has fixed slot paylines, the amount wagered is split as an average across all available paylines in the game. Therefore, in a slot with 20 fixed paylines, when 20 coins are wagered per spin this effectively translates to one coin for each payline. Slots with adjustable paylines will have a maximum number of possible paylines, with the player being able to choose the number of lines to wager on before a spin.

What is the difference between 3 reel slots and 5 reel slots?

3 reel slots have simpler gameplay that makes them ideal for beginners or low risk-taking players. On the other hand, 5 reel slots are the preferred choice for players that are after games with a large number of paylines, high-quality graphics, and a lot of bonus features.

What is RTP?

The RTP meaning is Return to Player, which is a measure in percentage that is used to calculate the number of casino payouts that the online slot will give back to players for each unit that is wagered over time.

What is slot volatility?

Online slot volatility allows players to understand the likelihood of a spin landing a winning payline and what the payout could be. Slots are classified as having low or high volatility.

Does Betfair Casino offer any popular names of slot machine games?

Yes, there are several well-recognised slot machines games at Betfair Casino, which include the likes of Cleopatra, Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, and Age of the Gods.