Brick and mortar casinos and online casinos both have one key thing in common – an abundance of slots games. Slot machines and games are an enigma to many people – how do those mysterious spinning reels decide when to stop?
Many think that a lot of cheating is involved in these games. But that is just plain ignorance of the facts. If you want to learn all about the technology behind online slots and how to play them well, read on.
Online Slots – what are they?
Slots machines were a type of gambling machines invented in the late 1800s. They became massively popular because they were simple to operate and incredibly addictive to play. With a lot of fancy lights, bells and whistles, these early machines had a hypnotic aura.
Things have changed but the concept remains the same.
Over time, modern video slots machines replaced the mechanical ones in the 1970s. With the rise of computers and the internet, online slots became the next big thing. These are graphical video games that simulate a slot machine screen, replete with spinning reels, themes, and music.
Early online slots games copied the design elements from classic slot machines. Over time, they have evolved with more spinning reels, special bonus rounds, exciting storylines, and other cool features.
RNG – the core of an online slots game
Slots games are fun because nobody can predict what the outcome would be every time the reels are spun. In modern video slots machines and online slots games, this is achieved by using advanced software called Random Number Generators, or RNG.
The RNG is basically complicated software filled mathematical equations and algorithms. They are designed to provide a constant stream of fully random numbers. Modern RNG software can generate hundreds of random numbers per second.
When you spin the reels at an online slots game, the numbers generated at that exact moment decides the outcome of that play. For example, if you are playing a 3 reel slot, the game picks the 3 numbers generated the very moment you clicked the play button on the screen.
The importance of independent testing
There are several ways in which operators and players can cheat at slots. A truly random RNG system is the only thing preventing this from happening. There are several mechanisms in place in a slots game to ensure this.
The RNG does not store past numbers, as it could be used for cheating the system. The RNG also does not stop generating numbers, even when the game is not being played. This ensures maximum fairness in a slot game for the players.
The algorithm must be designed to ensure that certain numbers are not given priority or weight, as this could be used by the house to reduce the chance of player wins. To ensure this, a system of independent testing has been developed.
Online slots games are sent to these third-party labs where they closely examine the RNG software to ensure that everything is working properly and without any suspicious codes. You can find a list of approved testing labs at the website of Gambling Authorities, like this one here.
Understanding how RTP works in slots
Return to Player (RTP) is the term used by casinos to describe what percentage of the wagered money a player can expect to get back from a slots game over time. This can be best explained with the following example:
Consider a slots game with a stated RTP of 95%. If you place 100 bets of $1 each at the game, you can expect to get around $95 back. The rest is kept by the casino as its profit.
RTP exists because casinos are a business, and businesses hate dealing with random chance. The house needs a guaranteed advantage, as a sort of insurance if you will. If the RTP is 95%, you can say that the house edge is 5%.
In the short term, a lot of unpredictable things can happen in a slot machine or game. You could win a jackpot with your first spin, or tenth! But over the long term, the RTP and house edge ensures that the casino gets a reliable stream of revenue from online slots.
Making sense of pay-lines
In order to win at online slots, the symbols on the reel have to align in a certain specific order. A simple pay-line would go from left to right, in the same row of a three reel slot – get the three symbols aligned in that row and you win a prize.
But not all pay-lines are straight or restricted to just one row. Modern 5-reel and 6-reel slots have anywhere from 20 to 50 or more pay-lines, with many that zig-zag from one side of the reel to the other.
With these pay-lines, you have the chance of winning prizes even if the special symbols are not aligned in perfect lines on the screen. If you want to try your hands at modern 5-reels with these bonus features, and you want to try them with a free spins bonus, you will find the best ones here.
The different slots symbols explained
Every modern online slots game has a unique theme, which also influences the appearance of the symbols on the reels. Regular symbols are usually based on classic card symbols like spades, clubs, diamonds, J, K, Q, A etc.
The bonus symbols are usually inspired by the theme of the game. Though they may look nothing like each other, all the slots symbols can be arranged into these different categories:
Wild – When they appear, these symbols have the power to substitute any regular symbol on the screen, increasing your chance of hitting a payline.
Scatter – these usually trigger bonus rounds and special prizes in modern slots games. When more than one of these appear on your screen, they can trigger a winning spin even if you fail to hit a payline.
Bonus – as their name suggests, you get more prizes, special rounds, and other advanced features when a bonus symbol appears on the game screen.
Multiplier – Often found as 2X, 3X, or 4X, this helps multiply the current score of your play, and can drastically increase your prize money from that round.
Using the bonus features & double up
The fun thing with most of these features is that you don’t have to do any complicated calculations. They all fall into place on their own when you press the play button.
Some games do offer you a choice between two or three different bonuses. Just pick one that looks better to you!
Double up is another optional feature in many online slots – it is basically the slots version of a “double or nothing” bet. If you enable this feature, if you win the next round, you get a chance to double what you have won.
But if you lose, you lose everything. So it is a high-risk maneuver best used when the stakes are low, like less than ten or twenty bucks. If you have won a couple of thousand dollars, you may not want to use this as you could end up with nothing in your hands!
How to pick the ideal online slots
- If you are a beginner, start with classic 3-reel slots to learn the basics
- Always look for slots with higher RTP ratings, above 95 if possible
- Check if the slots game has been independently tested for RNG
- If you want to spend less, play on games with lesser paylines
- See if the game comes with free spin bonuses