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How to Win at Slots

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BestOnlineCasinos.ca is dedicated to helping customers find the best place to play online. Your safety and well-being is a priority, which is why all of our expert casino reviews are 100% honest and unbiased, and we highlight the key terms and conditions of every casino bonus we advertise. Whilst we accept commission from the casinos on our list of recommendations, and this may affect where they’re positioned on our lists, we only recommend casinos that we truly believe are safe and fair. Of course, we can’t rate and review every casino site, but we do make sure that only the best licensed casinos make it onto our lists.

Ever since the invention of slot machines, players have enjoyed the thrill of spinning the reels for a chance to win the jackpot. You’ve likely seen talk of slot machine strategy or claims of how to win at slots, but how true are they?

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In this guide, we’ll cut through the noise and let you in on the things you can actually do to maximize your returns when you play slots.

Once you’re ready, browse some of our featured online slots sites and take advantage of our bonus offers

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How To Play Slot Games Online

If you’re not already familiar with online slot games, the concept is simple: players stake real money bets and hit the spin button to set the reels of the slot machine in motion. Once they settle, if matching symbols appear in certain positions across what’s known as a payline, the player is awarded a payout based on which symbols they’ve matched. 

Online slots come in many different shapes and sizes, and using a free spins bonus is a great way to try some out. This section will walk through some of the most common formats and features you’ll come across.

3 Reel Slots

A slot machine is made up of several spinning reels with a selection of symbols on each. Slots with three reels might sometimes be called classic or traditional slots, since this is the typical format found on physical slot machines. One payline always runs through the centre of the reels, but diagonal paylines are standard too. 

5 Reel Slots

Five-reel slots function much like their three-reel counterparts, but the addition of two more reels allows for more payline shapes. These games might also have more rows, offering extra payline options and more ways to win. Most paylines start from the left-hand side, so you’ll only win if your matching symbols cover the first reel. 

Bonus Slots

Most slot games you’ll see today can be considered some form of bonus slot, a term referring to the availability of bonus rounds within the game. The rounds are often triggered by matching particular combinations on the reels, such as three scatter symbols anywhere on the board. Players then begin the bonus round, which usually grants them free spins and may unlock other bonus mechanics such as multipliers.

Feature Slots

With so many titles available, many slots try to stand out from the crowd with special gameplay features. Some are unique to a particular title while others are more common. Examples include:

  • Wild symbols – these count as any symbol and can help complete a winning payline.
  • Scatter symbols – these symbols pay out whenever they appear on the reels. Landing three at the same time often unlocks further bonus features within the game such as a free spins round. 
  • Expanding or stacked wilds – like a normal wild, but these symbols fill the whole reel to give players a chance to win on more paylines. 
  • Ways-to-win slots – these slot machines offer players a huge number of paylines, sometimes into the hundreds of thousands.

Progressive Slots

Progressive slots can be particularly exciting. With every spin of the reels, a portion of each stake is added to the progressive jackpot amount in real time. This jackpot is linked to a network of games, so all players of that slot are contributing to the same prize; once somebody wins the jackpot, the amount is reset and starts to build up again. Check the slot’s rules before you play, as you might only be able to win the jackpot if you’re placing the maximum bet with each spin. 

Mobile Slots

Since slots are suitable for both short and long play sessions, it’s no surprise they’re so popular on mobile devices. Game developers have remastered many of their classic titles for smaller screens, implementing intuitive touch controls and vibrant graphics.

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Odds of Winning Slot Games

While the exact odds of payouts are a closely guarded secret of the game developers, there are some rules of thumb that can be applied for a rough idea. 

Imagine a three-reel slot with 20 unique symbols on each reel. Across three reels, there are a total of 8,000 combinations in total (20×20×20), so each combination has an 8,000-to-1 chance of appearing on the payline. 

In reality, symbols appear on each reel more than once. Let’s say five of the 20 symbols are the same on each reel ‒ the odds of the reel landing on that symbol are shortened to 4-to-1, so the chance of landing three on the payline is 64-to-1. Because you’re more likely to land on these symbol combinations, they pay out lower amounts than the rarer ones.

Once you start adding more reels, the numbers get much larger. A five-reel slot with 20 symbols on each reel has a whopping 3.2 million possible combinations. As the big jackpot is the rarest prize, your chance of winning it is in the ballpark of 1 in 3.2 million.

Slot players should keep in mind that these numbers are not exact. Online slots use complex programming to ensure they pay out at the intended rate, and implement a random number generator (RNG) to determine the outcomes. All licensed developers have their games vetted by independent third parties to ensure they’re programmed in a way that’s fair to gamblers. 

One final note: some slots are designed to give the best odds to players when they bet the maximum or play all the paylines with each spin. Check the rules of the game as they can help you improve your chances of winning.

Slot Variance and RTP

Variance and return to player (RTP) percentages are two important concepts to understand when choosing a slot to play. We’ve explained them for you below.

Always remember that wins are never guaranteed on slot machines. Long runs with no hits are possible on all machines, no matter their RTP and variance, and you should always gamble responsibly

Variance

Also known as volatility, variance is the frequency and size of payouts on a given slot machine. A slot with high volatility will pay out less often but the wins will be larger; the reverse is true of low-variance slots, where players will see hits more often but in smaller sizes. 

Think about what you’d prefer when you play. If you’d rather see smaller wins more often, you could opt for a low-variance slot. If you’ve got your eyes set on a big jackpot and don’t mind long streaks without a hit, you might prefer more volatile slots. 

RTP

A slot’s RTP percentage is the amount a slot machine pays out to players on average. For example, a slot with 95% RTP will theoretically pay out $95 for every $100 paid in. RTP rates are calculated over millions of games, so you won’t notice it impacting your playing session, but machines with a higher RTP offer better returns in the long run. 96% is a good starting point.

Top Online Slots Games


Today, the number of online video slots titles ranges into the thousands. We’ve selected five popular choices below to help you get your feet wet. Before trying any new slot, we’d recommend playing the demo mode or using a free spins bonus to get to grips with any unique mechanics. 

Name Release year Developer RTP Variance Paylines Min bet Max bet Max bet Mobile Claim Bonus Review Information
Release year
Developer
RTP
96.09%
VARIANCE
Low
Paylines
10
Min bet
10p
Max bet
$100
Mobile
Progressive
Claim Bonus
Available at Slotnite
Since NetEnt released Starburst in 2012, it’s become one of the most popular titles in the world, despite its simple design. With an RTP of 96.1% and low volatility, Starburst is a great choice for new players as it lacks some of the more complicated features seen on other games. Starburst’s wild symbols are expanding and they take up the entire reel when you land one, helping to facilitate wins across the game’s ten paylines. Although there’s no jackpot or free spins round, something about this five-reel slot keeps players coming back for more.
Release year
Developer
RTP
95.97%
VARIANCE
Medium-High
Paylines
20
Min bet
20p
Max bet
$50
Mobile
Progressive
Claim Bonus
Available at 888 Casino
Following the eponymous conquistador on his search for El Dorado, Gonzo’s Quest is a five-reel slot from NetEnt with 20 fixed paylines set across three rows. The volatility is medium to high, with a maximum payout of 2,500x the stake and an RTP of 95.97%. One of the most exciting features in Gonzo’s Quest is the avalanche reels. When players land a winning combination, the symbols are destroyed and replaced with new ones, allowing players to chain their wins and unlock multipliers up to 5x. Gonzo’s Quest includes wilds and scatters too ‒ landing three scatters on the first three reels activates the free spins round.
Release year
Developer
RTP
96.52%
VARIANCE
High
Paylines
25
Min bet
25p
Max bet
$6.25
Mobile
Progressive
Claim Bonus
Available at Casino Dome
Responsible for some of the biggest slot payouts in history, the main draw of Mega Moolah is its four progressive jackpots. This medium-variance slot has 25 paylines across five reels and three rows, along with wilds, scatters, and free spins rounds. Although the published RTP is a low 88.12%, the chance of a big win is what attracts many players to this Microgaming title. The Mega Jackpot regularly climbs into the millions and once paid out a record $27.6 million to a very lucky player.
Release year
Developer
RTP
96.65%
VARIANCE
Medium
Paylines
243
Min bet
30p
Max bet
$15
Mobile
Progressive
Claim Bonus
Available at FruitKings
Rounding out the list is Microgaming’s Thunderstruck 2. Players can net a maximum payout of 8,100x their stake, with 243 paylines across the 5x3 format. There are four successive free spins rounds in this medium-variance slot, which comes with an RTP of 96.65%.

Immortal Romance

Microgaming’s Immortal Romance is a 243-payline slot, which means there are 243 different routes to payouts on this 5×3 game. The RTP clocks in at 96.86% and it’s a highly volatile slot due to its bonus games, Wild Desire and Chamber of Spins. The range of bonus features is vast: players will encounter wilds, scatters, achievements and other unique mechanics. 

Slot Site Bonus Wins

When you land a winning combination on a payline, there are different ways the game can reward you. You can read about a few of them below.

Cash Payout

Cash payouts are the bread and butter of slots wins. When you match a winning combination of symbols on a line, the payout is added to your balance. The amount you win is determined by your stake and the symbols you match. 

Imagine you’re playing one payline and matching three of a particular symbol pays 20x your stake — if you bet $1, you’ll win $20. You can consult the slot’s pay table to find exact numbers for each winning combination.  

Progressive Jackpots

Progressive jackpots are where a portion of the stake is added to the prize each time a player spins the reels of the slot. They can reach eye-watering sums of money before they’re won, sometimes into the millions. 

Every progressive jackpot slot is part of a connected network, so everyone playing that slot is adding to the same jackpot, even if they’re playing at different casinos. Once it’s won, the amount is reset to the starting level. 

Don’t forget that you’re essentially playing against others for the jackpot and that someone else could win it. Check the rules of the machine for any betting requirements too ‒ you may have to bet the maximum wager or activate all the paylines to be in with a chance of winning.

Free Spins

Free spins are part of many slot games, and they’re usually awarded to the player during bonus rounds. How these rounds are triggered varies, but one common way is by landing three or more scatter symbols on the board. 

The most exciting slot games include extra mechanics that multiply winnings resulting from free spins. Check the rules to make sure you understand any special features.

Ready to Play Slot Games Online?

Now you know how to win at slots online, why not browse some of our top slots welcome offers and online casinos? There are plenty of titles available and a free spins welcome bonus is a great way to try out some different games, especially ones with no wagering requirements.

FAQs

  • Sometimes, but it’s likely you’ll also lose. Slots are a game of chance and players have no control over the outcome. You can improve your chances of returns by choosing machines with high RTP and a variance appropriate to your bankroll, but this is no guarantee.

  • No. The odds of each slot game are determined by the software developer. However, odds can vary between different slot games.

  • Always make sure the slot site holds a gambling licence from a reputable authority. We only recommend licensed sites at BestOnlineCasinos.ca.

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