First invented in the late 19th century, slots have grown in popularity with each passing decade, eventually becoming the most popular gambling game in the world.

Today, thousands of different video slot games are offered across live and online casinos, featuring hundreds of different themes, and countless gameplay mechanics and features.

Modern video slots offer infinite entertainment value and can be played for the lowest stakes around, making them the favorites among casual casino players.

But before you jump into the action, it is worth considering video slot payout rates, RTP, winning odds, and many other things.

In this guide, we are going to teach you how to play slots, what features to look out for, which games to avoid, and much more. Keep reading and become a real expert on video slots before you start spinning the reels of any of the popular machines.

What Are Video Slots?

Traditional slots machines are gambling games that use mechanical reels that spin to award a random prize. Video slots use video displays to simulate this effect. They are usually accompanied by interactive features and advanced graphics and often introduce multiple paylines, unique themes, and bonus games.

Video slots are available at regulated online casinos in the US and worldwide.

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Video Slots House Edge

One of the most common questions asked about any gambling game is the one about the house edge and winning odds.

When it comes to video slots, the house edge is highly variable: It can sit anywhere between 1% and 20%. Most only video slots have RTP rates of 95% – 97%, though there are some exceptions.

The fairly high house edge in most video slot games, combined with the extremely fast speed at which the games are played, makes slots much less favorable in terms of sheer expectations and returns than games like Blackjack or Baccarat.

Here are the theoretical RTP rates of a few of the most popular online slot games these days:

  1. Mega Moolah: 94%
  2. Big Bass Bonanza: 96.71%
  3. Sweet Bonanza: 96.48%
  4. Dead or Alive II: 96.8%
  5. Blood Suckers: 98%

Game Volatility

When looking at different slot games, volatility also comes into play along with the house edge and RTP rate. Slot volatility determines how often the game gives back small amounts of money, as well as how big the maximum wins are.

Regardless of the RTP rate and house edge being advertised by the slot developer, make sure to also look over the game’s paytable and figure out the volatility level of the slot in question.

Some modern video slots advertise their volatility level as well, which makes it easier for the players to find out whether they are looking at a high or low volatility game.

In either case, if you prefer one over the other, always do some research beyond the RTP rate and determine the slot’s volatility, as playing the wrong game could make the whole experience a lot less entertaining for you.

Basic Rules of Slots

Now that you are aware of slots being some of the less favorable games you can find in a casino in terms of house edge, it is time to discuss gameplay and rules of these games.

Over the years, many different types of video slots have been created, and while they do share quite a few of the basic rules and features, there are also quite a few differences to keep an eye out on.

Yet, once you get the handle of the most basic mechanics of video slots, you will be able to quickly adapt to new slot games and take in the new rules and features as you encounter them.

So, if you have never played video slots before, let us start with some of the most basic rules of video slots that apply to the vast majority of slot games.

Symbols and Paylines

Symbols are the most basic elements of all slot games. In each slot, different symbols will appear on the screen during each spin, aligned across a number of rows and columns.

Some common video slots setups include grids of three rows and five columns, four rows and five columns, four rows and six columns, and more.

As different symbols in each of these spots on the grid, you will be looking to get them aligned across the game’s paylines, which differ from one slot to the other.

In most slots, paylines are lined up from the left of the screen to the right, and the number of paylines can vary from just one to hundreds, and even thousands, in some of the modern games.

If a number of identical symbols are aligned across one of the game’s paylines, you will get paid in accordance with the slot’s paytable.

While there can be countless different symbols appearing in different video slots, some popular symbols are common in many slots, and you will want to look out for them.

Some of these include:

  1. Wild Symbols: Acting as a replacement for all other symbols in the game, Wilds are powerful symbols that give you extra chances at landing big wins.
  2. Multipliers: In many slot games, special symbols that multiply your win can appear on the reels, often acting as both wild and multiplier symbols.
  3. Scatter Symbols: Scatter symbols appear randomly across the reels, but work together regardless of their location. Except for offering payouts, Scatters often activate special game features as well.
  4. Bonus Symbols: Bonus symbols appear on the reels to activate special bonus rounds. Some games may require them to appear on a payline, while they act as Scatters in others.
  5. Free Spins: The Free Spins feature is one of the most common in video slots. Three or four Free Spins symbols anywhere on the reels may activate a round of Free Spins.

Slot Paytables

Before you start playing any video slot, the first thing you should do is check out the game’s paytable, which displays all the possible wins you can score in the game.

A quick look at a slot’s paytable will give you all the information you may need, including the maximum win and the bonus features you can start. The paytable, in most cases, shows all possible wins for each symbol, with combinations of three, four, five, or more symbols on a payline displayed.

Note that each slot game has a different paytable, and familiarizing yourself with this before you start playing will help you better understand the game.

That said, you can fully play video slots without ever looking at the paytable as well, as there is no real way to impact the outcomes or change the odds in your favor, whether you understand the paytable or not.

Features and Bonuses

Old-school slots used to be all about lining up the symbols across the paylines, but modern-day slots have introduced many ways to win prizes, with a variety of special features and bonus games added on top of the base wins.

Winning the bonus feature is the ultimate goal of most modern slots, as most big wins are hidden within these features.

The ways in which features are initiated can differ quite a bit. In some cases, you will need to land three or four scatter symbols, while in others, the bonus feature might be initiated completely randomly.

Today’s slots include dozens of different features, some of which you may find in just a couple of games, while others are common across many different slots.

Some of the most common bonus features you can expect to find include:

  • Free Spins: Free spins bonuses are usually initiated by scatter symbols. Winning free spins means getting a number of free rounds, during which additional features may be activated, such as win multipliers or expanding symbols.
  • Pick ‘n Win: This bonus feature lets you pick one of several items, depending on the game’s theme, with different cash values hidden underneath. Pick ‘n Win games can have multiple levels with prizes getting more lucrative with each level.
  • Multipliers: Slot games can include different types of multipliers. Some are attached to particular symbols, others are randomly won, and some can be accumulated across multiple consecutive spins, multiplying your total win.
  • Sticky Wilds: Wild symbols are frozen in their position for the next spin. Multiple sticky wilds can appear, often staying in place until activated. Some games offer endless sticky wilds during free spins rounds.
  • Expanding Wilds: When a wild symbol appears on the reels, it will expand to cover the entire reel. Expanding wilds can lead to massive wins in select video slot games.
  • Avalanches: Winning symbols are eliminated from the screen, with new symbols coming in to replace them. Each avalanche might trigger a new winning multiplier as well.
  • Megaways: One of the most popular features of modern slot games, Megaways allows the slot to offer up to thousands of winning lines per spin, often expanded even further during bonus rounds.
  • Bonus Buy: The Bonus Buy feature allows you to purchase the game’s main feature, usually Free Spins, for the price of 100 or more regular spins, instantly taking you into the bonus round.

Progressive Jackpots

One of the main reasons that many players choose to play video slots over other casino games is the promise of massive jackpots with some slots carry.

Progressive jackpots are offered by select slots in both online and live casinos, and the amounts you can potentially win go into the millions of dollars.

Of course, such jackpots are notoriously difficult to win, but the lucky winners have the chance to change their lives from the ground while investing very small amounts of money to spin the reels.

A progressive jackpot starts at a seed amount, which differs from one game to another, and grows over time as players play the game and try to win the jackpot. A percentage of every bet made on a progressive jackpot slot machine goes towards the jackpot, and the amount continues to grow with every spin.

It is worth noting that progressive jackpot slots typically have a lower base game RTP rate as the money going towards the jackpot is all paid out in one chunk to the big winner.

To learn more, check out our full guide, Online Casinos With Highest Slot Payouts: Biggest Jackpots. If you are in Michigan or Ontario, we also maintain the Michigan Online Casino Daily Jackpot Tracker and Ontario Online Casino Daily Slots Jackpot Tracker.

Playing Slots: Step by Step Guide

Video slots are among the simplest games you will find on a casino floor, and they don’t really require any skills to get started with. Whether you are playing in a live casino or an online one, you will be able to get into the action in a few easy steps.

Start Playing Slots, Step by Step

  1. Choose Your Casino: Before you can start playing slots, you have to choose the casino you will play at. If you are looking to play online, we recommend picking one of the online casinos with big welcome bonuses where you can get extra play for your money. Check out our guide to claiming free signup bonuses at US online casinos.
  2. Pick Your Video Slot: You will find hundreds of different video slots offered in online casino lobbies, as well as across the floors of live casinos. Pick your first game based on RTP percentage but also the theme and visual appeal of the game.
  3. Choose Your Bet Size: Picking the right bet size is a key element of playing slots. Make sure to adjust the bet size to your bankroll for the day and do not play too much on any given spin. The higher the game’s volatility levels, the lower you should be betting.
  4. Check Out the Paytable: Before you start spinning, make sure to look over the paytable and figure out how you can score the big wins. Understanding the game mechanics will help make the games more fun.
  5. Spin the Reels: Press the spin button when you are ready to start the action. Keep spinning the reels at your own pace and enjoy the spinning of the reels. If you prefer to sit back and enjoy the action, the auto-spin feature will do the work for you so you can simply enjoy without having to keep spinning the reels yourself.

Slots Strategy: Tips for Video Slots Players

With video slots being so popular, there are many people out there who will try to teach you their own slots strategy that is supposed to make you a long-term winner.

The truth is, it is not possible to be a long-term winner at video slots, as the RTP of these games simply makes it impossible to beat the odds and win money over a big sample of spins.

That said, slots are incredibly fun to play, and it can be extremely exhilarating to catch a winning streak and win a ton of cash in one good session.

There are also quite a few ways to increase your odds, limit your losses, and make playing fun both less expensive and more entertaining.

Here are our top tips to playing video slots in the most profitable and fun way possible.

Choose the Right Slots

The selection of video slot machines these days is quite massive, and it can be very easy to get lost in this variety and pick the wrong games.

If you want to get the very best out of your playing time, you should be aiming to play slots with a high RTP, appropriate volatility levels, and the right gameplay features and theme.

You want to find a game that’s fun for you personally, which will not be the same for every person, but also one that pays a high percentage of your bets back.

This will definitely limit the number of slots you get to choose from, but it will also make your sessions that much more fun, as you will have a better chance to win, and you will be playing a game you actually enjoy.

Play with Casino Bonuses

Most US online casino bonuses are designed with slot players in mind, so if you plan on playing slots, you should definitely make use of that fact.

Almost every online casino out there will give you a big welcome bonus when you make your first deposit to play slots, and many will even give you free spins before you make any deposit at all.

For example, if you sign up to PokerStars Casino in the US, your first deposit is matched up to $600 with a bonus that you can use on slots play.

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Using all the bonuses you can will give you more opportunities to spin the reels with the same investment, which means more chances to get lucky and score a big win.

What is even more, bonuses will let you play longer, have more fun, and try out more different games, which makes the whole experience that much more fun.

Start out by picking the casinos with the best no deposit and deposit bonuses for slots players, and always remember to pay special attention to bonus terms and conditions, which can sometimes hide some negative sides of the bonuses.

Play Within Your Bankroll

Video slots let you play for lower stakes than most other games and still offer chances for big wins even at the lowest stakes.

For this reason, playing higher than you can realistically afford to is never a good idea. Instead, you should make sure to always play at bet levels that you can afford and with money you do not mind losing.

Treat slots like a hobby and an entertainment, and consider any money you put into them already lost. If you end up winning, that’s just an extra bonus!

Online Slots & Casino Bonuses

A majority of casino bonuses have been created with slots in mind and if you are into slots, you’ll have the best time with these offers. There are very few restrictions when it comes to slots to and bonuses.

With most online casino bonuses, you’ll be able to play almost all slots available on a site, and you can expect your bets to contribute 100% to the wagering for the most part.

Some casinos will exclude slots with the highest RTP, and some, like PokerStars, will have a scale of wagering contributions based on the RTP number. All these details are listed in terms and conditions, so it’s always advisable to check for particularities of any given bonus.

Casino Bonus Slots Allowed? Jackpot Slots? Wagering Percentage
PokerStars Casino Yes No Up to 100% (RTP dependent)
BetMGM Casino Yes No 100%
Borgata Casino Yes No 100%
DraftKings Casino Yes Yes 100%
BetRivers Casino Yes Yes 100%

Video Slots at Sweepstakes Casinos

If video slots are your cup of tea, the good news is that you’ll get to enjoy a wide range of options even if you are outside of states with regulated casinos. This is because a majority of game offering across all sweepstakes casinos consists of slots.

When talking about slots at social casinos, there are two main categories of sites you’ll come across. Some of them host primarily games developed by in-house studios, while others work with major game suppliers like Pragmatic Play.

Sites that feature proprietary slots usually offer a smaller number of titles, but also give you a chance to try your luck with games not readily available at traditional casinos. On the other hand, sweepstakes operators working with major suppliers give you access to popular titles, so it boils down to personal taste and preferences.

Are Video Slots the Right Game for Me?

Video slots are easily the most popular of all casino games these days, especially among casual and recreational casino players.

With thousands of different games on offer, and an incredible variety of themes, gameplay styles, and features, slots are very appealing to almost anyone who enjoys playing casino games.

However, it is also worth noting that slots carry a lower RTP than most other games, and their fast gameplay often leads to bigger losses than other types of gambling games.

Yet, slots can be so fun to play, and they can let you turn a small investment into a massive profit during those lucky sessions that go just right.

Slots are ideal games for players looking to kill a few hours, have some fun, and try to spin up a big win from a small starting deposit.

On the other hand, if you are looking for the optimal way to try and win in a casino, games like baccarat or blackjack, which come much closer to being break-even propositions, are definitely the best choice for you.

Slots FAQ

What is the house edge in video slots?

Unlike many other casino games, video slots do not have a single fixed house edge or RTP rate. Instead, different slot games have different house edge levels. These can be as low as 1%, and as high as 20% in the case of some live casino slot machines.

How should I choose the slot game to play?

There are multiple factors that should go into your decision of which slot to play. Consider the theme, gameplay features, RTP, and other elements of the game. Remember not to play slots with very low RTP rates or very high volatility, as you might not have a lot of fun playing such games.

What are free spins in video slots?

Free spins are one of the most common features in video slots. Winning free spins rounds gives you a chance to spin the reels without paying for the spins, while also having special multipliers or other boosts during the spins, making this the best chance to win big while playing slots.

What is a progressive jackpot in video slots?

Progressive jackpots are massive jackpots that some slot games offer. These jackpots start with a seed amount which continues to grow as players continue to spin the reels of the slot, often across many online casinos. Eventually, one lucky player wins the entire prize pool for a huge payday.

What is the best video slots strategy?

The strategy you apply does not really matter too much in video slots, as there is no way to turn the tables and make these games profitable.

For that reason, make sure to play the strategy you find the most enjoyable and that gives you the most playing time and entertainment value. Check out our tips on playing video slots for some useful ideas on how to make the most of your money while playing slots.

If you or someone you know has a gambling problem and wants help, call the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling (VACPG) helpline at 1-888-532-3500