How to Play Online Slots – Rules and Beginner’s Guide

Slots represent the most popular gaming option in a casino and online sites can have more than 1,000 games for this one category. While the games cover an endless variety of themes and styles, most slots follow the same core mechanics. As a result you can easily learn how to play online slots and take full advantage of the spinning reels for large wins.

In this slots guide, we will cover all of the basics so that you can have a complete understanding of the game type. Learn about the slots rules, the different symbols, how the paylines work, and what features are available.

How to Play Online Slots

How Online Slots Work

Online slot machines are casino games that can come in many different shapes and sizes. Most options however work the same way. The display will present a set number of symbols on a fixed layout. After placing a bet, random symbols will appear on the screen and these can award payouts based on their rarity.

The best way to understand the rules of slots is to go through the layout and the core mechanics. Most slots are made out of reels with rows of symbols, paylines, and a paytable.

ReelsRowsPaylinesPayout Table

Reels

The slots reels are the vertical columns of symbols. Most games have five reels, but there are also options with three, six, seven, or more. The reels spin after placing a bet and clicking the spin button, which will display random symbols.

Rows

The slots rows are the horizontal alignment of symbols on the screen. The standard slots game has three rows of symbols visible at any time. However, many games display four rows or more. Classic slots can even have only one row.

Paylines

The paylines are set patterns that go across the screen, from the leftmost reel to the right. These can host winning combinations of matching symbols. The number of available paylines depends on the slots game, with most 5-reel games with three rows having 20 lines. The maximum for this layout however is 243 paylines.

Payout Table

Before placing your bet, we recommend checking out the payout table for the game if you are just learning how to play online slots. This will display all of the symbols available and their payouts. You will also find details on special symbols, like wilds and scatters, and information on any available bonus features.

Understanding Slots Wins

To form a winning combination, the symbols usually have to be in adjacent positions and on active lines. The size of the payout depends on the number of symbols in the combination and on the value of the symbols. Since some icons are rare, they provide larger prizes when they form a combination on the screen.

For example, let’s take a look at NetEnt’s Blood Suckers II, a 5-reel slots game with 25 lines that pay left to right. This means that matching symbols must land on adjacent positions on the same line, starting with the leftmost reel. The payout is determined by the size of the bet and the symbol paytable.

How to Play Online Slots - Blood Suckers II Online Slot Winning Spin

The results of a round are determined using random number generators (RNG) to ensure that everything is fair. Although the player cannot influence the outcome of a spin, there are often extra features available within the game that can help increase the payout of a round.

RTP and Volatility in Online Slots

The return-to-player rate, also known as the game RTP, is an indicator of how much a slots machine pays out. This is a theoretical rate based on millions of spins, but it can represent a way to win more during your session.

The volatility of the game is another factor to consider. This refers to the way the payouts are allocated. A game with a high volatility rate will rely on large wins, but these take place on rare occasions. A lower volatility means that players will receive smaller wins more frequently.

Main Features of Online Slots

The bonus features in modern slots can provide a more exciting gaming experience and knowing how they work is very important when learning how to play online slots. While the features can vary depending on the slots game, there are some that are very popular and available in many of the best online slots.

Wild SymbolsScatter SymbolsFree SpinsPicking Bonus GameProgressive Jackpots

Wild Symbols

Wilds represent the most widely available feature as most games have at least one wild available. This is a special symbol that can substitute for any other symbol required to form a winning combination with the other icons on the screen, with the exception of scatters.

In many slots, wilds can also form their own winning combinations with a boosted payout if more appear on the same line.

Scatter Symbols

The second type of special symbols that you will find when learning how to play slots is called scatter. This is because these symbols can award a payout regardless of their positioning on the screen. They don’t need to be on the same line or on adjacent positions in order to win.

Moreover, scatter symbols usually have a large payout and can trigger additional features as well.

Free Spins

Also known as bonus spins, these are rounds where players don’t spend any money. Instead, the spins are played at the triggering bet size and can come with added perks to increase the payouts. In most cases, bonus spins are triggered by landing three or more scatter symbols on the screen at the same time.

However, we recommend checking the info in the game for more details on how to play slot machines with free spins.

Picking Bonus Game

While not as popular as the other features covered above in our online slots guide, “pick-me” bonus rounds are available in quite a few games. You need to land three or more bonus symbols on the screen to start the mini-game, which consists of you picking from multiple options on a different screen.

There is no sure way to master how to play online slots bonus games, since you just have to pick randomly by clicking on the items. These can award various prizes, advance you to the next stage, or end the round straight away.

Progressive Jackpots

Our slots beginner’s guide would not be complete without talking about progressive jackpots. These are prizes that increase with every real bet placed by the players. Once the amount is won, it resets to the starting level and the process can begin again.

Winning a progressive jackpot can be done randomly by simply playing the game, landing a specific combination of symbols, or within a dedicated bonus round.

Other Slot Bonus Features

The list of bonus features can continue for quite a bit, but not all of the entries are widely available. Even so, we believe it is good to know how they work in case you come across them when playing online.

  • Dropping Symbols – Known as Tumbling Reels, Avalanches, Rolling Reels, Cascading Symbols, or other similar terms from various developers, this feature allows winning symbols to disappear from the screen and make room for other symbols to fall in their place from above. This can result in more wins during the same round.
  • Win Multipliers – Slots games can have multipliers attached to bonuses or other features, like bonus spins. These multiply the resulting wins by a set amount, usually ranging between 2x and 5x. In some cases, the win multiplier can even be unlimited during bonus spins.
  • Special Wilds – In addition to substituting for other symbols, wilds can also come with added perks. Some wilds can increase to take over the entire reel, include multipliers for the wins they help create, move across the screen every round, and more.
  • Gamble – In a game that has the gamble feature, players can choose to enter the winnings from a round in another mini-game, like guessing if a random card is red or black. Guess correctly and the prize is doubled, but guess wrong and you lose the amount.
  • Free Re-Spins – While similar to bonus spins, slots re-spins provide fewer rounds. In fact, most games will only award one re-spin without requiring a bet when you meet certain conditions, like landing at least one wild symbol on the screen.

How to Choose a Slot Machine

Learning about all the mechanics and bonus features can seem a bit overwhelming, but the truth is that slots are some of the easiest casino games to play, especially online. Keep in mind that you don’t have to memorize it all at once to know how to play online slots.

You just have to know the basics and find the right slot machine for you. After that, you can try out new slot games and expand your range to see what else you enjoy.

To help you with the process, we highly recommend playing in demo mode. This is the perfect way to try out various slot machines and you can then choose which to bet on. In demo mode, you are playing with virtual credits that have no real value and you can simply refresh the page to get a new balance.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the key factors you should consider when choosing a slot machine.

Theme

The theme is actually a big selling point when it comes to slots online and developers try to cover everything they can think of. From popular TV shows to little cartoon aliens, slot themes have something for everyone. Plus, with modern graphics, detailed animations, and immersive sound effects, the right themes can definitely make for an entertaining gaming session.

Of course, the ideal design for you comes down to personal preference. So, browse the list at a top online casino, check out a slots tutorial, and play in demo mode to see how everything looks.

Features

As we covered in our online slots guide, different games can have different features. We recommend choosing a machine with a good balance since too many add-ons can be overstimulating without actually awarding large payouts.

Look for a game with wilds, scatters, bonus spins, and maybe an extra bonus round. If you want to chase large jackpots however, definitely consider some of the popular progressive jackpot slots.

Availability

Not all slots are available at all casinos. So, if you prefer playing at a particular gambling site, you will have to stick to their available games. Moreover, make sure to check out the casino bonuses provided since these can help increase your bankroll and make the slots more rewarding.

How to Place the Right Bet

One of the most important aspects to mastering how to play slot machines responsibly is placing the right bets. Games in this category can allow for bets starting from just $0.01 per line and go up to over $250 per spin. It is a massive range and a higher stake can sometimes look appealing given the fact that the payouts increase as well.

In truth, we believe that slots should be seen as a form of entertainment and not as a way to make money. That is why, we recommend in our slots beginner’s guide for players to start small. In fact, it is even better to play in demo mode without betting anything.

Responsible gambling is key, so make sure to set a budget and don’t chase your losses. Deposit and spending limits are also recommended.

Learning the Different Controls

Once you have your stake in mind, it is time to set the actual bet. The controls are sometimes a bit different, depending on the slots game. So, it is best to familiarize yourself with the different layouts from the main developers.

The most straightforward interface will simply show the bet size at the bottom, with buttons for you to set the stake. This is the total bet for the fixed paylines, as we can see here in 9 Masks for Fire:

9 Masks of Fire Betting Interface

Many other games will allow players to change the coin value instead, with the total bet usually displayed right next to it. This is better for some paytables that present the payouts based on the coin value. You can see an example here from Arcane Reel Chaos:

Arcane Reel of Chaos Betting Interface

You can also come across slots that have a bet level instead of a coin value. This is a bit less intuitive since not all bet levels are equal. So, make sure to check the total bet section to make sure that you are betting the desired amount. As you can see in the Cazino Zeppelin video slot the bet is $1.40 with 20 lines at level 5:

Cazino Zeppelin Betting Interface

For a slots tutorial on betting in games that allow for different paylines, you will also have to set the number of lines you want to have active. Keep in mind that the active lines and the line bet will be multiplied to determine the total bet. Cleopatra is a great example of this as it allows up to 20 lines and provides a wide range for the line bet:

Cleopatra Betting Interface

One of the more complicated layouts for placing the bet in slots is found in some of the top NetEnt creations. Not only does this have a level, but it also comes with different coin values. Moreover, the “BET” display doesn’t show the total bet, but the number of coins in the wager. For the actual bet amount, we recommend looking at the display under the slot interface in games like Guns N’ Roses:

Guns n Roses Betting Interface

With these different examples, you are sure to quickly spot the controls and easily place the desired bets. As a reminder, only press the spin button when you are sure of the bet you are placing.

How to Play Online Slots on Mobile

Most slot machines are compatible with mobile devices, giving players the freedom to spin the reels on an iPhone or Android smartphone. While the mechanics remain the same, the interface can change when switching from a desktop casino to a mobile site or app.

Agent Jane Blonde Max How to Play Mobile Slots Online

For the best mobile slots experience, we recommend playing in landscape view. This way, you will have a large spin button on the right side that you can press with your thumb. As for the betting options, most games will have a small coins icon that will display different stakes. Tap the icon and then select the preferred bet before spinning.

Agent Jane Blonde Max - How to Play Mobile Slots Online

How to Get Started Playing Slots Online

To help you jump right into the action, we will go through the sign-up process at a reliable casino and show you how to start and play online slots.

  1. Create Your New Account

    For the first step, you simply need to sign up on the casino of your choice. You can do this by clicking the button for “Join Now”, “Sign Up”, or “Register”. Enter the required details and fishing the registration.
    Create Your New Account
  2. Choose a Slots Game

    You will find hundreds or even thousands of slots online. Browse the library or simply check out the top picks on the site. Once you find one that catches your eye, tap the featured image and then “Play Now” button.
    Choose a Slots Game
  3. Set the Size of the Bet

    The controls are usually + and – signs, available at the bottom, under the five large reels, but the icon can also appear as a coins button. This is where you can set the bet from, which is the amount of money that you will pay for one round, so make sure you set the right bet before playing.
    Set the Size of the Bet
  4. Spin the Reels

    Once the bet is set, you just have to click the spin button to play one round. This is the large circular button, located either at the bottom or on the right side. After clicking it, the game will show a small animation and random symbols will stop on the screen.
    Spin the Reels
  5. Receive the Winnings

    In order to win, matching symbols must form combinations on active paylines. We will provide more details on the topic below as we show you how to play online slots. For every game, you can check the available lines in the game info.
    Receive the Winnings
  6. Trigger Extra Features

    As you are playing slots, you will likely come across various bonus features. These are meant to increase the payouts by adding different benefits, like wild symbols. Most features trigger randomly and you can check the slots rules for the details.
    Trigger Extra Features

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Vlad Grindu

Vlad has more than a decade of experience in the gambling industry, specializing in analyzing and reviewing online betting platforms. He is an expert in casino games and sports betting, providing detailed guides for major publications in the iGaming industry, including Casino.org and Covers. Vlad has a Master’s Degree in Economics and enjoys the occasional esports game.