How to Play Slot Machines — Ultimate Guide (2022) | SiGMA

A slot machine is a gambling device that generates a game of chance, and it’s also known as a fruit machine and pokies in Australia and New Zealand. In this article, I’ll explain how to play slot machines, but before that, I’ll look into the history, terminology, and strategy so that you can fully understand the process and what it takes to win.


History of Slots

In 1891 in Brooklyn, Sittman and Pitt created a gaming device that foreshadowed the current slot machine. This poker-themed set has five drums with fifty different card designs. Very soon, many bars in the city had at least one of these machines, which became an instant hit.

People would put a nickel in, pull a lever, and the drums would spin, dealing out cards in the hopes of a winning poker hand.

Given the lack of a standardized payment structure, players could win everything from free beer to cigars or drinks for a royal flush. The odds against getting a royal flush were doubled by cutting the ten of spades and the jack of hearts from the deck, increasing the house’s advantage. A player’s odds of winning could be further diminished by shuffling the drums around.

  • In 1894, a San Francisco resident, Charles Fey, invented the first slot machine. Namely, he’s credited with inventing the now-familiar design of the Liberty Bell, which was a three-reel, one-payline slot machine with an automatic payment mechanism.
  • Although Fey’s slot machine was an instant hit, the game has evolved significantly since its inception.
  • In 1907, slot machine reels began featuring fruit symbols, while just playing card symbols were employed in the past.
  • In the 1920s, Mills Novelty Co. developed a feature called Skill Stop, which allowed the player to pause the reels and try to affect the game’s outcome.
  • Money Honey, the first ever electronic slot machine, was introduced in 1963 by Bally, a company well-known in Illinois’s video gaming terminal (VGT) industry.
  • Fortune Coin Co. of Las Vegas, Nevada, created the first video slot machine in 1976 in Kearny Mesa, California.
  • In 1978, IGT (International Gaming Technology) bought Fortune Coin Co. and their video slot machine technology.
  • Reel ‘Em In, created by WMS Industries in 1996, was the first American video slot machine to feature a second screen bonus round.
  • Since at least 1994, when the game Three Bags Full was released, Australia had machines of this type.
  • Classic slot machines were crucial for the rise of Las Vegas as a casino heaven as they are ideal for first-time slot players because they are fast, easy to learn, and play.


How to Play Slot Machines

In the following sections, I provided information about how to play slots in land-based and online casinos.


Playing Online Slots

When it comes to playing online slots, here are some things you should know:

  • Do a research and pick a slot game with good RTP, or return to player, percentage, and volatility.
  • Try a demo version of the game, and if it looks good to you, start playing.
  • Set a budget limit to manage your funds, so you don’t lose more than you want. Upon reaching the limit, stop playing for a while.
  • Keeping in mind your budget, place bets on the number of paylines you see fit. If you bet on more than one paylline, you can get more winnings.
  • Upon winning a big prize, players stop playing in order not to lose money.


Slot Machine Etiquette

When you’re playing in brick-and-mortar casinos, there are unwritten rules for playing slots:

  • If you’re a dedicated gamer who often plays on many machines at once and switches between them, then ensure that the slot machine you pick isn’t used by anyone else.
  • The seat could be taken even if there’s no one occupying it.
  • Play only on one machine at a time when the casino is crowded.
  • You’re playing against the casino, not other players.
  • Don’t let defeat rattle you. It’s all about fun and has nothing to do with the machines, the staff, or the other players.

It’s advisable to play while you’re feeling your best, and if you’re feeling hungry, sleepy, or grumpy, it’s best to skip the slots and save your money for a better time.


Slot machines are set to return anything from 0 to 99% of gambled money. The theoretical payout percentage, known as return to player, is the proportion of money that should be returned to the player. What’s good to know is that the minimum potential payout percentage is often set by legislation and varies between jurisdictions.

Winning patterns on slot machines are calculated to give the house a certain percentage of the real money wagered while giving the remaining funds to players.

A return to player percentage of 97% means that after a large number of spins, say 1,000,000, the machine will pay out $970,000 on average.


Types of Slots

In this section, I’ll provide more information about the different types of slot games you can find in online and land-based casinos.

Classic slots

The classic online slot is the most basic type of online slot game, sometimes referred to as one-armed bandit, an old mechanical machine with a lever that the player pulled to make the machine spin inspired the nickname.

Classic slots are a good choice for players who like to keep things simple, as most classic slots have only one horizontal payline across three reels. People who have never played a slot machine before will appreciate how easy it is to play on it. Three-reel slots usually have fewer betting options and are preferred by players with smaller budgets and those who like to have a speedy gambling experience.

The fact that they only have a few reels reduces the number of possible winning combinations. Also, the variance is very high, which means that players can either win big or lose fast. Although they use random number generators (RNG), online versions of classic slots usually pay more than their mechanical counterparts.

The classic slot games have different symbols and easy-to-understand rules, so players win when they get three of the same symbols. In rare instances, 3-reel slots have bonus rounds and even wild and scatter symbols.

Video Slots

Video slots were made in 1970 and are also called 5-reel slots. They don’t have levers, so players had to press a button to start a round. Video slots have very appealing graphics, sounds, and videos that draw in all types of players. They were made by software designers to improve players’ gambling experience. Five-reel slots may be the real forerunner of online slots we see today.

The maximum value that can be wagered on a single prize line in a video slot varies, which is why video slots quickly gained massive popularity. The advantage of having more paylines than three-reel slots means you have a better chance of winning. In addition, they also have bigger jackpots. One final thing that separates five-reel slots is the free-spin mode, which can include bet multipliers.

Progressive Jackpot Slots

All well-established online casinos have to offer this slot type considering these slots have a large progressive jackpot that keeps getting bigger over time. How do slots progressive jackpots work? A small amount of each player’s bet goes into the pot, and when the prize is won, the jackpot starts to grow again from a fixed sum — the seed.

We can classify three sub-categories:

  • Standalones — People who like to gamble should know that standalone progressive jackpots are not linked to other slots. They are only linked to one game, meaning that the jackpot will only grow as long as people keep playing that particular slot.
  • Linked — Linked jackpots, on the other hand, are made up of prizes from more than one game. However, note that these games might not always be in the same casino. Sometimes, they might be spread out across different casinos that the same company runs.
  • Wide-area ones — Wide-area progressive jackpots are the most appealing because they grow to huge amounts in almost no time. Fans of slot games can find slots that have what is called flat jackpots, and as you might expect from the name, prizes in these games never go up.

All progressive slots have a jackpot meter that lets players see how much money has been added up at any given time, which can be very helpful because players can enter the games at best possible time.

Before you land on progressive slots, you should keep in mind that you have to spin with the maximum value to be eligible for the biggest prize. If you make the maximum bet and get the winning combination that sets off the jackpot, you’ll get a much smaller payout. These slots have fewer regular wins, so the chance of someone winning the big prize isn’t too high.


Slot Elements

In this part, I’ll provide an explanation of the elements of slot games.


To fully understand the game differences, you must familiarize yourself with the lingo. The reel is slang for a horizontal column, the most significant part of slot machines. Note that one reel can only display each symbol once during a spin. Upon landing on the screen, you’ll know if your combination is a winner.

Most modern slot machines have five reels. However, the developers are constantly innovating complex new complex and sophisticated games. This resulted in slot machines with some fascinating visuals and 3- reel slots with two grids, but regardless of the number of reels, their function doesn’t change.


A payline is a combination of winning symbols. It’s possible for winning symbols to align in any of these directions — vertical, horizontal, diagonal, or even in a zigzag pattern. Slot machines have progressed to the point where they can have a random number of paylines. In addition, players can bet on the maximum number of said paylines.


The rows, in conjunction with the reels, constitute the playing grid, the surface upon which the symbols are placed. The number of rows grew, just as it did for the reels and paylines. Also, the way rows and reels are tallied in dimensions is the only factor that differentiates them from one another.


Even with the ever-increasing advancements made in the slot’s universe, the symbols used are considered classic, so even the newest slots carry the most popular symbol types. When these icons align properly, players get their winnings.

Payout Table

A payout table or pay table is a helpful guide that tells you how much you can win and how to use special features, paylines, betting requirements, and jackpots, if there are any. The length of the table depends on how complicated a slot machine is.

Not all slots make it clear, but most include the expected return to the player, RTP, percentage in the pay table. When you look at the percentage, you can decide if this machine is more for people who just want to play for fun or if it’s better for people who like to take more risks and wait longer to win bigger prizes.


Symbols on Slot Machines

Now that you know more about slot elements, let’s talk about symbols you can see in various slot games.

Wild Symbols

Wild symbols can complete paylines that wouldn’t have won without them because they can stand in for any other symbol, but wilds can’t substitute for other bonus symbols. As a result, a wild symbol may not have any monetary value in some slot machines, while in others, it may be the most valuable icon.

Wild symbols generate excitement in players anytime those symbols appear randomly. In certain games, though, they show up just on specific reels, like the middle three of a five-reel slot machine.

Scatter Symbols

In online slot games, a scatter symbol is a distinctive symbol that can have various purposes depending on the game you’re playing. For example, they:

  • could activate a variety of extra games or features
  • may serve as multipliers
  • can stand in for different symbols to assist players in completing winning combinations

Multiplier Symbols

Multipliers are special components that can increase your payout by a fixed amount. Some multipliers only activate during free spins or bonus rounds, while others appear randomly and rarely during regular play. Some icons increase your wins, while others add to line or total bets.

Sticky Symbols

Sticky symbols play a significant role in making slot games more fun to play. Namely, they are a type of wild symbol and are as common as wilds. If you come across a slot game with a symbol that stays on the reels for up to eight seconds, triggering other symbols as a catalyst for wins, that’s a sticky symbol.

Bonus Symbols

Slot machines typically use bonus symbols to initiate a bonus game, which are distinct from scatter symbols. The difference is that to activate the bonus game, you need a predetermined number of these special symbols to appear in specific positions on the reels. Usually, you need at least three bonus symbols to trigger a bonus game, and spins must be on active paylines.

Stacked Symbols

In essence, a stacked wild is a wild symbol that can expand to fill an entire reel. In most cases, you’ll see them clustered in groups of two, three, four, or five icons. Keep in mind that you’ll see stacked wilds on every reel when playing certain slot machines, while in others, they only appear on specific reels.

Many video slots that offer stacked wilds on every reel tend to have high volatility in their play. However, when combined with multipliers, stacked wilds in the free spins bonus feature can boost the chances of winning big.


Strategies for Slot Machines

Now that you know the terminology and general rules, you’re probably thinking about how to play slot machines? Are there any strategies involved? How to play pokies and maximize your winnings?

The Multiplier

Multiplier slots are video slots in which your winnings from a single spin are increased by a factor of two, three, four, or more. There are machines where the multiplier can go into the double digits, while some bet multipliers raise the line bet rather than the overall bet, so keep that in mind and read the pay table rules.

It’s always advisable to research, find the best multiplier slots, and play to win on slot machines. In my opinion, these are leading multiplier slot machines:

  • Bonanza Megaways by Big Time Gaming
  • Gonzo’s Quest by NetEnt
  • Valley of the Gods by Yggdrasil
  • Pirate Kingdom Megaways by Iron Dog Studio
  • Peggy Riches Megaways by Red Tiger

The Buy-a-Pay

Each coin played on a buy-a-pay slot machine grants access to a smaller chunk of the game’s payout schedule. Some slots have three pay lines across the reels, with the center reel being the only place to win on a single-coin wager, the top line will be added if two coins are placed, and the bottom line will be added if three coins are placed.

Do not play the game if you’re not willing to bet the maximum amount required to unlock all symbols in a buy-a-pay. You lose if the three jackpot symbols line up and you haven’t wagered enough. The only way to play a buy-a-pay is to wager the maximum amount allowed.

The Progressive

You should always play at the maximum bet to have any hope of taking home the grand prize.

Avoiding the progressive slots in which the jackpot is now at a low level is a strategy that makes sense. If you’re going to spend money trying to win the jackpot, you might as well do it when the prize has the potential to transform your life completely.

The odds of hitting the jackpot are extremely low as some progressive slot machines appear to have a better record of paying out jackpots. To tell you the truth, that’s because many individuals play them. Lastly, if you’re able to locate them, play the standalones because these games have smaller jackpots that are won more frequently.

How to win jackpots on slot machines? The best strategy is to do your research. These are leading progressive slot machines:

  • Mega Moolah by Microgaming
  • Gladiator by Playtech
  • Mega Fortune by NetEnt
  • Lightning Link by Aristocrat


Tips for Playing Slots

Whether you play in brick-and-mortar or online casino, there are some things you should know in order to play wisely and safely. In the following sections, I’ll provide a few tips.

Manage Your Money

A crucial part of playing slots is effective money management, just like on quarter machines. For example, on a slot machine, a player can easily perform 800 pulls in an hour, so let’s say one pull requires two quarters, which means that a player wagered $400.

You can divide your funds meant for slots into smaller parts, for example, $20-$30 for every half an hour on a slot machine to avoid spending all the money quickly or on the same machine.

Play within your means, and don’t be afraid to cut your stakes or bail out if you reach the limit point. The fact is that you will lose money on a slot machine session, more often than not.

Start with Little Bets

It’s common for gamers to believe that the winnings wouldn’t occur immediately. So you should begin with little bets and work your way up, hoping to wager large when the winnings roll in, commonly known as “Prime the Pump.” When it comes to winning, you’re more likely to win in the early stages than in the latter stages. So, if you wager the same amount on every spin, the payback percentage will remain the same.

Try Your Luck at Slot Tournaments

A slot tournament is a competition between many people playing the same casino slot game over a given time period. In tournaments, players accumulate points by wagering on a particular slot machine, and the winner is the competitor who finishes with the most points.

A single day may be the limit for some contests, while others may go on for several months. It’s essential to remember that different casinos have different restrictions, such as spinning at least once per day throughout the event or playing the minimum number of spins over the course of the competition. Who knows, maybe you’ll have a lucky day and obtain some prizes.

Use a Casino Bonus

Online casinos usually provide sign-up promotions, so you can play through the casino bonus before withdrawing. You can use the bonus money to play games or test new games before spending your money. Don’t bet more for prizes or exceed your bankroll. Play comfortably, then profit.

Check Out New Slot Games

It goes without saying that casinos put a lot of thought into picking slot games that will last a long time, but at the same time, they want to see a return on their investment as soon as possible. Consequently, casinos can occasionally enhance the payback rate on new slot machines or give special incentives that can be used on them. This is a terrific technique for players to potentially enhance their payout odds and helps the casino advertise the new games.



At the beginning of this guide, I pointed out some historical points that I found important. Then, I explain what types of slots you should look for, what each element of a slot game does, and tips on how to play slot machines at land-based casinos. Moreover, I provided information about various slot types so you can potentially win more money.