How Online Slots Work
To understand how online slots work, you need to be familiar with a slot machine’s fundamental game mechanics and game engine. Read on to learn more.
Reels, Symbols and Pay lines
Video slots generally have five reels and three rows and use the same game mechanic as traditional one-armed bandits. The objective is to align symbols in specific winning patterns across the reels.
These winning patterns are called pay lines or win lines and can vary in complexity and number depending on which slot you are playing. A slot’s pay lines are always displayed in a paytable that you find in the game settings.
Game symbols have specific values which are multiplied as you align them across the various pay lines. The higher value a symbol has, the bigger the payout.
Slots always have a set of high-paying and low-paying symbols.
In conjunction with these symbols, you also find the following special symbols:
- Scatters – Trigger bonus features or free spins. You will usually have to land at least three Scatters to access a slot’s bonus games.
- Wilds – These symbols work like the joker in a deck of cards as they can replace any other symbol, except Scatters, to complete a winning combination.
- Bonus Symbols – A slot may have specific bonus symbols triggering various bonus features or free spin games.
Cluster Mechanic and Win Ways slots differ slightly from traditional slot machines in terms of game mechanics. We discuss these slot categories in the subsequent section.
A slot’s volatility indicates how often it pays out winnings. Game developers express game volatility as a number or simply label their games as low, medium or high.
The more volatile a slot is, the less frequent it pays out. However, high-volatility slots have much higher win multipliers and max wins than low-volatility slots.
In other words, you can win much more if you are patient and have a bankroll large enough to sustain you until you hit a win.
Return to Player Percentages
RTP stands for Return to Player and is a percentage expressing how much of placed bets a slot returns to players as winnings.
For example, in a slot with an RTP of 96%, R96 of every R100 are distributed to players as winnings. The remaining R4 is the casino’s profit.
RTP percentages are measured over a near-infinite number of spins and do not tell you how much you can expect to win during any given gaming session, as the winnings are distributed to all players over time. In other words, you should not expect to win R96 if you bet R100 on a slot with an RTP of 96%.
However, you should always play slots with high RTPs as they do ultimately pay out more winnings. How these winnings are distributed in terms of amounts and the number of individual wins is determined by the slot’s volatility.