Brick-and-mortar casinos just wouldn't be the same without the electric buzzing and beeping of slot machines. Winners jump for joy as their winning coins rattle against the payout tin, and the synchronised pulling the lever of the old style one-armed bandits is almost mesmerising to behold.
However, nowadays more and more gamblers are starting to play online video slots from the comfort of their own home, or on the go via their mobile devices. Online and mobile casinos are easy playing options, removing the burden of constantly plugging cards or coins into a machine.
They also have the added bonus of being available anytime and anywhere, not just in the bright lights of big cities. In this respect, online video slots prove to be more convenient and user friendly, replacing many of the time-wasting tasks involved in physically playing slots, with the click of a mouse button.
The most prominent advantage that video slots present punters is the sheer amount of opportunities to win. Most standard casino slot machines only feature three pay reels with one central payline across the middle. As the reels are fixed in place, only a limited number of symbols can be struck.
There are exceptions to this, especially on older machines which originally had five reels. It's therefore quite ironic that most online video slots from expert game developers such as NetEntertainment and Microgaming, now come with the classic five reel layout.
The extended reel options are combined with the full screen display, so that rather than one strip to win on, players have the possibility to win over multiple paylines, normally in the region of 20 or 30. With the addition of bonus rounds, scatter symbols and wild card icons, some of the more modern online video slots offer players as many as 243 ways to win from one single spin of the reel.
Due to the greater number of ways to win, players are naturally likely to win more frequently than in the real life casinos. According to a survey of the loosest 5 cent slot machines in Las Vegas, the highest scoring slot paid an average return of 93.42%.
When looking at comparing the best and worst paying online slots, the worst payout percentages were about as high as the best land-based casino slots, whereas the best games carried a longterm return to player payout percentage of 97-99%.
There are many myths and rumours that surround the online slot machine. Are they programmed to pay out at specific times? Do they pay out less after a player wins the jackpot? Let’s have a look at the misconceptions that characterise most people’s views of online slots.
Firstly, the rule of thumb to always remember is that the simpler the casino game, the less favourable its odds are likely to be. With all their flashing pictures and apparent ease of play, online slots remain most casinos most profitable revenue stream. Why? One, because they require absolutely no prior gambling knowledge for the casual gambler and two, because more serious gamblers will often have a round on the slots for a bit of light relief from more pressing matters.
Second, despite what some online casinos might tell you, payouts are determined by the computer software that governs them. Generally, slot game odds are expressed in terms of a percentage – i.e. the ratio of money paid out as winnings compared to how much is fed in. So, the closer to 100%, the better – some machines even claim to pay out more than 100%; these are the machines which, if you can find them, will give players the best slot game odds available.
However, it is worth noting how these percentages are arrived at. If, for example, a machine claims to pay out 96.5% of the funds entered, it might be programmed to pay out on a regular, systematic basis 96.5 times out of a hundred. However, it may also be programmed to be ‘tight’ for long periods, not paying out until it has accrued enough dividend to pay out in larger amounts, less frequently.
This ultimately does not change the slot game odds, though; you are still statistically as likely to hit the jackpot every reel you play. However, if you are able to find an online slot machine that readily advertises a high payout ratio on sites such as 32Red and Genting Casino, it may well be worth chancing your arm on them.
Reel slots are generally the most popular machines; they are the easiest to understand and have the simplest set up. The most important thing to remember is that they will always be formatted to have a negative payout system. In other words, no matter how many times you play, you are expected to lose. Obviously, the chance of winning significant sums outweighs this rather pessimistic outlook – otherwise no-one would play online slots – and this chance can be augmented. Payout percentages are largely determined by the denomination they accept; the higher the maximum number of coins you can play with, the closer to 100% the payout exchange will be.
Progressive slots and bonus slots all offer considerable winnings if luck is on your side, though small investments can quickly build up into significant losses.
Speaking of progressive slots, they are becoming an increasingly prominent feature of gambling; punters are hitting both the online slots and live slot machines to try and get the biggest payout possible. And this is their major selling point; they really do pay out big – sometimes as much as several millions.
As you would expect, regular and progressive slots – although often offering the same games, work on a different payout formula. Regular online slots work on a fairly systematic basis whereby you enter your coins, pull the handle and a computer programme determines the outcome. If you lose, your capital is lost until re-entering more funds.
However, as the name suggests, progressive slot machines work by siphoning off a certain amount of each coin entered and putting it towards an accumulating jackpot. Such a mechanism means that winning the progressive pot – a particular combination previously announced by the casino – is an extremely rare event but on which will yield extraordinary dividends. Moreover, there are subsidiary winning combinations that still pay out generous dividends, but which are still fairly unlikely to occur.
When we look at online casinos, the progressive slots here increase every time a player accesses the network. This means it is not just simply a case of one person playing the odds against one machine like regular slots, but potentially thousands of people trying to find that one winning combination. As you can imagine, the odds are therefore very much stacked against you; the jackpots increase the larger they get, as a larger number of people log on to try and win – it is a cycle that often sees payouts hitting astronomical figures.
This is made all the more palpable by the fact that players are often inclined to bet maximum wagers on progressive slots. As jackpots increase in size, the ratio between capital and return increases so rapidly that some players will be feeding the slot machine in front of them with all they have.
This cycle is not one you will see on the regular slots. Here, payouts are determined by a set table, with the biggest possible win on any particular machine being the so-called jackpot. If that jackpot is paid out one spin, there is still a chance – unlikely but not impossible – that the exact same amount can be returned the very next spin. With progressive slots, once the jackpot is gone, it will return to the basic value at which it started.
Progressive slot machines are clearly attractive for a reason; they offer remarkable returns on comparatively small investments. However, seasoned online slots players will often tell you that the best tactic is to retain some of your bankroll for the progressives, and place most of it on the regulars. This method of spreading your capital will most likely give you the best chances of recouping any losses and even turning a profit.