‘Slots’ (sometimes called ‘fruit machines (UK) or ‘pokies’ (Australia)) are the real bread and butter of our industry (if that’s not mixing metaphors too much!).

Online slot machines are in some sense only called that in an abstract sense of course. You don’t physically have a hole on your desktop or tablet in which to put coins or a collector for big wins – though who knows, perhaps it’s only a matter of time before technology advances that far!

However, slot machines online share most of the other features of the traditional stand up machines of the amusement arcades of our misspent youths!

They have reels which ‘spin’, though not mechanically, naturally enough, have a variety of symbols, and matching symbols payout money in a variety of combinations, just like casino slot machines always have done.

You can bet using ‘coins’ which can often be adjusted in value by increments to raise or lower your amount wager in the same way you can put different denominations of coins in an old-style slot machine.

When it comes to online slots, the most important factor - many gamblers would argue - is the RTP (return to player) of the particular slot game. This is essentially the percentage you will get a return on your money if you were to carry on playing forever.

So how do online slot machines differ from their traditional counterparts?

In myriad ways, it has to be said – when you first play slots online you’ll be struck just how far things have come, even over the last few years when video slots (ie. physical machines which took coins or more usually a card and which used a computerized screen instead of physical reels) became standard.

There are still (usually) ‘reels’ as noted, only they don’t need to ‘spin’ in the normal way – with some games, symbols come tumbling from the top of the screen in a seemingly random fashion, others can explode, revolve, transform, disintegrate, reassemble…and in the best casino slots there will be a wide range of often animated symbols, which all together make for a gaming experience far superior to the bells and flashing lights of yore.

Forget the plums, lemons, bells and cherries of classic casino slot games (though you can still find those too if you want!) modern symbols can be all manner of things, and games tend to be themed on anything from vampires, comic book characters, bling-bling rich people, ancient aztec civilizations, prohibition era detectives, the list goes on and on…

Some symbols perform more functions when you play casino slots online than just make up winning combinations: it is fairly standard to have ‘Wilds’ which will usually substitute for any other symbol to make up a win, and ‘Scatters’ which can do the same thing but be ‘scattered’ across the screen rather than having to be adjacent to each other. Is that all?

Nope! You can adjust the number of paylines, meaning you can have winning combinations only along one (usually horizontal) line up to multiple (as many as 20 or more) lines, in a variety of patterns, zigzags etc. (though generally reading left to right).

A greater number of paylines selected increases your chances of winning, though also increases the amount bet in proportion. You can even hit ‘max bet’ which usually takes the short cut to betting the maximum amount available to you on a given coin value, before spinning the reels.

Be careful!

Be careful with this when you play online slots however, as you can accidentally bet far more than you’d wanted. Fortunately you have the chance to ‘unclick’ on the max bet function in most cases, before you spin the reels, so your mistake can be rectified – this was not something which always happened in the past with bricks and mortar fruit machines.

Most striking of all when you play online slots is the overall graphics and sound, which are as far ahead of the old standup machines as a MacBook Air is above an abacus or something…

Ok, we exaggerate, but only from passion for these games. Bonus screens abound and some of the graphics, sound effects and soundtrack are truly bleeding-edge and up there with the best of regular computer games. There are even 3D graphics in some online slots, like the recent Jokerizer, and we look forward to futher giant leaps in the look and feel of these wonderful games.

How will I find my way round all this?

Hold on, isn’t all this a bit overwhelming for the newcomer though? I only have a few distant memories of playing these machines in the amusement arcade or the ferry, for small money and with just 3 reels and a few flashing lights, it was quite stress-free!…

…Don’t worry, whilst the industry has made quantum leaps in recent years, the principles of playing at a slots casino are the same as they’ve ever been.

In any case, with most online casinos worth your while, you can effectively play free slot machine games, in other words use play money to get a feel for online versions of the one-armed bandit in general and specific games as well, before you need spend a cent.

And with the generous welcome bonuses many online casinos offer, you can continue to play with that relatively safe cushion and build up a bankroll over time as well as having fun!