Slots - How to Play


Technology has dramatically changed the gaming industry. Perhaps nowhere is this more pronounced than in the "simple" slot machine. The one-payline slot that Charles Fey invented in 1895 has changed so much that even he wouldn't recognize it today. We usually just push a button to play rather than pull the one arm that gave it its nickname. At one time the nickname was well-deserved. Today's online slots return between 95% and 98% of all bets to the players.

Every land-based casino has rows and rows of slots. It was once believed that some machines were loose and others were tight. These days, every pull of the arm is a random event, completely unconnected to the next or the previous pull. Land-based casinos have space limitations so their bank of slots will be no match for the "bank" of slots available online.

Of course Charles Fey would have no idea what the term "online" means! First, it means that online sites can have hundreds of slot games. It means that you can always get a game you want to play. There's no waiting online; and if you go to the bathroom or the kitchen, no one will take your place. It means that online casinos have to innovate to keep your attention. This means that computer programmers and graphic artists can and do go wild creating ever-more-attractive games for us to enjoy. Where once you won when three symbols lined up in the middle of the screen, today's 5-reel slots can zig-zag their way crazily across the screen and return many coins or credits before you have a chance to see exactly how you won! The newest craze is 3-D slots which combine the cutting edge technology of computerized animation with a high-speed super-multi-payline slots game.

Click for details on history, terminology/glossary, types of slots and slots myths.

From the Simple to the Sublime

A slot is a machine with 3 or 5 rotating reels. When you play, the reels go around forward to back like they were break dancing. Each machine features symbols that line up to win money. The classic machines had fruit. Many people went home happy after three cherries came up center stage.

Today's slots are much more complex machines. They usually have five reels. This increases the possibilities that can occur in any spin. They also have many more paylines than before. There are some online slots with even 100 paylines. When you play a multi-payline machine you choose, by inserting a coin or betting a credit, which paylines you want to play.

The Rules

Slot machines are simple to play. You insert coins (or the slot club card) and pull the arm (or push the button) to start the spin. However, the modern machine is just complex enough to make it necessary to pay attention to some details.

  • Most machines have more than one payline. You must choose the paylines you want to activate. If a winning combination comes up on a payline that you didn't activate you don't win. Multi-payline games are for players who love slot action but if you want to conserve your bankroll you should find a machine with a low minimum wager.
  • Many machines are connected to the Progressive Jackpot. A small amount of each bet is siphoned off to build the progressive jackpot. Because of this siphoning off, other winning combinations pay slightly less at these machines. Progressive Jackpot slots are for players who specifically want to play for the big win.
  • Different casinos have different payout schedules, so choose wisely.
  • Buy-a-pay slots require you to decide which winning combinations you want to play for. Usually, these slots take up to three coins. If you play one coin you win with one combination. If you play two coins you win with two combinations. Three coins give you three winning combinations.

Slots Strategy

This is easily the most misunderstood aspect of slots. Whereas poker and blackjack have deep strategies, slots have no strategy at all! There are many myths surrounding slots. If they were true once, they are no longer true.

Each spin is totally random. The outcome of each spin is determined independently by the Random Number Generator.

  • There are no loose or tight slots.
  • No slot machine is cold and no slot is hot.
  • No slot is due for a win and no slot is due for a dry spell after a big payout.

Slots Pitfalls

Although there is no strategy, there are many pitfalls to avoid.

  • Don't play a machine you don't understand.
  • Always play the maximum at Progressive Jackpot slots.
  • Never throw good money after bad.
  • Never gamble money you can't afford to lose.


Modern slot machines are self-contained "entertainment centers". The biggest pitfall that some players fall victim to is to stop having fun!

Posted by CCJ Team

Slot Resources

Click for a full range of slot resources like the history of slots, how to play, the different types of slots, the myths and much more: