Online slots for beginners

While most online casinos offer a range of different games, slots normally make up for a majority of the game selection. This is because online slot games are very popular – and there are thousands of different versions available.

One of the key characteristics that make slots so popular is that they are easy to play. But if you have never tried an online slot game before, they might require a few rounds in order to get used to the gameplay. Not to worry, as in this guide fully dedicated to online slots for beginners, we will explain everything you need to know about how online slot games work.

What are online slots?

Online slot games, or just "slots" for short, are the online counterparts to land-based slot machines. Gambling machines resembling today's slot machines have been around since the late 1800s. The first fully electromechanical slot machine was developed in 1963 and the first video slot followed in 1976.

With the introduction of online casinos, some of the world's first online slots came about in the late '90s. Fast-forward to today and there are thousands of online slot games to choose from, developed by an abundance of different game providers.

The first online slot games had very traditional set-ups with a few spinning reels and classic symbols including fruit, bells, BAR symbols, and jokers. There are still new slots released with that same traditional gameplay, but there are also a lot of modern versions with intricate designs, themes, and rules. Common for them all is that the game consists of some sort of symbols that spin (or drop, cascade, or similar) to create winning combinations or clusters.

How to play online slots

Even though there are many different slot games from different game providers, they all normally work quite similarly. That means that even though the theme, symbols, and bonus features might differ slightly, the overall gameplay and terms you meet normally won't be too different. Here are some of the things you should know about before you start playing:

  • Reels and paylines
  • Symbols
  • Paytable
  • Bet size
  • Spin and auto-spin

The reels and paylines of a slot

The games might look very different at first glance, but if we strip away the fancy animations and colorful designs, they all have a similar core. Normally, this core consists of a set of reels and paylines.

Reels are the wheels that spin in the game. The reels spin around and once they stop, you'll see which symbols they land on. If the symbols are matching – on an active payline – this can result in a win. Classic slots often have five reels with three symbols each (5x3), three reels (3x3) or just one winning line. Never games can have a larger grid with for example five symbols per reel (5x5) or more than five reels.

A payline, also known as betting line or winning line, is a line or pattern across the reels where winning combinations can be created. Traditionally, paylines run across the reels from left to right. Paylines can also go from right to left, creating winning combinations from the rightmost reel. In addition, there can be diagonal paylines or other patterns across the reels. Modern slot games normally have lots of different combinations of paylines in order to create up to thousands of possible winning combinations in the most extreme cases.

The symbols of a slot

When the reels stop spinning, they unveil different symbols that can create winning combinations. Traditional symbols include fruits (cherries, grapes, oranges etc), bells, jokers and numbers or suits from cards. Newer slot games often have symbols that fit the theme of the slot. If the slot, for example, has a Viking theme, the symbols might include different vikings, viking ships, viking helmets and so on. Each different symbol will have a different worth. Some slots divide the symbols into "low paying" and "high paying" symbols.

In addition to the "regular symbols", most slots will also have some special bonus symbols. The most common ones are wilds and scatters:

  • Wild symbols act like jokers that can substitute for any symbol in order to create winning combinations.
  • Scatter symbols are another type of special symbol that pay regardless of where they land on the reels.

These symbols are also often used to trigger a certain amount of free spins within the game or an extra bonus game. These special symbols can have designs related to the theme of the game or simply say "Scatter" and "Wild".

The paytable of a slot

It's not easy to keep track of all the different symbols and how much they are worth. Luckily, you don't have to as online slots calculate winnings automatically. But if you want to get familiar with the different symbols and their worth before or while playing, this can be done by looking at the paytable. This is normally shown as an info button where clicking on it will open an overview of the different symbols and how much they pay in different combinations.

The bet size of each game round

With slot games, you will bet money for each round (spin) you play. You can choose how much you want to bet per round, within the minimum and maximum parameters of the slot game. Depending on the settings of the game, you can adjust the level, coin size and/or bet size. That way, you can adjust to get a bet that fits your budget.

Just note that the bet size will be reflected in your winnings, as winning combinations will pay your bet times a certain amount (depending on the combination/symbols). In other words, the largest winnings normally only come from maximum bets, but high-volatility slots allow for big wins even when betting small, albeit these are not very likely.

Spin and auto-spin

With online slots, there is no handlebar to pull or physical button to press. Instead, you simply click on a button to spin the reels. Doing so will spin the reels for one round. You can click to spin each round manually, but most slots will also offer an "auto-spin" option. With that, you can normally click to choose how many rounds you want to play and the spins will keep going until they run out – or until you get a win or bonus feature.

It is worth noting that auto-spin features have received some criticism in relation to responsible gambling, as players can lose control of their spendings when the rounds are done automatically. It is therefore important to keep an eye on your spendings and preferably only play one spin at a time manually.

Are online slots safe?

An important note to make is that online slot games are 100% safe to play. As long as you play from reputable online casinos, the games offered will be licensed and fair. Winnings are given at random thanks to RNG (random number generator) technology.

Even though the games are safe to play, it is important to note that winnings are completely random and that slot games – like all casino games – come with a risk of loss. In order to ensure responsible gambling, it is important to keep track of your spendings and to not play for more than what you can afford to lose. The quick and easy gameplay can make these types of games addictive, so make sure to take breaks and gamble responsibly.

Play slots for free

We hope that this guide has given a good introduction to the world of online slots. As a final tip, before you start betting your own money, you can play slots for free here at Casino Universe. We offer thousands of slots in demo mode so that you can try the game for free and familiarise yourself with how they work before signing up to a casino and playing for real money.