As slot machines become more and more advanced it is no longer just a case of pulling the handle on the side of the machine and hoping for the best, you are now faced with many decisions before you even set the reels in motion, and even after the reels have spun the slots can then require further input from the player in regards to bonus games and features.

Knowing how slot machines have been designed to work, play and pay will help you decide if they are something you may want to play, and as such below is our guide to understanding slot machines, which has been put together to give you an idea of how todays modern slot games work and operate, have a read through it so you get a better understanding of the way they could, if you play them, give you hours of fun!

Random Number Generators

One major part any online slot machine you will have to put your complete faith in, is the random number generator, this is the key to each and every machine and it is this device that will ultimately decide whether your next spin will be a winning or losing one.

Whilst is may cross your mind when you are playing a slot, more so if you keep having losing spin after losing spin, is whether that game is completely fair and honest. All major online casino software companies have had their slots and random number generators tested and certified as random and this means by sticking to playing slots at sites powered by the top software providers means you are always going to be getting a fair chance of winning.

As soon as you click on the start or spin button a random number will be requested from the RNG and this number will then be sent to your slot, and this will then be turned into a winning reel sequence or a losing one via the position at which the reels come to land. Casino operators have no access to the random number generators and as such cannot in any way, shape or form rig or fix their slot machines.

Low, Mid and High Variance

There are three types of variance you are going to come across when you play slot machines, this can often be a little confusing for new players who haven't a clue nor an understanding of how and what variance is, however once you find out it can help you choose a slot which has a playing structure you prefer.

Slot variance is simply the way the slot has been designed by virtue of the reel symbol layout and paytable, and a low variance slot is one that will spin in lots of small values wins as you play it, there will of course be a jackpot payout but this may be kept low in value and therefore with lots of low value wins appearing and this small jackpot you will get plenty of action for your money.

A mid variance slot is one that has been designed to give more mid and low ranged payouts, and a high variance slot is one which will have some huge potential payouts on offer and as such these kinds of slots favour the braver type of player who likes a boom or bust type playing structure.

A couple examples of low variance slots are Microgamings Chief's Magic slot, this slot has a maximum jackpot of either 150, 300 or 600 coins for playing it on one, two or three coins respectively and as such you should, in theory, get lots of little wins spinning in and with the jackpot being so low that should also spin in quite regularly also.

The City of Gold slot from Microgaming is a mid variance slot, and with a payout for getting just one Melon on any pay line means lots of smaller wins are bound to spin in, and with the jackpot being 800 or 1600 coins for a one or two coin spin you could win a decent but not huge sized jackpot when you play it.

Couch Potato is a high variance slot from Microgaming and this one, thanks to the wild multiplier symbols which boost payouts by x5 or x25 when you get one or two of these symbols appearing in a winning combination coupled with the massive jackpot of 2,000, 5,000, and 15,000 coins for a one, two or three coin spin results in some huge potential jackpots, and whilst these jackpot don't appear very regularly they can mean a massive win is possible at any moment.

Stakes and Coins Per Line

Whilst the coin settings at which you play a slot machine for should be one that your bankroll can comfortably sustain, it doesn't take a mathematical genius to work out that if you have 20.00 to play with you shouldn't be setting the slots at 5.00 per spin, unless of course you want a minimum of just four spins during that particular session!

If you are playing any kind of slot you should aim to play at least 100 spins per session and this simply means that you should divide the amount you have in your slot playing bankroll by 100 and use that figure as the one you play each spin at.
Many of the Classic slots you will find online often let you play more than one coin per spin, and whilst some offer an exact multiple of a one coin per spin jackpot for a two or three coin spin, some will give you an enhanced jackpot when you play the maximum number of coins per spin.

Take Microgamings Atlantis slot, this is a one pay line, two coin slot, and the jackpot for spinning in three of the Treasure Chest symbols pays 800 coins for a one coin spin and 1600 coins for a two coin spin, so therefore it doesn't matter how many coins you play per spin as the jackpot for both is an exact multiple of each other.

However when you play a Classic slot such as Cash Clams the one coin jackpot is 2000 coins whilst a two coin jackpot is an enhanced 5000 coins, so as you can see you should always check the pay table to see if there are any advantages of playing a maximum coin spin, and in the case of the Cash Clams slot there is, and by playing just one coin will mean you are playing the slot with a lower expected payout percentage when you play it for one coin per spin as opposed to a higher payout percentage for a two coin spin!

Slot Payout Percentages

Each online slot machine will have its own expected payout percentage, a payout percentage is how much each slot is expected to return to the player over the long term operation of that particular game.
This figure is arrived at, in its most basic form, by working out how many reel positions are on each reel strip and then working out how much each winning pay line combination pays out in respect of the attached paytable payouts.

Due to slots offering different numbers of reel symbols on each reel and also by giving different payouts for each winning combination that spins in the payout percentages can and do vary, but you can expect to be playing slots which have expected payout percentages of between 94 and 98 percentage when you play online.

Reel and Video Slots

There are two kinds of slot machines, those that offer the more classical type of game play by having just three reels, and those that offer 5 reels presented and played on a video screen. Three reel slots are the more basic type of slot game and as such offer a straight forward kind of playing structure. You will rarely find any form of bonus feature on these slots and as such you simply choose a stake, spin the reels to find out whether you have won anything. Reel slots also offer just a small number of pay lines usually only one, three or five pay lines are available.

Video slots on the other hand can offer you just a small number of pay lines to many thousands of pay lines and when playing them you can win and trigger a huge variety of different types of bonus feature games, video slots therefore offer a much more action packed type of playing structure and due to these bonus features you will get longer playing sessions than you would by playing 3 reel slots.

The type of slot machine you decide to play is down to yourself, both 3 reel and video slots will have similar payout percentages and as such it doesn't really matter which ones you choose to play, however more savvy slot players stick only to playing those with the very highest of payout percentages even if that slot may on the face of it seem a boring slot to play, the higher the payout percentage is the longer your playing sessions will become, and you will have more chances of a winning session by sticking to only the very highest paying slot machines.

Some slot machines have become so popular that they have been made into a Slot Series, these are a set of slot games which may share the same theme or playing structure, bonus features or progressive jackpots and as such if you like one of them then there will be many different variants of the game available via these additional games.

Examples of these kinds of slot series include Microgamings Golden Goose range of slots as well as their Mega Moolah and Sneak a Peek series of slot machine. Check them out when you next log in to play you may get to like them!