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How to win at online slots

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online slots are just like slots in live casinos — with two very important differences — and these differences actually make it easier to win money online than in live casinos.

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So, our strategy for winning online is a one-two punch approach, based on these two important factors. One—we’re going to be really selective in choosing the best slots to play. And two — we’re going to look for the most valuable bonuses we can find. Let’s get started!

Picking Winners

How many times have you gone into a casino in Las Vegas or Atlantic City, walked straight to the area where your favorite slot machines are located, only to find that every machine in the bank of slots you wanted to play was taken? What do you do? Do you wait around for someone to leave? If you do, did you ever notice how the first person to give up his machine is someone who has just been losing, losing, losing? No wonder they’re giving up that machine! Are you sure you want it?

If you like playing slots that have progressive jackpots—and that’s what Cindy really goes for!—have you ever noticed in live casinos how the machines with the biggest progressive jackpots are the ones that are already taken?

Online, we never have these types of problems. Every slot machine in the casino is always available, and no matter how many players are playing, they can’t tie up the machines with the biggest jackpots.

Other Stuff You Should Know

Don't expect to win every time you play a slot machine. We’ll have some wins and some losses, and that’s inevitable. We’re always playing to make money, but we’re also playing for fun and excitement. Having fun when you play slots is most important, so the first rule is that you should never play with money you can’t afford to lose. If you are stressed out because you are playing on money you can't afford to lose, you might start making bad choices on machines to play and bonuses to go for. Never chase your losses. If you have a loss, let it go, and try again another day.

There are really two different types of slot machines, and you have to choose the best machine for your frame of mind, your goals, and your personality. You know that beer commercial where people argue about whether the beer is “less filling” or “tastes great”? With slots, we want to talk about which ones let us “last longer” or “pay great.”

We don’t often find both of these features in the same machine. On some machines, we’ll last a long time because there are lots of small payouts that keep us going. The “pays great” machines, on the other hand, have a habit of eating up our money pretty quickly if we don’t hit something—but if we do hit something, wow! It’s a great payout!

If you are playing mainly for fun, you should play the machines that are best for lasting longer. But if you’re really going for a win, and you accept the fact that your whole deposit might disappear before you get much action, you should play the “pays great” machines.

How can you tell whether a slot machine is the “last longer” or “pays great” type?

Look at the Slot Machine Pay Table

The pay table of the machine tells us how often that machine returns a big payout and how often it returns lots of smaller payouts. Here’s a tip: The more symbols there are, the more combinations they will make. The more combinations and small win amounts you see on that pay table, the more frequently you’ll get paid, but the less often you’ll hit a big score.

Remember that you don't want to aim for such a big win that you use up your whole bankroll just trying to hit it! It’s fun to go after big progressive jackpots, but generally you should keep this play to a small percentage of your overall slot budget. Slot machines almost never hit the top jackpots, so don’t expect to hit one. These are real long shots, no matter how long it’s been since the last jackpot was hit. It’s almost like winning the lottery. No one can afford to put a huge portion of their entertainment budget into buying lottery tickets. (Some people really have gone broke trying this!)

Look for slots with smaller top jackpots and a more hefty pay table overall, with lots of payouts that are good, but not necessarily payouts that are going to change your tax bracket. When Cindy looks at a slot’s pay table, she’s not looking for any particular number of payout combinations. Some machines offer six pay combinations per coin, others fifteen, and some even more than that.

A machine with 17 winning combinations is going to offer more small hits than a machine with only six. But the secret to winning is finding the slots that have the most payouts that would make you happy. Notice I’m not saying the payouts that will pay off your mortgage and put your kids through college. If Cindy deposits fifty bucks in a machine, and half an hour later, she’s got $1000, believe me, she’s happy!

If a slot machine has a whole bunch of little payouts like 1 to 4 coins, and a few really big payouts, like thousands of coins, but very few payouts in between, then Cindy knows that this is a slot where she’ll last longer, but she won’t have much of a chance at making any amount of money that will satisfy her desire to win. But if the top jackpot isn’t that big, and lots of the smaller payouts are pretty good pays—anything from 25 to a few hundred coins—this is exactly what she’s looking for when lasting longer isn’t the prime concern, and she’s decided to take a shot at paying off our mortgage! We haven’t actually hit many multi-thousand-dollar payouts, but we’re still trying for that life-changing monster. So for now, I’m keeping my day job! But we’ll still keep trying for it every now and then just for the excitement, and who know, one of these days Cindy might tell me I’ve just entered my early retirement!

In live casinos, Cindy loves to play the Double Diamond slots. It may have only seven winning combinations, but four of them fall into this higher payout category, and the doubling feature of this machine brings a fifth bigger payout possibility into play.

The Microgaming online casinos' Frost Bite slot is very similar to Double Diamond, and it’s an excellent choice of machine when you’re looking for a “pays great” slot.

“Bonus” Slots

“Bonus” slots are often (but not always) excellent choices when you want a “pays great” slot. By bonus slot, I mean the slots where you can get bonus rounds and Free Spins instead of just payouts for hitting combinations. These types of slots don’t usually have their pay tables on the main screen. Instead, you must click on the Pay Table button to see if this particular slot machine has a lot of winning combinations or just a few, and whether it has “scatter” symbols and “wild” symbols—which increase the number of pays—or “multipliers” that usually decrease the frequency of payouts, but give you bigger payouts when you get them.

At Microgaming casinos, look for the chart that appears at the lower right side of the Lobby screen when you highlight the name of a slot you are considering playing. The chart has exact information about the slot’s features, such as whether it offers scatter symbols, bonus rounds, free spins or the “gamble” option. A few definitions…

“Wild” symbols work just like wild cards in poker. They can be any symbol you need for a payout. If the other symbols on a payline are part of a possible payout then the wild symbol will complete the combination and you get paid.

Double payout symbols are a combination of a wild card and a multiplication feature. When one of these symbols finishes on the payline, not only can it turn the line into a winning combination, but it will double the payout. And if you complete a winning combination with two double symbols, the payout will be four times the regular payout.

“Scatter” symbols are symbols that don’t have to be on the same line for you to get paid. Instead, you get paid a certain amount according to the total number of them that show up on a spin, wherever they are on the screen. Usually, there’s no payout on one scatter symbol, but as soon as you get two, you will get paid no matter where they appear. With three scatters, the payout goes up from two symbols, and the payouts just keep going up the more of them there are. I can always tell when Cindy is playing Halloweenies because the scatter symbol is the jack-o’-lantern and when one of them shows up, she starts yelling “Pumpkin! Pumpkin!” trying to encourage the reels that are still spinning to give her another one.

Some players love bonus slots like Pollen Nation that offer “second-screen” bonuses that give you a chance to choose. The slot machine will literally take you to a second screen where you must choose between images with a bonus hidden behind them. Once you make your choice and click on it, the bonus amount will be revealed to you, and you may receive another screen full of symbols to choose from to receive yet another bonus amount. Be sure to check the paytable for the bonus round top payouts.

Other bonus slot machines, like Geisha Lounge’s Derby Dollars, offer “free spins” when the right combination of symbols come up. On most slots, the standard payouts are multiplied—doubled and sometimes tripled!—on these free spins. Other symbols that show up during your free spins can win you even more free spins! When you’re already playing on free spins and you win more free spins before the free spin cycle is even over—that’s as good as it gets! It’s literally winning money without even putting any coins in!

Another feature to look for is the “Gamble” feature. On slot machines with this feature, all wins can be gambled for double-or-nothing up to five times. This is a great way to go for a real score—essentially, it gives you a chance to manufacture your own jackpots! Say you have a 4-coin win—no big deal. But look at what happens if you gamble it five times and win all five gambles: It goes from 4 coins to 8, to 16, to 32, to 64, to 128! And you really never gambled more than 4 coins!

Paylines can be confusing when you first start playing multi-line bonus slots. Take a look at the charts on the paytable that show how the paylines crisscross the screen. Then relax. If the machine’s fun, just play. The slot machine will remember the paylines, even if you don’t.

What if You Have a Good Win, but You Haven’t Met the Wagering Requirement?

What if you hit a nice win while you’re playing on an online casino’s bonus, but you still have some of the wagering requirement to do? Be careful! You don’t want to give back the whole win while you are finishing the wagering requirement. So you can save most of that win by switching to a slot machine that takes smaller coins, especially the type of slot where you’ll last longer because there are lots of small payouts. And as soon as you finish the wagering requirement, stop playing. It’s time to cash out and think of which of your favorite restaurants you should go to that night to celebrate. (Cindy loves prime rib, and there’s now a restaurant in town that knows us by our first names!) If you can't stop when you're ahead, you’ll never win in the long run. If you can’t enjoy your wins and celebrate a little, there’s no use even playing.

How Do You Find the Best Machines?

That’s what Cindy and I are here for! We’ve already put all that information together for you. Just go to our Best Slot Machine Payouts page.

Once more, that’s what Cindy and I are here for! We’ve already put all that information together for you too. We only list the best casinos we’ve found, where we’ve personally played, and only the casinos that give slot players the most valuable bonuses to play on. So, look around the site and read everything. And check out our blackjack and video poker information too. We try to cover every game you’ll find online. If you’ve never played in online casinos before, be sure to go to our Quick Start page that tells you everything you need to know about depositing your money (and withdrawing your wins!). Winning at online slots is a lot easier than you think!

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