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Guide to playing online slots

The results being pure chance, online slots present the online gambler with a sight and sound experience that keeps returning money to the player in the form of mainly modest wins and constantly promises the possibility of massive gains for relatively tiny stakes.

Guide to playing online slots With payouts that in the long-term earn the casino a few cents for every dollar wagered the player's main decision revolves around what kind of slot fits the bill and, this being a cyber casino, the better operators at least make sure to provide a rich variety of games to suit all kinds of slots fan.


For most players sitting down at their computer for a couple of hours or so to wind down after work with a session in cyberspace, the big prizes are elusive. Instead the player is content to catch modest wins, while Lady Luck might occasionally show a bit of compassion and serve up a juicy combination of symbols, sights and sounds that result in a hefty boost in the credit box.

In the long run, however, slots take in more money than they give out, and we can find out this ratio by referring to the payout information that operators make available on their sites. (If they don't we suggest you look elsewhere).


The payout is determined by the RNG - Random Number Generator, which essentially generates results randomly from a known yet astronomical pool of possible outcomes. (We can argue all day about the 'extent' of this computer generated randomness, but it is random enough for me...) By dividing this number of outcomes into the total sum of money on which they are paid out, we get the payout of the machine.

From a quick survey of online casinos we will see that, typically, the payout for this or that casino's slots might be around 95%, for example. This effectively means that, in the long-term, for every $100 invested the payout will be $95, and subsequent loss of $5. But how long is the long-term? And what happens before we get there? Whilst trawling through gambling forums we saw many online slots players complaining that they had joined an online casino after seeing payout claims of 98%, for example, only to play for weeks and suffer a payback that was much lower. What they failed to appreciate or acknowledge is that these are computer programs we are talking about and, as we should be aware, computers deal with very large numbers indeed. Therefore, during the course of the long period at the end of which the payout figure will eventually be established just about anything can happen, with the short-term results capable of large swings either way. Another, happier player might well report that she joined a casino to play the slots and after a few weeks has seen her bank roll snowball thanks to a payout way above the one she had seen advertised.

Remember that while the total possible outcomes are known, their distribution is random (that's the point), so what is not known is the timescale of the process. Furthermore, the computer is charged to merely throw out random combinations and is therefore not privy to the current state of play in terms of the payout ratio thus far. Consequently — and contrary to the claims of the non-believers — the program does not allow for the tide of slots results to change in order to 'even' out the payout.

Expect the Expected

The nature of random results, obviously, is to make each new spin of the reels a new and mysterious experience. We don't know what combination of symbols will line up next. Who's to say it won't be a winning spin, perhaps even the jackpot? Nor can we rule out a losing combination, or a whole series of them. Suffice to say, anything can happen, although, in the long-term, we can indeed expect the expected in that the overall flow of cyber dollars that passes to and from the customer and the online slots providers will eventually favor the latter.

One-Click Bandits

In the meantime, by joining a reputable casino with a wide range of slots on offer and reasonably high payout figures, you might consider putting, for example, $200 aside to try your luck and hope that the initial swing is in your favor. This seems like a decent bank roll considering there are penny slots available, but be warned as to the speed with which it is possible to play. Even at a B&M casino we see people race through hundreds of spins an hour, and online it can be even faster. With thousands of online players watching literally millions of virtual spins on any given day, that theoretically long-term payout is collectively bringing home the bacon at all times for the operators so that, with each spin you play, you are effectively adding a few cents of each of your dollars to their coffers.

We find this long-term inevitability rather off-putting from a value point of view, but we appreciate the thrill of a big win and the fun factor, although lengthy sessions of slots also seems somewhat monotonous.

Of course as we write these wise words someone somewhere will be jumping up and down at home, spilling their drink and oblivious to the fact that - as is the wont of many an online gambler - they are dressed only in their underwear, yet tens of thousands of dollars the richer after sitting through thousands of spins of the jingling jangling online slots experience...

Strike it Lucky

Just as the occasional bricks and mortar slots jackpot winner generates great publicity for the casino that is paying out, online firms have latched on to the potential rewards of generating high payout so-called progressive jackpot games.

With a network of slots across a number of internet casinos it is possible for players from different sites to collectively boost a jackpot to a high level which, when it reaches $1 million, for example, prompts more players to join in the fun and thus contribute further. And so the cycle continues, with portals directing players to big, big prizes via more and more online casinos, every minute of the day. Someone eventually wins the jackpot, the media jumps in and throws amazing facts and figures to the public regarding the growth of an apparently happy internet gambling family and - on cue - consequently these casinos see a new influx of clients. Because a number of new customers will eventually do more than just play the occasional slot machine, the whole concept of progressive jackpots is a winner.

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life...

Meanwhile, those yet to strike it rich tend to remain positive in their quest thanks to the morale boosting wins that they hit. And herein lies the wonderful, almost hypnotic psychological effect of the slots (and video poker). By including in the many possible outcomes of the RNG software a vast range of winning combinations of varying values to the player the operators are able to help distinguish any thoughts of giving up the chase by virtue of the fact that a win — albeit perhaps rather modest but enough to add to the player's bank roll - is sure to come along sooner or later. This provides a well-timed reinforcement for the player and in doing so maintains interest. Remember that such winning combinations are random, but sufficiently numerous not to take too long in coming. The intermittent incidence of returns results in what is referred to as 'schedule-induced' behavior from the player, not unlike addiction. Furthermore, combinations that can have the same kind of reinforcement effect on the player - yet at no cost to the casino - are those that feature big prize symbols in non-winning positions, serving to create a feeling of a near miss. Remember this the next time you feel like a break from your slots adventure. The jackpot is just as near or far away, irrespective of any recent wins - so take that break.


Published on 07/27/2007

More in Casino School:

 Basic Gambling Tips from Marshall
 A few things to consider when playing at the online casinos



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