How To Win on Slot Machines

Ziv Chen

Updated by

Ziv Chen


Lee James Gwilliam

Fact Checked by

Lee James Gwilliam

Senior Vice-President

Last Updated on 11th January 2024, 01:35 PM


Looking to play slots for a chance to win big at the best slot sites? Read this full guide on how to increase your chances to win at slots. Written by our team of slot experts at, it covers the different types of slot machines, odds, payouts, volatility, and everything you need to know on how to win slots.

Whether you are playing slots online or at a brick-and-mortar casino, it is impossible to win every spin on a slot machine. If that was the case, everyone would have won, and the casinos would have gone out of business rather quickly. This is why every slot has a House Edge which is a built-in statistical advantage that lets the best live online casino make money in the long run.

Although every spin doesn’t guarantee a win, there are certain strategies that savvy slot players use to help increase their chances of winning over time and get bigger wins. Find out their secrets in our guide!

Understanding Different Types of Slots & How They Work

The first slot machine in its ‘modern’ version was invented in 1894 by Bavarian-born American inventor Charles August Fey. It was a coin-operated gambling machine that Fey, a San Francisco mechanic, built in his basement. Fast forward to 1976, when the first video slot machine was introduced, featuring an electronic color display and logic boards. The Internet revolution of the 1990s saw the first online casino with online slots launched in 1994. Since then, slots can be found at top mobile casinos providing players with access to thousands of slots at their fingertips from any smartphone or tablet device.

But despite leaps in technology that revolutionized the way we play slots, many basic principles of slot machines remain similar.

How Slots Work

The first step to learning how to win slots is understanding the principles of the game. Whether digital or mechanical, a slot machine will contain reels with symbols that represent different values. One or more paylines will outline the pattern of symbols that needs to align on the reels in order to generate a win.

The player will spin the slot’s reels by pulling a lever or pressing a button (for mechanical and computerized slots, respectively) with the aim of landing a winning combination of symbols that corresponds with the slot’s paylines. The payout will depend on symbol values, and the amount of money wagered on the payline.

It is important to know that all slots have a Random Number Generator (RNG) which makes sure that the outcome of every spin is completely random.

Slot Games

Types of Slots

Beyond basic similarities, slots differ significantly in their number of reels and paylines, features, payouts, bonus rounds and more. To make the most out of your slot experience, you need to find a slot that suits your gameplay, personality, and strategy.

Below are the main types of slot machines available to players:

  • Classic Slots: These are the simplest type of slot games, featuring 3 reels and usually one payline. The symbols are typically fruits, bars, and lucky 7s. Classic slots don't usually have bonus features or free spins, but they can offer large payouts for landing a specific combination of symbols.
  • Video Slots: These are the most common type of slot games found in online casinos, featuring 5 reels and multiple paylines. Video slots often have more complex themes and graphics than classic slots, and they usually have bonus features such as free spins, multipliers, and mini-games.
  • Progressive Slots: These are slot games where a small portion of each bet made by players contributes to a large jackpot that continues to grow until someone hits the winning combination. These jackpots can reach millions of dollars and are often linked across multiple casinos.
  • 3D Slots: These are video slots that use 3D graphics to create a more immersive gaming experience. They often have elaborate animations and cinematic cutscenes, and they may also feature interactive bonus games.
  • Branded Slots: These are slot games that are themed after popular movies, TV shows, or celebrities. They often feature recognizable characters and settings, and they may include bonus games that are tied to the theme of the brand.
  • Megaways Slots: These are video slots that use the Megaways mechanic, which allows for a variable number of symbols to appear on each reel. This means that each spin can have a different number of paylines, often up to tens of thousands. Megaways slots often have cascading reels, which means that winning combinations are removed from the reels and replaced by new symbols, potentially leading to multiple consecutive wins.
  • Cluster Pays Slots: These are video slots where winning combinations are created by landing a cluster of matching symbols rather than lining them up on a payline. Cluster pays slots often have unique reel layouts and may include features such as cascading reels and sticky symbols.

Nowadays, it is common to find slots that combine many of the features above. For example, a multi-payline slot that has 5 reels and offers mega spins and multipliers, etc.

Slot Games

Playing Progressive Jackpot Slots

Progressive slots offer a community prize pool. The casino operator or game developer will usually put up a prize seed which is a set amount of money that goes into the prize pool. Then, a portion of every qualified wager made on the progressive slot by any player will be allocated to the jackpot prize pool. The prize will keep growing until a winning combination is triggered by a lucky player who will win the jackpot. Once won, the prize pool will reset and the jackpot will start building up again.

Progressive Jackpot Tiers

While some progressive slots make any size wager eligible for winning the jackpot, many offer several betting tiers. So only players that placed wagers over a certain amount will qualify to win jackpots. To avoid disappointment, always check the required bets to qualify for jackpot winnings and select the bet level to match the prize you wish to play for.

Jackpot Record Prizes

Although the odds of winning a jackpot are slimmer, rewards are much larger. For example, in 2015, a jackpot of $13.2 million was won on Mega Moolah – a 5-reel, 25-payline progressive slot developed by Microgaming. It has set a Guinness World Record for the largest online jackpot ever won and has since been surpassed with even bigger wins.

Local vs Network Jackpots

Most casinos feature progressive jackpot slots. On network progressives, contributions from wagers from all the participating casinos will count towards one common prize pool. This leads to prizes that can grow very quickly to jackpots worth many millions.

There are also progressive slots with local jackpots that are shared amongst players of a specific casino. Although local jackpots tend to be smaller, they usually provide better odds for winning, providing a good incentive for fans of the best real cash slots.

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How to Manage Your Budget When Playing Slot Games

As losing money is an inevitable part of playing slots, you are bound to have losing spells on the reels. At other times you will have winning streaks that just keep your balance growing. The key to winning on slots is knowing how to enjoy these winning spells, but never forgetting they will come to an end.

The first rule on how to win slots is to never bet on money that you cannot afford to lose. You must set up a budget and time limits and keep a very close eye on your bankroll.

  • Set an equation of time/bets/budget per session: Savvy slot players set for themselves these three limits before starting to play. For example, a budget of $200 should provide a stake for 250 bets which should last 3 hours. When one of these is reached, the gaming session ends. Setting this equation also helps to determine which games to play, bet sizes, etc.
  • Find the right slots: Research and find slots that fit your budget, strategy, and goals. Refer to and use the extensive information provided on themes, features, software providers, RTP, volatility, bet limits, etc.
  • Play for free before you wager real money: Using free spins or playing in demo mode are great ways to test slots without spending any money. It will allow you to spin the reels and better understand how to win on real money online slots.
  • Decide on the type of slot you want to play and stick with it: Many novice casino players tend to jump around from one slot to another. This is especially tempting in online casinos where all the games at accessible at a click of a button. One of the key elements in how to win at slots is to focus on your gameplay, bonus rounds, bet sizes, and paylines. Decide on a few slots before you start playing, and avoid the temptation of jumping from one game to another and getting distracted.
  • Set aside a portion of your wins: Determine how much of your winnings you would like to set aside if you have a lucky streak. Many slot players will take out their initial stake after a big win and keep betting on their profits.
  • Know the difference between bonus and cash: If part of your balance is made of bonus money, make sure you understand the wagering requirements and bonus terms. Do not treat bonus money as cash, as it may not be available at the best online casino with instant withdrawal until requirements are fulfilled. As freeing up bonus money will require more bets, slot bonuses should never be considered as part of your budget.
  • Never chase losses: If you want to know how to win at slots, you must also know how to lose. Every slot player will have losing streaks, as it is a big part of gambling. When you lose, don’t let your emotions get the better of you. Stop playing as soon as your budget or time limit is up. So you can come back next time for a fresh session and hopefully win again.

What is the House Edge?

Casinos need to make money in order to survive. So it comes as no surprise that every slot machine has a built-in statistical advantage that lets the casino rake a profit in the long run. This built-in advantage is called the House Edge, which is the percentage of total wagers that the casino will keep as profit over time. So if you want to learn ho­­­w to win slots, it is important to understand the house edge.

For example, if the house edge of a certain slot machine is 5%, the casino will keep 5c for every $1 wager and return the remaining 95p to players in winnings. This doesn’t mean that a specific player will get 95c back from every $1 wager he/she places. This is an average return that is distributed as winnings to players over time.

Slot Paylines, Volatility, Probability, and RTP

Part of what makes slots so popular is that they are fairly simple to play. Once you understand the values and functions of different symbols, it’s just a matter of spinning the reels, right? Well, not exactly. Slot games are a lot more complex than they appear to be. There are many mechanisms, math models, and statistical ratios that operate every slot machine underneath the surface. That’s what makes slots so exciting and entertaining.

When it comes to choosing the right game and understanding how to win on slots, there are a few terms that you should know:

  • Paylines: This is a pattern that is built into a slot machine to highlight the possible combinations of matching symbols that a player must generate to win. Paylines traditionally go from left to right. But there are slot machines that offer paylines with different patterns and directions.
  • Volatility: Also known as Variance, volatility measures the level of risk built into the slot machine. Low volatility slots are considered to have low risk, as they will pay out winnings more frequently. Whereas high volatility slots are considered to have a higher risk as they pay out less often. In both cases, the reward corresponds with the risk, where the winnings of low volatility slots are frequent but smaller vs high volatility slots that pay out less often, but their prizes are much bigger.
  • Probability: Also known as Hit Rate, the probability of a slot machine is the statistical chance of each spin yielding a win. For example, a slot machine that has a probability of generating a win every 5 spins will have a 20% hit rate.
  • RTP: The RTP (Return to Player) is the percentage of total wagers that will paid out as winnings over time. For example, if an online slot has an RTP of 96.5%, it will pay out in winnings $96.5 for every $100 wagered. As the RTP is a statistical payout in the long run to all players, it does not mean that every player will receive the same return.

The average 96% RTP of online slots is much higher than that of slot machines in a land-based casino. Examples of online slots with higher RTPs are:

  • Rainbow Riches Pick n Mix by Barcrest with 98%
  • Blood Suckers by NetEnt with 98%
  • Mega Joker by NetEnt with 99%
  • Ugga Bugga by Playtech with 99%

Visit our recommended slots pages to find more slots with a high RTP.

Free Spins

Free Slots and Free Spins

A good way to practice how to win at slots is to play them for free. Free slots will let you test many games and find slot machines that suit your playing style. It will also give you an opportunity to practice your slot machine strategy. So you can hit the ground running once you start wagering real money.

Many casinos use free spins to entice new players and reward their existing customers. Free spins will allow you to spin the reels of specific slot machines without wagering your own money. However, the outcome of a free spin and a real-money spin is just as random. This means that you can also win while playing free spins. And subject to the casino’s wagering requirements, what you win from free spins is yours to keep.

Another way to play slots for free is in demo mode. Although you will not need to be logged into an account, winnings from demo play will not be available to claim.

Meet The Author

25 Years
Ziv Chen
Ziv Chen
Writer Writer

Ziv Chen has been working in the online gambling industry for over two decades in senior marketing and business development roles. Ziv writes about a wide range of topics including slot and table games, casino and sportsbook reviews, American sports news, betting odds and game predictions. Leading a life full of conflict, Ziv constantly struggles between his two greatest loves: American football and US soccer.

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