Online casino slots have become enormously popular over the years, and much of their success can be attributed to their simple gameplay. To play, all you need to do is pull the lever (or push the “Spin” button) to set the reels in motion. Game icons are fixated onto the reels, which spin their way to new combinations with each play. If you see matching icons lined up in a row, you win a payout—that's if you play online slots for real money.

This is the most basic explanation of how slot games work, but in reality, they're more complex than that—especially since they've transitioned to the online realm, where there are endless possibilities to enhance gameplay with innovative new formats. In order to help you better understand how online slots games work, we've compiled this comprehensive online slots guide, which touches on all the elements you'll find in our slot games, including everything from game symbols to free spins sessions.




Online Slots Symbols

Game symbols are the icons that spin vertically with each round. The goal of the game is to land matching symbols on a payline, and with most online slot games, paylines begin on the first reel. There is always a minimum number of matches needed to trigger a payout, and the more matches you get, the bigger the payout is for each game.

As you play our online casino slot games, you'll notice that there are some game symbols on the reels that act differently than the standard ones. These are your wilds, scatters, bonus icons and multipliers; each one benefits you in unique ways.



A wild symbol can transform into any of the standard game icons in order to complete a winning line. For example, if you land Q-Wild-Q on a payline, the wild becomes a Q and you get paid for landing three Qs. Some wilds have additional capabilities, such as expanding wilds which can run up and down the entire reel, and sticky wilds, which trigger a free re-spin while staying in place.



Normally, game icons must land side by side in order to trigger payouts, but scatter symbols are an exception to this rule. They can land anywhere on the reels and still trigger a bonus, such as a free spins session, a cash payout or bonus round.



With some online slot games, only scatters trigger the bonuses. But with other slot games, there are additional bonus symbols, which award something extra, like a cash prize or bonus round. For an example of a slot game that has both scatters and a bonus, check out Animal Wilds slot.



Why settle for a standard payout when you can multiply that payout by three times, five times, or even more? Multipliers significantly boost your return by multiplying payouts by the number shown in the symbol.



For the majority of slot games, matching icons can't just land anywhere—they must land on a payline in order to be considered a win. These invisible lines go from the first reel to the last reel in various orders. The most basic payline is a simple horizontal line that goes left to right.

Paylines have a direct impact on win frequency, as having more paylines included in a slot game increases the odds of landing matching icons on them. That being said, you pay for each payline, so the cost per spin increases with the number of paylines included by players.


Betting Level

Your bankroll will dictate what kind of real money slots games you can play as well as the betting levels for them. While some slots simply ask you to choose how much money you want to bet per round, others let you pick the number of coins you want to wager per payline and the coin denomination, creating a more custom experience.


Let’s take Catsino slot for example. In this 5-reel, 50-line slot, you can wager up to 10 coins per payline, and your coin denominations include: $0.01, $0.05, $0.10, and $0.25. That means, you can wager a minimum of one penny per line for $0.50 rounds, and a maximum of 10 quarters per line for $125 rounds.

Another way you can alter your betting level is through the “Select Lines” button, which lets you choose how many paylines to activate. Just be mindful, when you start playing with just a handful of paylines, certain bonus features (expanding wilds, for example) lose their benefits. You should also be aware that certain jackpots are only available when betting the maximum number of coins. Simply check the game's paytable to see what betting minimums are required.


Progressive Jackpots

Most slot players dream of triggering progressive jackpots. These are the massive payouts that are funded by a percentage of incoming bets placed on the game. You'll see them advertised in the tens of thousands at the top of the game screen.

There are a few different ways to trigger a progressive jackpot. We'll cover each one, but it's important to read the rules of the game before starting in order to ensure you know exactly what's required to be eligible.




Random Progressive Jackpot: Some slots include Random Progressive Jackpots, which means the award is given out randomly at the end of any given spin. A Night With Cleo is an example of a slot game with a random progressive jackpot.

Top Line Progressive Jackpot: These jackpots are offered as payouts for winning the top combination of a game. Strike Gold is an example of a slot game with a Top Line Progressive Jackpot.

Bonus Feature Progressive Jackpot: Newer slot games are starting to include progressive jackpots as awards triggered through a bonus feature. Gold Rush Gus has one of these jackpots; it’s one of the four rewards given out through the Treasure Chest Bonus.


Bonus Round

A bonus round takes you to a new screen, where you get an opportunity to boost your bankroll by completing a challenge. The challenge coincides with the theme of the game, making the experience more engaging and interactive than simply spinning the reels. Robin Hood slot, for example, has a bonus round called Marian's Prize, where you attempt to locate Robin Hood's Merry Men behind “Wanted” posters. The more times you're able to do this without uncovering the Sheriff of Nottingham, the more money you end up with.


Free Spins

Free spins let you spin the reels and collect payouts without having to stake any of your bankroll. These are often triggered by landing scatters, and the more scatters you land, the more free spins you get. One of the best online slot games tips out there is to thoroughly examine the free spin situation, as free spins with multipliers—that can also be retriggered—are the most valuable free spins out there.

Some new slots are getting creative with their free spins. With Gold Rush Gus, there are two ways to get free spins: one is through landing scatters and another is through a no-win outcome. The free spins triggered by scatters come with a 2X, 3X or 4X multiplier.


With the exception of progressive jackpots, these basic elements are included in most real money slots online. Knowing how slot games work not only gives you a better understanding of slots in general, but also provides insight on how valuable a game is based on its bonus features. Browse our slot selection and see how many bonus features you can get in a single game for the full online slot games experience.