How to Win at Online Slots – Is there a Secret Method?

Winning at Slots

We don’t know for sure, so here are a few ways you can begin devising your own “secret method”.

There might not be any real “cheats” as far as online slots are concerned, but understanding how these games work could make a huge difference to your odds as far as finishing your night with a profit or going bust are concerned. If anybody tells you there “IS” a sure-fire way to guarantee a profit from online slots, they are probably trying to sell you some dodgy system or another snake-oil type of product.

The following methods probably couldn’t be described as “secrets” as far as the smartest “players in the know” are concerned, but there are some aspects of online slots that are not widely understood by many gamblers. We’ve compiled a few of the best ideas we could find here, and we also have articles on Bankroll Management, High vs Low Variance Slots, and Everything You Need to Know About Progressive Slots to be published soon too, so keep an eye out for those if you want to continue expanding your knowledge of the most popular games in both online and land-based casinos. On with the “secrets”!

Secret #1: Casino bonuses CAN still be profitable if you are willing to do the maths

Many players believe that online casino bonuses have had their day, and they may well be right when it comes to blackjack and table games, but not slots. You can find online slots with exceptionally high Return to Player (RTP) figures such as Bloodsuckers by NetEnt (98%), Rainbow Riches Pick’n’Mix (Up to 98%, depending on which features you select), and 1429 Uncharted Seas by Thunderkick (98.6%).

If you can find an online casino offering a bonus of 200% with a wagering/playthrough requirement of say 35x on the amount of the bonus only, and then play one of these games, you stand a very good chance mathematically of finishing with a profit.

Let’s take an example where we deposit R100, receive R200 in bonus funds and have a wagering requirement of $7,000 (35x R200 = R7,000). Our starting balance is R300, and we expect to lose on average around 2% of each of our wagers whilst playing a 98% RTP game. To keep the maths simple, we will make bets of R1, but try working out this formula yourself with various bet sizes. Remember that higher bets can bring higher rewards when choosing how much to bet yourself too!

If we make 7,000 bets at R1 each, we would hope to finish our wagering requirement with a balance of R160, after deducting 7,000 x R0.02 from our initial starting balance of R300. That’s a R60 profit on a perfect day, and 7,000 spins are easily achievable in a good night’s slotting session.

There are no guarantees that things will work out this way, of course. Some days you will go bust, other days you will finish with less than R160… and on some lucky occasions you might hit a huge win at some point during your session, and go on to finish with a balance of many thousands of dollars.

There are bonuses out there that are more generous than this too – perhaps offering 400% but limiting you to deposits of R20. Keep your eyes open for the best bonus deals, be sure to read the terms and conditions and check the prohibited games list, then get spinning!

Secret #2: The size of your bets CAN make a difference, but maybe not for the reasons you think

Some slots players still think that games will only ever deliver big wins on lower bets. These players believe that online slots give fewer bonus rounds and award far less huge hits of many thousands of times the stake to those who are placing higher wagers.

There certainly are fewer pictures and videos on places like YouTube that show players hitting outrageous wins whilst placing huge bets, compared to the number when a player is betting the minimum stake. It should go without saying, however, that there are far fewer players who can afford to make huge bets whilst playing slots – so this is exactly the ratio you would expect!

In fact, the size of your bet makes no difference to what result the random number generator will give on any given spin. A couple of exceptions to this are games that add more pay lines, grant a higher RTP, or offer a progressive jackpot only to players who are placing larger bets.

What CAN make a difference though is how the size of your bets affects your bankroll. Choosing to keep your bets low should help you play for longer, but you stand a much lower chance of hitting a large win that will get your balance up to a number far above what you have deposited. By contrast, place ten R1 bets from a R10 deposit, and you only need one of them to come in with something decent, and you are immediately in a profit.

Decide which style of play suits you best – do you care how long you get to play for? Or would you rather just have a quick session with a higher chance of winning something big? THIS is how the size of your bets can make a difference when playing online slots.

Secret #3: Online slots tend to pay out more than the ones found on the casino floor

Whilst it may seem obvious to some, not everyone seems to understand that the vastly higher overheads of land-based casinos will often lead to lower payouts and tighter slots than the games commonly found online. Some players believe that the slots of Las Vegas are vastly superior to those found at online casinos, and whilst there certainly are some fantastic games to be found there that are not currently available online, there is no question that the RTP of those games tend to be lower than typical online slots.

Even when the same games can be found online and in land-based casinos, the land-based versions will usually be much less generous than their online counterparts. The typical numbers tend to be roughly 85-90% for land-based slots, compared to 94-98% for online games. This will make a huge difference to how long your bankroll lasts, although it’s difficult to argue against spending time in a land-based casino is a far more interesting experience than just sitting down at your computer to spin slots instead.

Secret #4: Some games can pay a lot more than others, even those from the same developer

It’s understandable to hear players who only spin once in a while state their belief that the majority of online slots are very similar, and are just the same game with a different set of graphics and sounds attached. Sure, some games have bonus games or pick-me features, whilst others have free spins modes or stacked wilds – but it’s easy to see why some players would end up thinking that these games are basically just more of the same thing.

Spend some time looking at the pay tables of a range of different online slots, however, and it will soon become apparent that there are vast differences between the amounts paid out for similar combinations in different games. Many games don’t pay anything at all for hitting all five scatter symbols for example, whereas NetEnt’s Dead or Alive pays out 2,500x for any combination of the five. Playtech’s Great Blue pays out 500x your stake for five scatters in regular mode, or up to 7,500x during the free spins feature.

Even games with similar RTP percentages can have very different pay tables, as RTP can be allocated in very different ways. For example, low and high-paying combinations can both sometimes account for either a huge or a small portion of the available RTP, which explains a large portion of the reasoning behind the phenomenon of slot volatility. Each bonus game a slot has needs to be allocated a portion of RTP, and if those bonuses are triggered by different symbols during the main game then they will often be designed to block each other to remove RTP from the base game to make it available for allocating to a bonus round instead.

Keep an eye out on the pay table of each game for the largest possible win you can see assigned to a particular combination or feature. This may not tell you everything if the game has sticky wilds or other such advanced features, but it should give you a good idea of the potential each machine has.

Secret #5: Online slots pay out in a very different way to fruit machines and pub slots

Although these games look quite similar whilst you are playing them, they work in very different ways. Many people playing slots for the first time expect them to work similarly to the fruit machines they have played previously. As a result, they don’t understand how they can empty a huge bankroll into an online slot without seeing lots of that money coming back in winnings.

There are even Amusements with Prizes (AWP) versions of some games that are available online such as Rainbow Riches, which do work more like a fruit machine than a true slot machine using a random number generator. The reasoning for this is that the places which host these games do not want to deal with machines that have a high risk of generating lots of big wins one after another. If neither the machine nor the establishment has cash on hand to pay for these wins, it can complicate their cash flow immensely.

Casinos just don’t work in the same way – they are fully prepared to deal with the possibility of people winning large amounts of money from their random machines. Casinos know for sure that it is mathematically guaranteed they will eventually end up with a profit equivalent to the house edge from every game they offer, and they are required by law to have a certain amount of cash in the bank to account for every reasonable possibility. An online slot could pay out a jackpot the very first time its reels are spun, and whilst such a scenario would be unlikely, it has doubtlessly occurred on one or two occasions in the past.

A fruit machine will only pay out a jackpot once it has enough cash stored within it to pay that jackpot whilst keeping back the profit specified by the owners of the machine. You can theoretically keep playing a fruit machine until you win most of your money back in most scenarios, but of course, most players are instead hoping to find a machine that somebody else has filled with money before they start to play.

Secret #6: You can’t stop the reels or use other “skill” tricks to fool online slots

Learning to play a fruit machine successfully requires you to understand tricks such as nudging and holding numbered symbols, whereas slot designers specifically avoid any kind of skill-based aspect when designing their games. Slot machines are even forbidden from having skill-based features by law in some jurisdictions.

Some players incorrectly believe that hitting the “stop” button at just the right time can result in a third scatter appearing on the fifth reel, or any other kind of winning combination. This simply isn’t true – the outcome of each spin is usually determined the moment you press the button to set the reels in motion. Even if the outcome for each reel is decided later, they are still all completely random and pressing the “stop” button at a specific moment is not going to help you achieve any desired combination.

Note that there has been a couple of cases of players learning the details of how a slots random number generator works and using that information to decide when to spin the reels. It’s a very difficult thing to do and only happened because of poor programming of some specific Aristocrat slot machines, but it seems important to give it a short mention here.

Secret #7: Online slots do not go “hot” and “cold” – every spin is completely independent

When playing an online slot, it is easy to get the impression that the machine is going through “hot” and “cold” periods – that is to say, long periods of consecutive winning or losing spins. As a player, you need to try and keep it at the front of your mind that these machines do not have a memory, and they’re just isn’t any mechanism in place that would allow for the development of such hot and cold periods of spinning.

It is just the same as when playing roulette – it doesn’t matter if the last ten spins resulted in a “red” number, the next spin is equally likely to be either red or black. With roulette though, the relatively small number of permutations – 37 possible winning pockets – means that you can at least begin to calculate the likelihood of eleven red numbers occurring in a row.

This is not the case with an online slot machine, as each of the virtual reel strips will often have over 50 individual symbols contained on it. Five reels of fifty symbols would mean 312.5 million different possible outcomes, and this could even be a relatively conservative number. Changing the numbers up to 90, 87, 60, 76 and 55 symbols on each of the five reels – a real set of numbers for a popular online slot – leads to almost 2 billion different permutations. That’s a lot of possible outcomes and a REALLY long time before the slot achieves its specified RTP.

With so many available permutations though, there is no reason not to expect numerous big hits to occur in a row – or even fifty dead spins, one after the other. Even in the world of progressive slots, don’t be fooled if a jackpot has been hit twice in two days, as has happened on Mega Moolah more than once over its long history. This doesn’t mean that a third jackpot is more likely to hit soon, or that there will definitely be a long wait before the next jackpot either.

Every spin has just as much chance of resulting in every possible outcome as every other. It is as simple as that.

Secret #8: The expected and actual odds or RTP of every online slot is published online

A new development since widespread regulation has come into force in many countries has been the legal requirement for slot developers to publish the expected RTP of every one of their games. In some jurisdictions, such as the United Kingdom, individual casino websites are also required to publish the ACTUAL RTP of every one of their games, making it easy to compare the expected with the actual for the first time in history.

Some players were hoping that this development would finally lead to the proof they had long sought, that online slots were not truly random at all. As it turned out, the RTP published on the majority of casino websites that had resulted from millions of spins on each game was very close to the manufacturers expected number.

New games do sometimes see large swings in the early days, but as soon as any online slot has been spun enough times for every single permutation to have been seen at least once, you can bet your last dollar that the expected and actual RTP of every machine compared in this way will eventually begin to align with one another.

Secret #9: Some online slots pay out much more regularly than others, even at the same casino

We mentioned in secret #4 that some online slots pay out much more than other comparable games from the same manufacturer, and the same is true of the pace of wins as well. Games with higher variance and volatility will usually pay out big prizes much less often than low variance games, which tend to award small prizes regularly instead.

There is no sure-fire way to work out this variable just from looking at the pay table or RTP information for a specific game, but if the maximum possible win is quite low or there are many pay lines, these could suggest a slot that pays out little but often.

Microgaming’s first “Thunderstruck” game was a nine-line slot that was renowned for being very high variance, and several clones ended up being made of it which used the same pay table and mechanics. The follow-up, Thunderstruck 2, switched to the 243 ways layout instead of nine lines. With so many more winning combinations, you do win much more often whilst playing the sequel, but a lot of the very common wins pay out less than your stake.

Secret #10: Return to player (RTP%) is significant, but it isn’t everything

Looking at the RTP of different online slots is a very useful way of comparing them, but there are other ways to judge the value of each game as well. Variance has been mentioned a lot in this article, and you should keep an eye out for our follow-up “Loose Slot Machines and the Meaning of High and Low Variance Slot games” for a very detailed look at what effects variance can have in the world of online slots.

For this article though, think of variance just like an umbrella term for the size and frequency of the payouts that each game offers. The majority of high variance games tend to have slightly lower RTP figures than their lower variance counterparts, perhaps to help manage the risk that these games can have for the casino. A lower RTP will usually lead to quicker profits for the casino, which is important if a game is capable of awarding a jackpot big enough to wipe out its entire day’s profit in one go.

Volatility is usually thought of as being the same thing as variance, and for the most part, it is – the two are certainly highly connected. If you were to plot a graph of each player’s results whilst playing a specific slot, a low volatility game would tend to have most of the points on this graph clustered in the same area. Essentially, if it is very difficult to either get massively in front (or go bust) quickly, then you are playing a low volatility game.

Some players can find games with extremely low volatility boring, even if the RTP is very high. Imagine a game with zero volatility – every spin returns the same win …. the same as your stake. How long would you keep playing that slot for? The best online slots are the ones that find the perfect sweet spot in terms of RTP, variance and volatility, whilst also offering just the right number of interesting features and bonus rounds.

Conclusion: The real “secret” method is the one you determine yourself

So whilst there may not be any true secret methods that can guarantee you a win whilst playing online slots, you can alter your chances of a winning or losing session – or at the very least, an enjoyable one – by working out your preferences regarding all the points mentioned above.

Maybe you will decide to place a few large bets on a low variance game, in the hope of hitting something just in the region of 30-50x your stake before cashing out. Or maybe you’ll go the other way entirely by placing tiny bets on a game with monstrous variance, hoping for one of those crazy 10,000x stake jackpots.

Searching for a new place to play each week with a good bonus offer than working out which games give you the best odds mathematically may be a strategy that excites you – on the other hand, you might find such detailed investigation before starting to play tedious and prefer to just see where luck takes you instead.

We hope that this article will, at the very least, have filled you in regard to some details you weren’t fully aware of before. Hopefully, a few of you will now be well on your way to devising your own “secret method”, and whilst it may not result in a profit for you every time you gamble, you should see every enjoyable night you spend spinning slots as an actual “win”. Good luck!

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