Almost everybody knows how slot machines work in the real world – you press a button or pull a lever and reels of symbols start spinning. When the reels stop the pay line is assessed and if you have several symbols that match, you win a prize. The slot machines to be found at online casinos work in much the same way, but because they are virtual machines they tend to be even more entertaining that the real thing.

The variety of machines that can be played online is astounding, and at most casinos you will find a range of machines with many different features. The main features you need to be aware of and understand in order to choose between different machines are as follows:

Multiple Pay Lines

Although there are many “classic” slot machines at online casinos which have just one pay line, the trend is for machines to have multiple pay lines. In some cases a machine can have twenty, thirty, forty or even fifty pay lines, and the player usually gets to choose how many lines are played in any given game. It should be noted that each pay line requires one bet, so if a player is using 10p stakes and chooses to play 20 pay lines, the cost for one game will be £2.

Reverse / Alternate Mode

Normally a slot machine pays out whenever you get matching symbols on one or more pay lines, but some machines also have a Reverse or Alternate mode. If you choose to play in this mode then the machine awards a prize every time you don’t get matching symbols. Of course, if you get matching symbols when playing in this mode then your bet would lose.

Number of Reels

In the old days, fruit machines all had three reels of symbols. Today they have three, four, five or sometimes even more. This allows for a greater number of combinations to be played for, and for five matching symbols to pay out much bigger jackpots than you can get on machines with fewer reels.

Bonus Stages

These are secondary games that are activated when you get specific symbols appearing on screen. They offer the player a chance to win a bonus cash prize, and some bonus games do include a small element of skill, which we like. Some machines have more than one bonus stage, and this makes them more interesting to play on a regular basis simply because there’s more for the player to do.

Progressive Jackpots

These are jackpots that grow every time the machine is played until the eventual winner gets the whole lot. The largest online progressive jackpot payout at the time of writing paid the winner over £4,000,000 – yes, that’s four million pounds. Note that some progressives only pay the full amount of the jackpot to players who bet the maximum stake on the machine, so be sure to check the rules of any progressive machine you play in advance.

As pure games of luck, there are no strategies that one can use to improve the odds of winning. What we can suggest is that you spend some time finding a machine you really like so that you get maximum entertainment for your money. If you do this then winning becomes a bonus – a potentially massive bonus but a bonus all the same.