Slots dominate the online casino scene, both with the number of games available and in popularity. The amazing thing is that practically nothing has changed in the game’s basic rules since the first slot machine was assembled over 100 years ago. Could Bavarian immigrant to the US, Charles Fey really have predicted that his Liberty Bell, a game which calls for the spinning of a set of reels and its outcome determined by randomness alone, would go on to create a multi-billion-dollar industry?
Obviously, the above graph is a very simplistic way of looking at slots rules and operations, especially when we compare it to how slots work today. The original slots had their randomness determined by mechanical reels, while online slots have their random numbers generated by computerized features. However, the basic principles remain the same: Randomness determines the outcome of the game and the size of your prize.
Today’s outcome of modern slot games is determined by what is known as a Random Number Generator (or, RNG). The number that is generated by this RNG relays to the reels when they should come to a stop. Every round that you play – and whether you win or lose – is determined by luck alone.
Nothing outside of this can influence the outcome:
Dedicated RNG hardware devices generate literally thousands of random numbers every single second, feeding the randomness of online casino slots.
One thing we need to remember is this: Online casinos (or any casinos for that matter) are businesses in every sense of the word, that need to turn a profit in order to justify their existence. How do casinos make money on casino games, and slots in particular, if the outcome is random?
Online slot games have been created in a way that - in the long run - they pay out less than you bet.
The math of a slot game is determined by a number of factors. The math + random numbers eventually give the online casino an advantage over the player and can be summarized as follows:
True or False? Online casinos will program their slot games not to pay out a lot of money after a particularly big win. They will also pay out more after a long stretch of time when there has been no win.
FALSE! An online slot game cannot be ‘programmed’. These games are linked to a central server and an RNG, which determines when the next payout will be. A payout can come immediately after a big win, or it could be weeks or even months before the jackpot is hit again.
True or False? By watching a slots ‘cycle’, you can figure out when to start playing and thus increase your chances of winning.
FALSE! An online casino slot does not have a ‘cycle’ of any sort. As we’ve repeated again and again, online slots work only on random numbers which determine the outcome. Of course, there is something known as ‘natural randomness’ (ever heard of a ‘lucky streak’) but of course there is no way to predict when you’ll experience a lucky or unlucky streak during your gaming session.
True or False? It’s better to click the spin button on the online slot machine manually and to avoid the Autoplay feature.
FALSE! We know already how online slot games work (and if not, start re-reading the above!). Armed with all that information, it’s clear that this is a false statement. Whether you choose to click the spin button or use the convenient auto-play feature (which spins the reels for you automatically over a preset number of times), it is totally up to you. Whatever you choose will not increase or decrease your chances of winning or losing.
When you play at an online casino, you probably haven’t given a thought to what role the independent game developer actually plays in the process. If truth be told, the developer’s role doesn’t stop at simply designing and providing the games. The online casino serves as a link between you and the provider’s server, enabling you to play the many great slot games available out there.
Let’s take the example of three brand names that you are probably familiar with, in order to illustrate the link between online casinos, online software providers and popular game titles:
Our example uses All Slots Casino, Microgaming and Thunderstruck II slot.
Now that you understand the role of the game developer in the whole process, let’s elaborate further what happens in the blink of an eye:
We will now examine two important concepts that will help you understand easier how online slots operate:
Ever wondered what that ‘97.5%’ displayed next to online slot games means? This is the Return to Player (RTP) percentage. In this case, it means that the player will win 97.5% of the time, and the house (the casino) will win the other 2.5%. This is just an example. All online slots have their own RTP ratios displayed. This percentage rate is the long-term statistical rate of the money won by players, which is then divided by the money wagered by players.
The Return to Player Rate (RTP) is a percentage which shows the average amount of money returned to online casino players vs what they spent at the casino
The more rounds of online slots that you play, the closer you will be to the true RTP. If you play for a short period, the rate will fluctuate. You may fall on a lucky streak and you could win 100% of the time. Or you may hit a losing streak and your chances of winning drop.
The average RTP rate on online slots is approximately 96%, although some have higher percentage rates and some have lower. If you want to improve your chances of winning over the long term, you should look out for games that have higher RTP rates. Check out the RTP rates of popular slot games at your favorite online casino or check the software providers for their lists of slots and their corresponding RTG rates.
You will find that most online casinos or games developers use the RTP percentage rate, since the concept is simple enough to understand. But if you really want to do the math at a deeper, more precise level, you should understand the concept of volatility.
It is easier to understand volatility in casino games such as Roulette, since the volatility of an online slot game cannot be displayed as a number. Instead, to make it easier for players to understand, game providers classify slots as:
It’s worth trying out different slot machines to understand which games you should aim for at online casinos. If you want to be on the safe side, stick to games with low volatility – their wins may be smaller, but they will pay out more frequently.
On the other hand, if you are up for the challenge, high volatility online slots can pay out huge wins in a short period of time. Be aware, however, that you could hit a dry spell and see no payouts throughout your gaming session.
The best choice for those sitting on the fence is to seek out medium volatility online slots. You’ll be getting the best of both worlds.
So, which are better? Low, medium or high volatility/variance online slots? There is no correct answer here. Online slots gaming is a personal journey, and is dependent on plenty of factors, including your taste in software companies and bankroll themes, your bankroll size and your level of risk taking. What’s important is that you understand the basics of how slot machines work, and make your decisions based on knowledge gained from articles such as these.