How to Play Online Slots and Avoid Rookie Mistakes

Have you ever wanted to play Slot machines at the casino but held back due to uncertainty? Maybe you felt you didn’t really know how to play. Well, not any more!

This post will take you through the basics of how to play Slots, (or pokies as they are known in the land down under) and understand the secrets behind slot machines which Casinos don’t want you to know. This will give you the confidence to go out and play slot machines or the more popular and rewarding online slots and avoid rookie mistakes.

The basics we will discuss apply to both physical slot machines and online slots, however if you’re interested in playing on online casinos we suggest you refer to our detailed online slots guide for beginners which will show you all you need to know to start enjoying pokies on an online casino from the comfort of your own home.

Casino gambling can be tricky and it’s good to know your way around the games before wagering real money.

Pokies are definitely the most simple games to gamble on at casinos, however you still have to understand the ins and outs of slot machines before taking the plunge with real bets.

The Very Basics on How to Play Pokies

The screen you see on Slots is made up of spinning reels which contain various symbols. The Reels are the columns of the slot machine, which in many contain either 3 or 5 columns. With today’s modern pokie machines, however there can be large variations in how many reels they have and how many rows are on each reel.

A slot is controlled by the spin button. When you press the spin button it will spin the reels (duh!!).

Once the reels stop they will land on certain symbols which will make up the payline. A payline is a row of symbols going from left to right that make up a winning combination.

There can be various paylines available depending on the type of slot machine and a player can be on either one payline or more.

Before each spin the player must bet an amount of money and he or she will win if three or more symbols line up along the payline. If the player bets on more than one payline , then the outcome will depend on how many of the paylines contain a winning combinations. Therefore the more paylines you play on, the better the chances of hitting a winning payline, however obviously the bet amount will need to be higher.

So, if you’re playing on one payline and betting 10 cents per payline, your total bet will be 10 cents. However, if you decide to play on 10 paylines, your total bet will be $1 (10 cents x 10 paylines).

The amount won will depend on the value of the symbols making up the winning payline and the size of the bet placed by the player.

Some symbols may only return half of your bet while others may win you hundreds of times your bet amount.

Different pokie machines will obviously have different symbols depending on the game theme and each slot symbol will carry its own payout multiple. We suggest you therefore always read the paytable of the slot machine before you start playing.

A Paytable would look something like this.


What’s inside a Pokie Machine

Every machine has a computer chip inside it known as the Random Number Generator, or RNG for short.

The RNG makes mathematical calculations very quickly, over 1000 times per second to determine which combination of symbols will appear in the reels at a certain point in time.

When you push the spin button the electronic chip will stop its calculations in that instance and determine the outcome of combination on the reels.

This means that the actual spinning movement of the reels and the sound effects that go with it are actually just for show because the actual outcome of the spin is determined as soon as you press the button.

Therefore the slot machine does not even need the spinning reels to determine if you have won or lost however it definitely makes things more exciting!!

When a casino orders a pokie machine, the manufacture will have a choice of RNGs to programme into the machine. This will determine the % that the pokie machine will pay out to the players.

The range of the payouts on each slot machine will vary depending on the machine and the manufacturer, however the industry standard for slot machines ranges between 85% to 98%.

A machine set at 95% payout, for example, means that it would pay out on average $95 of each $100 bet on that machine. This is known as the return to player (RTP).

 How Do Casinos Determine How Much Pokies Pay?

This is done by denomination, meaning that the higher the betting denomination of the machine, the higher it is set to pay back.

Wait a minute! Can you explain in more simple terms please?

Fair enough.

Here’s the deal… If you play on penny slots, that is, those slot machines were you can bet as little as one cent on each spin, you can be sure that these machines will have a very low payback percentage, say 87% to 85%.

On the other hand, if you play on the higher value pokies, where the bet per spin can be as high $50, for example, the chances are that machine has a return to player percentage of around 95%.

It should be noted that the % payout we are mentioning here does not necessarily mean that you will actually win back $95 on every $100 played. The RTP percentage is actually a long term number and represents the results expected from a slot machine after several million spins on that machine.

On most days the casino will therefore generate a profit from these machines since, in the long term, it has a favourable margin of 3% to 12% on pokies.

Some days, however, the casino will actually lose money on a particular slot machine and this is when a player is considered to be ‘in the right place, at the right time’.

Pokie Machine Strategies

Now that you know how slot machines work, maybe you want to understand how to win on slot machines.

That’s very easy.. you have to get lucky!

Sorry… I’m sure you were expecting a more scientific answer, but the truth is that there are no surefire winning strategies when playing slot machines, or any other gambling games at the casino for that matter.

If there was such a strategy, the casino would definitely withdraw the game from its floor, since it’s not in the business of loosing money, is it?

A slot machine is basically just a computer game that is programmed to pay out less than it gets in and there is no skill involved in playing slots. Much like the lottery; it all boils down to luck.

So, if you ever see an advert or blog post from someone selling a system that promises to beat the slots; keep moving on. Don’t believe it.

If there really was a winning system don’t you think that they would keep that information to themselves rather than sell it to you for a few Dollars?

Having said this, it is beneficial for players who like to play on slot machines to know the facts from the myths. Let’s look at some of the most common questions people have when it comes to playing slot machines for money.

Do Slot machines pay out at specific intervals or after they have collected a certain sum of money?

No, the outcome of each play on the machine is completely random and there is no set point when the machine pays out.

So when you’re at a casino and notice a slot machine that has not paid out for a long time, it does not necessarily mean that the game is due for a big payout soon.

Remember that every spin is an independent event and is not effected by previous spin results. Therefore two mega big wins can come out, one after each other, and on other occasions you can come across a large sequence of spins that never pay out.

Past performance cannot be used to determine future outcomes. Just like your investments!!

Do casinos change the payback % on machines?

No, once the payback % on a machine is set by the manufacturer or game developer, these are rarely changed.

Casino management cannot just change the percentage payout at certain times of the day, for example. This will require a physical adjustment by a qualified technician which involves replacing the chip within the machine. This is quite expensive and is therefore rarely done.

Apart form that, the gaming regulators for casinos and slot machines will not allow this practice by casinos.

Do Near Wins Mean That I’m Getting Close to a Win?

During the course of a pokies session you’ll notice that you get very close to winning on various occasions only to leave at the end of the session with empty pockets.

This feature of ‘near wins’ is programmed into the machines on purpose to make the games more exciting and entice players to keep on playing. This is a psychological trigger used by slot manufacturers.

The rush of being so close to a win usually encourages players to keep on playing because they feel they are close to their big break.

This is one of the many psychological tricks used by Casinos to keep players playing for as long as possible.

Go Play Online Slots

So now you know how to play pokies.

Just one tip before you go rushing off to the casino. Always be aware of the Casino’s psychological tricks. Remember to stay alert and don’t drink too much alcohol when betting.

Slots are fund when you enjoy the games responsibly and bet only the amount you can afford to lose.

For more tips on playing slots, click here.If you want to practice playing on free slots, we offer a range of the latest games launched during the year. Just click here to play for free.


Hey there, my name is Emma and I am the creator and blogger of I've been working in the online casino industry for years, and playing online slots is one of my hobbies. Still waiting for the big jackpot win though!

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