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One of the best parts about a slot machine is that it’s easy to play. Whether you’re playing online slots or visiting a casino, it’s easily the most approachable game on the floor. No wonder it’s the most popular! Here’s how to play slots in the simplest terms so you know exactly what you’re doing before you press spin.

    Winning Slot Machine IconHow To Win on Slots – The Object of the Game

    To win on a slot machine, a player must line up symbols in a winning combination. The result of each spin is completely random, with the highest-value symbols appearing less frequently than the symbols with the lowest value. The symbols also typically need to line up from left to right along “paylines,” and each payline can win independently from the other. That means if the slot has 30 paylines, you have 30 chances to create a winning combination of symbols every spin.

    Step 1: Set Your Paylines

    Some slots only have one payline or a fixed number of paylines. However, most slots these days let you set the number of lines you want to play. We recommend playing the maximum number of lines to maximize the odds of winning. Each payline is a chance to create a winning combination. Below, you can see the various slot paylines on the popular, five-reel, 15-symbol Cleopatra slot.

    Slot Paylines Example

    Cleopatra slot paylines

    Step 2: Set the Value of Each Payline to Determine Total Bet

    Each payline wins independently based on its value. The higher the value, the bigger the wins – and the bigger the total bet (here’s an ongoing list of the biggest online slots wins). Before you press the “Spin” button on a slot, you’ll need to set the value of the paylines on top of how many paylines you want to play. For example, if you’re playing 30 paylines and set the value to $0.20 per line, your total bet would be $6 per spin (30 x $0.20). The game will show you the total bet based on your settings, so no math is required.

    Play slots is gambling, so every spin is more likely to lose than it is to win. Set your bet based on your budget, never gamble more than you can afford to lose, and consider prioritizing the length of time you want to play rather than maximizing win potential. Here’s more on playing smarter by practicing responsible gambling.

    Casino School IconBONUS TIP: It’s better to play the maximum number of paylines at a smaller value than it is to play fewer paylines with a higher value. While the payouts are higher with more payline value, the frequency of wins will be lower. For example, play 25 lines at $0.20 per line ($5 total bet) rather than 5 lines at $1 per spin ($5 total bet).

    Step 3: Check What the Symbols Do & How To Win Jackpot

    There should be a fairly obvious icon for more information on the slot, usually an “i” in the bottom left corner. Click that to bring up everything you need to know about the slot, including what symbols pay out the most or trigger a bonus. You’ll also want to make sure you bet the minimum to qualify for the jackpot. In some cases, especially for progressive jackpots, there’s a minimum amount you need to wager to potentially trigger than grand prize.

    Types of Slot Symbols


    Playing Cards

    The playing card symbols are typically the lowest-value symbols. Most video slots have 10, Jack, Queen, King, and Ace symbols, and some have even more than that. Other slots have theme symbols for all their symbols, which makes checking the symbol values all the more important.

    Theme Symbols

    The highest-paying symbols are the ones that match the theme the most. For example, on the Cleopatra slot, the Cleopatra symbol pays out the most, while the Scarab, Lotus, Eye of Ra, and other theme-specific symbols pay out big too. Lining up five of the highest-paying symbol usually triggers the fixed jackpot.


    The feature or bonus symbol triggers the special feature of the game, and some slots have multiple special features. If it’s a basketball slot, it could have a free throw shooting feature. If it’s a mining slot, it could be clicking different carts to reveal bags of gold. The possibilities are endless.


    A scatter symbol on a slot pays out irrespective of its position on the reels. That means they can be nowhere near each other and still trigger a win. A scatter symbol offers a multiplier that applies to the total bet, not just the value of the payline, and it can sometimes trigger a bonus feature.

    Free Spins

    A free spins bonus can sometimes get its own symbol, which usually says “Free Spins” so there’s no mistaking what it is. The more free spins symbols a player lines up on a payline, the more free spins are aware. For example, three symbols might trigger 10 free spins while five symbols triggers 50 free spins.


    Some progressive jackpot slots have jackpot-specific symbols that trigger the jackpot. In other instances, the jackpot is awarded randomly, or within a bonus feature, which would be triggered by the bonus feature symbol.

    Step 4: Try Other Slots

    The more slots you play, the better acquainted you’ll be with how they work. A slot machine, whether online or in-person, are very simple to pick up and start playing. But differentiating one from the other can only come with experience, because different players like slots for different reasons. You may like the option to buy a bonus feature rather than hope to trigger it while another player simply enjoys playing fishing slots exclusively.

    But you don’t have to use your own money to try out the various games and discover a new favorite. There are a few ways to figure out the type of slot you might enjoy, detailed below.

    Casino School IconBONUS TIP: Play our free online slots to try a wide variety of games risk-free. This is an unlimited number of spins on some of the world’s most popular slots, no download or signup required. That way, you can develop a strategy and gain experience without risking your own money. 

    Different Types of Slots

    • Classic Slots: These three-reel slots offer simple graphics and straightforward gameplay. They typically have a low to medium volatility level, and they do not come with advanced bonus features or large jackpots.
    • Stepper Slots: Stepper slots dominated land-based casinos for many years prior to the advent of video slots. They are named after the mechanical stepper motors used to spin the reels. A design quirk on physical stepper slots often results in the jackpot symbol appearing just above or below the payline, regularly giving the appearance of a near miss. Some providers still release online stepper slots, which are designed to bring the classic stepper experience to a digital audience.
    • Video Slots: Video slots first appeared in 1976. They replaced the physical reels on older slots with digital reels, which are powered by random number generators. Video slots dominate the portfolios at modern online casinos. They typically feature five reels, but video slots follow different themes, from Ancient Egypt and Norse mythology to animals and gems. These slots have different volatility levels and bonus features, too.
    • Jackpot Slots: Many slots now feature progressive jackpots. A percentage of your bet amount goes into a communal pool each time you spin the reels. It continues to grow until one lucky player triggers the jackpot. Some players have earned seven-figure payouts on progressive jackpot slots in recent years. Certain slots also feature a fixed jackpot, as determined by your bet size.
    • Megaways Slots: Australian studio Big Time Gaming revolutionized slot play when it unveiled the Megaways feature in 2016. Until that point, online slots had a limited array of paylines, but Megaways slots now often include more than 100,000 ways to win. Many software studios now add the Megaways feature to their slots as Big Time Gaming licenses it out.
    • Bonus Buy Slots: Most modern video slots come with bonus features. You can trigger the features by matching certain symbols after spinning the reels, and you will unlock multipliers, extra spins, bonus rounds, and other rewards. Bonus buy slots allow you to jump straight into the bonus features. You just need to pay a fee for the privilege. Taking advantage of the bonus buy option can change the RTP of a slot, often for the better.
    • Cluster Pay Slots: These slots do not feature traditional paylines. Instead, you win if certain symbols cluster together on the grid after you spin the reels.
    • Branded Slots: Branded video slots draw inspiration from popular TV shows, movies, and musicians. Famous examples include Narcos, Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Baywatch, Jimi Hendrix, andGuns ’N Roses. They typically have bonus rounds and features linked to the brand.
    • 3D Slots: Many video slots now feature 3D graphics. The gameplay is the same, but the action appears in 3D, creating a more immersive visual experience.
    • Other Games: You will often find Slingo games at the best online casinos. These games are a hybrid of slots and bingo. Online scratch cards often fall into the slots category, too, as you do not need to scratch a physical ticket. Simply press a button and the results will be revealed, just like on a slot.

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    About the Author

    Mike Epifani

    Mike Epifani

    Casino Content Manager
    Mike Epifani is a gambling expert and professional writer with more than a decade of industry experience. His current role is Brand Content Manager at, part of the Catena Media network. Mike has written hundreds of guides on online casinos, casino gaming, sports betting, sweepstakes sites, and lottery play.
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