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 Slots Explained – Classic vs Video 

You will very often see slots split into two big categories, Video Slots and Classic Slots. While these games essentially work in the same way, there are some key differences between them.  

Anyone who remembers the old-fashioned slot machines with a big lever on the side already knows what a Classic Slot is. These are games that are based on the traditional fruit machines and one-armed bandits. To generalise, Classic Slots will have 3 reels and very few paylines (more on these below). The most traditional of Classic Slots will have just a single payline; however, today it is not uncommon to find Classic Slots with 5 or more paylines.  

By contrast, Video Slots tend to have at least 5 reels displaying three or four rows of symbols, and as a result, many hundreds or even thousands of paylines. The differences do not stop there. Traditional Classic Slots have designs that are more basic with simpler graphics and fewer animations. Video Slots will very often feature very detailed graphics and animations, and even 3D special effects. Similarly, traditional Classic Slots will offer very few bonus features while Video Slots often offer players a number of exciting bonuses.  

A difference can also be found in the games’ themes. Classic Slots tend to lean towards fruit machine-style themes, with symbols such as lemons, cherries, oranges, bars, and so on. Video Slots have very wide-ranging themes and can be based upon virtually anything, from nature to travel to branded content such as films. However, this is not quite as true as it used to be and today it is possible to find Classic Slots with very varied and imaginative themes. 

In fact, all of the above distinctions have begun to blur, the only one that remains true is the difference in the number of reels. Today Classic Slots often come with many bonus features and at the same time, it is possible to find very basic Video Slots. Nonetheless, those looking for a simpler game would do well to start with the Classic Slots collection at any online casino.  

There is actually a third type of slot that is becoming increasingly popular, Arcade Slots. These games do away with the traditional reel structure entirely and instead, they are played on a grid of symbols, such as a 5x5 square. The way payouts are won in these games is completely different; it is achieved by landing clusters of matching symbols. These slots have a huge variety of themes and offer players many different types of features.  

The Structure of a Slot 

Regardless of whether you are playing a Video Slot or Classic Slots, they are built of the same basic things, reels, rows and paylines (this is not true of the Arcade Slots described above). It can seem a bit confusing at first, but in fact, it is very simple. 

Reels are the vertical columns of symbols. If you imagine an old style film reel with each frame containing a symbol, then that is much the same as a slot reel. Each game will have a certain number of rows visible on each reel. For example, there may be five reels each one showing three symbols. In this situation, it is possible to think of the slot machine as being made up of a 5x3 grid, with each position displaying a symbol. 

A payline is a path that can be traced from the first reel to the final reel. The payline will pass through one row on each reel, but the rows do not have to be adjacent. At its most basic, a payline may run through the middle row of each reel. However, theoretically a payline could start at the top row of the first reel then go to the middle row on the second reel, the bottom row of the third, reel, the top row of the fourth reel, and the bottom row of the fifth reel. The number of paylines will vary from game to game; some may have just one, while others may have many thousands. The aim of the game is always to land matching symbols along a payline on consecutive reels, most usually starting from the leftmost reel. 

Slot Symbols 

Symbols are the small pictures that are on the reels. They will usually relate to the game’s theme, so a nature themed slot may have a flower, a bird, a tree, the sun, and a cat. In many games, just the higher value symbols are thematic and the lower value symbols are what is known as royals, these are representations of playing cards. As mentioned, games will award payouts for landing enough matching symbols along a payline. The symbols are assigned different payouts and the more matching symbols that land on a payline, the larger the payout awarded. 

There are a few special kinds of symbols that you need to understand. The most basic of these are wild symbols. These act as wild cards; they will substitute for the standard symbols to help and form a winning combination. Very often wild symbols come with additional bonus features, and these are explained below. 

Another very common special symbol is a scatter symbol. As explained, most of the time you need to land matching symbols along a payline on adjacent reels in order to win a payout. However, scatter symbols take their name from the fact that they will award payouts when they land scattered across the reels. In other words, as long as enough of them land in view on the reels, then you will win a payout.  

The third kind of common special symbol is a bonus symbol. These take on many different functions and behave differently in each game. However, their basic role is to trigger some sort of bonus feature. 

Slot Bonus Features 

Slot developers are increasingly creative when it comes to bonus features and there is no telling what they will come up with next. However, there are a number of very common bonus features that can be found in a huge number of games.  

The most common bonus feature is Free Spins. These are exactly what they sound like, spins that are awarded by the game that do not cost any money. Truly lucky players will find that they can win hundreds of free spins. Furthermore, very often, free spins come with additional bonuses, such as payout multipliers or expanding symbols (which are explained below).  

A payout multiplier is exactly what it sounds like. For example, if free spins come with a x3 payout multiplier then all winnings from those free spins will be tripled. Sometimes a payout multiplier will be attached to a specific symbol, such as a wild symbol. In these instances, if the wild symbol helps to form a winning combination, then the payout will be subject to the multiplier. 

An expanding symbol is one that can expand to fill the reel that it lands on. This increases the chance of a winning combination being formed. Some expanding symbols will expand whenever they land, while others will only do so if it will form a win.  

Many slots also offer an entirely separate bonus game. These can come in any form, but picking games are very common. In a picking game, players simply need to choose from a number of objects to reveal prizes. For example, in an Irish themed slot you may have to choose from beer mugs, four-leaf clovers, pots of gold, and rainbows. The prizes on offer include cash, free spins, and payout multipliers.  

In recent years, tumbling/collapsing/cascading reels have become hugely popular. This is the same feature, but it has many different names. Essentially, it causes winning combinations to be removed from the reels to allow more symbols to fall from above and potentially form another winning combination. This way, the process can repeat itself indefinitely and multiple wins can be won from a single spin. Very often, this feature is combined with payout multipliers, with the multiplier growing with each successive collapse/tumble/cascade.  

It is not unusual to find slots that offer a Gamble Game. This gives players the opportunity to try to increase their payouts after a winning spin, usually by playing a simple game such as guessing the colour of the next card to be drawn from a pack. Very often, it is possible to gamble winnings multiple times, but as the name suggests, it is a risky business.  

There are many more types of bonuses found in slots, and you will always find them explained in the games’ paytables. However, most commonly they are a combination and variation of those explained here. The main thing is, if you trigger a bonus feature, then you have a good chance of winning a sizeable payout.  

Progressive Jackpot Slots 

A progressive jackpot is a prize pool that is added to with each game round. In other words, every time you spin the reels, a portion of your bet is contributed to the jackpot fund. Some progressive jackpots will be local to a specific casino while others may be contributed to from multiple casinos. This way, they can grow to be worth huge amounts of money and the current record for the biggest progressive jackpot payout stands at over €18 million!  

The way in which a progressive jackpot is won will differ from game to game. It may be as simple as landing the right combination of symbols on the reels, or it may require a bonus game to be triggered and further tasks to be completed. The only thing to be aware of is that some games have a minimum bet requirement in order to qualify for the jackpot, so it is important to check this in the paytable.  

How to Play a Slot 

Now that you have understood how a slot is built and what type of features the games offer, you are probably eager to start playing. Slots are very easy to play and although there is some variation, you are sure to get to grips with the concept in no time at all.  

Some slots have a fixed number of paylines while others will allow you to choose how many you want to bet on. Therefore, the first thing you may need to do is set how many paylines you want active. Next, you will have to set how much you want to bet on a payline. This way you set your total bet per spin. There are some games in which you can also set a bet level, which effectively multiplies your bet per spin.  

If a slot has a fixed number of paylines or a huge number of them, then very often you will only need to set your total bet per spin. Either way, once you are happy with your bet, just click on the spin button to set the reels in motion.  

Slot Payouts Explained 

If you look at a slot’s paytable, then you will see the different symbols listed with the payouts they offer. Most slots require at least three symbols to land along a payline to award a payout, and you will see the payout on offer for three symbols, four symbols, five symbols, and so on. However, the way in which the payout is expressed can vary quite a lot. 

Most games show the payouts as multiples of the payline bet. For example, if you have bet €2 on a payline and land a winning combination, in the pay table you may see that the symbol offers 20 for three symbols, 50 for four symbols, and 300 for five symbols. What this means is that three symbols will pay €40 (20x2), four symbols pays €100 (50x2) and five symbols pays €600 (300x2).  

However, in some slots, the payout will be shown as a multiple of the total bet rather than the payline bet. You can work out the payouts in exactly the same way, but need to substitute the total for the line bet. Other slots may show neither of these. Rather, they may show actual monetary values based upon your current bet.  

Paytables are often the most confusing part of a slot machine, but it takes very little time to get used to deciphering them.  

Basic Slot Strategies 

Ultimately, slots are purely games of luck so there is not much that you can do to improve your chances of winning. However, there are a few basics to be aware of. The main thing is to try to play with all of the paylines active, as this will increase your chance of landing a winning combination. If you have a budget of €1 per spin and a slot has 20 paylines, then it is better to bet €0.05 per payline and bet on them all than bet the entire €1 on a single payline.  

The second important thing to do is to read the slot’s paytable and rules carefully. Make sure you understand exactly how all the features work and what you have to do to trigger them. For example, you need to know if you need to bet a minimum amount in order to have the chance of winning a progressive jackpot.  

Unfortunately, there is not much more that can be done. However, by managing your bankroll carefully, you should be able to ensure that you have hours of fun spinning the reels.  

Frequently Asked Questions
What does slot volatility mean?

Volatility is a measure of the distribution of payouts over a specific time period. If a slot is high volatility, it means that the game is expected to award larger payouts less frequently. If a slot is low volatility, then it is expected to award more regular but smaller payouts. It is important to know this when planning your bankroll, as a high volatility slot can quickly eat through the entire thing.

What does slot variance mean?

This is very subtly different to slot volatility. Variance is a measurement of how far results can vary from the statistical average. It tells you how likely the results are to change in the long-term. For example, a high variance slot could offer wildly different payouts, paying out vast sums in one gaming session but almost nothing in another. By contrast, a low variance slot will be more consistent in its behaviour.

What is a slot Return to Player (RTP) mean?

The Return to Player (RTP) is a theoretical percentage of money bet on a slot that is then paid out to players over time. For instance, if a game has an RTP of 95%, then it is expected that €95 of every €100 bet will be returned to players. However, it is important to remember that this is over time, so there is no guarantee that you will win any money at all.

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