There’s nothing difficult about playing slots. There are no complicated strategies to learn as in blackjack or video poker and no need to choose among wagers with wildly different house edges as in craps.

You don’t even need to learn where to place chips to bet on four numbers instead of six or some other total as in roulette.

Still, a little planning and preparation can help you get the most out of your time on the slot.

A good checklist will include things to do before you log onto an online casino or start a casino trip to play offline. It also will include things to do before starting to play any specific game.

Try this checklist of things to do before you play.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

  1. Check Your Bankroll
  2. Choose a Slot Game that Fits Your Playing Personality
  3. Check the Minimum and Maximum Bets
  4. Make Sure You're Choosing the Right Bet Size
  5. Scan the Help or Information Menu
  6. Extra Bets for Progressives or Other Features
  7. Be Sure to Insert Your Player Rewards Card (for Land-Based Casinos)

CHECK YOUR BANKROLL

Regardless of whether you’re playing online or offline, you should have an idea of how much money you’re willing to risk.

In online casino, that might mean playing off credits you already have at your chosen casino, or making a new buy-in. Offline, it means loading your wallet with cash or setting in you mind how much to withdraw at the ATM.

Either way, plan a budget for your play and stick to it. If you hit a bad streak and your losses approach your limit for the day, reduce the size of your bets and think about calling it a day.

One thing you should never do is to use credit card cash advances to fund your play. You’re already spotting the house an edge when you play the games. Paying credit card interest rates on top of that makes the winning sessions that much harder to come by.

Use money you can afford to lose and comes from your entertainment budget. Enjoy the wins when they come, but make sure the losses don’t impact the necessities of life.

CHOOSE A SLOT GAME THAT FITS YOUR PLAYING PERSONALITY

The age of online and video slots has given us so many ways to play that slot enthusiasts can pick and choose among different kinds of games.

Progressive jackpots, pick-a-prize bonuses and free-spin bonuses are among the most popular features online and on video slots.

And old-fashioned three-reel slots with no fancy bonuses are still around for players who like all their wins to come on a spin of the reels.

Not every game suits every player’s personality.

  • Three-reel slots with no bonuses are the most volatile, giving you the best chance at a big win while carrying the highest risk of burning through your bankroll fast.
  • Those who play progressive slots should understand that they get lower returns on the base game than on non-progressives. Part of each bet goes to funding the progressive jackpots, so there is less for wins on the reels.
  • Pick’em bonus events usually offer frequent moderate-sized wins. They’re fun to play and emphasize entertainment rather than volatile wins and losses.
  • Free spin bonuses bring higher volatility than pick’em bonuses. There is an opportunity for bigger wins, but it’s also possible to win nothing at all on a free spin bonus.

There are other wrinkles such as wheel-spin bonuses, and some games have multiple bonuses of different types. But you can get a head start on the fun if you identify your favorite way to play and look for games that match your preferences.

CHECK THE MINIMUM AND MAXIMUM BETS, INCLUDING WHETHER YOU CAN CHOOSE THE NUMBER OF PAYLINES

For starters, you need to know the betting units. Are you playing a 1-cent game? Or are the units 5 cents, 25 cents, $1 or something above, below or in between?

There’s a huge difference in your wager size if you’re betting a penny at a time vs. a dollar.

But that is just the beginning. You need to know how many paylines there are, how many coins you can wager per line, and whether you have the option of playing fewer than the maximum paylines.

There are single-payline three-reel slots in play in some locations, but online and video slots generally have multiple paylines.

Among the common configurations on slots today are 20, 30 and 40 lines, but if you look around you’ll find 50 and even 100-line games. That doesn’t even touch on 243 ways to win at slots, in which any matching symbols on consecutive reels from left to right can form a winning combination.

Most allow you to bet more than one coin per line. If a 40-line game at 1-cent denomination allows you to bet one, two, three, four or five cents per line, then activating all paylines could mean bets or 40 cents, 80 cents, $1.20 cents, $1.60 or $2.

Also at issue is whether you’re allowed to bet on fewer than the maximum paylines. On older video slots, you can choose to bet on a single payline if you choose. You can play for a penny on some one-cent slots, betting 1 cent on one line.

But an increasing number of games are known as “forced bet” slots in which playing requires you to bet on all paylines. On a 40-line 1-cent force bet slot, you minimum wager isn’t 1 cent, it’s 40 cents. You can bet multiple coins per 40 lines if you wish, but you must play all the lines.

Check all that you before you make your first bet. What is the coin denomination? How many paylines are there? How many coins may you bet per line? Must you bet on all paylines?

One you have all that information, you can choose a bet size that makes sense within your bankroll.

MAKE SURE YOU'RE CHOOSING THE BET SIZE AND NOT THE PLAYER WHO PRECEDED YOU

This isn’t an issue online, but offline, someone who just left the machine you’re about to play might have been making very different wagers than the ones you intend.

If you put your money in the machine and hit the spin reels or repeat bet button without choosing your own bet size, you might find yourself betting more than you’d like. You might also bet less than you want, and on some machines you might leave paylines uncovered.

Jackpots have been missed because a winning combination came up on a payline the previous player didn’t activate. Make sure you’re getting the conditions you want.

SCAN THE HELP OR INFORMATION MENU TO SEE HOW THE BONUSES ARE LAUNCHED

At least half the fun in online and video slots comes through the bonus event, and part of the fun is the anticipation of a bonus to come.

You can’t share in the anticipation if you don’t know how the bonus is launched?

Do you go to a bonus event if three matching bonus symbols land on the same payline?

Or do you get a bonus even if the bonus symbols aren’t on the same line?

And there’s a wild card: You could get a bonus event with a mystery trigger, with the machine surprising you without any bonus symbols as a trigger.

And there’s a wild card: You could get a bonus event with a mystery trigger, with the machine surprising you without any bonus symbols as a trigger.

FIND OUT IF EXTRA BETS ARE REQUIRED TO BE ELIGIBLE FOR PROGRESSIVES OR OTHER FEATURES

You don’t want to play a progressive slot without being eligible for the progressive jackpots. Check out the help menu, or at least read all the information on the screen, to see what it takes.

On three-reel slots with a single progressive, it’s easy. You usually have to make the maximum bet to be eligible for the progressive. Since the most common max on three-reel slots is three coins, the progressive formula works well.

On video slots, with many more paylines and max bets in hundreds of coins, casinos and game makers quickly learned that most players wouldn’t be the max, not even for a jackpot chance.

Different ways to award progressives evolved. Mystery jackpots are common. One way to program this is to have a random number generator set a jackpot amount. The player whose bet pushes the jackpot to that amount wins it. Players with different bet sizes can compete for the same jackpot.

Another method is to award jackpots through matching symbols, but to require a separate bet to fund the jackpots. Then players can bet different amounts on the base game, but the same amounts on the jackpot.

Read the help menu before you play to see if a separate jackpot bet is required. Then either make the jackpot bet and give yourself a chance to win big, or choose a different game. Don’t play progressives without being jackpot eligible.

OFFLINE, BE SURE TO INSERT YOUR PLAYER REWARDS CARD

For online players, logging in should activate the player rewards system. But offline, you need to use your club card.

Don’t bet extra for the sake of player rewards, but do take advantage of what the casino offers. Use the card.

About the Author
By

For nearly 25 years, John Grochowski has been one of the most prolific gaming writers in the United States. He’s been ranked ninth by GamblingSites among the top 11 gambling experts at Gambling Sites and his Video Poker Answer Book was ranked eighth among the best gambling books of all time.