How to Play Slots: A Comprehensive Guide

Learn how to play online slots with our comprehensive guide. We cover how slots work and provide tips on how to be in with the best chances of winning at online slots.

Slot games are among the most popular online casino games. Simple and easy to get to grips with, online slots are the perfect place for casino newcomers to start. Whether you want to play free slots or play slots for real money, there’s a game for every player. While the concept of online slots is simple, it’s still important to understand the basics before you get started. That’s where we step in! Here’s the guide on how to play slots!

How slot machines work

Just like your traditional fruit machines, online slots have reels on which symbols show. These symbols vary between games, and are usually tailored to the theme of the slot. Certain symbol combinations will land you a win. You get these symbol combinations by pressing a ‘spin’ button- the equivalent to pulling a level on an old-fashioned machine. When pressed, this button sets the reels spinning and they will eventually come to a stop, displaying a symbol.

At UK licensed casinos, all online slots are powered by random number generators (RNG). This ensures that every symbol combination occurs at random, and each spin is separate to the preceding or succeeding spin. This means that there’s no tactic that will increase your chances of winning at slots- every spin is determined at random!

How to Play Slots

There’s a huge range of different online slot games to choose from, from classic slots to video slots and slots with a progressive jackpot. However, the good news is that, whichever slot you choose, the gameplay basics are always the same: set your stake, hit spin and see if you land a winning combination.

Most popular slots also have an autoplay or autospin feature. This means you can set the number of spins you want to play in advance – no need to keep pressing the spin button!

Exactly how you land a winning combination varies between games. Each symbol combination will have its own value, which could increase if a wild symbol or scatter symbol appears in that row. Wild symbols substitute for other standard symbols to increase your chances of winning, while scatters tend to unlock bonus features or bonus rounds, such as free spins.

  1. Set your bet
  2. Hit spin
  3. See if you land a winning combination


In order to win, you’ll need to match symbols across a payline. The number of paylines on a slot machine will depend on the number of reels the game has. Classic slots, reminiscent of arcade fruit machines, tend to have three reels and one payline. Some of the newest video slots with five reels have many more paylines along which you can score winning symbol combinations.

On traditional slot machines, symbols would have needed to match in one direction. However, nowadays online slot games have multi-directional paylines, allowing you to match symbols from left to right, up and down and diagonally. With such a vast number of paylines on some slots, you’ll quite literally have thousands of different ways to win on selected titles.

You wager a set amount on each payline you bet on. The more paylines you bet on, the higher your chances of getting a payout. Of course, this comes at a cost- you’ll need to multiply your stake by the number of paylines you bet on to calculate your total bet for that spin.

Slot RTP

The return to player (RTP) percentage signifies your chances of winning some returns on your wagers when playing a certain slot game. These percentages are a theoretical calculation of how much you could win back if you were to play an infinite number of spins.

If you play a slot with 97% RTP, you could win back 97p for every £1 you wager, in theory.

However, because this is a theoretical calculation, it isn’t representative of every player’s experience. In reality, you could be on track to win more or less than this percentage at any given time. While the best paying slots tend to have RTPs above 98%, playing a high RTP slot doesn’t guarantee a winning spin.

You can find the RTP by checking the slot game’s paytable- click on the ‘i’ or ‘?’

Bet Limits

Every slot game has a minimum bet limit, and you’ll need to meet this limit to play that slot title for real money. Minimum bet limits start from as little as 1p for penny slots, all the way up to hundreds of pounds per spin for other games. This makes slots the perfect option for casual players and high rollers alike.

Your bets will take the form of casino coins, and you’ll set the value of these coins before you start spinning.

Online Slots Tips

Follow these tips when playing slots online

  • Choose high RTP slots- these give you the highest chances of winning some returns
  • Never bet more than you can afford to lose
  • Practice on free slot games before wagering real money to get a feel for whether a game is for you

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I claim a bonus for online slot games?

Yes. All of the UK’s best slot sites offer free spins bonuses, especially for online slots. These are usually restricted to selected slot games, and will often come with terms and conditions, such as wagering requirements and max bet limits.

What’s a bonus game?

A bonus game is a round within a slot game, usually triggered by a bonus symbol. These bonus rounds give players the chance to win extra prizes, such as increased payouts or in-game free spins and often include extra challenges or tasks besides matching symbols.

How do progressive slots work?

Progressive slots work in the same way as regular games- you’ll select your paylines and hit spin to see if you land a winning combination. The main difference is that the prize fund for the jackpot grows every time that someone wagers on the slot game, meaning you could win some hefty prizes on these titles.

Can I play slots on my mobile?

Yes. Slot software developers, such as NetEnt and Play’n Go, are putting more focus than ever on optimising slots for mobile gameplay. Top casino sites also make their games accessible to mobile players, optimising mobile casino sites and developing mobile casino apps to make the perfect mobile slots experience.

Am I more likely to win on a game with more paylines?

Not necessarily. While betting on more paylines increases your chance of winning in that spin, you don’t necessarily have a better chance of winning in comparison to a different slot game with just one payline, for example. Your chances of winning on slots depends on a range of different factors, including number of reels, number of symbols in play and the slot RTP.

The people behind this page's online gambling content experts helped write, edit and check this page:

Danielle has six years of experience writing on a wide variety of topics, including online casino, sports betting and tourism. She has a BA in French with English from King’s College.

Alan has three years of writing experience and an MA in English Literature, with bylines at These Football Times and 90Min as well as extensive coverage of all things sports betting and online casino.