If you are new to casino slot machine gaming this article is for you. Casino slot machines are fun to play but can be confusing what with the various lines and amounts you can bet per spin, plus the other variables such as scatter awards and bonus rounds. I still remember the first time I went to a casino with a five dollar bankroll and played the Copper Dropper slot machine, betting just one penny (one line) per spin. My five dollars lasted me two hours but I eventually lost it all and it was a boring two hours with few winning payouts (my biggest winning payout was twenty cents). I didn’t know what I was doing! Since then I have learned how to play slot machines more effectively (with more payouts and more fun!) and here I will share this information with you, the novice slot machine player.
Most slot machines you will find in the casinos these days are the penny machines, which means the minimum bet is one penny per line played. There are also nickel, quarter, and dollar slot machines which are more expensive to play, but my advice for the novice or average player (who plays mainly for fun) is to stick with the penny slot machines.
Betting the Lines
Most slot machines feature either three tiers of five reels (15 stops or “squares” total) or four tiers of five reels (20 stops total). You win when you get a winning combination of three or more of the same symbol in a row on a payline. The paylines are just that — lines that run across the reels, left to right. The simplest 3-tiered slot machine games (such as Copper Dropper) may have only 9-15 paylines, while the newer 4 or 5-tiered slot games have anywhere from 30-100 paylines. The paylines zigzag across the reels in different combinations.
On the older penny slot machines you can select how many lines you play per spin, with as few as just one payline (or one penny per spin). Most all of the newer slot machines have a minimum bet of one penny per available payline (meaning a minimum bet of 30 cents on a machine with 30 paylines). Most of the newer slot machines have 30-50 paylines and preset buttons for selecting your betting amount (in multipliers of one, two, three, five, or ten per payline). With all slot machines you can multiply how much you bet per payline starting with the minimum of one penny, up to ten times or more per payline. The “max credits” is the maximum amount you can bet on a slot machine, which generally will be between $1.50 to $5.00 per spin on most slot machines.
You win money on a spin when you get three or more matching symbols in a row on a payline. Four or five matching symbols on a payline will get you much bigger payouts, and there will be different payouts for different symbols. The highest paying symbols, of course, exist on the reels in smaller numbers than the lowest paying symbols and come up in winning combinations more infrequently than the lowest paying symbols.
How much should you bet per payline?
Generally speaking, my advice is to bet one penny per available payline on each spin. If a game (such as Copper Dropper) has just 9-15 paylines I would multiply the bet to two cents per payline (18-30 cents per spin). Betting on all the paylines will result in more winning spins and a much more fun slot machine experience. Personally, when playing for fun I am most comfortable betting 25-50 cents per spin on the machines. While I like to stick with one penny per payline spins, if a game is paying out I may increase my bets to increase my wins, although I very rarely bet max credits on a machine. While betting max credits on a slot machine can give you very large payouts, it can also burn through your bankroll very quickly if you get a dry run.
Winning with Scatters, Bonus Rounds, and Jackpots
Most penny slot machines you will find in the casinos these days offer more than one way to win on a spin. Besides winning with matching combinations of symbols, you may also win money with “Scatters,” Bonus Rounds, or Jackpots. Scatters pay when three or more “scatter” symbols turn up in a spin, and they can be scattered across the screen. That is, the scatter symbols do not have to line up in a row in order to win. Generally, you can get 3-5 scatter symbols on a spin, with 4 or 5 “scatters” paying much more than just three. (Scatter symbols are NOT featured on all slot machine games)
Most video slot machines also feature bonus rounds. Bonus rounds usually occur when you get three or more “bonus” or “free games” symbols on a spin. Typically, a bonus round will give you a certain number of free spins, usually between 5-15 free spins. Some games also multiply the amount you win by 2-3 times during the bonus rounds, which can make the bonus rounds spins more profitable than your ordinary spins. On most slot games you can also “retrigger” the bonus round by getting another three or more “bonus” symbols during the bonus round. One time I retriggered the bonus round on a Jade Monkey slot machine three times, which gave me a nice payout! Some slot machine games also feature other types of bonuses, such as picking tiles to reveal special bonus awards. On your typical video slot machine you may get a bonus round maybe once every 100-200 spins on average. They don’t come that often, except when you find yourself on a “hot” slot machine.
Jackpots, or “top awards” occur when you get five of the highest paying symbol in a payline. Jackpot (or top award) amounts can vary anywhere from $20 on a minimum bet up to a couple hundred or more, depending on the game. Of course, these winning combinations come up very rarely and you may never see one!
How to familiarize yourself with a slot machine game
When playing a slot machine for the first time, a good idea is to familiarize yourself with how that particular game is played. The best way to do this is to hit the “Game Info” button on the game. This will open up a new screen which shows you the different paylines available on the game, the different winning combinations and how much they pay, plus information on how the different scatters or bonus rounds work and how much they pay. This is good information to have when playing a slot machine as you will have a better idea of what to expect while playing it.
How much money should you bring to the casino?
If you are planning on playing the penny slot machines for a couple hours and are playing mainly for fun (which is what they are really for), my advice is to bring a bankroll of 50-100 dollars with you. You could show up with a mere $20, but that may not last long, especially if you play the newer games with higher minimum bets and you hit a dry run of losing spins. If you plan on betting big to try to win big, you should have a bankroll of at least a couple hundred. Of course, your bankroll should be what you can afford to lose! Most casinos have ATM machines, but they come with fees of $5 or more per transaction. Personally, I go to the casinos with a bankroll of $100-200, depending on how long I plan on staying.
There you have it: the basics on how to play penny slot machines. Have fun, good luck, and may the force be with you!