How to Play Online Slots

Slots Online & Casino Bonuses

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One might consider slot machines to be America's gambling pasttime. Slots have been around since the late 1800s and have seen an array of changes to their make and model in the last century-plus. What was once a simple machine with an arm crank on the right side that was used to jumpstart three rotating wheels has turned into a digital extravaganza that lights up casino floors across the world. Slots are the most popular gambling method in casinos. Now that modern technology has taken over slot machines, gamblers are able to "crank that wheel" online as well.

Our Top Online Slots

Mostly known for their prevalence in physical casinos, slots have been a staple in casino play since its inception. Moreover, slots offer the most variation and simplicity for users in terms of playability, games and prizes. Online casinos offer hundreds of slot options, so you'll be able to try out different games as you go.

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How to Play Online Casino Slots

Visual of a 5 reel virtual slot machine
Online 5-Reel Slots

Aside from the traditional lever-pulling casino games, users can participate in online casino slot games with the push of a button. In online casino slots, users spin the reel to win prizes by getting consecutive symbols along a pay line (column or row). 

Example of online slot paylines
The number and orientation of pay lines vary based on the slot machine you're playing.

Additionally, users are able to wager per spin and their earnings depend on the value of the symbol and bet they placed. Furthermore, if the reels land on certain symbols, users may only qualify for a specific percentage of their earnings. 

Online casino slots differ by the value of each symbol, the number of reels, total spins and game types. Some online casinos offer hundreds of different slot games to choose from on their sites and apps.

online Slot paytable
Example of a paytable for an online slot game

Users are encouraged to read the paytable before playing to familiarize themselves with the payouts, values and rules of each game. 

Types of Online Slots

Slot Type Slot Details
Real Money Real money slots require users to deposit their own money in return for winning real cash. 
Free Play Users can play free play slots for fun and practice, without the requirement of depositing real money or the potential to earn money.

Common Online Casino Slot Variations

Here’s a list of the most recognizable online casino slots:

3, 5, 7, & 9 Reel MachinesUsers choose between the classic 3-reel slots or opt for the more modern and riskier 5- and 7-reel slots, depending on their preference. The probability to win is higher if a user plays the classic 3-reel slots. 

3D SlotsModern 3D slots for users who seek enhanced graphics during play.

Penny SlotsAs the name suggests, users pay a penny per play which allows them to enter many games. 

Penny slots illustration
Penny slots are a low stakes way to start gambling online

Progressive Slots — Users place their bets to add them to the jackpot in classic or video game types.

TV Shows & Movies — Avid entertainment fans can play games that have the theme of their favorite shows or movies. 

Slot movie tile examples
Film aficionados can play along with their favorite movie themes

Video Slots — Users choose between 3- and 9-reel games that have additional features. 


Common Slot Features (Real Money or Free Play)


The reels spin automatically for the user.

Bonus Games/Rounds

A feature that includes mini-games that give the user more chances to win or add to their earnings. 

Free Spins

When free spins are earned, users have a chance to win in tandem with other slot features. 


Reels can be held and spun at the user’s discretion. 


Earnings are multiplied when a user wins. For example, if a user wins $20 with a 4x multiplier, they win $100. 


Reels are moved manually or automatically in order to increase the user’s chances of winning. 

Scatter Symbols

Randomized symbols (depending on the game) that can earn the user bonuses.  

Ways To Win & Win Both Ways

The number of combinations or directions in which users can win. 


Games that contain certain symbols that contribute to a user’s total payout. Users can find cascading, expanding, stacked and sticky wilds, which have specific features attached to them. 

Screenshot of online casino reels with wilds
Available "Wilds" will vary by the slot 

Real Money Slot Bonuses

When playing online real money slots, users are offered bonuses. Some common bonuses include: 

  • Comp Bonus: Users can earn comp bonuses based on how much they spend, which can be exchanged for cash back. 
  • Deposit Bonus: Online casinos offer users deposit bonuses that have playthrough requirements attached to them.  
  • Free Spins: Depending on the online casino, users can earn this bonus that can vary on the number of spins allowed, game type or potential earnings.
  • No Deposit Bonus: Users can play without making a deposit but have to follow certain regulations regarding potential earnings.
  • VIP Programs: Programs that are offered to incentivize users to continue playing for prizes based on their comp points.

Slot reel icon visual

Terms to Know for Online Real Money Casino Slots

Here are some terms to know when playing online real money casino slots. 

Mobile Compatibility

Ensure that the slot chosen is mobile-friendly so users have a positive experience whilst playing.

Pay Table

Users can find information on rules and offerings depending on the slot they choose to play.

Return To Player Percentage (RTP) 

This refers to the potential earnings players can win. Users are more likely to play slots that possess a high RTP because of the winning odds.


The rate at which slot games spin and land on winning symbols. High variance slots pay more often and at a higher rate in comparison to low & medium variance games.

Slot reel icons

Steve Petrella is a senior editor for The Action Network covering college football, among other things like casinos. He’s a Penn State grad now based in Atlanta who enjoys great punting, clock-killing drives and turnovers in the red zone.

More from Steve Petrella

Online Casino Slots FAQ
Is there a secret to winning slot jackpots?
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