Variations of Slots

Our guide to slot machine variations.

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As the most popular casino game, it's no surprise that game developers are always trying to improve and vary their slot machine games. To keep players interested, creators design their slot machines around appealing themes, such as movies, video games, or comic books. The pay tables always vary, and so do the best ways to win, but there are essentially four main variations. The four main slots variations are traditional three-and five-wheel slots, progressive slots, video slots, and casual slots style games.

Traditional Slots

Traditional slots have three reels and a single pay-line and come in a wide variety of themes with lots of extras. They are designed to emulate actual slot machines like the ones found in land based casinos and are therefore very basic.

Many of the well known 'one-arm bandits' have been replicated for online play with such attention to detail that the designers even include features like inserting virtual coins and pulling on virtual levers (via the mouse).

While these slots might not be the most entertaining of the variations, they are by far the simplest and therefore the easiest to play, allowing for a relatively stress-free gaming experience.

An example of a Traditional Slot
Figure 1: Example of a traditional slot

Video Slots

Unlike traditional slots, video slots usually come with five reels and can win by matching as little as two symbols. They're the next step in the evolution of the slot machine — the basic idea hasn't changed much, but this new generation of slots has added some features to make the experience an even more entertaining one.

Video slots contain eccentric pay-lines that usually number between seven and 50, but can range to over 200. The most stimulating aspect of the game, however, is not the pay-lines but in fact the "features". Features are like an extra game within the slot game and give players an extra chance to win money and (less commonly) free spins. They're generally very rewarding not only financially but also in terms of experience due to their elaborate themes and fun music.

Designers have made other wonderful additions such as scatters, wild symbols, free spins, and multipliers. All of these are covered in detail in the Rules section under the subheading Video Slots.

Video slots are by far the superior game and, if we had to recommend any of the variations of online slot gaming, it would have to be these.

An example of a Video Slot
Figure 2: Example of a video slot

Progressive Slots

Online progressive slots often work exactly the same as other traditional or video slots, with the only difference being that they're linked to a network of machines with a percentage of the money that is played on each machine added to a total jackpot. This jackpot tends to be larger than any other prize in the slot and can chasing this win can make slot gaming much more exciting.

The way to win progressive jackpots varies, but one lucky way for them to be won is when they drop randomly following the completion of a game or when five specific symbols are matched on one pay-line. Progressive slots can be linked across multiple online casinos and therefore increase rapidly to create jackpots of well over $1,000,000. However, to win the biggest progressive jackpots on slots, you'll need to place the max bet allowed. So if you're going to play a progressive slot, make sure you play the max bet allowed on every spin or you'll be kicking yourself if the reels stop and you're left with only a fraction of that million-dollar jackpot.

An example of a Progressive Slot Machine
Figure 3: Example of a progressive slot (progressive jackpot total is above reel three)

Casual Slots Style Games

Casual slots style games are very different than the vast majority of online slots. They tend not to include reels, which almost rules them out as being classified as slots. Instead of reels, casual slots style games might involve a grid where symbols appear and, as with normal slot machines, if you match symbols on pay-lines, you're awarded a payout.

These are quite similar to arcade games and as a result are often based on other forms of traditional board or arcade games such as Bejeweled and Jenga.

An example of a Casual Slot
Figure 4: An example of a casual slots style game (although they can look completely different from one another)

Casino Edge tip: Only play slots that you understand. If you're struggling with the concept of a game then try it in the play for fun/free mode until you get the hang of it.