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How Do Online Slots Work?

One of the most popular types of online casino games is the slot game. That is why there are so many of them compared to other types of casino games. There are thousands of different games out there, by all the best game developers - and at any casino, not just ours, you will find that the number of slot games far outweighs the number of table games. This is simply a case of supply and demand!

In some form or another, these have been around for many years and the basics of how an online slot works now aren't much different from how they have always worked. A player simply places his wager, spins the reels and waits for them to stop to see if they have landed a win. The win will come if the reels stop in a way where matching symbols land on an active payline. The higher value the symbol, the more the player wins.

Although mechanical slot games date all the way back to the 1890s, this has always remained true. Back in those days, however, the machine's random outcome was done mechanically. However, with more recent online slots, computerised random number generators now determine the result.

Understanding how slot games work will play a big part in determining your chances of success, so you need to have a basic understanding, and that’s exactly what we will be looking at in this article.

How Online Slots Actually Work

When you look at any online slot game, you will see that, in essence, they look like the games you might find at any land-based casino. They usually have three or five sets of reels that spin and determine whether or not you have won or not.

Although physical old slot machine games won’t be able to offer some of the more modern features that online slot games do - like expanding wilds, travelling wilds and animated bonus rounds, they still work in much the same way.

The only major difference is how the outcome has been decided. A licensed casino game provider will use RNG software which has been regulated by online gambling authorities, to determine the game’s randomness.

Some people may find the idea of computer software determining their success to be worrying. However, all licensed online casinos such as Lucky Clover Spins must allow their RNG to be audited and tested by third-party regulators as part of their licence agreement.

The Random Number Generator

So, let’s take a look at what the RNG is and how it works. Well, in the backend of each online slot game is software that will constantly be selecting random numbers. So much so, that an RNG will generate thousands of numbers per second. Every single number is connected to a different outcome on each reel for every spin - and the number that has been generated at the exact time you press spin will determine the success of your spin.

So, to make this a little easier to digest, let’s look at the process of one spin:

  1. A player presses spin and hits a random number from the RNG
  2. The mathematical module that is part of the game’s software will translate that number and figure into an outcome which determines where the reels should stop.
  3. The reels stop as per the RNG and the game will calculate the result.
  4. The player will then be informed of the outcome - win or lose.

As the name suggests, RNG software is totally random - and, as such, what happened on any previous spin has absolutely bearing on the following spin. If you press the button just one second earlier or later, you will get a different result, but you will never know whether you will have done better or worse.

How a Slot Site Makes its Money

So, if a slot game is entirely random, how can a casino make sure that it doesn’t go bankrupt? Well, this is where the house edge comes into play. 

So, for example, imagine we play a game of coin flip. You pay £1 to toss the coin. If you win then you will get £1.50 in return but if you lose, you lose the entire bet. That means that every time you play, you either win 50p or lose £1. On the other hand, as the casino, they will lose 50p every time you win - and win £1 every time you lose. So, even if the results are 50-50, the casino will fare better as they stand to win more and lose less money than you on each flip.

Essentially, this is how every game in a casino has been designed, but in a little more of a complicated way. The mathematics behind an online slot machine means that the casino always has the edge over players in the long term, despite the fact that they are totally random. Here are some of the factors that will determine the mathematics behind the slot game:

  1. The different number and types of symbols on the game reels
  2. The size of wins on the paytable
  3. The probability of activating the game’s bonus features
  4. The chances of wins and the size of wins in the game’s bonus rounds.

The slot game’s mathematics is what actually determines how much money the casino makes - not the RNG. Basically, all games are designed to ensure the casino will make money in the long term. Of course, there will be some players that get lucky and hit some nice wins, whilst others aren’t that lucky and will end up losing money. The result for the casino, however, is always the same.

Common Slot Game Myths

So, now that you better understand how an online slot game determines results - and now that you know they are completely random and fair, it’s a good idea to look at some slot game myths - and see how much truth there is.

1: A Slot Works in Cycles of Wins and Losses

This is untrue because every single spin is completely disassociated with the previous spin. You have the same odds of winning 5 spins in a row as you do 5 losses in a row. You could win a couple of massive payouts consecutively, or you could go for a long time without hitting a win at all. You will go through lucky streaks and unlucky streaks, but this is simply about luck - and it’s all random.

2: If a Slot Game Pays Big They Won’t Pay Big Until They Get Their Money Back

There may have been a good reason to suspect this with the older slot games - as they simply wouldn’t have enough money to physically payout two massive wins in a row. However, this is not the case when it comes to online slot games. These are completely random and they can pay out big as and when the RNG says so.

3: If You Use Autoplay The Your Spins Pay Out Less

Some people think that the casino ‘takes advantage’ of a player not paying attention to the game and allowing the slot to spin on its own for a set period of time by offering fewer wins. However, this isn’t the case - as autoplay spins work in exactly the same way as manual spins - with the maths being exactly the same. Moreover, gambling regulators always test an online casino’s RNGs to make sure this can’t happen.

These are just three common myths about how slot games and their RNGs work, but there are still many more. Some people have trouble trusting computer software. However, we can assure you that every slot here at Lucky Clover Spins has been tried and tested as completely fair.

Understanding The Slot Game’s House Edge

You may already know that no one slot game works in the exact same way as another. Every slot machine will have different variables which determine how likely it is that you will win from the game. There are two factors in a slot game that you need to understand here - the RTP and the slot game’s volatility/variance.

The Return to Player - RTP

The RTP percentage of a slot game will tell you how much money a player should expect to get back from a slot game over a longer period of time - and also indicates that game’s house edge.

So, let’s look at a simple example. Imagine a slot game that has a 95% RTP - and in the long term, you spend £100,000 playing it. The game RTP suggests that you should expect to win back around £95,000. The remaining £5,000 will be the profit taken by the slot game. This 5% is also known as the game’s house edge.

The reason we look at this in high figures is because a game’s RTP is worked out over a huge sample size. Initially, in your first hundred spins, you could get results anywhere between 30% up to 1000%. However, the more you play, the closer your results will get to the RTP.

This is why many people like to play slot games with a high RTP, because statistically, this suggests that over time, you will have a better chance of minimising your losses. Slot games usually have an RTP around 96%, but some go as high as 98 or even 99%. 

Online Slot Volatility/Variance

The volatility of a slot game is something else you should consider - although this isn't quite as simple to explain. Let’s take roulette as an example:

  • If you bet on red/black, you will have a 50% chance of winning, but you don’t win much - you will win half the time and double your bet when you do.
  • If you bet on a single number, statistically you have a 1 in 37 chance of winning, but could win 36x your bet.

The safest red/black bet is known as a lower volatility bet - which means you will win a smaller amount but more often. The second one is a high volatility bet, which means you won’t win as often but you will win more when you do.

How Does This Affect Slot Game Choices?

Basically, every slot game will have been classed in terms of volatility (or variance). Slots are normally low, medium or high. With a low volatility game, you should expect plenty of smaller value wins with a few big wins thrown in. With a high volatility slot, you won’t get wins very often, but the rewards will be great when you do. A medium volatility slot falls somewhere between the two.

So, what should you go for? Many would recommend a high volatility slot game that also has a high RTP. Although you may not win as often, there is the chance of landing some bank-balance changing wins. Just a few of these can put you well ahead of the game. However, just hitting smaller wins consistently doesn’t get you anywhere really, unless you also manage to get in a few bigger wins as well.

Moreover, playing a high variance slot game will give you a bigger chance of beating the game’s RTP in the short term because you can hit higher payouts. You might simply play a few spins and hit a massive win. You could then take the money and run. This is much harder to do with a lower variance slot game as you would have to get lucky much more consistently to increase your bankroll by any reasonable amount

Usually, a high variance slot game will have a lower RTP in order to balance things out. However, even if it does have a lower RTP, this can still be beaten if you hit the right spin at the right time. It’s important that you do remember to quit while you’re ahead though.

To Conclude

Well, what should you take away from this guide then? Basically, online slot games are the most popular type of casino game enjoyed by most players out there. However, many people still insist on playing them without actually understanding how they work. Hopefully, reading this has helped you to have a better understanding of how they work and how results are determined - and your chance of beating them. 

What you should take away from this is that slot games are completely random and that it is the mathematics behind the game that will determine the chances you have of making any money in the long term. Also, you should forget the common misconceptions about slot games and just enjoy them for what they are. These are casino games that give you the chance to win a decent amount  of money - but, you need to pick the right one and cut and run when your bankroll is up.