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How Online Slots Terms Made Me a Better Player

Online Slots Terms - Screenshot of Nolimit City Disturbed Slot - MGJ
Mia Avatar

Learning slots terminology helped me to improve my gameplay.

I can’t control the outcome of the online slots I play anymore than you can. That’s because results are 100% random. When all is said and done, whether we win or lose is up to being lucky.

That said, I have discovered since learning and understanding terminology that applies to online slots, and by reading a slot’s paytable before playing, that I can control certain factors that can influence results during and after a spin.

I don’t mean I can influence whether I win or lose. Again, that’s entirely up to the games random number generator (RNG) software. I mean that knowledge can help you make educated choices. Choices that can:

  • Lead to choosing games with features you’ll enjoy more.
  • Help you find the games with the best RTP (Return to Player).
  • Trigger features that can boost your wining potential.
  • Enhance your overall experience so that you get more fun and enjoyment out of the online slots you play.

Online slots terms I’ve found useful to know.

The following are terms that I’ve learned that have helped me to make the most out of playing real money online slots.

But, before we get started, I have four things to note about the online slots terms I’ll list and discuss below:

  1. Instead of creating a long alphabetical list, I’m going to organize the terms by category in a way that I think makes the most sense.
  2. This won’t be an exhaustive list of online slots terms. I’m including only the ones that have made a difference to my understanding of slots and playing experience.
  3. I’m not including common slots lingo (I might make a separate post about that one day if inspiration strikes😄)
  4. I’m not an online slots expert. The information I’m providing is based on my own experiences and understanding of these terms

Types of Online Slots

Classic slots /
Fruit machines
A slot that usually has 3 reels and no additional special features like free spins. These games often have fruits, bells, 7s and bar symbols, like old timey slots (hence the name fruit machines).
Digital slots with a computerized display that do not use mechanical reels. In other words, all online slots are video slots. Most modern-day video slots online have 5 reels and multiple paylines as well as extra features like special symbols, free spins, bonus mini games, etc.
Mobile slotsSlots created with HTML5 that have been designed specifically for or are compatible with mobile platforms like Android and iOS. Today, most slots are compatible with mobile.
Grid slotsAlso called a Cluster Pays slot, a grid slot does not have traditional reels that spin. Instead, the symbols are displayed on a grid that often (though not always) has the same number of vertical and horizontal rows. Instead of spinning, when a game is activated, the existing symbols drop away from the grid and new ones fall/cascade/tumble down from the top of the grid. Wins are created using clusters of matching symbols (Cluster Pays) instead of typical paylines. Personally, I love grid slots and recently wrote about my experience playing one of my new favourites, Viking Runecraft Apocalypse.
Vegas slotsOnline versions of video slots that can be found at land-based casinos. IGT and Scientific Games are common providers of these games.
3D slotsOnline slots with 3D graphics and animations.
VR slotsSlots designed for playing with a virtual reality headset. Personally, I’ve never tried this, and it honestly doesn’t appeal. To me, that experience sounds nauseating. Plus, if I’m looking for a real-world-like immersive gambling experience, I’ll just head to my local casino. 😂
Branded slotsA slot with a guaranteed jackpot – a single maximum win that can be triggered in one spin. Slots that have one or more fixed or progressive jackpot payouts are also sometimes called jackpot slots.
Jackpot slotsA slot with a guaranteed jackpot – a single maximum win that can be triggered in one spin. Slots that have one or more fixed or progressive jackpot payouts are also sometimes called jackpot slots.
Progressive slotsSlot machines with one or more jackpot prizes that start at a certain amount and continue to grow in size until they are won.  

Online Slots Mechanics & Gameplay

PaytableThe table that lists the slot’s pay symbols, their win values, and all possible wining combinations. Additionally, a paytable may also provide details about special symbols (e.g., wilds, scatters, etc.) what actions are required to trigger bonus features, the maximum payout or jackpot amount that can be won, volatility, and the game’s RTP. The paytable is often found by selecting the game’s information or menu button, usually located in the upper or lower far left or right hand side of the game screen.
SymbolsThe icons or images on the reels. Symbols typically include a mixture of pictures that match the theme of the game, and card symbols (usually playing card symbols 10, J, Q, K, A). Picture symbols tend to be the higher paying symbols while card symbols are lower paying.
ReelsThe vertical columns where the symbols appear and spin. Modern day video slots typically have 5 reels and classic slots usually have 3 reels.
Cascading ReelsAlso called collapsing reels, instead of spinning, the symbols tumble or cascade down. This type of reel mechanic is often paired with Cluster Pays and is also a common feature of grid slots.
RowsThe horizontal line of symbols. It is common for online slots to have fewer rows than reels. That said, the main difference between rows and reels is that reels are vertical and rows are horizontal. For instance, the screenshot of of Nolimit City’s Disturbed online slot, which I’ve included below this table, shows that the game has 4 Reels and 5 Rows.
PaylinesThe lines where winning combinations can occur. In other words, you must land a winning combination on an active payline to receive that winning combination’s corresponding payout. Online slots can have 1 or multiple fixed paylines or expanding paylines, such as in the case of Megaways online slots. Active paylines are the lines on which you’ve placed a bet. Many slots allow you to choose the number of lines you’d like to play per game.
243 Ways to WinInitially introduced by Microgaming, online slots with this system have 243 fixed paylines, which means the slot can payout in 243 different ways.
MegawaysA game mechanic created by Big Time Gaming where reels can shift in size, altering the number of rows, and increasing the number of ways to win. The most common number of ways to win is up to 117,649. However, there are Megaways games with even more ways to win.
Cluster PaysThis is a unique payment system that was originally introduced by NetEnt. Instead of a traditional payline, wins are created with clusters of matching symbols across all reels, positions and lines. Matching symbols must land next to each other and touch one of the four sides. Any symbols involved in the cluster pays win will explode and new symbols will automatically fall into place, which could lead to more cluster wins (think Candy Crush). Cluster pays allows for the potential of multiple cluster wins with just one spin.
Credits/CoinsYour money is converted into credits or coins. These credits/coins represent how much money you’ve put into the slot machine.
BetThe amount you wager (bet) per spin. Online slots have a set minimum and maximum bet amount that you can wager per payline.
Bet MaxThe maximum amount you can bet per spin. Selecting this option will have you placing the maximum bet size per line on all paylines.
Auto playAlso known as autospin, is a function that can be activated which automatically spins the reels a set number of times in a row. That said, if you’re playing in Ontario like me, you won’t be able to use this feature, because it’s against Ontario’s online gambling regulations.
Buy featureThis lets you buy your way into a bonus game instead of trying to trigger the feature by playing the game. Like auto play, this game function isn’t allowed in Ontario.
PayoutA payout is any amount you win. The slot pays out the win amount that results from landing a winning combination to your available credits.
VolatilityThis represents the amount of risk in playing an online slot. Essentially, a high volatility slot is one that lands fewer wins on average but pays out higher amounts when a win is landed. A low volatility slot lands wins more often on average, but with lower win amounts. A medium volatility slot is somewhere in the middle of these two types.
VarianceThough variance is often assumed to be the same as volatility, I found out that there is a difference. Variance actually refers to how a slot distributes winning combinations in the long term. So, Variance is the expected range of how much money you can win on a game in the long run, whereas volatility represents the amount of risk of playing that game.
RTPThis stands for Return to Player and is the amount (represented as a percentage) that an online slot will theoretically return to players over its lifetime. For instance, a slot with a 96% RTP will return 96 cents to players for every $1 bet they make, over the slot’s lifetime. However, since the RTP percentage is based on millions of spins over the long term, this means you could get lucky and land a win or you might have a string of bad luck. In other words, you won’t get back 96 cents for every $1 you wager. Sometimes (if you’re lucky) you’ll get another player’s 96 cents back, and sometimes (if they’re lucky) other players will get yours. If your eyes just crossed like mine did when I was first learning about this term, not to worry. Basically, the short of it is that games with high RTP (96%+), theoretically boost your chances of winning.
RNGThis stands for random number generator and is a type of software program that generates unpredictable results at random. All online slots use RNG software.
Online Slots Terms - Screenshot of Nolimit City Disturbed Slot - MGJ
Screenshot of Nolimit City Disturbed Slot – 5 Reels & 4 Rows

Online Slots Features

This is a special symbol that replaces all other symbols, except for certain other special symbols (e.g. scatters), boosting the potential of forming a winning combination. In addition to the standard wild, there are also Sticky Wilds which stay in place on the reel for the next one or more spins, and Expanding Wilds which occur when a wild symbol expands the full length of a reel, really boosting win possibilities. NetEnt’s Starburst slot, one of my favourite online slots, has the expanding wilds feature.
A special symbol that will trigger bonus features when multiples of these symbols result from a spin. For most games, usually a minimum of 3 scatter symbols is required to activate bonus features. Sometimes the number of scatters you land will also determine what results. For instance, landing 3 scatters might get you 10 free spins, while landing 5 could get you 30 free spins.
Free SpinsA bonus feature where you get one or multiple spins of the game for free. Free spins bonus rounds are typically triggered after landing 3 bonus symbols. Usually, between 5 and 25 spins can be a awarded at a time. Some online slots even allow for more free spins to be triggered while a free spins feature is active if bonus symbols are landed again.
Re-SpinsA type of bonus feature that activates an automatic free spin after you land a certain number of bonus symbols on the reels. The bonus symbols remained locked in place as the machine re-spins, giving you more winning opportunities. In many cases, re-spins will continue if you keep landing wins or if the bonus symbols are still in place.
MultiplierMultipliers multiply bets by a certain amount, significantly increasing how much a player can win. This bonus feature is often present during free spins bonus rounds. For instance, a player activates a free spins round and triggers a 5x multiplier. After the free spins round, the player wins a total of $10. The 5x multiplier is applied to the win, making the total win $50. Multiplier amounts are usually between 2x and 10x a bet, but in some online slots they can be as high as 10,000x.
Slot minigamesA separate minigame within the slot can be triggered when certain bonus symbols land on the reels. If there is more than one minigame, typically one of the games will be triggered at random. You’ll be taken to a separate screen to play the game (e.g., spinning a prize wheel, opening treasure chests, etc.). Slots minigames often give you the chance to win an instant money prize, multiply wins, or access to the game’s jackpot.
Gamble featureThis feature occurs after you hit a winning combo. You have the option to choose one of two outcomes (like a heads or tails idea). If you choose the right outcome, your winnings will be doubled. If you choose the wrong one, you’ll lose the existing winnings you just won. While this feature is not available to Ontarians, I’m okay with that. personally, I think this is a terrible feature that can lead to a big time losing streak.

For such an easy game to play, isn’t it amazing how many online slots terms there are? I hope you find this information helpful when you play slots online. If I think of or learn other terms that I feel are significant, I might add more to this post over time (or maybe create an online slots terms part 2).

Is there a particular slot term you’ve found particularly helpful when you play?

Until next time, good luck and have fun!

Mia 👩‍💻

*All links and images in this post are for information purposes only.

Mia Avatar

4 responses to “How Online Slots Terms Made Me a Better Player”

  1. binance us Avatar

    Thanks for sharing. I read many of your blog posts, cool, your blog is very good.

    1. Mia Avatar

      Thanks! Glad you like it. 😀

  2. Paulo Avatar

    Hi Mia.
    I my self im a huge fan of online slots (never been in a real casino – lol).
    I started playing recently, in portuguese casinos (im portuguese). I only play in certified casinos.
    Congrats on your blog.
    All the best

    1. Mia Avatar

      Hi Paulo, it’s nice to hear from you. Thanks for the congrats. 🙂 Are there any online slots in particular that you like or do you enjoy them all?

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