When you venture onto an online casino website, the first thing you will be struck by is the sheer range of slot games available. There will be games based on movies (Batman v Superman, Terminator, Lara Croft) and games based on legends (King Arthur, Loch Ness, Secrets of Atlantis) plus just about everything else you can imagine.
Think of a topic, and the chances are good that there is an online slot game to match. If you are new to the world of online casinos, this can make for a bewildering range of options. The temptation is to dive right in and choose a slot based on a movie you liked or a favourite TV show, but this could turn out to be an expensive decision.
The fact of the matter is that not all slot games have been created equal. That means that the one that you choose to play may not have as good a chance of winning as another, and despite all the fun of seeing clips from your favourite flick, you will see your cash quickly draining away. For that reason, it is a good idea to consider just how online (and indeed off-line) slot games work.
Every slot game that you see is going to favour the casino over time – just as every traditional casino table game gives an in-built advantage to the casino. That’s how casinos have stayed in business for hundreds of years! Take roulette for example. The wheel (except for the American version, which is a worse option for players) is numbered from 0 to 36. The odd numbers are coloured black, and the even numbers are red, with the zero being green. And that green zero is where the house gets its edge.
If you make a so-called 50:50 bet like Red or Black, or Odds or Even then you will get odds of 1:1. If you bet €10 on Red and the ball lands in red number 4, then you get your ten euros back plus another ten from the casino. But the real odds of the ball landing in a red pocket are not 50%, because of that zero. The actual odds are 48.6%, with the house edge being the 1.4% difference.
Slot games work in a similar way, except with slots the house edge is even bigger. A slot game will usually have a return to player of between 93% and 97%. The house edge is the difference between this theoretical RTP (return to player) and 100%. So if you play a game with an RTP of 95%, the casino will expect to take 5% from you over time, if you play for long enough.
Now bear in mind that the RTP is calculated over thousands and thousands of spins, so if you played 500 spins you could win a whole heap of cash or blow your entire budget. However, the RTP is still a valuable guide as to which games are best to play. It is very easy to discover the RTP of a particular game. Simply Google the name of the game you are thinking of playing plus the letters ‘RTP’ and you will quickly find your answer. Anything over 96% is a pretty good option to choose.
Another important consideration when choosing an online slot game is something called variance. Variance measures how regularly a slot game is programmed to pay out. While you can still win while playing low, medium and high variance games, the risk and reward balance is a little difference. Basically, a low variance slot pays out small amounts on a regular basis, and the top prizes are not usually that high. This is a good option if you don’t have a huge budget and want to get plenty of value from your gaming: it’s the lower risk choice.
A high variance game pays out larger amounts, but you may have to wait a long time for them to appear. Whether you prefer the slow and steady low variance option, or the risky but exciting high variance game is up to you.
Finally, when considering a slot game you should think about factors like bonus features, jackpots and game playability. Bonus rounds are games within the main slot game, and often will take you over to a different screen to play a different type of game – or else offer free spins, often with multipliers attached.
Bonus features are often the best way to unlock big wins, and they are also the most entertaining aspect of slot gaming. Jackpots are also worth considering, especially linked progressive jackpots. These are jackpots which are built up with contributions from different versions of the game which appear in dozens or even hundreds of online casinos, and the biggest can rise to offer top prizes of seven-figure sums.
And don’t forget the game’s playability. How fun is it, how good are the graphics, the music, the animations? While these won’t affect your chances of winning or losing, playing slot games is primarily about having fun, so they are certainly important factors to consider.