Head to any online casino, and you will be left in absolutely no doubt as to which type of game is the ‘king’ of all the games available at any site. Online pokies outnumber all other types of casino games at online pokies casinos, you will find at least ten times the number of online pokies then there are other games.
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From humble beginnings, the pokie (also known as a slot, a fruit machine, a fruity, a pug or a one-armed bandit) has risen to take over the online slotting realm. Modern pokies though can be bewildering to people not used to them, so here – just for them and anyone else who wants to be ‘in the know’ about online pokies – is the perfect pokies guide.
History of Pokies
The first pokie machine was created by a company based in New York called Sittman and Pitt. The machine contained five reels, each with ten playing cards. Players would spin the reels, and if they landed a decent poker hand, they were awarded a prize. Payouts were not automatic though – if a player won they would have to tell the barman at the place they were playing to receive their prize.
In 1899 Charles Fey created the first true ‘slots machine’ called the ‘Liberty Bell’. This had only three reels, and the playing cards were replaced by symbols such as playing card suits, bells and horseshoes. Playouts were automatic too. The ‘three-reel’ pokie machine became the basis for all pokies developed over the next 90 or so years.
In 1976 another American company called the Fortune Coin Company created the very first video slot. Here, the mechanics and electronics of a three-reel pokie were replaced by a TV/video monitor and computer technology.
Video pokies soon developed a common set up too, just as mechanical pokies had. Video pokies typically had five reels as opposed to three, and multiple paylines as opposed to just the one. They also introduced concepts such as wild symbols, scatter symbols and bonus games.
With the rise of the internet, video pokies soon moved online. The first online pokies were software-based versions of existing video slots, and that was how the online slotting realm continued for the next decade or so.
In time, innovative companies such as NetEnt came online – companies with no previous experience of creating real-world video slots. These companies added new concepts to video pokies such as cascading symbols and pokies, which went well beyond the standard ‘5×3 with wilds and scatters’ concept. Such was the popularity of these new kinds of pokies that established slotting companies like WMS and IGT were forced to follow suit and come up with their own slotting concepts.
The contemporary slotting world is now filled with thousands of pokies, all with different and differing concepts. A dedicated pokies player has an immense slotting menu to choose from, and pokies boredom can be countered by simply finding a brand new online pokies game to play.
How to Play Pokies at Online Casino
Every different pokie has different elements. Thankfully there is no risk of confusion as every pokie will have an instructions file that you can read so you know just what you are doing. All pokies have common themes, though.
The first element is your wager. Most pokies set your wager as a ‘coin size’; however, most of the time is not a true indication of the fee you will be paying. If a pokie has 40 paylines then you may be paying one coin per line, so in this example, if your coin size is $0.01, then your overall fee is $0.40, as there are forty paylines. Other pokies charge one overall fee per spin.
Paylines are probably what confuse new online pokies players the most. In traditional pokies, there was only a single payline – the line right across the middle of the slot. In modern pokies, there can be a large number of paylines tracing all manner of patterns across the reels. You can consult the game’s information to decipher all the paylines available to you.
Wins are scored by landing identical symbols on a payline. This line of symbols must be consecutive, and the first symbol must be in the left-hand column. Wins are usually paid for lines of three, four and five symbols.
In days past all online pokies had three rows and five reels but this is no longer the case. Some pokies have as many as eight rows, some have as many as eight reels, and some have both!
Here are explanations of some of the common elements you will find when playing online slots:
A wild symbol is like the joker in a pack of playing cards. You can use a wild to substitute for any other symbol as long as in doing so you trigger a win. The game will use the wild to generate the best win possible.
A scatter symbol is a symbol that does not have to land on a payline to win. Usually, if you land three or more scatters anywhere on the reels, then you win a payout.
A bonus symbol is one that does not usually trigger a cash prize, but instead awards the player access to some bonus feature or game. The most common type of bonus game involves free spins which are spins of the reels that the player does not have to pay for. There are many other types of bonus games available, though, and they all are more lucrative than normal spins.
All Ways Pay
An ‘all ways pay’ pokie is one that does not have paylines. A player needs to land consecutive identical symbols anywhere on the reels to trigger a payout. A pokie with five reels and three rows will have 243 ways to win, while a pokie with six reels and four rows with have 4,096 ways to win.
Free spins are spins for which the player does not have to pay. If you are awarded a single free spin in a pokie, this is typically known as a ‘respin’.
A pokie that has cascading reels has the feature where all winning symbols after a spin and payout ‘fall off’ the reels. The symbols above them drop down to fill any gaps, and new symbols drop in from above to make the reels complete again. Of course, when this happens, a new cascading win could be triggered.
A multiplier is a factor that multiplies your win when it is active. For example, an ‘x3’ multiplier would multiply your current winning about by three, and so on. Some wilds have multipliers contained within them. This means that any win they are involved in is multiplied by the value of their multiplier. Such multipliers can usually be combined.
These are wilds that stay on the reels in their current position for a respin, or several respins. When the respins have concluded the wilds vanish just like normal wilds.
These are sticky wilds that shift position during a respin. They will shift for a set number of spins, or they will continue to shift (or ‘walk’) until they have shifted off the reels.
Slots that have a high number of rows and reels typically use a ‘cluster pays’ mechanic instead of having paylines. You score wins by creating clusters of identical symbols as opposed to them landing on a payline. A cluster is a group of identical symbols that all touch horizontally or vertically – seldom diagonally. It varies from game to game, but the usual minimum cluster size needed to trigger a win is five.
A meter is an indicator separate from the reels that show how close you are to triggering some extra benefit for you. Cascading wins pokies usually come with meters – each time you trigger a cascading win, the meter will rise one level. When you do not trigger a cascading win, the meter typically resets back to its base level.
If the meter reaches a specific level, then the benefit – such as bonus game – is triggered.
Several pokies have massive progressive jackpots. When a player plays a spin of such a slot, a tiny percentage of their wager is kept aside and added to a central prize pot. ALL players across ALL casinos playing the same game add to the size of this prize pot so that it grows and increases significantly in value.
A rare set of circumstances in a slot, when landed, will cause the payout of the progressive jackpot to be triggered. In some pokies, the progressive jackpot will be awarded at random. Some jackpots are habitually more than $1 million.
Some pokies have multiple progressive jackpots of various sizes.
Online Pokies Casinos Developers
Online casinos do not make their own pokies (some do, but such casinos are rare). Instead, specialist software companies create pokie games and lease them out to online casinos for a fee. Many companies have built successful business empires based on the success of their pokies and other games. Some names that may be familiar to regular online pokies players include the afore-mentioned NetEnt, plus Microgaming, Playtech, Red Tiger, Yggdrasil Gaming, Play’n GO, Pragmatic Play and Betsoft.
Successful Pokies Strategy at Online Casinos
If people start talking about any successful pokies strategy, then you should ignore what they say. Pokies are based purely on chance and nothing else. They are powered by random number generators which means everything that happens via a pokie does so at random.
When you play an online pokie, you may feel that you are playing the pokie on your computer. This is not strictly true. If you are playing, for example, a NetEnt pokie then when you hit the ‘spin’ button the software sends a message to NetEnt’s servers. The server will ping back a random number which the pokie game interprets as a specific set up of the reels. The pokie will then display the reels in the way that the random number generation dictates. Your winnings (if any) are calculated. Still, it is (usually) the responsibility of the online casino at which you are playing to pay out any money your pokie playing may have generated.
As the spin of a roulette wheel or the numbers drawn during a round of keno, everything about pokies is pure randomness. Any ‘winning systems’ or ‘casino secrets’ about pokies you may come across on the internet should be ignored.
It is a legal requirement in many jurisdictions that pokies software makers must include information about a slot’s expected ‘return-to-player’ (or RTP) within the instructions given by the slot. Return-to-player is the average amount a player can expect to receive back from a pokie after a prolonged playing session.
If a pokie has an RTP of 96%, then if a player began a long playing session with $100, at the end of that session on average, they would have $96 remaining.
In truth, such a thing seldom plays out in reality. Pokies are very streaky and random, meaning that you are just as likely to end up with $0 at the end of your session as you are $96. You may, of course, end up with $200 too, but in the long run and on average you will always end up with less money than you began with. This is why pokies – like all online casino games – should only ever be played for entertainment purposes.
RTP is a decent measure of a pokies ‘generosity’ though. The ‘standard’ for online pokies is around 96%, so look for pokies with a higher RTP then 96% and avoid one with RTPs that are lower.
You may hear about variance when it comes to slots. Variance is the measure of how often a pokie pays out in line with the size of the payouts.
A pokie with low variance pays out frequently, but the size of the wins are usually small. The pokie with high variance pays out infrequently, but the size of the wins are usually big. When playing online pokies choose one with the variance that meets your expectations. For example, if you like to win often but don’t mind if the size of the wins is small, choose one with low variance.
Online pokies are entertaining and often a huge amount of variability. Many have excellent graphics, fantastic sound effects and gameplay features designed to keep you thrilled for extended playing sessions. You are also spoilt for choice in your quest to find the best online pokies casinos that will entertain you the most.
As ever and as playing pokies is gambling, make sure that you gamble responsibly and never spend money on pokies that are needed for the more important aspects of your day-to-day living.
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