As you are ushered in the front door and step on to the casino floor, sensory overload is certain. Different gamblers are seduced in different ways - the cheers and jeers as fate is surrendered to a roll of the dice in Craps, the suspense as the Roulette ball skitters from red to black, or the sharp, collective inhale as the dealer flips his whole card over at the Blackjack table. But for some, it will always be the warm neon glow of the Slot Machines.
The slots are synonymous with casino play. The clacking of the wheels as they whir, stopping one after the other, the cherries, pots of gold and lucky number 7s taking their final position and sealing - a players fortune. Until the next spin, that is.
Slots have come a long way since their inception back in the 19th century, but the premise remains unchanged. A huge portion of casino revenue is made at the slot machines. Here, we will explain why the slots are so well-loved, and which of the different types you can expect to come across at a casino near you.
Why are slots so popular?
The unversed in gambling may feel some apprehension about staking palpable amounts of money on table games they haven’t fully grasped. Blackjack and Roulette come with minimum bets, complicated odds and tough decisions. Slot machines don’t present these dilemmas. With minimum bets starting at pennies, you can make a little go a long way and still have a chance at banking a huge win.
Slots are a great way to relax - slide your coins in to the machine, it lights up to welcome you, and you are ready to go. Each player is on an even playing field, and opportunities to gain an advantage are rare. This can lead to nights of camaraderie between row upon row of gamblers, or a quiet evening of satisfaction and entertainment.
With no dealer to hurry you along, you can also play at your own pace. The methodical player can study the reel at his or her leisure, whereas the dedicated jackpot grinder is free to load up a whole wall of machines, max out the paylines (see below) on each one, and watch the wins roll in and the coins tumble out.
Variety is also key to the success of slots. Many may love the vintage feel of classic one-armed bandit, but the restless will always be able to find a differently themed machine, or a style they haven’t played yet.
While there are endless themes for slot machines taken from movies, music, TV and anything else creative minds may dream up, almost all fall into one of two categories - the classic three reel slot, or the more modern five reel slot. The difference between the two lies in their simplicity.
Three reel slots are as straightforward as it comes. They often offer only one payline, which means one way to win - the straight line across the middle of the three reels - think of the emblematic Triple 7 Jackpot image. Some three wheel slots may offer up to five paylines, but even so, play on a three reel machine will be more measured and deliberate than on one of its frenetic five reel cousins.
Five reel slots are often more eclectically styled, departing from the classic fruit machine aesthetic. Along with this visual flare comes an extra level of complexity. To start with, rather than the maximum of five paylines, five reel slots’ paylines typically number up to 50, with some machines running into even bigger numbers - this means more ways to win, and a potential for wagering more credits and more cash on each spin.
Some slots choose the number of paylines for the player each time, but most will give the player the option. This decision adds a strategical intricacy to five reel slot play, which is intensified by the myriad of outcomes from each spin - you could win on several paylines at once, be granted free additional spins or gifted a bonus multiplier for the next spin. Far from the sedate and orderly one-armed bandit, five reel slot play can quickly get very frenetic.
Percentage Return To Player, Slot Volatility and Compensated Machines
When settling in at the casino, feel free to choose the machine that most appeals to you aesthetically. Players who want to be slightly more calculated, however, can consider these two figures.
Percentage return to player is easy to calculate. In fact, it is often displayed on the machine itself. What this number means is how much the machine pays out in the long term for every pound wagered. For example, if a machine has a 90% return to player, and a player bet £100, they could expect to get back £90 in the long run. Nevertheless, over a single session, they could strike gold or go home empty handed, which is where the thrill lies!
Volatility is harder to calculate, but an observant casino goer will make a good estimate. High volatility slots pay out big jackpots, but infrequently. Often, five reel machines will work this way to add to their inherent excitement, and use the promise of huge wins to attract crowds. Three reel slots often pay out more frequently, but have smaller jackpots.
The final ponderance is whether the machine is compensated or random. Random machines will have pay-out probabilities that never alter, whereas compensated machines will vary pay-outs as a result of recent outcomes. Compensated machines offer you a chance to identify a machine on a hot streak, or a machine which has not paid out and is ripe for a jackpot! There is more than superstition to identifying the right slots!
These jackpots offer the best opportunity for a lottery-winning, life-changing score from a slot machine. Often, every machine in a casino will contribute towards the total, sometimes they are built even across several different venues. Every time someone takes a spin on qualifying machines and does not win the jackpot, money is added to the total.
These jackpot totals can and do run into the millions. Casinos are sure to proudly display the current total within sight of the qualifying machines. When it gets big enough, it’s time to jump in.
We hope that you feel ready to jump into the action and give the wheel a spin. Guide to London Casinos offers reviews of the slot action available at casinos all over the UK.