Some gambling writers turn their nose up at slot machine games, especially slots played online for real money. Their opinions have some validity, too. Slots can be a fast way to lose a lot of money.
But gambling is entertainment, and if you think playing slots online for real money is entertaining, more power to you. This guide offers advice on how to maximize the amount of fun you get from your hobby. It includes tips for finding and dealing with online casinos. It also includes some advice about choosing games that are going to help you achieve your goals.
Finally, I've included some information about where to go for help if you have a gambling problem. I'd like to think that no one reading this will ever have to deal with a compulsive gambling issue, but I'd be remiss in my duties if I didn't at least point out that problems are possible-and getting help is also possible.
Choosing the right online casino can take a lot of time and effort. You have a lot of factors to take into account. This site offers a number of recommendations, and I suggest you look at those.
Here are some other factors to consider when choosing an online casino:
Where do you live?
What kind of games do you like to play?
Do you want to engage in other gambling activities, too?
Do you live in one of the United States where online casino gambling has been legalized?
Does the casino you're considering have a good reputation?
Here's an example of the kind of writing you might find in a bogus casino review:
Example Casino launched in 2007. The most fascinating thing about this Internet casino is certainly the unique software and games. Gamblers can play exciting games here that are not available elsewhere, and have a chance at winning one of many sitewide progressive jackpots. Example Casino is often mentioned in the news because of their frequent winning players and their large bonus offers. We give them an excellent score in general. If you're from the United States, you should check this casino out.
You'll notice the lack of sincerity in the tone of the above paragraph. This kind of writing is all too common on the Internet in so-called reviews of online casinos. Your best bet is to probably disregard reviews that are written in this kind of language.
Instead, look for sober reviews that seem to offer an objective look at the pros and cons of playing there. No site is perfect, and a responsible reviewer will point out the drawbacks of playing at certain properties.
Some players are perfectly happy playing free slot machine games. You can find such games at any number of sites where you don't even have to download software to play. These websites make their money from the advertising they sell.
The biggest drawback of most of these free games is that you can't win money playing them. Sure, some of them offer free tournaments where some players get real cash prizes each week. But most play money casino games offer prizes of one kind only-play money. Think of this as being similar to the money in a game of Monopoly. There's nothing wrong with it. You just can't buy anything with it in the real word.
In fact, you can play at almost any online casino in the world for free. They allow prospective customers to try their games for free in the hope that you'll like their games, sign up for a real money account, and gamble there.
If you're committed to never spending any money playing slots online, you might want to avoid the real Internet casinos and stick with the sites that are supported by ads. Even though you're determined, online casinos can be more persuasive than you can imagine.
A step up from free slots are penny slots, but penny slots ain't what they used to be, either. Most online penny slots require you to place a minimum bet on a minimum number of lines. When you do that, your penny bet can become a bet of 15 cents or 25 cents instantly.
The thing about multi-payline slot machines is that they're really good at activating a Skinner machine kind of response in gamblers.
What does that mean?
BF Skinner was a behavioral scientist who learned that birds were more motivated to pull a lever on a box if they only got a reward some of the time. They were even more motivated than if they were getting a guaranteed reward every time.
These kinds of intermittent rewards are exactly what you get when you're playing slot machines. And research has demonstrated that the hormones which get pleasure from a win on a slot machine can't differentiate between a legitimate win and a win where you're actually seeing a net loss.
Here's the difference:
Let's say you bet 15 lines, and you bet a penny per line. You have 15 cents on the line. On one of those 15 lines, you win 10 cents.
Since you put 15 cents in to begin with, your net loss is 5 cents.
But your brain sees the win on the screen and gets the same jolt of hormones you would have gotten if you had won 25 cents.
You can also find online slots in almost every other denomination imaginable, too. You can play nickel machines, dime machines, quarter machines, and dollar machines. You can even find machines with $5 and $25 denominations.
Online casinos love high rollers, especially the ones who love to play slot machines. If you meet that description, be sure to contact the customer service department to find out what kind of additional perks the casino offers to high rollers.
You might be surprised at what's available to high rollers at Internet casinos.
The variety of online slot machine games that are now available is nearly limitless. No matter what your tastes are, you can find it on the Internet. But you can't necessarily find it at every casino in the business. That's why you should decide ahead of time which games you want and make sure the casino you're considering offers them.
Here's an example:
You're a relatively slow player, and you're interested more in higher payback than anything else. You also don't need a lot of visual or auditory stimulation in order to enjoy a slot machine game.
You might enjoy an Internet casino that offers a lot of single payline, 3 reel slots games. These games tend to offer a higher payback percentage, but they're not as stimulating.
On the other hand, you might be looking for maximum sensory stimulation. If that's you, some casinos offer 3D slot machine games with elaborate storylines. These games can be a remarkable amount of fun, but they often have lower payback percentages than some other games.
In fact, the more features (bells and whistles) a slot machine game features, the lower the payback percentage becomes-generally speaking, anyway.
The newest categories of online slots are called 243 ways or 512 ways. In these games, you don't even have paylines any more. Any winning combination from left to right pays, regardless of where on the reels the symbols land.
I'm normally leery of recommending signup bonuses. That's because most players have unrealistic expectations of them. Here's how a casino signup bonus works:
You deposit a certain amount of money. Depending on the bonus offer in place at the casino, you get a percentage of that bonus added to your account to play with.
For example, you might be playing at a casino which offers a 200% signup bonus. You deposit $100 and get $200 free, so you have a total bankroll of $300 to play with.
That sounds like a great deal, but casinos have had to put multiple restrictions on such offers to prevent advantage gamblers from taking advantage of such offers and guaranteeing themselves long term profits.
The most common restriction is a requirement that you place a certain minimum number of wagers before being allowed to cash out. For example, if you're playing at the above casino, and it has a 25X wagering requirement, you'd have to place $7500 in wagers before cashing out.
That sounds impossible, but it's not as bad as you think. Keep in mind that you're going to win some of these bets.
Let's say you're an advantage gambler, though. You've done an analysis of this casino's blackjack game, and you estimate that their house edge is only 0.5%. You can place $7500 in wagers an only expect to lose $37.50.
Since you got a $200 bonus, your expected profit is $162.50.
So the other most common restriction at an online casino is to only allow you to fulfill your wagering requirements by playing slot machines.
Since the average house edge on an online slots game is probably closer to 5%, your expected loss is more like $375.
The casino maintains its mathematical edge.
But you do still have a chance of winning, and you definitely get to play more after taking advantage of one of these bonuses than you would without it.
Depositing money into an online casino might be harder than you think, especially if you live in the United States. But even in countries which have embraced Internet gambling, some credit card companies are reluctant to approve charges related to online gambling.
What should you do?
Most Internet casinos offer a number of different methods for you to deposit money with. In some countries, you can even use PayPal to fund your casino account. (That doesn't work in the United States, sorry.)
You can also just charge a credit card or send money via a service like Western Union. Some casinos accept deposits via bank wire transfer. You might even be able to find a casino that will allow you to mail them a paper check.
If you're having trouble making a deposit at the casino you've chosen, contact their customer service department. Don't just give up. They have employees who are paid to help you open an account. Take advantage of those possibilities.
Like it or not, you'll probably have to deal with an online casino's customer service department eventually. Maybe you'll have a question about your signup bonus. Or you might run into a problem cashing out your winnings. (It happens more often than you think.)
Here are some tips on getting what you want when dealing with customer service at an online casino:
Kill 'em with kindness. You might be surprised at how much authority a customer service rep at an Internet casino has. And even though you might be justifiably frustrated by something, taking that out on the customer service rep is unlikely to help you get your situation resolved.
Be specific. Killing 'em with kindness doesn't mean rolling over and letting them do whatever they want. Be specific about what you want. Be persistent, too. If you go to a customer service agent with an attitude of, "I need your help", you'll be more likely to get what you want. But be specific about the kind of help you need and/or want.
Be subtle when making threats. Let's say you're in a situation where the casino isn't going to pay you your winnings. You don't want to tell them, hey, pay me, or I'm going to go complain in as many forums as I can about you. No one likes a threat. On the other hand, wondering aloud what kind of recourses you might have at a players' forum might work wonders. The trick is to sound innocent, like you need help, but also smart enough that you'll make sure people know you were getting screwed over.
Start by choosing a good casino. The less you have to deal with customer service, the better. If you stick with the properties recommended on this site, you'll probably have fewer reasons to deal with customer service anyway. The editors of this site have spent a lot of time and put in a lot of effort both playing at these properties and investigating their reputations.
For the most part, dealing with the customer service at an Internet casino goes a lot better when you treat the person on the other end as you would like to be treated.
I mention video poker every time I write about slot machines. I know that video poker isn't necessarily everyone's cup of tea, but the payback percentages are so superior to what you'll find on slot machines that it seems like a disservice to not mention it.
And if you don't know the difference between video poker and slots, let me explain it to you-because it's important.
You presumably already know how slots games work. Reels have symbols on them, they spin, and you get prizes when certain combinations of symbols appear in a certain spot on the reels.
Video poker is similar, but the symbols are based on playing cards instead of fruit. And the random number generator-the computer program that generates these results-based the probability of the game on a deck of cards.
The implications of this small fact are amazing.
You have no way of knowing what the odds are of getting a particular symbol on a slot machine. But we all know how many cards are in a deck. Calculating the odds of getting a particular card or combination of cards is relatively easy.
You know what the combinations pay out on a slot machine, but you don't know what the odds of hitting any of those combinations are.
But you have both pieces of information on a video poker game.
So you can calculate the payback percentage for a video poker game. On a slot machine game, the best you can do is make a wild guess.
But that's not the only difference.
In video poker, you start with a 5 card hand. You get to choose between 0 and 5 cards to discard and replace.
What does this mean to the player?
It means that you can make decisions which actually affect the outcome of the game. In this respect, video poker is like blackjack.
For a particular type of player, having some influence over the outcome of the game is a gift from the gods of fortune. I'm that kind of player. I'm not interested in being a passive observer as the slot reels spin. I want to make decisions and be rewarded and/or punished for those decisions.
But the biggest and most important difference between the two games is the expected return. Even bad video poker pay tables pay off at 95% or better. The good pay tables pay off at 99% or more.
But with slot machines, even the best usually top out at 95% or 96%. That's a big difference.
Some slots players might be bored with video poker. I know that a lot of my audience loves bonus games and spinning wheels and so forth.
But you should at least try video poker. You'll get a lot more action for your money and stand a better chance of winning, too.
This one is pretty much optional, but you might find it useful, especially if you're the social type. There are forums on the Internet where players can discuss their experiences playing at online casinos. You'll find a number of people complaining about their treatment at some of these properties. But you'll also find people talking about which games they like and don't like and why.
Sometimes the more experienced gamblers on these forums will provide you with some information that can help you out tremendously. If they warn you off of one bad casino, they might have saved you hundreds of dollars. Not all players' forums are created equal. Spend some time reading through the threads there before going to the trouble of signing up. Some forums are just as full of shills as online information portals.
As a general rule, I prefer online slot machines to those found at land-based casinos. But there are aspects of playing at a legitimate brick and mortar casino that don't apply at an Internet property. One example is the slot machine players' club.
Sure, online sites offer loyalty programs, too. But the perks available from traditional casinos are often more immediate and more exciting than just rebates and free chips. At a Vegas or Reno casino, if you bring a lot of action, you're at the very least going to get a free cocktail. But you can easily get a free meal in the coffee shop, too.
But the more action you bring to the casino, the more impressive the rewards become. Show tickets are one perk available to land-based casino customers, and it probably takes less action on the machines to earn some entertainment than you might think. Casinos will even provide you with travel and lodging if you're going to gamble enough.
These perks aren't just for players who lose, either. They base their calculations on how much action you bring-not how much you win or lose. They're relying on the laws of large numbers to guarantee their profit. If enough big players play enough games with a house edge for a long enough time, the casino is almost guaranteed a profit.
If they weren't, they couldn't stay in business.
By the same token, as an individual player, you can get lucky in the short run and walk away a winner. And this is true of casinos, too:
If no one ever won, they couldn't stay in business.
No one would play if there weren't at least a chance of walking away a winner.
If your gambling stops being enjoyable, and if it's causing problems in your daily life, then you might have a gambling problem. I'm not a mental health expert, but I've seen the ravages of addiction in the lives of people I care about. And I urge you, if you think you have a problem, get help as soon as possible.
This doesn't mean you have to join a 12 step program, although those programs exist and work for a lot of people. But there are other approaches to managing and recovering from a gambling addiction. A quick search on Bing or another of your favorite search engines should bring up a lot of results.
Why is this appropriate to bring up in a post about slot machines?
Mostly because slot machines are probably the best example of how addictive gambling can be. You might have heard the expression "slot zombies", because of the people who sit there with a glazed look in their eyes playing slots. But you never hear the phrase "blackjack zombies".
There's a reason for that. Slot machine designers have mastered the art of creating a stimulus response cycle that maximizes the amount of time spent on a machine. In fact, that's the single metric that casinos and slots designers use to measure the profitability of a game.
Unfortunately for a percentage of the population with impulse control problems, this can create or exacerbate addictive tendencies.
Playing slots for real money online can be a great source of entertainment if you can afford it. But it's not for everyone. In fact, depending on where you live, it might not even be legal. But if you're smart about it, and if you're not one of the unfortunate souls cursed with impulse control problems, online slots for real money can be a great hobby.