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The Truth About Online Slots

Online slots are a particular favorite of both casual and more serious gamblers. There’s something hypnotic about the monotonous spin of the wheel and the chance to win some actual cash is always extremely tempting. Unlike more strategy-based casino games and sports betting, though, hitting a slot machine comes down to nothing more than blind luck – and though actual casinos have to abide by certain federal laws around how often these machines need to pay out (which still isn’t all that often), online slots machines are much more complicated. 

Like all online gambling, the legalities around online slots are extremely complicated and though individual states and countries permit and regulate online gambling, it’s easy for bad actors to slip through. This is why before you spend even a cent on an online slot machine, it’s imperative to make sure that the site is legit by reading reviews and checking if there are any trustworthy regulatory bodies listed on the site. 

Beyond just general trustworthiness, though, there is no single statistic that applies to all legit slot machines online either as each developer is allowed to set their own payback rates for their virtual machines. The good news, though, is that the bigger online slots manufacturers are entirely open about their payback rates and there are tons of sites on the web to help you pick which one is good for you. 

To understand those reviews, though, here are a few basic definitions to help you understand exactly what you’re dealing with.

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Hit Rate

This, as its name suggests, refers to how often an online slot will payout the player on average. The most typical hit rate for an online slot is 20% to 25%, meaning that, on average, you will win one out of every four or five spins. This does not tell you how much you will win, just that you will win something 1/5 to 1/4 of the time on these machines. Each online slot should provide you with its specific hit rate, which can be higher or lower than the average. 

Crucially, these are averages so you may well win five times over five spins or zero times out of ten but the overall hit rate is still 20% to 25%. Which brings us to…



Though hit rate gives you an idea of the overall average rate of payback on a machine, it does not give you an idea of how much you will win in the short term, because averages, as explained above, are not guarantees. A machine may have a hit rate of 30%, for example, but if it is a high volatility machine, it can have long periods of no payouts followed by a long (but not as long) period of payout. Low volatility machines, on the other hand, will reward you pretty much according to the hit rate – so, according to our example, once every nearly three spins. The former makes for more fun gameplay but it requires playing for quite some time to hit that 30% pay rate, whereas low volatility machines will payout on (roughly) every third spin no matter how long you play for. High volatility online slots are obviously more common as they keep the customers around for longer.

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RTP: Return to Player

RTP can and should be used in conjunction with both volatility and hit rates, because it tells you how much a machine pays out over the long term – as in across millions upon millions of spins. For RTP, therefore, you might see figures like 99.3% and what that means is that looking at the all-time number of plays on that slot, 99.3% of the money played was returned to customers as payouts. 

Seems high, right? Not so much, as it turns out. What this means is that of that 99.3% that is paid out, it could be the case that almost all of it is paid out to a single player after just a couple of spins, leaving everyone else nearly empty handed the rest of the time. It could also mean a fairly even pay out, which means that everyone will get at least a small percentage of the cut every few spins. 


Jackpot Bonus Rate

This one is a separate factor that actually includes within it the RTP and volatility of a game, but with a more specific number for what you might win if you really strike it lucky.. As the name suggests, this simply tells you how big the jackpot bonus is and how often that jackpot comes up in the course of everyone playing that virtual machine. If a slot offers a low chance of winning a gigantic jackpot bonus then you can expect to have a much smaller chance to win at least something back than if the jackpot bonus is smaller and/ or more frequent. On the flipside, that low chance, high jackpot rate means that though you’re more likely to come out empty even after playing for hours, if you do win then you’ll win big.  

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Bringing It Together

These are the four major factors to keep in mind when selecting an online slot machine and you will need to balance them according to what you want from the game. Do you want the chance to win huge even with the tradeoff that you play for hours and spend tons of money on the game then look for a slot with a high jackpot bonus, a high hit rate, a high RTP and high volatility. If, however, you’re more interested in just playing the game casually for a few minutes then you may want to play slot machines with high hit rates and low volatility and don’t worry about the jackpot size or the RTP.

Whatever you do, though, don’t ignore these factors if you want to get the most out of an online slot machine. It can make all the difference.

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