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Guide to Real Money Slots: A Familiar, Yet Different Territory

For some people reading this, this will be their first experience with playing slots online. Heck, their first experience gambling online.

And doing things for the first time can be scary – especially if it’s on the internet.

Not only is it possible you have the hurdle of knowing how to use your computer or smartphone – because, let’s face it, not everyone was born with one in their hands like kids today – but using your credit card online or the possibility of an unfair game might make you apprehensive, too.

We get it. And we have plenty of information on this page (and elsewhere on our site) to help you out.

The good news is that outside of using your computer and the internet to gamble, playing slots for real money is pretty much the same as playing in a brick and mortar casino. You can expect the same stakes, the same types of slot machines, the option to play for progressive jackpots, and a lot more.

There are several differences – good differences – too.

For example, by choosing to play online for real money instead of offline, not only do you get added convenience of never having to leave your home, but you’ll also have several casinos and all their generous bonuses only a couple clicks away.

If that sounds good to you – and you’re the type to dive in headfirst – then we recommend you create an account at one of our recommend casinos below. They’ve all been vetted for safety and fair games, so you can be sure your money’s in good hands.

However, if you’re the type to stick your toe in the water to check the temperature first – i.e. you need more information – then we have you covered there, too. Below you’ll find a quick start guide to playing real money slots online, as well as some details about what to expect when you do.

Quick Start Guide

We wanted to add a small section on how to get started online, just in case this is your first time gambling online for real money.

Don’t worry, it’s not overly complicated. But there are several things you should keep in mind and/or know about. We’ve listed those things below, along with a brief summary of what they are and why they’re important. You’ll also find links to pages where we go into more depth on each topic.

Casino Software

Software can mean 1 of 2 things:

  • Compatibility – Can you use your computer (operating system), browser or mobile device to play online slots? Casinos are getting better at become compatible with more devices, but it can still be hit or miss – especially for mobile, where Blackberry and Windows devices are usually ignored.
  • Providers – The company that creates the slot games for the casinos. There are more than 100+ software companies, all with their own unique slot themes and twists.

Some players won’t have many options for the type of software company or platform they use. This is more the case for American players, as only a handful or two of software companies work with offshore casinos operating in countries illegally.

Casino Payment & Withdrawal Options, Limits and Fees

Online gambling is no different than shopping online. In fact, if you can use your preferred payment method to shop online (at Amazon, Wal-Mart or iTunes), there’s a good chance you can use it to gamble online. The most common banking options include credit/debit/prepaid cards, bank wires, money transfers, e-checks, e-wallets and paper checks.

However, payment methods DO depend on the casino and the type of audience they serve. That’s why we recommend visitors read our reviews first, as we cover all these details in each one we write.

Other than banking options, it’s important to pay attention to limits – primarily cash out limits – as well as fees. Some casinos don’t impose limits or fees, while others have stifling limits and outrageous fees.

And, as you’re playing slots, you’ll want to figure out if the casino imposes a total weekly/monthly cash out limit. Some casinos have such low limits, like $10,000 per month, that it would make it unbearable to win a $100,000+ progressive. It would take a year or more to cash it all out. But some casinos make exceptions for progressive winners – it’s important to figure this out BEFORE you sit down to play.

Casino (Slot) Bonuses

One thing online casinos do differently than offline casinos is they offer promotions. Now, even offline casinos offer promotions, things like free spins, slot tournaments and comp points. But online casinos offer deposit bonuses – otherwise known as free money.

Deposit bonuses are simple to understand. The casino will offer to match a percentage of your deposit up to so many dollars. For example, a 100% match bonus up to $500. For every dollar you deposit, the casino will give you an additional dollar – up to a max of $500. Take advantage of the whole thing and you’ll have a $1,000 bankroll.

By now you’re probably asking, what’s the catch? And you’d be right in thinking that way. Online casinos would go broke fast if they handed out money like this left and right without making you do something for it in return.

What online casinos do is have you wager so much money BEFORE you can cash out. This is called a playthrough or rollover (requirement).

For example, the casino might say that slots player will have to wager 35x the bonus before they can cash out. Using the $500 example above, if you received the entire $500 bonus, you’d have to wager $17,500 before you could cash out. Otherwise you run the risk of having your bonus money or winnings taken away.

The most common type of bonus is the welcome bonus, which is reserved for first time accounts/depositors. But there are several other types of bonuses, too, all for different reasons – like a birthday or existing customer reload bonus. They pretty much all work the same way, though.

A deposit bonus is only one kind of offer extended to slots players. Other offers you will find online include:

  • Free Spins – The casino will give you free spins to use. Sometimes these are for a specific machine, while other times you can use them on a machine of your choosing.
  • Comp Points – These are points you’ll receive for every $1 or $10 you spend. The objective is to save these points up so you can later exchange them for cash back.
  • VIP Programs – You’ll use your comp points to determine your VIP status. The better or higher your status, the more perks and offers you can claim.
  • No Deposit Bonus – These are bonuses that are given to you without you having to make a deposit. These are usually smaller in size and have a few extra terms – such as not being able to cash out your winnings, or only being able to cash out so much.

More importantly, these offers all have terms (rules) you’ll need to follow. They vary from the amount of money you’ll need to wager to the max amount you can wager per line and/or spin, to what you can cash out, if anything.

We usually cover these terms in our casino reviews. But you’ll want to familiarize yourself with what each one (term) is and why it matters.

What Country Do You Live In? Is the Casino Licensed to Operate There?

This is a simple, yet important point. Players from nearly all countries can gamble online, though not always legally. It’s your responsibility to figure out that out.

The country you’re gambling from will impact several other things, too, such as the casinos you can join, the types of slots you’ll get to play (because not every software company may offer games to players in your area), the banking options you have access to, whether or not you can get a bonus or how much you can get, and loads more.

The most disappointing thing, in my opinion, is that some slots you can play all day in Las Vegas, are available to play online BUT ONLY if the game’s available at an online casino who accepts players from where you live. This is a brutal reality for Americans, unfortunately.

You’ll also want to familiarize yourself with the laws in your area – even if you choose to ignore them – because knowing what the laws are will give you an idea of the risks you face.

For example, if you choose to play at a UK casino, you have almost nothing to worry about if you play at a UK licensed and regulated casino. They run a tight ship over there.

But now take Americans – if you play at an online casino licensed and regulated in Delaware or New Jersey, you’re in good hands, too. However, if you live in one of the other 48 states and choose to play at an offshore casino, then you’ll be taking on additional risks.

We’re not here to tell you what’s right or wrong, but instead inform you of your options, the risks or consequences of those options, and what we would do in your shoes. The rest is up to you.

It is safe and secure to play online, even for Americans, though much of that comes down to where you decide to play. Like any other industry, there are good apples and bad apples. Use our reviews, your own research and common sense to find the best online casinos.


We’ve also written a page on how to find the best slots casinos online.

That’s the general idea of how online gambling works. I highly recommend you read the pages we’ve linked to for a deeper understanding of each topic. From there, you can read our casino reviews and then go get your feet wet by creating a real money account.

Now, with the basics out of the way, let’s look at real money slots in more detail. The next section will cover what to expect when you play slots online, including the types of slots you’ll get to play, and the types of features many of them offer.

Playing Slots Online for Real Money: What to Expect

Now let’s talk about what kinds of slot machines, games, stakes, etc. you can expect when you play online.

SlotsTypes of Slot Machines

Here are the types of machines you can expect to find online:

  • Classic 3-Reel

    These are the old school 3-reel slots that usually have fruit or diamond symbols.

  • Video

    These are usually 5-reel machines, but you’ll find 3, 4, 6, 7 and 9-reel machines, too. These often have features or bonuses you can trigger.

  • Progressives

    These can either be classic or video machines. What makes these unique is that if you max out your bet, you stand a (tiny) chance of winning the jackpot. A portion of every max bet goes to making the jackpot bigger. These can reach millions of dollars, just like they do offline.

  • 3D Slots

    These have 3D graphics (instead of 2D) like today’s video games do. These often have bonus rounds or features that further utilize 3D graphics.

  • Penny Slots

    You can play for as little as 1-penny per line. I like to play these and play all the lines, for a total bet of .25-.75 (25-75 lines). But you can also play for tens or hundreds of dollars per line/spin, so don’t worry about being capped at too low an amount.

  • TV Show

    A slot machine with symbols and/or a storyline revolving around a specific TV show.

  • Movie

    Same as above, but for a specific movie.

Those are the most common types of machines. Now let’s look at the most common features you’ll come across.

Types of Slot Features

Here are the types of features you’ll find playing slots online:

  • Wilds

    These are symbols that work with the surrounding symbols to become a (higher) paying payline.

  • Cascading Wilds

    These wilds help you win, but then disappear from the reels to allow other symbols to come ‘cascading’ down to potentially form additional winning combos. These give you multiple chances to win, and are often used to (eventually) trigger bonus rounds.

  • Ways to Win

    These can give you 234 or 1024 (or more) ways to win. You can get winning combinations from left to right, as well as right to left.

  • Win Both Ways

    Same as above …you can win from left to right, as well as right to left.

  • Autoplay

    Press this feature and then sit back and watch the spins over and over again. Once you’re shown the results, the reels will spin again automatically.

  • Nudges

    You have the option to move a reel down to potentially form a winning combination. These are usually manual, but some games have an automatic nudge feature, too.

  • Hold

    Hold reels while the others spin.

  • Bonus Games/Rounds

    These are my favorite slots feature. Sometimes at random, but more commonly when you hit a certain combo, you’ll get to play a mini game. These vary, but the objective is to either win more credits and/or multipliers. These are often where the bulk of your slot winnings will come from. They make you feel like you have an impact on the outcome of the game and how much you win.

  • Multipliers

    These will multiply your winnings for that round or for a number of spins. For example, say you win $5 from a bonus round, but also have a 5x multiplier. You won’t just win $5, you’ll win $25.

  • Free Spins

    The machine will award you with free spins, where all the features in this list can still be triggered. You can win plane jane credits, additional free spins, trigger bonus rounds, and more.

  • Scatter Symbols

    It often doesn’t matter where these appear on the screen. But when you get 2-3 (or more) of them, you’ll often trigger a bonus round or free spins.

  • Expanding/Stacked Wilds

    When one of these appear, they’ll expand to cover more of the reel or the reels next to it. This gives you wild more surface area, which makes it more likely you’ll hit one, if not multiple winning combos.

  • Sticky Wilds

    These are wild symbols that can be clumped together. When you get these, they’ll remain behind for that spin, or for as long as you have free spins. These can add up (compound) over the course of several (free) spins, increase your chances of winning …big.

These are the most common slot features. You can find more on Slots with features are found mostly (if not always) on video slot machines.

Some of the most fun and/or the most money come from games that have different kinds of wilds, as well as bonus rounds. I’ve won a fair amount offline getting wilds that covered all of 3-4 reels, with the 5th reel being an important money-making symbol.

What to Expect from Different Software Providers

One last thing I want to note about the types of slots you’ll find online, or the types of features you’ll get to play, is that each casino will offer a different experience overall. And that’s because they work with different software providers.

Like offline slots, different software providers mean different types of slot machines, themes, stakes, features and more. For example, take these software providers:

  • Microgaming – They have hundreds, if not thousands of slots. Many are proprietary themes. Others are licensed slot titles. They’re also known for Mega Moolah, a progressive slot that has paid out tens of millions over the last decade.
  • Betsoft – Known most for their 3D slots. Also has generic slots around familiar themes.
  • Real Time Gaming – Known most for generic slot themes, being US-friendly and their system-wide progressives.
  • NetEnt – Known for their licensed slots (Aliens, South Park, Tom Raider), slots around familiar themes (like Ghost Pirates), and known characters, like Frankenstein.
  • IGT – You’ll find IGT slots offline, too. They’re known for slots like Family Guy, Kitty Glitter, Battleship and Breaking Bad.
  • Rival – Known for their iSlots, a story oriented slot machine.

Not only will each software company mean a different experience, but it may also determine if you can play at the casino. For example, you won’t find a Microgaming-powered casino that also accepts Americans.

From there, software companies play a role in the types of stakes you can play for, if you can play for free, and the type of platform you can play on, whether it’s your computer, browser or mobile device.


As you can see, many of the slots you can play online are identical to the types of slots and slot features you’ll find in a brick and mortar casino.

Which means that, other than the logistics of playing online – how to choose a casino, fund your account, bonuses and apps – you already know what you’re doing. You’ve been only a step or two away from playing slots for real money online this whole time. You just didn’t know it yet.

So, what should you do now?

Read one of our casino reviews, choose a casino and then get signed up. Then make a deposit and start playing already.