Begin with the Theme
The truth is that most online slots are very similar. You will find the occasional game that offers a new and exciting feature, but most of the time, slot machines simply offer a combination of the same standard features. That is why the theme is key to finding games that you will enjoy.
If you are a traditionalist then you will want to stick to classic fruit machines. However, slot machine themes are incredibly varied; they can take you traveling around the world, on fantasy adventures, immerse you in sport, bring famous fictional characters or celebrities to life on the reels, and so on. There is no point in playing a slot machine with a theme that does not appeal to you, even if it is a free slot, so don’t waste time opening games if the theme does not appeal.
Turn to the Design
Once you have found a theme that you enjoy, the chances are that you will still have loads of options. The next thing to look at is whether the design of the game and the graphical style appeals to you. Some people love advanced 3D graphics while others prefer simple designs. If you open a game and find the design over- or underwhelming, then it is time to try another. Ultimately, slot machines require very little interaction beyond clicking on the spin button, so you want to make sure that you are enjoying what you see on the screen.
Examine the Structure
Today, online slot machines can appear to have many different structures, but in the majority of cases, they are built upon the same principles. Nonetheless, it is important for you to understand them.
When you open a free online slot, you will see the reels. These are the vertical strips of symbols that spin round. Classic slots normally have three reels and video slots will have five or more. Each reel has a number of visible rows of symbols. You then need to be aware of paylines. A payline is a path that you can trace through the visible rows of symbols, and it will pass through one row on each reel. Some slots may have just a few paylines, while others can have hundreds or even thousands.
As a general rule, the more paylines a slot has, the better the chance of landing a win, but the more expensive it will be to play. This is because the aim of a spin is to land matching symbols along a payline. Generally, you need to land symbols from left to right along paylines starting from the leftmost reel, but in some games, they can also go from right to left starting from the rightmost reel.
Furthermore, in some slots, the number of paylines will be fixed, while in others you can choose how many you want active and will place an individual bet per payline. These are all things that you need to be aware of when choosing whether a slot is right for you. When you open a new slot, it is worth first looking at the paytable so that you can get an immediate understanding of its payline and payout structure.
Explore the Symbols
Before you play a slot, whether for free or not, you should look at its symbols and make sure you understand their functions. This is not in the slightest bit complicated.
Most of the symbols will be regular ones. This means that they are the ones that you need to land along a payline in order to win. The symbols will often relate to the theme, and each symbol will offer different payout amounts. In general, you will need to land at least three matching symbols to win a payout, but this is not a fixed rule, so it is worth looking into.
You may also want to check to see if the slot has a wild symbol. These are very useful as they can substitute for all of the regular symbols to help and form more winning combinations. Sometimes a wild symbol will have additional bonus features, for example, it may also multiply payouts or be able to expand to fill entire reels.
Another common type of symbol to look for is a scatter symbol. These symbols award payouts as long as enough of them land anywhere on the reels. They take their name from this as they can land scattered across the reels and award wins.
Finally, be sure that you checkout the slot’s bonus symbols. While not every slot will have a bonus symbol, if it does, you certainly need to be aware of it and how it works.
Checkout the Bonus Features
Some people do not enjoy bonus features, and it is best that they stick to classic slots. However, for many players, bonus features are what makes playing a game worthwhile. If you are playing a free online slot machine to check if it is a game worth playing for real money, then the bonus features are likely to be a key part of your decision.
As mentioned above, most slots are very similar and this is certainly true when it comes to bonus features. There are a number of standard bonuses, and the games tend to offer one or many of them, sometimes with minor modifications.
For example, the most common form of bonus feature is a free spins round. The vast majority of online slots offer free spins in one form or another, usually triggered by the scatter symbol. However, some slots may offer free spins with payout multipliers or with special expanding symbols, and it is these little extras that can make the games attractive.
Many games also offer picking bonus games. In these, you simply choose from the objects on screen to reveal cash prizes or other rewards such as payout multipliers. Once again, these games can come in a variety of different forms, so it is worth examining them closely.
Those looking for the biggest wins may be looking at progressive jackpot slots. However, there are certain things you need to be aware of with these games. Occasionally, you will find that there is a minimum qualifying bet to play for the progressive jackpot, so if the jackpot is what attracted you to the game, then you need to ensure that you can afford to play for it.
You will find many other forms of bonuses, such as payout multipliers, expanding symbols, sticky symbols, collapsing/cascading/tumbling reels, and so on. The features will be explained in the slot’s paytable, and it is always worth taking the time to explore them before spinning the reels.
Consider RTP and Volatility
Hopefully you have found a game with a theme that appeals, an attractive design, and all the features that you are looking for. The final things to consider are the RTP and volatility. The RTP, or return to player percentage, is the theoretical percentage of money that a game pays out to players over time. For example, if a game has an RTP of 95%, then €95 of every €100 bet on it is returned to players. However, the RTP is calculated over a vast number of spins, and there is never a guarantee that you will win any money.
The volatility is the way in which a game pays out. A low volatility game pays small amounts on a regular basis while a high volatility game pays larger amounts but less frequently (and there are medium volatility slots as well). Therefore, if playing a high volatility slot, you may need to play many more spins before you see a return.
This is not very important when playing free online slots, but if you want to make the switch to real money play, then it could be absolutely vital.