5 Slot Machine Rules and Strategies Most Players Don’t Know About

Row of Casino Slot Machines Background Image, Slot Reels Displaying 7, Jackpot Logo, Icon of Yellow Lightbulb
When playing slots, there are no decisions to make after the reels start spinning. Without these human elements to worry about, the rules of slots are simple enough on the surface — put some money in the machine, press the “SPIN” button, and wait to see what happens.

In reality, though, you’ll notice that the modern slots you can play have evolved from the old 3-reel “spin and stare” dynamic.

Today’s slots use advanced video technology to shower players with an endless stream of graphics, animations, and sound effects. These modern slots have been designed to offer side-screen bonus games, free spins, scatter pays, wild symbols, and even skill-based elements like target shooting, memorization, and trivia.

When you throw in payline counts that can run from one to 100, a new payout format that ups your “ways to win” to 243 or 1,024, and topline progressive jackpots that require a precise wager amount to be triggered, it turns out slot players have a lot on their plate.

With so many rules to factor in, successful players try to apply certain slot strategies to give themselves a fighting chance against the house.

The idea of slot strategy might sound like a misnomer, but only when you don’t have a good grasp on the game’s nuances.

To help you navigate the maze of rules and strategies needed to thrive as a modern slot enthusiast, check out the list below for a bunch of slots strategies that most players don’t know much about.

1 – Betting the Maximum Number of Coins Is Always the Best Approach

Take a look down below at the Wheel of Fortune slot machine from IGT and pay close attention to the placard below the wheel and jackpot amount display.

Up Close View of Wheel of Fortune Slot Machine Placard

As you can see, this version of the wildly popular Wheel of Fortune game distinguishes between “1st Coin Winners” and “2nd Coin Winners.”

On the left, as you’re reading the paytable, notice how the 1st Coin Winner table offers a top payout of $10,000 if you land three Wheel of Fortune logo symbols. That’s a pretty sweet return on a $5 per spin bet, which is this particular machine’s coin denomination.

But over to the right, those 2nd Coin Winners score much more than 10 dimes — they trigger Wheel of Fortune’s famous progressive jackpot.

At the time this photo was taken, IGT’s $5 Wheel jackpot kitty had climbed to $3,070,893 and change.

That massive haul clocks in at 307 times what you’d win for a single coin wager, and all you have to do to earn it is bet a second $5 coin.

Reels on Wheel of Fortune Casino Slot MachineAnd I do mean “have to” because even when you line up three Wheel logos perfectly to trigger the jackpot, you can’t collect the seven-figure payday unless a max bet was in play.

On a $5 machine reading “Play 2 Credits” like the one in the photo, a max bet obviously comes to $10. Other versions of the Wheel of Fortune game read “Play 3 Credits” instead, but no matter how many credits the max bet comes to, just multiply that number by the coin denomination to figure out your per-spin cost.

Betting the max on today’s top-rated online slots is also the only way to activate the game’s full complement of bonus features, including side-screen games, prize multipliers, free spin rounds, and stacked or wild symbols.

Without these features in play, you’ll be spinning with one hand tied behind your back, as the game’s payback percentage plummets without all of those additional ways to win.

And on a final note, don’t let that $5 -> $10 example scare you off the max-betting path. You can always find the same game using a lower coin denomination nearby, and online slots make it easy to toggle between bet sizes with a few mouse clicks. You can bet pennies, nickels, quarters, or dollars. Just make sure you’re always multiplying that coin denomination by the machine’s max bet to unlock the biggest jackpots and best bonus features.

2 – You Can Track Progressive Jackpots to Ensure You’re Always Playing for Max Value

Casino Slot Machine, Gold Coins Falling Into Pile Behind Slot MachineSpeaking of the Wheel of Fortune progressive jackpot, the top prize amount is seeded with a different starting amount — based on coin denomination — right after a lucky winner cashes in.

For the $0.25 machines, that starting seed is $200,000, and players must max-bet three coins ($0.75) to be eligible. The starting seed climbs to $1 million on both $1 and $5 machines, which both require a two-coin max bet.

But check out the list below, which highlights the most recent Wheel of Fortune jackpots at the quarter stakes, and see if you notice a curious disparity in payout amounts.

Recent Wheel of Forture Jackpots (Quarter Stakes)
2/22/2019 McCarran Airport $485,673.54
1/22/2019 Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino $262,696.85
1/15/2019 Excalibur Hotel and Casino $406,718.17
12/14/2018 Cosmopolitan Hotel & Casino $1,023,743.22
9/21/2018 Palazzo Hotel & Casino $374,769.07
9/3/2018 Green Valley Ranch Casino & Hotel $294,780.30
8/25/2018 Harrah’s Las Vegas $254,347.80
8/19/2018 Rio Hotel & Casino $265,866.77

As you can see, four of the eight jackpots topped out under $300,000, while two climbed a bit higher to between $370,000 and $485,000.

But on Christmas Eve of last year, one lucky winner walked away with a hair over $1 million — all on a $0.75 wager.

That juiced-up jackpot of more than five times the seed amount was only made possible because of a long gap in between wins. It took more than three months after the $374,000 was hit before a Wheel machine at the Cosmopolitan casino triggered the jackpot.

Conversely, the player who scooped a jackpot only a week after the Excalibur paid out $406,718 on January 15 “only” received $262,696.

Think about it like this: one jackpot winner earned more than $800,000 over the seed amount, while another had to settle for a premium of just $62,000.

If you want to give your progressive slot spins as much earning power as possible, use the handy Nevada jackpot tracker above to see exactly how much time has passed — and how much money has been added — between jackpots. When you see a game that hasn’t hit in a good long while, target those machines until they finally hit.

This strategy is especially effective because, at a certain interval of multiples over the seed amount, an extremely high jackpot reward actually increases the game’s overall payback percentage.

3 – Shopping Around for Venues Offering the Highest Possible Payback Percentage

Woman Playing Slot Machine in Casino, Yellow Cycling Arrows in Circle, RTP Text in Green
As for those payback percentages, the internet makes it possible to Google many popular casino games, including slots, to find out their exact rate.

You might see this figure expressed as the Return to Player rate, or RTP for short.

Simply put, the higher payback percentage a slot game offers, the more bang for your gambling buck you’ll receive over the long run.

After all, would you rather play a NetEnt slot like Devil’s Delight with its 97.6% payback or another NetEnt product called Mega Joker, which offers only 76.9% payback?

4 – All Paylines Need to Be Played for You to Enjoy Every Bonus Feature…

This is a variation on the max-bet rule, but whenever you’re playing a slot with multiple paylines, never risk a single cent without activating every last one of them.

Slot Machine Screen with 10 Paylines, Bonus Text in Green on Top of ScreenOn a 10-payline game like Big Bang, for example, the interface will allow you to choose just a single payline by default. Thus, a $0.10 coin denomination would put a dime on that payline, and that payline only, for each spin.

But with 10 paylines on the screen, every spin you make will produce winning combinations that don’t produce a payout.

That’s because these combos land along one of those nine paylines you neglected to activate.

Only by turning on all 10 paylines, which ups the ante to $1.00 at the dime stakes ($0.10 x 10), can you collect on every winner the reels produce.

5 – …Unless You’re Playing a “Ways to Win” Model Like Aristocrat’s Reel Power

With that said, a version of slot gameplay known as “ways to win” removes the concept of paylines from the equation.

The most well-known “ways to win” slot brand is Reel Power, which was designed by leading software provider Aristocrat to provide 243 unique ways to win.

Reel Power slots, which can also offer 1,024 ways to win, use the following relationship between credits wagered and ways to win:

Ways to Win on Reel Power Slots
1 Reel 1 Credit 3 Ways
2 Reels  3 Credits 9 Ways
3 Reels 7 Credits 27 Ways
4 Reels 15 Credits 81 Ways
5 Reels 25 Credits 243 Ways


Slot machines might not be known for their rules and strategies, but that doesn’t mean sharp players shouldn’t know them well.

By working within all the rules and exploiting their associated loopholes, the best slot players turn every spin into the most advantageous play possible for that particular game or machine.

And by applying sound strategies whenever the opportunity presents itself, successful slot spinners never back a bad bet when a better option is on the board.