How Do Online Slots Work?

Find out how online slot games are programmed, from the reels to paylines, Return To Player and more.
24th July 2023

Paylines to Return to Player, what you need to know | Virgin Games

Wondering how online slots work? Whether you're curious to try something new in the digital gaming space or considering making the move from casino-floor machines, you've come to the right place. At Virgin Games, we know a thing or two about how online slots work.

Once you start flicking through our extensive games catalogue, you'll discover that you can now spin with more paylines than ever before online, and be privy to a growing range of exciting bonus features, including Free Spins, Re-spins, Expanding Wilds and more.

Before you take your first spin, read on to find out how these games work, and how you could trigger a win on them.

How Are Slot Machines Programmed?

Let's start with the mechanics. Whether you’re playing a fruit machine, a slot machine in a brick-and-mortar casino, or an online slot game, the mechanics are essentially the same. Although the online version has a slight variation on the physical machines, they all feature a random number generator (RNG), in order to guarantee that the outcome whenever you spin the reels is completely random.

When you play slots online, the RNG can generate thousands of numbers every second. The numbers are all associated with a different result, and the number that is generated at the point at which you hit the spin button determines the outcome.

The in-game software will translate the number and stop the reels at the corresponding point, with the result of the spin then calculated. Traditionally, slot machines are made up of between three and five reels, and the number of positions they can display varies.

All RNGs used in online casinos are required to be fully tested and audited to ensure they work correctly and fairly for all players, meaning that everyone has exactly the same chance of winning when they play their favourite online slot games.

What Are Online Slot Paylines?

Paylines? You'll want to pay attention here. If you look at the information on any online slot machine, you will usually see a number of paylines, which are also referred to as ways to win. Paylines are how the symbols on the reels are evaluated in terms of winning combinations. The number of paylines can vary from game to game, but the method remains the same.

If a slot has fewer paylines, then symbols will normally have to appear in a horizontal line in order to win. If there are more paylines available, then they may also be displayed vertically or diagonally.

When you play online slots, you will find that some of them have a fixed set of paylines, whereas others give you the opportunity to adjust them. If you are betting on a game with adjustable paylines you can pick and choose the lines that you wish to place money on, but you will only be paid out for wins on paylines if you’ve placed a bet on it.

Today, online slots have advanced to the point where you can enjoy hundreds of thousands of ways to win on certain games! Check out our collection of Megaways slots, including games such as Buffalo King Megaways and 88 Fortunes Megaways, with the chance to trigger some exciting wins.

How Do Online Slots Pay Out?

On most online slot machines, you will complete a winning combination when you have matching symbols adjacent to each other on successive reels. The symbols are all evaluated once the spin has ended, and if you have matching symbols, the winnings will be multiplied by your wager and automatically credited to your account.

Your payout will always depend on the symbol types that make up your combination. In the majority of slot machines, you will have standard symbols that pay less, as well as special symbols that can boost your wins. If you land a Scatter win, then in some games your payout may be multiplied again, giving you an enhanced payout.

As soon as the funds have been added to your account, you will be able to withdraw them back to the payment method that you made the deposit with, as long as you have enough in your balance for the minimum withdrawal of £10. Find out more about depositing and withdrawing here.

What Does Return To Player Mean?

If you're doing your research and reading up on our game info before playing, then you'll be familiar with the term Return To Player (RTP), which refers to the average payout that you can expect to receive.

If a game has an RTP of 93.45%, for example, then it will pay out £93.45 for every £100 wagered on it on average. This isn’t an exact figure, so it’s possible that you may be paid out more or less than the percentage listed. The more that you play any of our slot machines, you should find that you are getting closer to this figure on average.

The RTP rate is not universal to slot machines, and it is very unlikely to be the same from one game to the next. This can also inform you about the volatility of the game. There are three different levels of volatility: low, medium and high. If a slot has a lower RTP it is more volatile, and you can expect to achieve a lower amount of wins, but they are likely to be more valuable. On a game that falls into the low volatility category, there may be a greater number of winning combinations completed, but they are unlikely to be huge jackpot prizes, for example.

If you're new to playing online slots, then read on to find out some of our answers to popular questions about these exciting games.

How Do You Win at Slot Machines?

It’s very simple – wins on slot machines are formed when you have matching symbols on a spin. If you’re playing on a traditional slot, then these will usually have to appear on adjacent reels, starting from the left-hand side. However, you can play games with more innovative designs at Virgin Games, such as Cluster Pays slots. In these games, the winning symbols have to be connected, and you usually require a minimum of four or five symbols in a cluster to win.

Do You Win Real Money on Online Slots?

Of course! When you wager any of our online slot games, you will always win real money if you complete winning combinations on the reels. This applies to wagers that are placed with your own money, as well as any free spins you are awarded for registering with us. There are no wagering requirements on-site for you to withdraw any winnings either, you just have to reach the minimum withdrawal amount of £10.

Are Online Slot Machines Random?

As you (hopefully!) will have discovered by now, the results of any spin on an online slot game are completely random. The machines generate randomness using the RNGs (see above) so that the outcome of every single spin is guaranteed to be down to chance, rather than following any specific patterns.

Does Anyone Win Big on Online Slots?

Players do have the opportunity to trigger some big wins when they play our online slot games, particularly on those that have jackpot prizes up for grabs.

During 2022, over 9,000 jackpots were won by players on our site, meaning that there is a good number paid out every single day. This equates to over £10,000,000 in real-money wins being paid out, and the single biggest prize that was awarded was worth more than £750,000! So, in a word – the answer as to whether people win big on Virgin Games slots is yes!

Alongside our progressive jackpot slots, players have the chance to unlock some exciting bonus features too. You can boost the value of your winning combinations with big multipliers, and receive free spins, re-spins and more. Browse through our catalogue of online slot games for your chance to win.

What Triggers a Jackpot on a Slot Machine?

The way that a jackpot prize is awarded can vary on different slot machines. For example, if you are playing one of our Jackpot King slots, then you must land a Jackpot King overlay symbol on each of the five reels at any point in the game. This will then take you through to the Jackpot King Bonus, where you have to collect a minimum of 15 Crown symbols to progress to the Wheel King feature, and you can then spin for the chance to scoop the main prize.

On our range of Daily Jackpot slots, you can play for different prizes. On each day only one player can win the most valuable award, which is the Daily Jackpot, and this is achieved when three Jackpot symbols appear on the reels on a spin. There is also an Hourly Jackpot, as well as a Quick Hit award, and these progressive prizes continue to grow until they are won by one of our players.

Online slots have developed so much that there are a variety of different pots up for grabs throughout our list of games. In some of our other slot machines, it’s possible to win jackpots by filling the reels with specific symbols during a bonus round, while others require a set of symbols to land on-screen.

What Is the Secret of a Slot Machine?

There are no secrets to any of our online slots. All of our games are fully regulated by the Gambling Commission, so whenever you spin the reels, there are no tricks to worry about.

You may also have heard about some common slot myths that some people believe in. For example, you may have heard that slots can either be “hot” or “cold”, meaning they are either more or less likely to pay out a win to the player. As you may expect, this is obviously not the case, as the results of every spin are entirely random, and there are no patterns when you play any game.

What Is the 'Best Time' to Play Online Slots?

Whenever you play any of our slots, you will have exactly the same chance of winning as anyone else. There is no specific point of the day when slot machines pay out more or less, so whether you spin the reels in the morning or the evening, it makes absolutely no difference. So, go with a time that suits you best – that's the beauty of online casinos, after all!

If you are playing our Daily Jackpot slots, then the likelihood of the Daily and Hourly prizes being triggered increases as the deadline approaches. This is because both of these jackpots have to be won before a certain time. Once either of these progressive jackpots have been claimed they will be reset to their seed value, which is £1,000, and they will then begin to build up again.

Can Casinos Control Slot Machines?

There is no possible way for providers to control the slot machines that they have on-site. When you play any of our slots you can be assured that the results are completely random. Whether you complete a winning combination, trigger a bonus feature, or have a losing spin, you will always have a fair chance.

Want to know more about online slots? Head to our Virgin Games blog now to discover more about the world of online casinos.