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Slot machines are easy to play. With innovations like progressive jackpots and networked games, the prize money is much larger than most online games of chance. You can find jackpots worth hundreds of thousands--or even millions--of dollars.

Slots is for the solitary type of gambler. Whether it's at a land-based or online casino, those who like to play slots prefer peace and quiet when they gamble. Slots are a basic form of gaming, with fairly straightforward rules.

That being said, there are a dizzying array of slot machine types. A newcomer to gambling on the slots needs to know about such terms as reels, paylines and types of payouts. So here are some slots basics for the beginning player.

How Slots Work

When you put your money in a slot machine, this allows you to take a turn, which is called a spin. When you hit the "spin" button, the various reels on the machine begin to rotate. After a certain amount of time, the reels come to a stop.

Each of the reels have the same set of symbols painted on them in a random fashion. Each reel spins independent of one another, which randomly mixes up the symbols. But if the same symbol on all the reels his the same spot, you win. This spot is called a payline, which you will see in plain sight on the face of the machine.

Random Number Generators

The outcome of slots games are decided by a random number generator. The Random Number Generator, or RNG, selects which symbols come up whenever you spin. The RNG is the same mechanism used for a land casino or an online casino.

Three-Reel Slots

These were the original slot machines. They remain the most basic slots game. Three-reels have three variable reels. These machines tend to have fewer paylines, though many have added paylines these days. These tend to be the simplest slots to play, and are a good place for the beginning player to learn the game.

Five-Reel Slots

Five-reels simply add two more reels to the equation. These machines only became available after the invention of the random number generators. Many people prefer to play five-reel slots these days. Though having five variables makes it less likely your symbols are going to match, this factor also means the prize for winning is larger. The five-reel tends to allow you to go after a bigger amount of money.

Multiple Paylines

The original slot machine had only one payline. In modern slots, you will see multiple paylines. These might fall diagonally across the face of the slot machine, or might crisscross the screen. There are other combinations like "two up, one down" and "two up". Many machines have nine paylines, though I have seen some slot machines with fifty paylines. This can be confusing for some. The trade off is that you have more chances to win money any given game.

Bonus Games

If certain symbols come up, you win bonuses. This might come in the form of casino bonus spins or bonus games. The bonus spins are straightforward. You simply win a certain amount of free spins.

The bonus slots are a little different, because they vary from one machine to the next. This is basically a game-within-a-game, where you have a chance to collect bonus money seperate from the standard slots game you are playing. As the name implies, you have none of your money on the line, but are playing for extra cash.

Wildcard Symbols

Wildcard symbols tend to increase the amount of money you win on a given spin. These are often multipliers of the original amount of money you won. The most common of these are 2x and 4x.

How Many Coins to Wager

To start a game, you must make a wager. Most machines allow you to use multiple denominations, from as low as a penny to as high as five and ten dollars. High roller machines might find a machine that requires even higher value chips. Most slot machines come in either the nickel, quarter, half-dollar or dollar categories.

Most games allow you to wager one to five coins of any denomination. There are typically different pay schedules for the number of coins you play. Look at the maximum payout for each number of coins. Many times, the percentage payout for 5 coins is larger than it is for 1 coin. If you don't want to wager all five coins, it is advisable that you drop down to a lower coin denomination and max the 5 coin bet.

Progressive Slot Machines

Progressive slots are those which are tied to a progressive jackpot. This means that every time someone plays that machine and does not win the jackpot, the size of that jackpot progresses. The machine's jackpot grows until someone wins it.

This is typically a major attraction for slots players. Progressives have fewer winners, but pay out larger sums of money. Many of these progressive slot machines have a minimum jackpot, which starts over at that point after a win.

A machine without a progressive jackpot is called a flat top.

Slots Networks

Some progressive jackpots are part of a slot machine network. This means machines all over the network are linked to one another, much like computers on the internet are. Each of the machines in the network is tied to the same progressive jackpot. Whenever someone plays one of the slots and doesn't win, the progressive jackpot grows.

This network might consist of a bank of slot machines in one casino, or similar machines throughout the country. At an online casino, your game is linked with games going on throughout the world.

These progressive jackpots can rise into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Some progressives have risen into the millions of dollars. You hear all the time about some lucky online slots player winning a progressive jackpot.

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