If you've ever stepped inside a live casino, the first thing you'll have noticed is row upon row of twinkling lights and spinning reels. Due to their convenience, size and drawing power, slot machines have long been the most popular casino games in the UK, the US and beyond. Indeed, because pokies give players of all skill levels the most bang for their buck, developers and operators have put a lot of time, energy and creativity in their products.
Naturally, once online casino gaming hit the mainstream, slots became the backbone of the modern site. Taking inspiration from the live casino sector, online pokies now come in all shapes and sizes. Naturally, with so much choices out there, it can be tricky to find the right pokies online. Fortunately, if you stick with this 2021 guide to the best online casino pokies for the next few minutes, it'll take you through everything you need to know!
How Internet Pokies Work
Before you make your choice and start to play any of the best pokies online, you need to know the basics. Even if you've played live poker machines before, you'd be urged not to skip this section because online slots have some subtle nuances you need to know about. Firstly, online games typically offer multiple win lines. Irrespective of the number of reels, most online pokie games will allow you to adjust the number of active win lines.
This basically means you can make more winning combinations starting from reel one (furthest on the left) and moving across to the right. In general, online pokies will dispense a prize when you match three or more symbols. Although some games allow you to roll in two matching icons, the standard starting point is three. On top of this, wild symbols are used to help improve your chances of creating winning combinations.
These symbols can substitute for any other symbol in the game expect for the scatter. On top of wilds being shape shifters, they also unlock pokie bonuses. In fact, the big difference between virtual spinners and real-life poker machines is these added extras. Three or more wilds will typically trigger pokie features such as free spins, while three or more scatters will activate some sort of bonus round. Classic poker machines simply have no ability to offer these unique online features.
Advantages to Playing Pokies Online
We've touched on some of the advantages to playing pokies online in the section above, but it's worth pointing out a few more reasons you should give them a try. Indeed, when it comes to casino games, there are few that are more accessible to newbies than pokies and it's because of the following advantages:
- Low minimum betting limits.
- Large jackpots topping $1 million.
- Extensive range of options to suit all players.
- In-game help.
- Auto-play features.
- Interactive mini games and bonuses.
- Multiple ways to win and easy cash out procedures.
How to Place Your Pokie Bets
Pokie bets are fairly easy to get your head around once you've accepted the fact that each variable will change your overall stake. In general terms, an online slot can have three betting options: bet per line, coin size and number of lines. Depending on the game, all or some of the above options will be available in your chosen game. To adjust each variable, simply use the +/- buttons. As each one is altered the cost of your overall bet will increase or decrease. For example, if you set the bet to $1 per line with ten active lines, the overall cost would be $10 per spin because $1 X 10 lines = $10.
To make things easier, the best online pokies will have an auto spin function. Selecting this option will allow you to set your stake before choosing the number of spins you want the software to roll through automatically. The great thing about this option is that you can also set loss/time limits that will shut down the feature before the allotted number of spins so you don't lose too much. Finally, if you're a high roller and don't want to mess around adjusting things, you can simply hit the “max bet” button. This will set the game to the highest betting limit and spin the reels automatically.
What’s the Most You Can Bet on a Pokie?
Pokie betting limits will vary depending on the game and online casino. However, every virtual machine will have a minimum bet and a maximum bet. This will be a cash amount (i.e. GBP) or a coin amount (a credit that's worth a certain amount). In general, the smallest coin (or cash) amount you'll be able to stake online is $0.01. At the other end of the spectrum, some online slots will allow you to stake up to $100 per spin. In short, it depends on the game and the pokie site.
Pokie Bonus Features
As noted earlier, the top online poker machines will offer a variety of bonus features. Unlocked by scatters and wilds, these in-game enhancements give you the chance to add some extra coins to your balance. In general, slots features you should look out for are:
- Bonus Games - These mini games typically involve rolling a dice, choosing mystery boxes or spinning a wheel in return for coins. Once you hit the round symbol, the round is brought to an end.
- Free Spins - A fairly self-explanatory bonus, free spins will often be accompanied by multipliers. This basically means that any win you roll in with your free spins will be multiplied by a specified amount.
- Gamble Games - Some online pokies allow you to gamble your winnings on a game of higher/lower or red/black. If you make the right choice, you'll double your stake. If you're wrong, you lose the lot and the main game resumes.
Why Do Some Online Pokies Use Coins?
Pokie coins are something of a throwback. In years gone by, one-arm bandits would operate using credits instead of cash amounts. The idea behind this was to take the emphasis off the money and make the game more entertaining. This is the same in the online world of slot games. Coins basically help you to focus less on the cash amounts and simply play.
How Many Paylines Do Pokies Typically Offer?
Although some online pokies with a classic twist will offer a single win line, one of the defining features of the genre is the multiline setup. Typically, the best online slots will offer the following dynamics:
- 10-Payline Pokies
- 15-Payline Pokies
- 25-Payline Pokies
- 50-Payline Pokies
How Many Reels Do Pokies Typically Offer?
The majority of games you'll find online will be 5-reel slots. However, many of the best pokies sites do offer “classics”, which will typically be 3-reel slots. In some instances, you can find 6-reel pokies, though the sixth reel is often a bonus feature that's only unlocked at certain times.
Reading an Online Pokie Payout Table
Modern online pokies give you plenty of ways to win. Thanks to multiple reels and paylines, you can hit winning combinations in all directions. However, the important point to note is (unless otherwise stated) that all wins must start from reel one and work across, i.e. your combo can't start in the middle of the game. Once you've taken this fact onboard, reading a slots payout table is easy. In general, each symbol will be shown in its own box and the payouts for three, four and five matches will be shown to the left. Some online pokies will display the actual cash amount (e.g. three symbols = $2) while others will show a multiplier. If you see a multiplier (i.e. three symbols = 3X), you simply multiply your single line stake by the number shown.
How You Know Online Pokies Aren’t Rigged
Any online pokie housed inside a regulated online casino will be 100% fair. Firstly, the UK Gambling Commission (UKGC) has strict licensing conditions regarding the setup of online slots. Secondly, each software developer and casino site must have their Random Number Generator (RNG) certified by an independent agency. In short, a company like eCOGRA will test an online pokie's RNG to ensure it isn't rigged in any way so players can be fully confident their online slot games are fair.
Comparing Online Pokies vs Classic Pokie Machines
So, why should you play online pokies over real-life slot machines? Well, in the beginning of this pokie guide we drew some comparisons between the games and, while there are some advantages to slot machines, the reality is that online spinners have the edge:
|Features||Online Pokies||Poker Machines|
|User Experience||More ways to speed up your play.||More tactile.|
|Visuals||More themes and interactive elements.||Often more visual stimuli.|
|Betting Limits||More ways to win, i.e. through bonuses.||Pre-set limits.|
|Variety||Typically hundreds of pokies offered.||Offerings rarely change.|
History of Poker Machines in New Zealand
As you can see, pokies have come a long way since Charles Fey released Liberty Bell back in 1899. When this three-reel offering was produced in the US, it started a chain of events that eventually led to slot machines crossing the Atlantic and landing in New Zealand. From that point on, New Zealand slots history has seen everything from mechanical one-armed bandits in live casinos to computerised pub fruit machines in the 1980s. Today, taking all the best elements from the past and enhancing them with modern technology, online casino sites are able to offer hundreds of varied games. From three-reel classics to multi-payline progressive jackpot games, players now have more choice than at any other time in the history of poker machines.