Slots Online Canada Home PageBeginners Guide - How To Play Online Slots

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Author Gayle Mitchell

How to Play Online Slots

Published Date Updated

Author Gayle Mitchell

What you fill find on this page

What you will find on this page

Learning to play online slots is fairly straightforward. You choose a slot, set your bet size, and spin the reel, right? Yes, but if you are unfamiliar with all the slot game features, you could quickly waste your bankroll and have a bad experience. We don't want this to happen to you! 

Our 'How-to' guide is here to help you learn the ins and outs of slot games. From the simple classic slot machine to the more advanced video slots with gamble bonus features.

Learn how to play online slots like a pro, maximize your potential wins and enjoy the entertainment online slots provide.

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What you will find on this page


Play online slots for free before committing real money. This will allow you to learn how the online slot game works without any money down. You can spin until you hit the bonus feature and see which wilds and scatters will help boost your wins. Free slots help you determine if the online slot is right for you by providing you with the fun and entertainment value you are after.

Quick Tips for Beginners:

  • Choose your game wisely: Take the time to research different online slots games and find one that fits your style of play and betting preferences. Look for games with high payout percentages and bonus features.
  • Manage your bankroll: Set a budget for your online slots play and stick to it. Only bet what you can afford to lose, and don't chase your losses.
  • Understand paylines and bonuses: Ensure you understand how paylines and bonus features work before you start playing. This will help you make informed decisions and increase your chances of winning.
  • Take advantage of promotions and bonuses: Many online casinos offer promotions and bonuses. We recommend taking advantage of these offers but carefully read the terms and conditions.
  • Play for Fun: Remember that online slots are a form of entertainment, and the ultimate goal is to have fun. Don't get too caught up in winning or losing; always gamble responsibly.

How Online Slot Machines Work

Every online slot is composed of a series of reels. The number of reels is always odd, i.e having three, five, seven, or even nine reels. Each reel has various icons or symbols on it. Set your bet amount and the number of paylines you want to play. Click the "Spin" button to start the game, and the reels will spin, displaying a random combination of symbols. According to the game's paytable, you will receive a payout if you land a winning combination.

The outcome of each spin is determined by a computer program called a random number generator, which ensures that the results are completely random and fair.


Here is an example of a Pay Table from Ancient Fortune: Zeus by Microgaming.

Paytables are important guides that show you how a slot game works and how to increase your chances of winning. You can find them on the game itself or by clicking a button on the game screen. Paytables show you the special symbols that can increase your chances, like wilds and scatters.

They also explain how bonus features work and the minimum and maximum prizes you can win. Some paytables show the expected return to player percentage and can help you determine the game's risk. By understanding the paytable, you can make informed decisions and improve your chance of winning.

How to find the paytable
Choose the 'i' to see the Paytable.


The yellow squares show the various combinations in which paylines can appear in online slots.

Paylines are the lines identical symbols must land to trigger a win. The number of paylines determines how many different ways you can win. Paylines can take the form of simple straight line or more complex lines that zigzag, run diagonally, and form shapes (see below). You can choose how many paylines to bet on in adjustable games, but in fixed games, you must bet on all paylines. It is important to understand that the more paylines you choose, the higher the chances of winning, but the cost of each spin also increases. Modern slot games have dramatically increased the number of paylines available, with some offering over 100 paylines and 243 ways to win.

For example: If the slot game you are playing has 25 possible pay lines, and you bet on 10 paylines, and a winning combination falls on a pay line that isn't bet on (or activated by a bet) you won't be rewarded.

TIP: It is a good idea to look at the paytable to ensure you know all possible paylines. By understanding the various payline patterns, you will know when the slot machine is set to payout.

Slot Symbols

Slot Symbols
Standard Slot Symbols on 9 Masks of Fire.

A standard symbol guide shows you the symbols and what they represent. These are the symbols displayed from 9 Masks of Fire online slot and their values to the value of 1 bet. These will increase as your bet increases.

Each slot game has different symbols likely to represent the game's theme. Above are the standard symbols displayed from 9 Masks of Fire online slot.

Wild Symbols

Wild symbols
Here is an example of a wild symbol in the Pay table of 9 Masks of Fire by Microgaming.

Think of Wild symbols as the Jokers, i.e. they can substitute for any other symbol on the reels, making it easier to form winning combinations. For example, if you have two matching symbols and a wild symbol on the same payline, the wild symbol can replace the missing symbol and complete the winning combination. Wild symbols can increase your chances of winning and often come with their special payout if you land a certain number of them on the reels.

Various Combinations to a Wild Symbol

Wild Symbols Slots
Many of the second-screen bonus games are characterized by special varieties of wilds, such as stacks, expanding wilds, trailing wilds, and many, many more.
  • Stacked wilds are a group of wild symbols stacked on each other and sticking when the reels spin. These wilds could potentially turn the entire reel wild, and in slot games that add multipliers to wild winning combinations, stacked wilds provide major wins for the player.
  • Expanding wilds will trigger and be shown in better slot game bonus features. As the name suggests, expand the wilds to stretch out to turn other reel icons. Often entire reels turn wild with games that feature expanding wilds.
  • Trailing wilds are, in a sense, similar to expanding wilds, but they refer to wild symbols that leave a visible trail when the reel spins. If the trail touches other symbols it will sometimes turn them into wilds.
  • Random wilds are precious in any slot game as they give you the edge in creating winning combinations. As the name suggests, symbols will randomly transform into wilds, the method of which varies from slot to slot.
    Examples of slots with random wilds:
    Immortal Romance – Microgaming, The Dark Knight – Microgaming, Johnny Spectre - Microgaming
  • Multiplier wilds These symbols serve a dual purpose. They substitute for other symbols and add a multiplier to your payouts from winning combinations. Landing a few of these on a single spin could mean a spectacular prize.
    Examples of slots with multiplier wilds:
    Dead or Alive – NetEnt, Game of Thrones – Microgaming, Mega Moolah - Isis
  • Sticky wilds These symbols address the short-lived benefit that wilds often offer. When they appear, they will stay on the reels for subsequent spins, creating exciting possibilities for winning combos.
    Examples of slots with sticky wilds:
    Jammin’Jars – Push Gaming, Dead or Alive II – NetEnt, Starburst – NetEnt
  • Moving wilds are like mobile sticky wilds. They stay on the reels for subsequent spins, bouncing around to different positions, creating random chances for winning combinations.
    Examples of slots with moving wilds:
    South Park – NetEnt, Frozen Inferno – WMS
  • Straight/diagonal wilds The name given to these wilds describes how they will be positioned when they appear on the reels. Straight wilds run vertically down reel 3. Diagonal wilds only appear on reels 2 and 4. In NetEnt’s Fisticuffs slot, when these two symbol types appear close enough to each other, they can transform adjacent symbols into sticky wilds, simultaneously becoming sticky themselves for a subsequent re-spin.
    Examples of slots with straight/ diagonal wilds:
    Fisticuffs - NetEnt
  • Shifting wilds are essentially the same as moving wilds. Once they appear on the reels, they remain in view for subsequent spins, while shifting from one random position to another.
    Examples of slots with shifting wilds:
    Egyptian Emeralds – Playtech, Dolphin Cash – Playtech, Robin Hood: Shifting Riches – NetEnt
  • Transferring wilds Slot games with multiple sets of reels will normally feature Transferring wilds. When one of these symbols appears on one set of reels, they will be transferred/copied over to the other sets of reels. These symbols will typically appear stacked and as part of a bonus feature, appearing as symbol stacks.
    Examples of slots with transferring wilds:
    Bruce Lee: Dragon’s Tale - WMS, Fire Queen – WMS, Kiss – WMS
  • Walking wilds are an enhanced version of shifting wilds. When these symbols appear on the reels, they will travel from one end to the other, generating respins and potentially creating winning combinations as they go. This means you get free spins with a serious winning advantage attached.
    Examples of slots with walking wilds:
    Jack and the Beanstalk – Netent, Age of the Gods: Medusa and Monsters – Playtech, Narcos – Netent
  • Colossal Wilds are symbols that typically occupy a large section of the reels, replacing either 4 symbols (2x2) or 9 symbols (3x3), they generally appear in the free spins round and will substitute for all other symbols, bar bonus symbols, to give you a massive win.
    Examples of slots with colossal wilds:
    Spiñata Grande - Netent

Scatter Symbols

Slot Scatters
The scatter symbol in 9 Masks of Fire is the free spins symbol

Scatter symbols are special symbols that payout (bonuses or prizes) even if they don't land in a specific order on the reels. They can unlock bonus games and features, which, in turn, also further improve your chances of winning.

The scatter symbol can also multiply the amount of money that has been wagered, not just on a particular winning line. That is why it's important to activate as many paylines as possible when playing slots offering big scatter wins.

Scatter symbols are the only symbols on a slot reel that cannot be replaced by Wild symbols.

There is no longer a need to limit the scatter symbol to just one icon like the red cherries, now, the scatter symbol is often animated, one that comes to life when activated.

Usefull Tips Did you know?

The very first scatter symbols were the red cherries which could be found on your classic 3 reel slot machine. The idea was simple, help provide gamblers with extra opportunities to win. These icons were introduced and offered players small wins whether they appeared on the active payline. Many classic slot machines would payout a small amount of money if a cherry icon appeared anywhere across the reels.

Multiplier Symbols

Slot Multipliers
Slot Multipliers.

Multipliers are special features that can increase the payout of your winnings by a certain amount. For instance, if a 2x multiplier symbol forms part of a winning combination, your prize's value will double. For example, the win multiplier will increase with each consecutive roll in Ancient Fortune Zeus slot.

Most 5-reel online slots feature one or more varieties of multipliers in both the base game and bonus rounds. Multipliers can also appear with wild symbols, causing a chain of consecutive winning paylines during free spins.


Slot Jackpots
Slot Jackpots.

A jackpot is the biggest prize you can win. It is usually a large sum of money that can be won by hitting a specific winning combination or playing a bonus round. As you can see on left side of the image, the highest jackpot prize is 480,000.00

Bonus Features

Bonus features are special features in online slots that can help you win more money or free spins. Bonus features can include mini-games within the game, free spins, multipliers, or special symbols that trigger extra rewards. For example, a bonus feature may ask you to pick a treasure chest or reveal hidden symbols to earn extra payouts. Bonus features can make playing online slots more exciting and allow you to win bigger prizes.

Free Spins Bonus Rounds

Free spins are typically awarded in one of three ways during the base game:

  1. By landing three or more scatter symbols anywhere in view
  2. By randomly triggering a free spins bonus after a paid spin, or
  3. By collecting a certain number of special symbols

Look at the slot paytable to make sure how the particular slot game you are playing awards free spins. It will show you exactly which symbols are needed to trigger the free spins and indicate any included features you can benefit from.

Generally, the more scatters you hit, the more free spins you are awarded. For example, three scatters might trigger ten free spins, four scatters 15 free spins, and five scatters 20 free spins.

Note that free spins are almost always played at the same bet in which the triggering spin was made. So, it might be beneficial to employ the max bet when playing slots with a free spins feature.

Free Spins Gameplay

Types of free spins:

  • Standard free spins: If not specifically indicated, you can assume that the free spins feature will only award a fixed amount of free spins that you can only play out once.
  • Free spins that can be retriggered: Plenty of online slots allow you to activate the free spins round indefinitely – this will also be indicated in the paytable. To unlock a fresh round of spins, you have to re-trigger it in the same manner as the first time – either by lining up the right symbols or landing the required number of scatters etc. With this feature, you can easily bag up to 100 free spins!
  • Fixed free spins with multipliers: These types are quite common and involve awarding you a set number of free spins with a multiplier attached – for example, ten free spins with a 2x multiplier on each spin. Sometimes, especially if the amount of free spins you get isn’t particularly high, you may find that the feature can be retriggered.
  • Variable Free Spins with multipliers: As mentioned earlier, with some games, the more scatters you hit, the more spins are awarded to you. These are variable free spins. Add to that a multiplier on every single spin.
  • Risk adjustable free spins: In some games, like Microgaming’s Game of Thrones slot, before your round of free spins kicks off, you have a choice of the number of free spins you want, plus the associated multiplier. This way, you get to control the slot’s volatility. To illustrate, some slots may offer 50 free spins with a 2x multiplier, or 30 free spins with a 4x multiplier. You may opt for the larger number of spins as your chances of retriggering are better, or you can play it safe with fewer spins but with a chance of winning a lot more.
  • The 'Pick 'em Bonus': To ramp up the entertainment value, some slot makers may add a quick pick ‘em style game before your free spins round to determine exactly how many free spins and multipliers you will get.


Retriggering is the act of RE-activating a bonus game within a bonus game or free spins during your free spins. You can reactivate or retrigger free spins or a bonus round by lining up the same special symbols that initially launched you into the free spins mode or bonus game.

When you retrigger, you get a new round of free spins or launch a new bonus game. Most online slots have a free spins bonus; sometimes, the round plays out on a separate set of reels. Triggering 10 or 15 free spins is great, but triggering them repeatedly in the same feature round can feel amazing. Retriggers potentially double the amount of wager-free earnings you'll enjoy at the end of your free spins or doubles the bonus rewards offered by the bonus game you are playing.

Gamble Features

A gamble feature is available on some slots, allowing you to double or lose your winnings. This feature is triggered when a winning payline is hit, and you must decide, usually guessing the colour or suit of a playing card. A correct guess can result in a win being doubled or quadrupled, while an incorrect guess will result in losing winnings for that round. An excellent example of a Gamble Feature in action is the Book of Dead slot game, where you must choose the correct colour playing card to win more.

Auto Play Feature

Auto Play is a feature that automatically spins the reels for you, removing the need to hit the spin button repeatedly. While it doesn't improve your chances of winning or change how the slot machine works, it can make the game faster and easier for you to play.

We don't advise using this feature if you are a beginner player, as you should always stay in control of any bets you place. If you use this feature, we highly advise avoiding getting distracted from the game, as you could lose your entire bankroll.

Switch autoplay off
We advise you to not use the autoplay feature.

243 ways to win

243 ways-to-win is an online slot game with 243 combinations to win on every spin. 243 ways to win is like having multiple paylines covering all possible combinations on the reels. For example, if you have matching symbols on the first three reels of an online slot machine, you win even if they're not on a specific payline. This differs from traditional slot machines, where you must match symbols on a specific payline to win.

243 Ways to Win
The number 243 comes from multiplying the number of symbols on each reel (3) together (3x3x3x3x3). With three rows and five spinning reels, there are 243 different ways you can achieve a winning combination.

Win Both Ways

Win both ways is a feature that you usually find on e 243 ways-to-win slots that allows you to win by matching symbols from left to right and from right to left. You have twice as many opportunities to win on every spin as traditional slot machines. It's a fun way to increase your chances of winning and adds more excitement to the game.

The Return To Player (RTP)

The Return To Player percentage (RTP) is the percentage of money the slot pays players back over time. For example, an RTP rate of 95% means that for every $100 bet, the machine pays out $95. Choosing games with higher RTP rates can increase your chances of winning.

RTP example

How to find RTP
To find RTP in game, click the games help or information button. If not, you’ll easily be able to find it on the game providers' page.

Senior Editor Gayle Mitchell

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Gayle Mitchell is the leading female expert on casino gambling and has written extensively, presented seminars and was editor of four gaming newsletters. She is the author of seven books, 12 Ebooks, and five Tips booklets. Online since 1999, Mitchell has owned and operated 4 gaming websites. Her writing and teaching style is targeted at educating novice and passionate casino players.

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