The Essential Penny Slots Guide: How They Work and Where to Play Online

penny slots

penny slots


Penny slots are simply defined as slot machines that can be played at 1 cent per line although have evolved to often require a minimum number of lines that must be played per spin. Instead of costing the minimum you’d expect, as we would have seen in the past, players will be wagering 25c, 40c or 50c per spin.


How do penny slots work?

Penny slots work almost exactly as you’d imagine – you pop a penny into the slot, pull the lever (or press the button) and the reels will spin. Make the correct combination of symbols and you’ll win a prize – simple right?  

But go into any casino or play any online slot and it won’t take long to realize that it’s far from the truth. In the majority of casinos, you’ll find that you can’t get away with 1c in the penny slot section, shocking, I know.

Instead, you’ll find yourself having to wager 50 or 100 credits on the pennies so you’re still betting a dollar a spin. Sneaky.


The payline problem 

The confusion with penny slots comes with the paylines and how they have evolved from the very first slots. 

Where once there would be a single payline in which three matching symbols across the reels would allow for a prize, we now see several different paylines available in the slot.

From zigzags to trapeziums, there’s plenty of different paylines that you’ll be able to win with, all of which can be found in the paytable alongside how much you’ll win by bagging them.  

So instead of a single simple play, you’ll be offered to wager on all available paylines, often with multiple credits on each line. A typical slot machine nowadays will include between 25 and 30 paylines per slot and if you’re wanting to win the biggest jackpots, you’re going to have to wager on the lot of them. 

The paylines dictate the different prizes, bonuses, free spins and multipliers and must span the length of the reels so it’s vital to the game that they’re up to scratch, so it’s one of the first areas that designers consider when building a new game.

Depending on where you’re playing and what the machine allows, you might be able to choose the number of paylines that you’re wagering per spin (free slots) or be confined to the predefined setting on the machine (fixed). Regardless, it’s important to go ahead and check what you’re actually betting…


What you’re actually betting

So we now know that you’re not actually going to be betting 1c at a time,, but really, why would you? 

For a casino, taking 1c bets is a terrible business model and for a player, that’s not exactly going to be super stimulating. It might be a blessing in disguise that the limits for the penny slots are a little higher – although a name change wouldn’t go amiss. 

Typically, you’ll be betting on every line for at least a single credit, instead of a single payline for a dollar like you may expect. For example, if you’re betting 5 credits a line on 20 lines in a 5 reel slot you’ll be wagering 100 credits (or $1.00) per spin.

You’re not betting a penny, but it’s much more interesting. 

Not all slots require to you bet the maximum. Brick and mortar casinos might be difficult when it comes to finding cheaper slots, but head online and you’ll see plenty of minimum spins sitting at 25 (for 5 cents) so you can pop a penny on each payline without worry.

Shop around and you’ll have no problem finding slots with low minimum wagers. 


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Differences between penny slots and free slots

When it comes to defining free slot machines, you’ll get mixed messages depending on who you ask, simply because it can mean one of two things.


Free to play slots

penny slots

The first definition is the one that most of us think of when something’s free – as in they’re free to play slot machines. That means that there’s no real money on the line and, more than likely, no real money to win. 

Granted there’s the odd exception to the rule with free slot spins available when playing penny stocks as well as being available in several new player bonuses – but you’ll rarely get something for nothing.

You can play free slots all over the web and with a variety of applications for mobile and tablet. 


Free vs. fixed slots 

Not the free slot you were thinking? The other form can be identified with its ability to choose the number of paylines that you’d like to run with during a game – the number of paylines chosen is ‘free’.

The opposite of this is where the number of paylines is fixed, meaning that you can’t change the number and must play the listed paylines. 

When playing in most brick-and-mortar casinos, you’ll find the majority of penny slots take the fixed approach, letting you wager $1, $2 or $3 etc. at a time, depending on the machine.

However, when playing online you’re often free to set the exact number of paylines that you’d like for the spins that follow. 

Unfortunately, you do have to pay for these though, although you’ll be getting much more control over your wagering. 


Penny slots mistakes

Penny slots may seem pretty simple to understand and play, it’s one of the biggest reasons that they’re so popular, but that doesn’t mean that the machines don’t see their fair share of mistakes each and every day. 

By making sure that you’re on top of the information, familiar with the terms and conditions and informed on strategy, you can make sure you’re not making any rookie mistakes when playing penny slots.


Ignoring bankroll management 

By far the biggest mistake that we see with players on the penny slots is the total neglect of bankroll management during play. 

They’re called ‘penny’ slots for a reason and it’s not because of their low-cost, low-risk nature, but as a marketing technique to make players think that they’re barely wagering.

If you’re going to fall for it and keep on putting pennies into the machine, that’s mistake number 1. 

Instead of ignoring how much you’re putting into the machines you should manage your bankroll to know when enough is enough.

By taking out and setting aside a certain amount of money purely for gambling you can be sure that you’re not delving into your funds that are needed for more important things. 

You can use your gambling money on rent, but don’t use your rent money for gambling.


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Failing to find the slots’ return to player (RTP)

The slots return to player (RTP) is the figure telling you, the player, how much of a percentage you should expect back in the long run for each wager. 

Of course, the figure you’ll find is an average so you won’t be bang on the money each time, but it’s a good ballpark figure to know before taking a seat at the slots.

You should look for those with the highest RTP (100% is the maximum, but you’ll never find one with the value) for the best returns whilst you’re playing. 

If you’re going to gamble, you might as well do it with the best odds, right? 


Only playing the big-time progressive jackpots 

With the big-time progressive jackpots showing the biggest rewards, it’s no surprise that it’s always tempting to get involved with the progressive jackpots. 

Only play these though and that’s another big mistake of the penny slots if you’re in it for the long run that is anyway. The jackpot that you’re eyeing up to win comes from the players, just like you, that are chasing big money.

The more that play, the more money that goes in, the more players lose for just one lucky player to win big. 

If you’re playing for the smaller jackpots you’ll be in a much better standing at the end of the day, providing that nobody wins the big one at the end. 


Not betting the maximum

penny slots

If you’re not checking out the terms and conditions before playing, you might stand to be leaving money on the table if you’re lucky enough to bag a jackpot. 

Some casinos, both brick-and-mortar and online, have requirements making grand prizes unavailable unless you’re betting the maximum on the spin you win with, so it’s important to always bet the maximum when chasing the big prizes.

There’s nothing worse than thinking you’ve bagged a big pot of cash only to have your success pulled away from the limit you’ve set yourself. 

It may sound backward, but the odds of winning stay the same, it’s just the numbers that sit a little bigger. 


Failing to know when enough is enough

Perhaps the biggest problem that comes with playing penny stocks is their addictive nature that prevents players from being able to stop and recognize when enough is enough.   

It’s hardly a surprise that so many struggle to put the pennies down, especially once you consider the amount of time and effort that goes into developing the slot machine to have that exact effect.

Everything from the way it feels, the way it looks and the way it sounds is not an accident, it’s all precisely engineered to keep the mind focused on spinning the reels. 

It’s more vital than ever with the popularity in online slots to know when enough is enough and when to head home or turn off your smartphone for the night. There’s no reason not to stop before your bankroll does – just make sure that you’re keeping it in mind when playing. 


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Can you win a lot of money on penny slots

One of the questions we hear all the time when it comes to penny slots is whether or not you can win a lot of money with them and the simple answer? Yes.  

Plenty of people have won big when playing penny slots with countless stories from friends, family and around the web (including numerous on Reddit) all telling tales of big wins from minimal bets in the casino. 

Some penny slots are linked to the huge progressive jackpots that often get the better of our temptations (and our bankroll) that boast truly lucrative prizes for those willing to play and to win.

With grand prizes in tens or hundreds of thousands, it’s easy to understand why people love to play to the penny slots.  

But don’t let this give you tunnel vision, as previously mentioned these jackpots are usually restricted to those wagering the maximum amount on each spin so it’s important to check out the rules before pulling the lever. You don’t want to miss out on a life-changing prize because you jumped the gun.


Does Vegas have penny slots?

penny slots

If you’re looking to play penny slots in a brick-and-mortar casino you won’t find anywhere better than the fabulous Las Vegas strip to hedge your bets. 

Every single casino throughout vegas has penny slots, in fact, you’ll probably have a harder time avoiding them than you would be finding a place to play. 

In a typical casino, the idea is to build a gaming floor that draws as much revenue from players as possible with the use of games, entertainment, and hospitality and there’s nothing quite like the penny slot for maximizing revenue. 

The average spin of the reels on the penny slots takes as little as 6 seconds, meaning that each player is running through 10 spins per minute. If we say that each wager is a respectable 50c, you’re looking at $300 per hour that players are sinking into the machine. 

Granted that there are wins to be taken into account throughout the game, perhaps at 95% payout, but when you consider that there are 1000+ slots available to run 24 hours per day in most casinos, it soon adds up. There’s no wonder that there are so many slots throughout Vegas…