What are Pokies?

The original slot machine had just three spinning reels, and only six winning combinations. When pokies went online they were no longer restricted by the limits of the physical, and this is when they came into their own. Today’s pokies can have many more reels with hundreds of symbols, and an almost unlimited number of winning combinations.

A lot of players want to know how to play pokie machines because they are fun, colourful, and come in every theme imaginable. Even better, the potential jackpots of some modern pokies are astronomical.

Learning How to Play Pokies

How to play pokies

Learning how to play pokies machines is much less challenging than some classic casino games like blackjack. Let’s start by looking at the different steps you need to follow to play a typical slot game. Later, we will look in more detail at the different parts of a slot game and explain the meaning of the specific jargon.

  1. Find a good casino and make an account: If you don’t already have a preferred casino site, browse our list of recommendations and choose one. Our listings contain a mix of established and new online casinos, but all of them are reputable operators with a full license.
  2. Make a deposit: Do you want to play for real money? Then you need to top up your account. However, some casinos have pokies in a free demo version for practice or fun.
  3. Choose a pokie game: First time playing pokies? Most casinos have a slots category called ‘top’, ‘popular’, or ‘recommended’. Select one of these, open it and let it load up on your screen – this works on PC, mobile or tablet.
  4. Check the paytable: All the specific information that you need about the pokie you are playing is in the paytable – more details further down the page. Here you will find things like the rules and the values of particular symbols.
  5. Choose your bet: Pokies have an adjustable bet level, so you can choose how much to bet per spin. This is done by adjusting the coin value and sometimes the number of paylines you want active. If you want to make the highest bet possible, select ‘max bet’.
  6. Start spinning: Hit the button marked ‘spin’ to start playing. When the reels stop, you will know if you have hit a winning combo because your winnings will show on the screen. If not, you will see that your bankroll has reduced by the value of the spin. If you like, you can also choose the autospin option – see below for more info.

Here are a few other things to be aware of when learning how to play poker machines:

How do Pokies Work?

How pokies work

Pokies are not difficult to play, but there are a lot of different elements to the various games. To get a better understanding of the game mechanics, here are some explainers for the various elements to be found in any given slot.

Reels and Rows

The layout of a pokie is reels x rows. The reels are the vertical lines of symbols, and the part that spins when you hit the play button. The rows are the horizontal lineup of the symbols across the reels. A typical layout is five reels and three rows.


Coins are the virtual equivalent of the physical coin you would insert into a mechanical slot machine. Coin size or value is how much each coin is worth, and can be adjusted according to preference – in most cases the lowest possible coin value is one cent. Players can choose to bet a single coin for each payline (see below) or more. The total value of each spin is the coin value x the number of coins bet per line x the number of paylines.


Paylines are the different winning combinations of symbols. In the original pokies, the paylines were simply horizontal lines across the reels, but now they can zig-zag across the reels in many different patterns. Some modern games have hundreds or even thousands of paylines, aka ways to win. Most games require at least one coin on each payline, but some allow you to choose a specific number of paylines or the bet is placed only on the rows.

For example, if a pokie has 50 paylines and a minimum coin size of one cent, then the smallest possible value for each spin is fifty cents. As the size of the bet increases, so does the size of the potential payout.

Max Bet

Pokies have a button to select the maximum bet per spin. This sets the coin value and the coins per line to the maximum possible. For example, our 50-payline slot has a maximum coin size of two cents, and a maximum of ten coins per line. In this case, the max bet is 0.02x10x50 = $10.


To save pressing spin each time, you can use the autospin feature for a specified number of spins. You can cancel the autospin at any time by clicking on it again. You can also set it to pause under a number of different conditions, for example:

How to Read the Paytable

All the information that you need about a pokie is in the paytable, but it can look rather confusing if you don’t know all the terms. Here’s a breakdown of all the details that you will find here.


These symbols perform various roles, but they are always there to boost winnings. They can activate a bonus round, or act as multipliers. Sometimes three or more scatters are needed for them to be worth anything. If you land scatters in a free spins round, it can trigger even more free spins. Scatters cannot be substituted by wilds.


Much like the joker in a pack of cards, wilds can substitute any other regular symbol to complete winning combinations.


These are exactly what they sound like – symbols that multiply a cash win (or free spins) by a certain factor. For example, a win of 50 coins with a 5x multiplier scoops 250 coins.

Bonus Rounds

Not all pokes have bonus rounds, but when they do they come in various forms. Separate from the regular gameplay, these can be a great opportunity to win some cash.

RTP and Volatility

Two more important aspects that are built into pokies are the return to player rate (RTP) and the volatility, aka variance. RTP is the same as the house edge in reverse and is given as a percentage. It represents the expected amount of money a player will get back given a long enough period of time. High RTP is better – for example, 98% RTP is the same as house edge of 2%. Note that RTP does not account for short-term wins or losses.

Volatility is how often and how much a pokie pays out. High volatility pokies pay larger amounts but less frequently, and vice versa for low volatility. Many pokies are medium variance.

Pokies FAQs

💡 How do pokie machines work?

Online pokies are digital versions of the old mechanical slot machines. The games are controlled by an RNG algorithm to ensure that every spin is random.

💡 What are the best pokies to play?

That depends on what you want. There is a huge variety of slot games with different themes, large and small bet sizes, and special features. Jackpot games can pay out in the millions, but the odds of winning are small.

💡 Is there a better time of day to play pokies?

No, pokies pay out at the same rate no matter when you play them.

💡 Can online casinos change the payout rate of pokies?

Only within the limits allowed by their license, and good casinos should publish their RTP rates on-site. We only recommend reputable and licensed casinos, so choose from our collection for the fairest gameplay.

💡 How can I win big at pokies?

The higher the bet value, the higher the potential wins, but there is no magic formula. Each spin is down to chance.

About the author
Beth RedmanEditor in Chief

With over twelve years of experience, Beth brings a lot of knowledge in the field of gambling and always deals intensively with casinos reviews. She is responsible for most of the content that is written on MrCasinova.com and she also manages all MrCasinova.com contributors. Beth is native English and graduated with an MBA from Anglia Ruskin University.

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