To an experienced gambler, placing the words ‘pokies’ and ‘strategy’ in the same sentence might seem like a contradiction in terms. These are games of chance and luck, after all, and they can’t be outfoxed or hoodwinked into coughing up wins.
Nevertheless, there are a few things a player can do to minimise risk and increase their overall enjoyment when playing the slots online. We aren’t talking about mythical betting systems which guarantee wins – they don’t exist. All we want to do is give punters some straightforward advice so they can better understand online poker machines and the advantages of playing on the Web.
Note: This page is intended for our international readers only. Online gambling is illegal in Australia as of September 2017 following the introduction of the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016. For Australians, this page remains as an informational record only.
Understand how online pokies work
Probably the best thing an Internet pokies enthusiast can do is take the time to learn about the games and how they are configured. Blackjack players know the odds involved in a game of 21, and poker players can calculate probabilities and percentages on the fly, but too many punters don’t possess even the most basic knowledge of what goes on behind the flashing lights and spinning reels of a pokie machine.
Every online slot is controlled by a random number generator (RNG) which ensures that each spin produces a fair, unpredictable and incorruptible outcome. This is essentially an online version of an erasable programmable read-only memory (EPROM) – the device which controls the behaviour of a land-based poker machine.
What you need to know is that although digital pokie games are random by nature, they are preset to ensure they retain a certain amount of bets played. This is the house edge, and it is significantly higher on pokies than on casino games such as baccarat, blackjack, craps and video poker.
When you play real money pokies online, however, the odds can be far more favourable than at brick-and-mortar gaming venues. While Australian casinos, pubs and clubs can set the house edge on poker machines as high as 15 per cent, the vast majority of online games hold a return-to-player percentage (RTP) of between 94 and 98 per cent. That’s still a casino advantage of up to six per cent, but it’s around half of what you might give up at a run-of-the-mill pokies pub.
Try real money pokies games for free
You can’t demo a poker machine on free credits when you play at a land-based gambling establishment. Most leading online casinos let you do exactly that, however, and there is a very reasonable argument for taking advantage of that opportunity.
If you are looking at a Web pokie you’ve never played before, the free-play mode gives you the chance to experience and assess the game without risking so much as a single cent. You can get a feel for gameplay, graphics, features and overall quality before you decide whether or not to play for real money, which is a much safer option than sticking a speculative $20 note into a machine and hoping it’s not a dud.
Some folks are sceptical about free pokies play. There is a line of thought which suggests online casino operators try to lure real cash players by manipulating games so they produce bigger, better outcomes more often in demo mode. This is simply not true. Whether in practice play or cash mode, it’s the same independently tested RNG which produces the results. Licensed gambling sites are tightly regulated, analysed and audited to make sure this is the case.
Volatility and variance in poker machines
No two online pokie games are exactly like, and the same goes for players. Different titles offer different incentives, so understanding the options and figuring out what you like and what you don’t can go along way towards helping you choose the right kind of pokie machine.
When picking a game, players often focus on superficial aspects such as feature symbols, bonus rounds, audio-visual quality and themes. What they often overlook is how high or low the payout variance is.
Simply put, variance (also called volatility) refers to the frequency and scale of a game’s payouts. Low variance pokies produce more winning spins, but the size and scope of the prizes are small compared to other machines. On the other hand, high volatility games offer big windfalls at the expense of regular hits. Medium variance slots, as you might imagine, fall somewhere between these two extremes.
No one type of pokie is better than another. If you want a game with low risk and which will keep you interested spin after spin, try a low volatility machine. If you’re happy to endure dry spells in search of big jackpots, high variance pokies are a good way to go. Pick a game that suits both your style and your bankroll.
Ignore guaranteed betting systems
We said it at the top, and we’ll say it again: you cannot beat the pokies. You can try all sorts of tricks and cheats and strategies, and you will pick up some handy wins along the road, but the average payout on any given game will inevitably hover around its programmed RTP percentage.
Some folks out there on the World Wide Web will try to convince you otherwise. They will promise guaranteed profits if you follow their foolproof system. They will say 17 instalments of $19.99 is a small price to pay for the secrets of pokies betting. And they will insist you won’t have to work another day in your life if you sign up today.
These guys are all crooks. The ‘secret pokies systems’ promised on these websites are little more than repackaged versions of outdated betting philosophies and old wives’ tales about how to predict when a machine is ‘due’. Some self-styled pokies experts might have a few useful tips for maximising casino comps, but these have little to no relevance for those who play at online casinos.
Pokies are all about trying your luck and having a bit of fun along the way. There is no special insight or secret formula which can improve your chances of winning. If you want a game of skill and strategy, try blackjack or video poker instead.