Learn how to play pokies and you’ll have many hours of gaming entertainment. From the start, poker machines offered punters a simple way to gamble without the need for strategy or memorization. Over the past half-century, pokies went from a side feature in casinos to the main draw. In 2019, pokies generate as much as 70% of the revenue in land-based and online casinos.
Poker machines evolved over the decades. These days, as many people enjoy mobile pokies as they do the desktop or online pokies. In either case, fun is only a few clicks away. Learn how pokies work below with a quick rundown of poker machine history, a how-to guide for playing pokies, and common strategy tips to help players stretch their bankrolls.
Charles Fey, a German immigrant living in San Francisco, invented poker machines in and around 1895. The Liberty Bell slot machine was the first pokie, but its popularity gave rise to countless imitators. In Australia, Len Ainsworth’s Aristocrat manufactured the first Aussie poker machines in the 1950s. Aristocrat designed games for the private betting clubs that were legal in New South Wales and Victoria in those years.
By the 1980s, designers at world-famous companies like IGT, Bally Technologies, and Aristocrat replaced the old mechanic reels with electronics and computer chips. No longer restrained by mechanical limitations, developers invented progressive jackpots. Every spin that didn’t produce a jackpot fed the pot size, thus creating the chance for lottery-style payouts. The creation of electronic gaming machines (EGMs) also allowed for better graphics, better sounds, and soundtracks.
Along with these innovations, design houses filled their pokies with entertaining features: bonus games, free spins, wild symbols, scatter pays, expanded wilds, and multipliers. 5-reel video pokies with multiple pay lines now sat next to the 3-reel classics. Some pokies no longer had paylines at all but instead features 243 ways-to-win.
Aristocrat Leisure remained the top Australian poker machine manufacturer, with Aussie favorites like Queen of the Nile, 50 Lions, Big Red, Choy Sun Doa, and Buffalo.
International game designers like IGT, Bally, Konami, and WMS Gaming competed with Aristocrat in land-based and online casinos. Len Ainsworth left Aristocrat to his children and founded Ainsworth Game Technology (AGT), which is a main competitor in Australia these days. While online pokies gained huge followings, mobile pokie apps for Android and iPhone became available.
Today, Australian pokies have evolved into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Due to random number generators and electronic graphics, the betting experience is the same whether you play pokies online or in brick-and-mortar casinos.
Playing pokies online is easy. Follow our guide to online pokies play and you’ll be playing within minutes. Learning a few basics helps you enjoy the game more, so take a look at the winning combinations before you play. Each game has an information section (i) or FAQ that gives the winning paylines or ways-to-win combinations. Once you have a sense of what wins, you’ll know better which symbols you want to see most.
Online poker machines require a few steps, so follow this step-by-step tutorial below.
Poker machines don’t have a strategy like blackjack or poker does. One of the reasons that punters like pokies are the fact they don’t have to memorize basic strategy tables or read their opponent’s intentions. That doesn’t mean a wise gambler can’t affect the return-to-player (RTP) during their pokies sessions.
The most important pokies tip is to read the RTP statistics and pick games which return more to the player. Expected return or RTP is a percentage about what you can expect the machine to return to you. If a poker machine has a 96% RTP, then you can expect to win back $3 more of every $100 wagered than a poker machine with a 93% RTP.
Watchdog groups like eCOGRA audit individual pokies monthly and publish the RTP stats. Bettors can read these published reports and see what the expected return is, plus what an electronic gaming machine paid out last month. If your entertainment factor is otherwise the same, pick the EGM with the highest RTP.
Some punters prefer games with a lower RTP. Progressive pokies, like Mega Moolah, tend to have a lower expected return, but pay out life-changing jackpots. Licensed pokies and 3D pokies have higher entertainment value, so a player might prefer the game anyway and be willing to pay the price for that entertainment. Know the game you play and make decisions accordingly.