How Do Online Pokies Work? A Primer

Chloe Wilson - EditorChloe Wilson - 25 November 2020 in Features

How Do Online Pokies Work?

Online pokies are one of the most popular ways to gamble on the internet. The sheer number of different titles available at online casinos is testament to this. Thanks to advances in computer-generated graphics and the creativity of pokie developers, there are thousands of variations on the online pokies today. Such variety consistently keeps players coming back for more.

Despite differences in appearances, online pokie games broadly function in the same fashion and, in many ways, they operate just like real-world pokies. In this article, we’ll be looking under the hood of free pokies to see exactly how they work.


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How Do Online Pokies Work: The Basics


The basic functioning of a real money pokie is quite simple. Players choose how much they want to bet per spin and hit the Spin Button. A digital representation of reels will animate and appear to be spinning. When they stop, those symbols landing in view may form winning combinations along one of the predefined win lines.

In this respect, an online pokie is the same as a real-world one. The only real difference is the use of a digital random number generator, rather than the mechanical one you’d find on traditional, physical pokies. When you load an online pokie up, a digital random number generator starts up. Each time you hit Spin, the machine takes a snapshot of the random number generator. It then represents the random outcome on the reels.

Just like a real-world pokie, each digital reel has a predefined sequence of symbols on it. Digital reels usually feature many more symbols than a physical machine but in terms of their functioning there is not much difference. The random number generator is constantly going through its sequence of symbols and when the player hits stop, wherever it’s up to is the combination of symbols that will appear. The same dynamic occurs across all reels to produce a combination that may or may not result in a pay-out.

The pokie’s pay-table will show different pay-outs for different combinations of symbols. There will be fewer instances of higher paying symbols scattered across the reels, reducing the probability of creating a combination with those symbols. The precise composition of symbols, the prizes they award, and the probability of them landing on a win line all contribute to the pokie’s overall return-to-player rating. More on this shortly though.


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How Do Online Pokies Work: The Maths


Just like any company, the best online casinos for pokies are trying to make money. Their business model relies on what’s known as a house edge. Essentially, almost every game offered favours the house. At a basic level, this means that the player is mathematically expected to lose over the long-term.



How is Integrity Retained?


One thing that’s remained a constant over the online casino industry’s relatively short existence is suspicion about online pokies. Many players continue to think that a pokie on the internet is more likely to be rigged in favour of the house. However, this just isn’t the case.

Firstly, it’s important to realise that the casino’s operation is specifically formulated to favour the house on every bet it accepts. This is achieved through house edges and less than 100% return to player ratings.

The only thing this business model requires to ensure profitability long-term is for players to actually bet real money on the game. The numbers of players willing to do would decrease dramatically if there was any suspicion that the site was crooked.

Put simply, it’s very much in the casino’s favour to provide a fair service. In fact, regulated iGaming venues spend big money on establishing player trust. We consider some of the ways they do so below.


Some Online Pokie Myths Dispelled



Staying Safe Playing Pokies


Although the players can’t really control the outcome of a pokie machine, there are decisions they can make that will help protect them from losing money unnecessarily.


  1. Play with the maximum number of win lines active. Usually, dropping the number of win lines decreases the RTP rating of the game.
  2. When playing with a bonus, avoid pokies that don’t contribute 100% to wagering. If you play games contributing 50% to wagering, you effectively double wagering.
  3. If a bonus has cash-out restrictions, avoid playing progressive pokies. The top prize will far exceed the maximum you can win with the bonus. Meanwhile, you’ll be contributing to the progressive prize pool. This reduces your effective expected value.
  4. If attempting to complete wagering, low volatility games are best. You might want to spike a massive win with bonus cash early or right at the end of wagering on but when it comes to grinding through a playthrough requirement, little wins often are preferred. You’re less likely to bust out.

Get Out There and Start Spinning


Well, there you have our guide to how online pokies actually work. It can be a bit confusing but remember that working out how different probabilities versus pay-outs isn’t the punters’ responsibility. Massive and highly experienced companies, checked by third-party agencies, and licensed by international regulators ensure that everything is above board in that department.

Behind all the fancy bonus features and showy graphics, there’s really not a huge difference between online pokies and their real-world counterparts. Now that you fully understand how they work, are you not ready to hit the reels yet?

For more information about pokie machines, visit our interesting article about how the modern slot machine was invented in Australia.

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