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All About Penny Slots and How to Play Them

Many people, in particular those who are visiting a casino for the first time, are immediately drawn to the penny slot machines. This is primarily due to their name, as it sounds like the games cost just a penny to play. However, this is not always the case, and it can cause a great deal of confusion. In this article, we shall clear up this confusion by teaching you all you need to know to have an enjoyable time playing penny slots. 

How Do Penny Slots Work?

The good news is that penny slots are very simple games and work in the same way as any other type of slot. All you need to do is set your bet, click on spin (or pull a lever), and hope that you land enough matching symbols along a payline to win. 

So Why Don’t They Cost a Penny?

Penny slots are very simple games

The confusion here is a result of slots becoming more modern but retaining their traditional terminology. However, the best way to think of it is that when playing a penny slot, the credit size is $0.01.

Therefore, if you were playing a true classic slot with just a single payline, and you were to bet one credit on that payline per spin, then it would cost you one penny to play. However, today most slots have at least 20 paylines, and they allow you to bet multiple credits per payline. 

While a slot won’t necessarily require you to bet on all of the paylines or play the maximum credits per payline, if you want to give yourself the chance of hitting the biggest wins, then this is what you will have to do.

Imagine a 5-reel slot with 20 fixed paylines, and you can bet up to five credits per payline. This means that you will be betting $0.05 per payline, multiply that by 20, and you get $1. Therefore, while it is a penny slot, it will be costing you $1 per spin.

This may seem slightly confusing at first, but it is actually very simple. As soon as you understand that the word ‘penny’ is referring to the credit size rather than the cost per spin, then it all becomes very straightforward and easy to understand.

It is essential that you understand this so that you can properly plan your gambling budget. Let us say that you spin the reels once every 10 seconds; this means that in the above example, you would be spending $6 per minute, which works out at $360 per hour. That’s quite a lot of money to be spending on a ‘penny slot’! 

Nonetheless, the games can be a huge amount of fun, and as long as you are budgeting carefully, then there is absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t play them. 

How to Choose a Penny Slot Machine

This will differ slightly depending on whether you are playing online or in a land-based casino. However, in both instances, it comes down to the same thing – picking the game that will give you the most enjoyment. 

If you are in a land-based casino, then be sure to take the time to look at all the machines on the casino floor and not the ones right by the entrance. You may be surprised by what you can find, and you may find a machine hidden away with a theme that really appeals to you. 

Of course, while you want to make sure that you are having fun, there are a few characteristics of the machines that are worth examining before you start playing (both online and offline). The most obvious of these is the RTP or return to player. This is the percentage of money bet on a machine that is returned to players over time. While you can never guarantee a win, the higher the RTP, the better.

Furthermore, consider the structure of the machine and how it will affect your budget. If a penny slot requires you to bet $0.20 per spin, then it may be better to play instead of one that costs $1 per spin. In other words, make sure that you can afford to play the game for as long as you wish to without running into difficulties. 

Make Sure You Understand the Rules

Penny slots can have wild symbols

Before betting on a penny slot, you should always make sure that you understand exactly how the game works. Take time to look through the paytable and read the rules. You need to be aware of exactly what type of combinations you need to land to win if there are any minimum betting requirements to qualify for the top payouts, and so on. 

You also want to be fully aware of the slot’s bonus features. Does it have wild symbols? How are the free spins triggered? Is there a progressive jackpot, and if so, how is it won? If you don’t properly understand how a game works, then you can’t be sure that you are getting the most from it, and you may just be wasting your money. 

Manage Your Bankroll

It goes without saying that you should never be betting money that you can afford to lose. However, the key to long-term enjoyment is properly managing your bankroll. You need to make sure that you are betting a sustainable amount per spin.

Here is an example:

  • If you were playing a 50-payline penny slot machine and you were betting 1 penny per line, you would need a bankroll of approximately $125 to play for three hours.
  • If you were playing the same game but betting 5 pennies per line, then you would need a bankroll of $625.

For the vast majority of people, there is simply nothing to be gained by betting the larger amount, but a great deal to be lost.

Don’t Become Superstitious

There is a huge amount of superstition surrounding penny slots, and ultimately, it is all complete nonsense. Penny slots are games of pure luck. There is no way of influencing the outcome of a spin, and there is no way of knowing what will happen next. All of the games are controlled by an RNG (random number generator), and it always comes down to luck. 

Of course, some people may have their little rituals that they believe will bring them luck, such as wearing a particular pair of socks. This is fine, as long as you do not become carried away. 

Similarly, don’t believe the myths about hot and cold machines, or about casino management setting machines to pay out more at certain times. If you are playing at a properly licensed and regulated casino (online or land-based), then this will never be the case as it is completely illegal.


Penny slots are hugely enjoyable, and they can reward you with a large amount of money. Just make sure you understand what you are betting on, how the game works, plan your budget, and you can then have hours of fun spinning the reels. 


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