Slots and Pokies – Many and varied to suit every taste
“Slots”, known as “pokies” in Australia and New Zealand, and “fruit machines” or “one-armed bandits” in the UK, are derived from the classic gaming experience that originated in the late 19th century, as crude mechanical devices.
Featuring a set of parallel – originally five, but later three – spinning parallel reels containing a set of various symbols, the idea of the game was to match a row of symbols on each of these reels in various combinations. They were originally activated by a lever on the right side of the machine, which you pulled down to set the wheels spinning – hence the name one-armed bandit. When the reels stopped, your winning (or losing) combination of symbols was displayed through a window at the front of the machine. Pretty good fun, but that was basically it.
They started out with the symbols to be matched depicting playing cards, challenging the player to spin and get a set of cards that represented a winning poker hand. It doesn’t take a genius to see where the Aussie and Kiwi nickname of “pokie” comes from. Early machines actually represented a set of cards with two cards missing, to reduce the chance a full-house. But that still left an immense number of possible winning combinations for the machine to work out. So the player spun the reels and was then awarded a prize of beer, cigars, or whatever the establishment was selling.
Towards the end of the century, a machine was created in California that replaced the playing cards with just five symbols – horseshoes, diamonds, spades, hearts and bells. Unsurprisingly, this new machine was to be known as the Liberty Bell. Instead of five reels, it had only three, greatly reducing the number of winning combinations and making it possible for the machine to recognise winning lines and automatically pay out. Later, subsequent machines were to have images of fruit on the reels, giving rise to the moniker “fruit machine”.
Modern-day pokies have moved on a bit, with colourful and entertaining themes and a variety of bonuses available to test your skill level, they give you more ways to beat the odds and tame the machine.
Online pokies are not the pokies your grandad played at the funfair! Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ones.
One of the most popular pokies out there, Starburst comes out of the NetEnt (Net Entertainment) stable. These guys have been around for more than 20 years – since 1996 in fact. They have a massive collection of games and an impressive network of servers that deliver their games seamlessly and faultlessly. They guarantee an uptime of 99.9%, every day of the year.
Starburst was launched back in 2012, so in online gaming terms, it’s quite the old-timer. That in itself is wholly appropriate since Starburst harks back to the good-old-days of arcade gaming. With brightly coloured and glittering gemstones, and traditional bars and lucky-sevens, it is bound to trigger a sense of nostalgia in the more experienced slots player.
To be honest, it’s pretty basic and straightforward – intentionally so, to emphasise its retro positioning in the marketplace. There are only ten pay lines and, reminiscent of the old Liberty Bell, only a handful of symbols to add to the bars and lucky-sevens. However, there are five reels and three rows of symbols, so it’s not quite landed as far back as the turn of the 20th Century!
The game’s theme is that of travelling through the stars and, although you will be under no illusion that you are planted firmly on Planet Earth, the pace of the game and the dynamic sounds effects will give you the feeling that you are sat on Haley’s Comet hurtling through space. It’s quite the wild ride!
On the subject of wild rides, the main feature of the game has to be the eponymous Starburst Wilds. The Wilds that won’t stop giving can appear at any time on the three middle reels. When they do, they fill the entire reel and stick around for the next spin. If another appears, that fills the reel, and so on. Winnings multiply and free spins come your way. What’s not to like?
Talking of winnings, Starburst can deliver some big ones – REALLY big ones. The maximum jackpot is – wait for it – $50,000! Yes, you read right.
Book of the Dead
This is the latest episode in the adventures of our hero, Rich Wilde. We first met Rich, the pokies equivalent to Indiana Jones, when he headed off to South America in Aztec Idols. He then featured in Pearls of India.
This time, he finds himself in Egypt, in search of the legendary Book of the Dead, an ancient funerary text containing spells and other useful tips intended to help a recently deceased Egyptian king to pass from this mortal world into the afterlife. Would you believe that bodies of animals placed in the burial chamber of a Pharaoh were dismembered, to remove any chance that they might harm him? Amazing.
The game is a pokie from the long-established and respected Swedish company Play’n GO. They’ve been at this since 2005 and know what they are doing. This particular game was actually released back in 2015, so it’s been around for a while. During that time, it has become extremely popular amongst slots players.
There are a number of features, including wilds and scatters, free spins and expanding symbols. There is also a “gamble” feature, which tests your nerve by enabling you to gamble your last winnings on the turn of a card!
There is a jackpot of $500,000 with a maximum bet of $50 per spin. However, you can actually play for free, while you learn the ropes with this game.
This is an interesting game in several respects. Although its format of 5 reels and 3 columns is pretty standard, the theme and dynamics are novel.
The game is set in 16th Century Peru, where we follow our “hero” Gonzo on his quest through the Amazon forest in search of the elusive golden city of Eldorado. This cheeky little chap is actually based upon a real-life conquistador called Gonzalo Pizarro, who was rather unpleasant. He, with his even more unsavoury brother, wreaked havoc in Peru, conquering and persecuting the Incas and Aztecs. But let’s, for the sake of this game, let bygones be bygones.
The game’s dynamics are interesting as they deviate from the usual spinning reel format. Instead, the playing area consists of rows and columns of stone tiles bearing Mayan symbols. When you win, the tiles on the pay line explode into dust and are replaced by the tiles from above or new tiles that drop from the top of the play area. If this produces another pay line, you win and more tiles drop. With each consecutive drop, your win is multiplied, until the win multiplication reaches x5.
And it gets even better. There is a Free Fall feature (as opposed to Free Spin), which will give you ten free spins. If you get consecutive avalanches during a Free Fall period, the multiplication is greater, with a maximum of x15, giving you the potential to win very big.
Book of Ra
A highly popular pokie amongst newbies and experienced players, Book of Ra is often considered to be the flagship game of its creator Novomatic.
Compared to some more modern games, its graphics are somewhat dated, which is to be expected as technology development races on.
The game has an Egyptian theme, with an Indiana Jones-type adventurer as its central character. We have to help him uncover the Book of Ra, which will, in turn, help us to discover the ancient pharaohs’ treasures. The playing format is a familiar one of five spinning reels and three rows of symbols that depict our main character along with typical Egyptian artefacts that you might expect to find on such as adventure. There are Wilds and Scatters that yield free spins and a Gamble feature that lets you double your winnings.
You can bet between $0.02 and $45, with a potential jackpot of $25,000. The RTP is 96%.
This is the big one. This is the game that can change your life; your world. Believe it or not, jackpot awards from this game run into the millions of dollars. Tens of millions of dollars. The biggest jackpot awarded from playing this game was nearly $20M. Yes, twenty million dollars!
This pokie, or slot game, was developed by Microgaming, out of the beautiful Isle of Man.
The game itself is pretty straightforward. A matrix slot game with five wheels and three rows, it is quite unremarkable. Its theme is African safari. There are animals with different symbol values. Some of them are Wild symbols, while some are Scatter symbols, and you can win on up to 25 pay lines.
It’s when a player gets selected to play the bonus game on the jackpot wheel that it all changes. There are four consecutively rolling Jackpots, each increasing as players bet in the main game. The jackpots are referred to as Mini, Minor, Major, and Mega. Each is colour coded, with corresponding coloured segments on the jackpot wheel. The player spins and, dependent upon where the wheel stops, the player can win literally millions of dollars. It’s no wonder the game is so incredibly popular all over the world.