How to Play Pokies

by James Smith |
Date of Publishing: 28/06/2023

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Dive into pokies with our beginner’s guide. Learn the rules, key terms, and strategic tips to master this popular casino game in no time. 

A Brief History of Pokies

New Zealand was first introduced to gambling in the 1980s, and it was in the 90s online games, including pokies machines, gained popularity. The physical pokies machine could be found in hotels, licensed casinos and other venues with valid gambling licenses. 

Easy to play, physical pokies games were played by inserting your money and then running the game using a series of buttons (usually located just below the game screen). Earlier pokie machines had a lever to operate the mechanical reels, giving rise to the name ‘one-armed bandit’. 

Online pokies also enjoyed increased popularity, with Microgaming introducing online slot machines to New Zealand in 1994. By 2009 Kiwis could enjoy any of the 20,0000 online slots or land-based casino games.

What Makes Pokies So Popular?

There are a few reasons why people play pokies and especially pokies online, which we shall list below:-

  • Convenience – Internet casinos offer customers various casino games, including online pokies. There are very few online casinos that do not remain open 24/7. This availability ticks all the boxes for many players as they can enjoy their favourite online pokie anytime they want and from anywhere they happen to be (as long as there is a good internet connection).
  • Increased Choice – A land-based casino has only so much floor space to cram its games into, limiting customers’ choices. The same rule is not applied to an online casino with hundreds of online games.
  • Variety – A fair casino will provide as many variations of the most popular online games, including online pokies that contain a bonus feature or features, progressive jackpot pokies and Las Vegas-style online games.

How Do Online Pokies Work?

Most people know how online slot machines work. You credit your account, choose your game, press a button to spin the reels, and then, if you are lucky, you reap the rewards. However, knowing what goes on behind the scenes to make any pokie game run smoothly is interesting. 

When playing pokies, have you ever wondered what determines the outcome of your spins?

  • The Random Number Generator (RNG) – All online pokie machines utilise a software-based Random Number Generator (RNG). This piece of computer coding spins the virtual reels and wheels, throws the virtual dice and deals with the virtual cards by generating random numbers which determine where (in the case of online slots) the symbols land on the reels.
  • Paytable, Symbols and Paylines – The online game’s paytable determines the symbols you see on your pokie game’s reels. Every symbol has its value, and your game will pay out by hitting different combinations of symbols. 

The pay lines are where the symbols must land to create one of those winning combinations. Some online pokies machines have fixed pay lines; others have multiple pay lines which you can choose to activate.

The Different Types of Online Pokie Machines

 As technology advances, so do the different types of online pokies.

  • Classic Online Pokies Some players prefer simpler, straightforward online pokie games, and classic games will suit their taste. Designed on the original slot machines, classic online pokies deliver with only three reels and a few pay lines. You will not find a bonus game or many other bonus features. 
  • Multiple Pay Line Online Pokies When you play pokies, you will find that some five-reel games offer multiple combinations of pay lines, even into the hundreds. The more pay lines a player chooses to bet on, the higher their bet and the chance of winning on each spin.
  • Progressive Jackpot Online Pokies To win a progressive jackpot* can be life-changing. You only have to search on your browser to see who has won and how much!

Progressive jackpots take a percentage of each bet, adding it to the prize pot. This way, a progressive jackpot can increase exponentially, especially as many online pokie machines are linked and open 24/7. 

*Please note that to be in with a chance of winning a progressive jackpot, the maximum bet must be played each time.

  • 3D Online PokiesMany online pokies have a three-dimensional element within the game, and popular culture, video games, and movies inspire the most. Even though we have given 3D online pokies their category, there is no doubt that most pokie machines combine various aspects of all the elements above.


What Are The Rules of Pokies?

Playing pokies might appear simple, but you should only play pokies knowing the rules. Most online casinos offer their pokies games in free mode, where you can find out if the game suits your playing style and personal taste.

Offering any pokie game in free mode is a great strategy for an online casino, as pokies are definitely ‘casino money makers’. The more punters they get through their virtual doors, the better it is for the online casino. 

Below are the basic rules of how to play pokies, which we recommend you read before playing.

  • If you are a new player, we strongly recommend choosing a reputable online casino known for its fairness and quality of games. There are many Internet casinos to choose from, and not all are as good as each other, so choose wisely and make sure your choice is fully licensed. 
  • Always check out the number of available paylines, as it is directly linked to the winning combinations of that particular game. Classic online slots have only a single payline, whilst advanced online pokie machines can have a hundred or more paylines that run vertically, horizontally, diagonally and even in zig-zags. The majority of present-day online pokies have between 20 and 40-win lines. 
  • After you have checked the available paylines, check out the game’s paytable. The paytable gives all the relevant information regarding the payout amounts for each winning combination of symbols. It will also show the icons that activate special features like bonus games and free spins, which reels they show up and their function.
  • You will then need to select your coin value. Typically smaller than other casino games, they range from $0.01 to $2.00. You can also tell what maximum bet you must make for a full set of active lines. Progressive jackpot pokies require you to bet the maximum on each win for a chance at the main prize.

Once you have become familiar with your chosen online pokie machine, it’s time to put that knowledge into practice. 

How Do I Get The Game Started?

Once you are familiar with the layout of your chosen online pokies game, it’s time to get the reels spinning. Remember, you must be a member of an online casino to fund your account and play for real money.

Next, you will select how much you want to bet per line and how many lines you want to bet on. The buttons on your screen are self-explanatory and will include the following:-

  • Credit Size Button – This button allows you to change the value of your wager. 
  • The Credits Per Line Button – This button allows you to change the number of credits on each line.
  • The Spin Button – This button spins the reels and begins your game set with the wager level and credit size you previously chose. 
  • The Max Button – This button allows you to bet the maximum amount of credits possible and starts the reels spinning. 
  • The Play/Start Button – This is the button you hit when you want to start your online pokies game.
  • The Auto Button – On some online pokies, you can have your spins automatically played without hitting the spin button first. Your games will be played with the coin amount and number of lines you choose.
  • The Gamble Button – This button may only appear once you have a win which you can gamble. 
  • The Start Feature Button – is another button you might only sometimes see in your game. It will appear when you have won (triggered) the feature.

Basic Pokies Terminology

Most online slots’ terminology is easy to understand, but it is always worth checking to see if there is anything new to learn. Below is a list of the common words used when you play pokies.

  • Active Payline – This is a line that is in play and will payout if a winning combination is formed. 
  • Auto Play – Auto play lets you choose to spin the reels a chosen number of times in succession without hitting the start/play button. 
  • Bet Max – Where a player bets on the maximum number of lines and the maximum amount of coins per line. 
  • Bet Per Line – This is the amount of coin being spent on each line. 
  • Bonus Feature – Some online slots contain a bonus feature or features that are randomly triggered (based on a certain combination of symbols). Trigging a bonus game or bonus feature allows you to win a bonus payout or earn free spins.
  • Free Spins – Free spins can be triggered as part of a bonus game or bonus feature. Players often receive free spins as part of an online casino’s welcome or promotional offer. 
  • Multiplier – Multipliers can be awarded during a bonus game or as part of a bonus feature. The multiplier is a symbol which multiplies the payout from any winning combination. For instance, 2x, 5x, 10x etc. Multipliers can bump up winnings substantially. 
  • Payline – The payline is a line that covers the reels on which the symbols of the online pokie must appear to award a payout. Some games have one playline. Many have multiple payline lines going in different directions.
  • Payout Percentage – The payout percentage is the percentage of all stakes online pokies will pay over time. 
  • Pay Table – The pay table shows all the possible winning combinations, the symbols and their respective payout amounts. 
  • Progressive Jackpot – A progressive jackpot online pokies have a jackpot that grows over time depending on the number of people playing. 
  • Random Number Generator (RNG) – The RNG is the computer software that determines the outcome of the reels and where they will land. 
  • Scatter – Scatters are symbols that do not have to appear in a designated combination to trigger a win on the reels. Often used to trigger a bonus feature or bonus game, you usually require three or more anywhere on the reels to lead to a payout.
  • Stacked Wilds – These are several wild symbols stacked on each other on a single reel.
  • Symbol – The symbols of online pokies are the images on the reels that have to land in a certain combination to trigger a win. 
  • Wild Symbol – The wild symbol can substitute any other symbol on the reels to create a winning combination. 

How Do I Choose The Right Online Pokies?

This segment will explain the house edge, volatility, and how the RTP will affect your wins while playing pokies. 

  • The house edge – is the online casino’s advantage over you as you play pokies. The house edge is a mathematical advantage that assures a percentage back to the online casino over time.
  • Volatility – is the term given to an online slot’s typical payout. Low Volatility online pokie games – typically pay out big wins spread far apart. High Volatility games – typically pay out smaller wins frequently, and Medium Volatility, online pokies games, fall somewhere between low and high-volatility games.
  • RTP (Return to Player Percentage) – The RTP indicates the average return you can expect when playing pokies. An Online pokies RTP is calculated on averages across millions of simulated spins. 

How to Manage Your Bankroll

To avoid turning a pleasurable pastime into something more sinister, you must manage your gambling bankroll and know when to walk away. 

Below are a few tips to take onboard before you begin to spin the reels of your favourite online pokie machine. 

  • Set your budget – The excitement when gambling online can lead to overspending. To avoid this, set your budget – then stick to it. 
  • Betting limit – Only bet with money you can afford to lose.
  • Remember your bonuses – Using your online casino bonus cash can increase your playing time.
  • Give yourself a break – Don’t get hooked on spending extra time gambling online instead of doing other things if you need to set a time limit for your online casino sessions and take regular breaks.
  • Know when to walk away – Never chase your losses*. If you find you are tending to do that, shut down your game and walk away. Chasing losses isn’t pleasurable and does not work. 

*If you find you are chasing your losses and that online gambling has lost its entertainment value, you can hit links at the bottom of the online casino site’s homepage. All good online pokies sites will have a full list of gamble-aware sites and self-help groups for their players to access if required. 


Learning how to play pokies and how they work will add extra interest to your online casino time. Understanding volatility, the house edge and the RTP will greatly influence which games will suit your gaming tastes. 

Being aware of how important setting and keeping to a budget that you can afford to lose will also give you some measure of control over your gaming habits. 

Internet casinos and their games, including online pokies, are primarily there for entertainment and enjoyment, and you never know; it might just be your day for a win! 


Where Did The Name’ Pokies’ Originate?

It is thought that the word ‘pokies’ originated from a shortening of ‘poker machines’. Online pokies and online slots are the same thing.

Does The Odds Change Depending On How Much I Spend?

No. The odds of hitting a win are the same whether you bet $00.1 or $2.00. However, if you don’t bet on the maximum number of lines, you will miss out on those lines if they pay out.

Is There A Better Time Of Day To Win?

No. Most Online pokie machines are open 24/7, so there will surely be someone in the world playing at any given time. 

How Do I Make a Deposit?

Once you have opened an account, you need to go to the cashier section, choose your preferred banking method and use it to fund your account. 

Do I Have To Download Software To Begin Playing?

No. Most internet casinos allow you to play straight from your browser, which is useful for Mac operating systems and mobile devices. 

What Is A Welcome Bonus?

A welcome bonus is a monetary award that internet casinos give to new players for joining their site and making a deposit. The amount of the welcome bonus varies from site to site. 

What Is A Payline?

A Payline is a shape or pattern an online pokies uses to determine if the symbols have fallen in a winning combination.

What Is A Paytable?

The paytable is the chart showing how much you will win for a bet of a certain value on each payline. Each paytable is unique to its online slot machine. 

Is There A Secret To Playing Online Pokies And Winning?

Some players might play at a site that does not offer the best possible chance of a win. Always play at a reputable, fully licensed internet casino with the best game suppliers to avoid this. As all online pokies outcomes are determined by an RNG (random number generator)

Ensure the site you are considering has a full range of games and good bonus options and is independently audited and certified as a true and fair casino.

About the Author

Author: James Smith.

James Smith has been writing about casino games and strategies for over a decade. He is an expert in the industry and loves to help people get started with online gambling. In his free time, James enjoys reading books by other successful authors, cycling around town, or playing poker.