While the name might sound underwhelming at first, penny slots are some of the most essential games on the casino floor as they offer players of all skill levels a chance at enjoying the games. With these being far more affordable than traditional slots, everyone from someone on their 18th or 21st birthday to a tried and true casino veteran can enjoy them. 

So, if you’ve ever wanted to make a splash for a small cost, penny slots could be for you.

Continue reading below to answer the question, “How do penny slot machines work?” including strategies, how to play, paylines, and more. 

How Do Penny Slots Work? 

It’s important to understand that penny slots indicate the minimum wager amount for the slot, not that you’ll only insert pennies to play. To start playing, it’s like any other slot—insert your money, choose the number of paylines and how much you want to bet per line, spin, and see if you win. 

These slots allow you to spin, and some may offer several paylines, enticing themes, and bonus rounds like free spins. These bonus rounds are activated when specific symbols land in a specific sequence. 

How Penny Slots and Traditional Slots Differ

These mechanics sound a lot like traditional slots and that’s because they’re all quite similar. The difference mainly comes from wagering requirements, paylines, overall payout amounts, and general player interest. 

For some, the low wagering requirements are enticing, whereas other players may want to risk big to win even bigger—both viewpoints are OK, but again, it all comes down to player preference. 

As for paylines, traditional slots may have fewer paylines and are more straightforward, whereas penny slots can have dozens of paylines. 

If you’re someone looking for massive payouts, traditional slots are probably more your speed. Penny slots still pay out a sizable amount, but again, the wager is only $0.01.

Effective Tips and Tricks for Penny Slots

Regarding slots, there’s no way to guarantee a win or use the best possible strategies as they are all random, but there are still some tips and tricks you can use when approaching these games. 

  • Look for High RTP: We’ll discuss RTP in more detail later on here, but essentially, RTP demonstrates how often games payout to players. Generally speaking, the higher the number, the better the payout odds. 

  • Start With Small Wagers: The smallest wager on penny slots is $0.01. We recommend betting the minimum per spin to build up your bankroll before upping the amount once you’ve padded your virtual wallet. 

  • Bet The Max On Progressive Jackpots: To complement the tip above, if you find yourself playing a progressive jackpot penny slot, we recommend maxing out your wager, as this will give you the maximum jackpot amount. Of course, only do so if your budget allows. 

  • Manage Bankroll: Go into a play session, set a budget, and stick to it. Never chase losses. If you, for example, have a limit of $100, bet the $100 and stop. 

  • Play Different Titles: By playing different games, you’ll explore not only different themes but you’ll potentially try out some new bonus features like free spins, multipliers, bonus rounds, and more. 

Take your pick and enjoy our incredible slots below:

Click here to dive into our wide array of free slots.

How to Play Penny Slots

Playing penny slots is straightforward to accomplish, but we understand that from the perspective of someone more familiar with slots. 

If you have yet to play any, even penny slots, follow our step-by-step guide below. 

  1. Choose A Game: Look around at the penny slots and see which stands out to you. Some qualities to look for could be the theme, graphics, bonus features, and more. 

  2. Examine Wager Options: With penny slots, you can adjust the paylines. However, by doing so, the amount you’ll wager per payline will increase. Explore this to see what you’re comfortable with. 

  3. Insert Your Funds: Once you’ve decided which game to play, place your funds in the machine or load up your account if online. 

  4. Select Bet Amount: Use the screen to set your bet amount. 

  5. Check Out Winning Combinations: In addition to the paylines, look at what the payline possibilities are and what the various symbols pay. 

  6. Spin: Spin the reels and wait for the results. 

  7. Enjoy Winnings: Whenever you spin the reel and win, enjoy it. After all, this is meant to be entertaining. 

  8. Keep An Eye On Your Bankroll: Monitor your bankroll. Set a budget and stick to it. 

  9. Cash Out: When your bankroll is complete, or you’re ready to call it quits before reaching the end, cash out. Online, the winnings are immediately added to your virtual wallet.

Get started with penny slots: learn about paylines and RTP. Play today! Detailed guide: How to Play Penny Slots.

Paylines in Penny Slots

Paylines are arguably the most important aspect of playing penny slots. These are lines that go across the reels that determine whether you have a winning combination of symbols. Each penny slot has a different amount, and the more you wager generally unlocks, the more of them. 

It’s important to know that paylines are more than just symbols lining up in a straight line. Depending on the game, these predefined lines can be horizontal, vertical, zigzagged, diagonal, and more. Again, this all depends on the game. 

When you choose more paylines, you’ll also need to wager more. For example, if you have $0.01 and one payline and increase it to 10 paylines, the new minimum wager will likely be $0.10 as it’s $0.01 per payline.

Since there can be dozens of paylines, it’s possible that when you spin, you’ll win on numerous paylines, which results in more money in your wallet. 

Payline Betting Strategies

  • Utilize Multiple Paylines: This one is simple—the more paylines you activate, the more likely you’ll win. 

  • Balance Payline Selection: While adding more paylines increases your chances of winning, remember that just because that happens doesn’t guarantee a win. Balance the number of paylines you choose depending on your budget. 

  • Try Games With Different Patterns: Of course, all slot wins are random, but try your hand at different games with different payline combinations to see which works best for you. 

Types of Penny Slots: Free vs. Fixed

When you play free and/or fixed penny slots, you’ll get a somewhat different experience. Below, we’ll look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

Fixed Penny Slots


  • Fixed penny slots payout real cash. This includes small wins or hitting a big progressive jackpot. 

  • These games offer many features and bonuses, including free spins, bonus rounds, and more. 

  • It always feels good to win something, especially with money on the line. When you win at fixed penny slots, you may have a sense of accomplishment that is not felt with free versions. 


  • Just like you can win money with fixed penny slots, there’s, of course, a financial risk, too. Of course, this can be offset by setting a budget. 

  • Some penny slots could have a minimum bet amount per spin, which could change depending on the number of paylines you choose. 

  • You may feel a need to chase losses. Again, set a budget and stick to it. 

Free Penny Slots


  • There’s no financial risk when you play free penny slots. 

  • Free penny slots allow you to try different games and themes free of cost to see what you enjoy most. 

  • With free games, you can also try out different features and paylines for games that offer them. 


  • If you’re playing for money, you won’t find it with free penny slots. 

  • Some features on free penny slots may not be available compared to their fixed counterparts. 

Overall, when it comes to fixed and free penny slots, one pays real cash and doesn’t. Before deciding which to play, understand what you want to get out of your playing experience. 

How Do Penny Slots Work: Return to Player (RTP) Explained 

RTP, Return to Player Percentage, is a metric used to measure the percentage of funds paid back to players over time when playing a game. For example, if a game has an RTP of 99, that means that, over time, $0.99 of every $1 wagered is paid back. Another way to interpret it is that the casino has a 1% house edge on that particular game. 

That said, this is a long-term metric across all players, so it’s not like if you play 100 times, you’ll win 99 of them. 

RTP Selection Guidance

  • Research the slot you’re interested in to see if you can find the RTP. 

  • Online penny slots will provide this information, while retail slots won’t. 

  • Search for games with higher numbers. 

  • Read reviews of the game to learn about other player’s experiences. 

  • Consider progressive jackpot slots. These have varying RTP, but these also offer potentially massive payouts. 

  • Regardless of the RTP, we encourage you to track your wins and losses to see what your general experience is like. 

Progressive Jackpots in Penny Slots

Progressive jackpots for penny slot games that continuously climb until they’re won. These can either be for single games or linked between multiple games. For these, you’ll need to wager the maximum amount to win the larger jackpot. 

To trigger these jackpots, you’ll need a specific combination of symbols. The excitement and anticipation these add to the playing experience cannot be understated. 

That said, the chances of winning a progressive jackpot are extremely slim. We don’t have an exact statistic because each progressive jackpot slot is different, but we’d recommend going into progressive jackpot slots, hoping for the best. Also, be aware that you’ll likely not win due to how infrequent they are. 

It’s possible to win—people do all the time—but it’s important to not overspend and chase the win. Like any other version of playing penny slots, set a budget and stick to it. 

Odds of Winning and Payouts

We discussed RTP above and that can influence payouts over a long period of time to players, but understanding the odds of winning is important too.

With penny slots, the spin of the reels operates using RNG, or Random Number Generator. This term is used to describe the complete randomness of playing. Not only is it random when playing, but each spin is independent of the other and not linked whatsoever to previous ones. You could, theoretically, win 10 jackpots in a row, though it’s extremely unlikely. 

As discussed above, the more paylines you add, the better the odds are of winning. For progressive jackpot slots, you’ll need to up your wager to the maximum amount to reap the benefits of the maximum wins. 

When exploring the payout structures, you should check out the overall paytable and the symbol values to better gauge what you’ll seek when playing. 

Penny slots also have bonus rounds, multipliers, free spins, and other features that can increase the winnings. 

Before playing any penny slot, we recommend you know the RTP and understand the bonus features and overall payout structure. 

Approach each spin through the lens of entertainment as opposed to money-making. This is the best way to practice responsible gambling and have fun while playing. 

Online vs. Live Penny Slots

You can enjoy penny slots both online and from inside a retail casino. Each version of these games has its pros and cons, depending on your preferred play style. 

Let’s examine each medium below. 

Online Penny Slots


  • Play penny slots on the go wherever you can access the internet. 

  • Since there’s no need for retail space, there are many options to choose from online. 

  • Play games no matter what time of day. 

  • Online casinos with penny slots offer bonuses and promotions to attract new players, potentially adding more funds to your virtual wallet. 

  • Play behind a username, providing privacy for who you actually are. 


  • If you’re a more social person, online games might not always be for you. 

  • Internet or data issues could slow down the experience. 

Live Penny Slots


  • Interact with other players and friends. 

  • Playing penny slots in person at a retail casino allows you to embrace the sights and sounds of being in a casino and enjoy various amenities like food and drink. 

  • Payouts happen right away. 


  • You must travel to retail casinos. 

  • Seats for your favorite games could be taken up by another player.

  • Casinos tend to get crowded and can be quite noisy. 

  • There could be fewer options for how to play compared to online penny slots. 

Playing penny slots both online and in person has its benefits, and going between the two can allow you to enjoy the best of both worlds. Still, this all comes down to the type of player you are. If you prefer more variety and keeping to yourself, online penny slots sound more up your alley. If you enjoy playing and hanging out with friends, consider going to a retail casino to play penny slots. 

Debunking Myths and Misconceptions

As with anything gambling-related, there’s going to be myths and misunderstandings. Below, we’ll list some more common ones and refute them with evidence. 

Myth 1: Penny Slots Have Lowest Payouts

While penny slots have the lowest wager requirements, you can still win plenty of money. There are numerous factors that impact that, such as RTP, paylines, jackpots, and what bonus features are available.

Myth 2: Betting More on Penny Slots Per Spin Provides a Better Chance of Winning

Not true. While increasing your wager amount and number of paylines can increase the ways in which you can win, these don’t actually improve your odds because of that. Each spin at a slot is completely random from one to the next, so there’s no mechanic you can perform to increase the chances. 

Myth 3: Penny Slots Target Inexperienced/Vulnerable Players

No. This simply isn’t true. All slots, regardless of designation, are completely random. Sure, the low wager amount could encourage more casual players, but there’s nothing to suggest casinos are specifically targeting a certain demographic of players. We encourage players of all types to practice responsible gambling. 

Myth 4: Penny Slots Are Rigged In The Casino Favor

As mentioned, all slots are random from spin to spin. Differing RTPs introduce a house edge, but all casino games have some form of a house edge. Winning is possible for everyone, and RTP is readily available for all players to look up and decide whether or not to play.



How do penny slots work?

Penny slots work like any other slot—you pick a game, make a wager, spin the reel. The major difference with penny slots is that the minimum wager requirement is lower. These still utilize RNG for each spin, and all games have differing RTPs.


Can you win real money on penny slots?

Yes. If you play real money penny slots, you can also win money. Your winnings are contingent on the game you play, pay lines, and wager amount.


What is RTP with penny slots?

Return to Player Percentage for penny slots indicates the house edge on the game and how much is paid back to players over time. A common range is around 95% to 96%, but it can go as high as 99%.


What is the best strategy to win at penny slots?

There’s no “strategy” you can use to win more. All spins are completely random, but you can increase the possible ways of winning by adding more pay lines.


Are penny slots available online?

Yes. Penny slots can be played both online and in person at retail casinos. There are numerous penny slot game options at most online casinos.

How Do Penny Slots Work: Conclusion 

As you have learned, penny slots can be a great way for new players to be introduced to the world of slots. These games still offer enticing themes with bonus features such as free spins and multipliers. They can also offer progressive jackpots that can provide big wins. 

As with any gambling, though, responsible gaming is necessary. Taking action steps such as setting hard limits on yourself for your bankroll is the key to a balanced and fulfilling gameplay experience, and penny slots are no different whether online or in person. 

From here, you have the answer to “How do penny slots work?” You can take this guide with you whenever you’re prepared to play if you need a refresher on how these enjoyable casino games work.

Richard Janvrin
Richard Janvrin

Richard Janvrin has covered slots and the entire casino landscape since December 2018. Earning a BA in English/Journalism, Richard’s career began in sports in 2015, and now, in addition to sports, Richard covers iGaming, including online casino reviews, slot reviews, game guides, how-to guides, and detailed blog posts about all facets of the industry. In addition to SciPlay, Richard has covered the industry at numerous outlets, including Gambling.com, The Game Day, WSN, and more. Richard aims to inform readers with information he wished was available when he entered the industry and began playing.