Pokies Basics – How to play

Pokies Basics – How to play

9 min

Slot machines are the most popular casino games, and Kiwis love them. If you are new to online gambling and wish to try pokies, we are here to come to your aid. Keep on reading and find out what the basics of these highly entertaining games are, how to play smart and increase your winning chances!

Slot machine basics – get to know the game

Pokies are very simple games to play, which is why many beginner players choose them. They come with an easy-to-use user interface, simple mechanics, and all features are explained within the game. If you are entirely new to gambling or to slot machines, find out below about what you will encounter!

Is ‘pokies’ just another word for slot games?

Yes-and no. For New Zealanders, the pokies meaning indeed overlaps with the concept of slot machines. However, using this term outside New Zealand may cause other gamblers confusion when hearing it for the first time.

User interface

Slot machines are effortless to use, and many software providers use the same user interface on all their products. This is great for their players because once they know how to play one game, they can play any. In fact, this is true for almost all pokies because even if the interface has a different design, they all come with the same buttons, and they are arranged in similar ways.

Here are the main buttons you are going to find on a slot machine:

  • Spin

This is the most crucial button, it spins the reels one time when you click or tap it. In most games, this button is the biggest on the screen. Frequently, this is a round button, or it may even have circular arrows on it. In some games, the words ‘Play’ or ‘Spin’ are written on them.

  • Bet per line

The bet per line buttons are usually ‘+’ and ‘-‘ or up and down arrows. Using this, you can set the number of credits you will wager on a single active line.

  • Coin Value/Denomination

This determines the value of one credit, and it can look exactly like the Bet per Line buttons, or it can be a drop-down menu.

  • Max Bet

Upon pressing this button, all the bet-related values are set to the maximum. This means that your bet per line and number of lines are set to the highest levels. However, in some games, this does not apply to the coin denomination, which you will have to manually adjust if you wish to play the highest bet possible in the game.

  • Paylines

Arrows or “+” and “-“ buttons allow you to select the number of active lines in a game.

  • Settings

This is usually a gear icon, and it opens a menu in which you can find sound settings, you may be able to turn on and off animations, and more.

  • Autoplay

This can sometimes be right next to the Spin button, and it allows you to select how many times you want the game to spin the reels for you automatically. In addition, in some titles, you may be able to set conditions under which the game automatically stops spinning the reels. These can be either a sum of winnings or losses.

  • Paytable

Often having a question mark icon or the word “Paytable” on it, this button opens the table of symbols. Here, you can see which symbols appear in the game and how much they can bring you based on how many you land on an active payline.

Be aware

The user interface of the mobile casinos NZ version of the game can be different than the desktop version. It may have only the Spin button on the screen, while all the others could be stacked in a menu. This is because the screen you are playing with is smaller.


Some pokies do not allow you to deactivate paylines. They come with a fixed number of lines that remain active during the game. On the other hand, however, other titles allow more customization.

Slots features and symbols


Online Pokies New Zealand come with a variety of features and symbols. They all have different themes and gameplay, and while some are simple and come with no features and a single special symbol, some are packed with them.

For classic slot machines, the following symbols are common:

  1. Low-paying symbols – a selection of symbols often designed as fruits or playing cards symbols that yield a low amount of credits.
  2. High-paying symbols – these are usually designed based on the game’s theme, and their payouts are higher.

More complex pokies come with even more symbols:

  1. Wild – this icon does not payout itself, but it can replace any other symbol on the gameboard in order to help you create winning combinations.
  2. Scatter – the scatter icon pays whenever it appears on the reels, regardless if it is part of a winning combination or not. Also, three or more of them often trigger a special feature such as free spins.
  3. Bonus Symbol – this symbol triggers the bonus game when it appears three or more times on the reels.

Here are some of the most common features you will find in a slot machine:

  • Gamble feature – this feature is triggered upon every win, and it gives you the chance to double that win, but with the risk of losing it entirely. Once you hit a win, the ‘Gamble’ button becomes clickable, and in some games, it even starts flashing. If you do click it, you may choose the colour of a card facing down. If the colour is correct, your win is doubled, and you can gamble and double it again. This goes until you decide to keep the winnings accumulated or until you get one wrong guess. In the latter situation, you lose all the winnings of that round.
  • Bonus game – some online pokies have a bonus game activated by special symbols landing on the reels simultaneously. These can be different from one game to another, and you may have to choose between different elements that reveal prizes or even play an actual game for rewards.
  • Cascading/tumbling reels – this is a feature that may help you win more as it allows for the symbols on the reels to cascade down and make room for more after each win. This means that you can form new combinations and win multiple times on a single spin.
  • Free Spins – free spins are usually triggered by either a certain dedicated symbol or the scatter. These have to appear three or more times on the gameboard to trigger the spins. Usually, the higher the number of symbols combined, the higher the number of spins.
  • Retriggering – this allows you to retrigger more spins during the free spins feature.
  • Multipliers – some pokies come with multipliers that you can acquire during the game. This multiplies your winnings, and often, these also appear during free spins.
  • Win both ways – this feature is more related to the gameplay, and it cannot be triggered. Some games are simply built with it, and it allows you to form combinations both from right to left and left to right.
  • Expanding Wilds – as the name says, this feature makes the wild symbols on the reels expand and cover the entire reels they appeared on. This allows for more winning combinations and bigger winnings.
  • Sticky Wilds – when this feature activates, the wild symbols on the gameboard are locked into place while the reels keep on spinning. This gives you an advantage and allows more winning combinations to form.

How to play slot machines


Slot machines come with simple rules and gameplay.

If you are new to this type of game or to gambling in general, follow this simple guide to get started:

  1. Set your coin denomination – the first step to placing a wager is to set the value of one credit. You can do that using the ‘+’ and ‘-‘ buttons, which usually are placed under the “coin value” text.
  2. Select the number of active paylines – if the game you play allows you to customize the number of active paylines, now it’s the time to decide how many you want active.
  3. Set your bet per line – now that you set the value of one coin, you can select the number of coins you wish to bet on a single active line. Look at the “Total Bet” value as you do that to see how much you will bet.
  4. Press spin or activate the Autoplay feature – you may either choose to manually press the Spin button for one spin or activate the Autoplay feature. The latter allows you to set a number of automatic spins or win/loss limits upon which the spins stop.


Before playing, make sure to check out the Paytable and look at the symbols and their payouts! Also, in the Paytable menu, you will be able to see which special features the pokie has and how they are activated.

Increase your winning chances on slots


Online slot machines in New Zealand can pay out good amounts of money if you play them right. While there is no failproof way to win or strategy that ensures winning, there are ways in which you can increase your chances.

Pokies Strategies tested by our experts:

  • Start with small bets

Starting with small bets is excellent, especially if you are new to gambling. This allows you to use your casino balance intelligently and extend your gaming session. Increase the stakes as you keep on playing for chances to hit bigger wins. The bigger the bet, the bigger the winnings, but keep in mind that slots are so fast-paced that playing with big wagers all the time can quickly empty your account balance.

  • Activate more paylines

You may choose to go for a one-line slot machine if you prefer the classics, but if you do go for one with multiple paylines, make sure you activate more of them. Having more lines active increases your chances to create a winning combination on one of them and score a win.

  • Use the gamble feature

The gamble feature can help you quickly double your winnings, as we have already described above. This is very helpful, but do not overuse it! Stop the gambling feature while you are ahead because you might lose all the winnings in a second.

  • Do not rush

While pokies are fast-paced games already, some players prefer to make them go even faster, so they do not take the time to assess their winnings and losses. We advise you to take a second in between spins and adjust the wager and the lines. This way, you can plan based on your budget instead of seeing it disappear in a matter of minutes.

  • Choose slots with high RTP

RTP stands for ‘Return to Player,’ and it represents the percentage of total bets made in the game that are returned to players in the form of winnings, as we have explained in our RTP Guide. You cannot test this on short gaming sessions, but if you spend plenty of time playing the same game, you might start to feel it, and it does make a difference. Choosing games with a high RTP means that you have the opportunity to get more money back in the long term.

  • Go for slot machines with medium volatility

A slot machine’s volatility represents its hit frequency, or how often it pays and how much. Slot machines with low volatility pay higher prizes less often, while the ones with high volatility pay often, but the rewards are smaller. Going for a medium volatility one seems to be the best choice in this situation and the most likely to keep your casino balance from emptying.

  • Use a slots bonus

Top online casino bonuses NZ are great regardless of the game you play, but they are excellent when it comes to slot machines. Slots bonuses come in different shapes and sizes, and they can bring you free spins or free money to use on slots. Some are attached to a specific game, usually a newly released one or a famous title. We recommend you to go for the best no deposit casino bonuses and use them to test both the slot machine and the casino you have joined.

  • Read slot reviews

Each slot machine has its own particularities, and the best way to find them before playing is by reading reviews and players’ opinions. This may help you quickly decide which game it’s best for you to play, as there are so many and making a choice can be challenging for a new player.

Be aware

Pokies are games of luck, and there is no strategy you can apply to win! Unlike Poker, no amount of skill can determine the outcome of slots gambling. Use our tips above to be able to keep track of your balance as you play and increase your chances to win!


Pokies are incredibly popular in New Zealand as they are all around the world. These games impress players through their simplicity, fast-paced gameplay, varied themes, and entertainment level they provide. They are perfect for both regular players and high rollers, as some come with huge maximum bets. Check them out for yourself, claim a NZ casino bonus, and give them a try! You will have plenty of fun, and you might even score some winnings.

Ioana Nutulescu
AuthorIoana NutulescuAuthor & Editor at CasinoAlpha

Using her Comparative Literature MA, Ioana’s casino and game reviews, player guides and pages cater to the different culture-related needs, preferences, and psychology of gamblers around the world. Focused on aesthetic & psychology, she advocates for satisfying yet safe casino experiences.