Pokies have been around in New Zealand pubs, clubs and land-based casinos since the early 1990s, and it’s estimated that there are about 18,000 poker machines throughout the country. It’s therefore unsurprising that since the advent of online gaming and casinos, slot machines have become most Kiwis’ game of choice.
For many punters, the enjoyment in playing pokies, either online or in a bricks and mortar venue, is their simplicity and immediacy. There are no complicated rules to learn, no complex terminology, and no waiting for other players to make their bets before the game can unfold. Likewise, you don’t have to have any specialist insider knowledge of odds or strategies to play and enjoy the game.
And unlike a lot of other casino games, where wins tend to be small and profits incremental, one spin when playing pokies online can land you an enormous pay out, with some progressive jackpot prizes running into tens of millions of dollars.
Another reason for the great popularity of pokies is that they offer enormous variety. While if’s still possible to play online versions of the traditional one-armed bandit poker machine, technology has moved the game forward in leaps and bounds, so much so that contemporary pokies, while still retaining the central element of rotating wheels, are almost unrecognisable from their earlier predecessors. The gameplay has become more complex, the themes more elaborate, and the graphics and sound effects are now almost cinematic in their quality.
Many online pokies borrow themes, stories and characters from other media, and this combined with the added complexity that bonus rounds and special features add, explain why these games have been taken up so enthusiastically by a younger generation of players brought up on action movies and video games.
There are opportunities at most of the online casinos we list to play slot machines and other games for free in practice mode. At many of them, this can even be done without registering for an account — simply go to the site, choose the game you want to play and, if offered, click the Demo or Practice Play button. However, because they are networked, it’s not possible to play progressive jackpot games for free.
We also feature special offers and bonuses from our recommended sites that include free spins or no deposit bonuses as part of their signup offers, and this provides another opportunity to play games for free.
Although this is the type of game that pops into many people’s minds when they think about slot games, the traditional 3-reel game is largely in the minority these days. However, this version of the game does retain its followers and so it is always possible to play 3 reel online pokies real money games at our recommended casino sites.
Featuring three rotating reels and 1, 3 or 5 paylines (the lines on which the symbols on the reels need to fall to create a winning spin), slot machines offer straightforward and uncomplicated gaming action with a limited range of wager sizes, meaning they tend to be low volatility games — i.e., payouts are awarded relatively frequently but they are generally quite modest, with big wins occurring fairly rarely.
The majority of games you’ll find in our listed casinos are 5-reel pokies, although this doesn’t mean that they are all the same — far from it, in fact, and this one umbrella title actually covers a huge variety of game types.
5-reel slots (or video pokies as they are more commonly known) offer enormous variety when it comes to stake size and the number of paylines, meaning that games can be played for a little as 5¢ or as much as $500 per spin, and this is a big part of their appeal — anybody can afford to play.
The range of themes and designs are a vital element of these games’ aesthetic appeal, and the look and feel of a game is considered by some to be just as important as the gameplay.
Where video pokies have gone to another level is in the way they have introduced special features and bonus rounds which combine to add another dimension to the gameplay. You can find expanding wilds, paylines that run both ways, rolling reels and many other features that enhance the gaming action and create more payout opportunities as well.
A further innovation are 243 and 1024 ways-to-win pokies, as these don’t in fact have any paylines at all. Instead, a winning spin is when 3 or more symbols appear on adjacent reels left to right in any combination, rather than in the set patterns paylines require. However, even though there are no physical paylines, for wagering purposes a set number of ‘lines’ (usually 30) are automatically in play on every spin.
Although both versions of the game have 5 reels, 243 ways-to-win games have 3 rows of symbols, while there are 4 rows on 1024 ways-to-win games.
Video themed pokies are amongst the most popular type of game and where there has been the most significant innovation in recent years. Games take as their themes hit TV shows, films, video games and music performers, and successfully adapt their characters, songs, look and storylines.
Some of the most popular themed slot games of recent years have been based on US and UK TV shows, with international hit Game of Thrones being one of the most successful releases of recent years, but the genre also includes long-running series like The Sopranos, animated shows such as South Park, comedy programmes such as Little Britain, as well as shows from the past like The Love Boat and The Six Million Dollar Man.
Movies too get a good airing, with a wide range of hit films being adapted into pokies, with Gladiator, Jurassic Park and Aliens proving to be some of the most popular releases of recent years. Superheroes also make for popular themed games, and you can play games based on DC Comic figures, including Spiderman, Superman, Batman, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk.
Themed pokies based on popular bands and musicians have also proved to be hits, with games based on Guns N’ Roses, Jimi Hendrix and Motorhead being amongst the most successful titles to hit the market in recent times.
Progressive jackpot slots are highly popular, primarily due to the fact that the payouts can be truly enormous — it’s not unusual for them reach tens of millions of dollars. The reason that the jackpots are so large and grow so quickly is because the games are networked, meaning the prize pool is made up a percentage of every losing spin at every online casino around the world where the game is played. Most progressive jackpots have a minimum size but there is no limit as to how much they can increase, and they continue to grow until they are won. Some games feature multi-level jackpots, and once a jackpot it has been hit, it re-sets and then begins growing once more.
In most games, the progressive jackpot is randomly triggered, while in others it is won by hitting symbols on a payline, as in a conventional slots game. However, in both instances your chances of winning a progressive jackpot are increased if you play the maximum coin size and number, although it should also be noted that most progressive jackpot slots have small and very limited coin sizes so most players will find playing these games affordable.
All of the major game producers have their own progressive jackpot networks, so no matter which one of our recommended online casinos you play at, you’ll be able to enjoy progressive jackpot games and have a crack at winning a huge payout.
Although there is a growing number of new and boutique game developers coming into the business (whose games we feature at our recommended sites), it remains the case that the market is largely dominated by three major brands — Microgaming, NetEnt and Playtech. All produce high quality games for an international audience, but they also have particular categories of game in which they excel.
Microgaming games can be found in more than 400 online casinos, and while it produces every type of game, it’s probably best known for its progressive jackpots. Microgaming’s network is the most extensive and as a consequence consistently produces the biggest jackpots; Mega Moolah is its most widely-played game and to date has paid out almost NZD$900 million in prizes.
NetEnt is a Scandinavian company that is noted for its imaginative themes and innovative gameplay, and currently has a catalogue or more than 200 games that is growing all the time. NetEnt has recently had some international smash hits with its series of music-themed games, Guns N Roses, Jimi Hendrix and Motorhead, but is also known for its classic, Scandinavian-style slot machine games like Jackpot 6000.
Playtech is the third of the ‘big 3’, and is a well-established brand with more than 500 games to its credit. It has its own large progressive jackpot network, featuring games like Beach Life and Gladiator. Playtech is also well-known for its themed video slots based on hit movies and TV shows, with The Sopranos being one of its most popular titles.
While pokies online are simple and straightforward to play, there is huge variety in the styles of game you can enjoy. Whether it’s a classic slot machine, a visually stunning video pokie, or a progressive jackpot game with the chance to win a life-changing payout, you’ll be able to find a game to suit.